My “Real-Time Marketing” Reaction

wasted hours

One week ago the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos were competing on sport’s most watched stage in Super Bowl XLVIII. There was also another battle taking place that night by advertisers across the country who wanted in on the action. No, I’m not talking about the dozens of brands that forked out nearly $4 million for a 30 second commercial during the game. Instead I’m talking about the countless number of brands that were doing “real time marketing” during the game.

If you aren’t familiar with “real time marketing” as it currently plays out then here’s the gist: brands and advertisers try to connect with consumers in social media while events and news are happening in real time. This usually occurs during major pop culture and sporting events such as the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Grammys or the Oscars. One example of “real time marketing” that usually gets cited is what Oreo did during the Super Bowl in 2013. To help complement their TV ad during the game, Oreo was actively using Twitter and took advantage of the moment when the lights when out in the Superdome in New Orleans.

After seeing the buzz that Oreo generated last year, countless brands have been trying to get in on the “real time” act over the past year. During the 2014 Grammys brands you would likely not associate with a music industry event – Secret Deodorant, Degree for Women, Gain Laundry, Bing, Applebee’s – tried to plug themselves into the social media narrative around the award show.


This non sequitur of brands trying to attach themselves to real time social media activity was front and center again during last Sunday’s football game. Tide detergent. Denny’s. Victoria’s Secret. Charmin toilet paper. Priceline. Clorox. Airbnb. JC Penney. Kohl’s. Purina. These were just some of the brands that did not buy a commercial during the Super Bowl but took to social media to capitalize on “real time marketing.”

Because Best Buy was not a TV advertiser this year after a three-year run, we decided to forego any live social media marketing activity during the game. That meant this year I got to catch the game, watch the commercials and see what other brands were doing on Twitter.

Outside of the endemic Super Bowl advertisers, I came away underwhelmed by what other brands were doing in social media and found their “real time marketing” efforts to be a real time gimmick. I kept asking myself “What in the world does Priceline or Clorox or Charmin toilet paper have to do with the NFL or Denver or the Seahawks or the Super Bowl?” It bothered me that these brands and their agencies were willing to spend time and money and resources trying to artificially create relevance to an event when there was no natural link to begin with. Social media presents an opportunity for brands to interact with consumers in a way that provides real value. Instead of critically thinking about when it should be used, many marketers are piling on the bandwagon to see who can come up with the cutest one-liners.

Brands need to have a framework in mind if they are going to jump into the “real time marketing” fray. Any social marketers entertaining the notion of doing this should ask themselves two simple questions:

  1. Are you an advertiser or sponsor of the event?
  2. Does your product or service have a natural link to the event?

If your brand can’t answer yes to either question (and it should be able to easily answer yes to the second question), then the answer should be no when it comes to doing “real time marketing” activities. Otherwise, whatever you are going to do will come across as a stretch and a forced fit. You know it, I know it and certainly consumers will know it.

(Photo courtesy of Robert Bruce Murray III via Creative Commons license.)


3 thoughts on “My “Real-Time Marketing” Reaction

  1. Jamie: My only issue with this — and something you can help address — is the ongoing confusion over “marketing” and “promotions” (or “communications” or whatever you want to call it). Marketing, as you know, is the entire mix…the four Ps. Promotions (or communications) — which is what THIS is, is only ONE component of marketing. And the LAST component, at that. (The other “P”s need to be in place — with an understanding of the target market firmly in hand.) Sorry for the rant.

    • Joe – Thanks for reading. That is a good point. Social media marketing is only one part of the mix and in this example it definitely falls within the communications bucket.



  2. As ridiculous real-time marketing is, and as much as I think it’s useless—especially if I don’t follow the brand on Twitter to begin with—maybe this will lower the demand for Superbowl ads and the ridiculous prices for a 30-second spot go down.

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