A tactical approach

Forget million dollar budgets and hours of production, fast turnaround ads are getting the attention of consumers. Nic Christensen looks at how a biscuit used social media to beat the most lucrative advertising spot of our time and explores Australian advertisers that are getting tactical.

Most advertisers spend months and millions of dollars preparing their Super Bowl campaigns but, last week, Oreo Cookies showed what a brand can do in just minutes with the right ad.

Fast turnaround advertising is nothing new, but as a blackout plunged the Superdome in New Orleans into darkness, US digital agency 360i were quick to act.

The blackout lasted 34 minutes but it took the 360i team assembled inside the agency’s ‘social media command centre’ half that time to produce, get sign off and distribute what became the most talked-about ad of the 2013 Super Bowl.

Rather than rely on traditional media, 360i distributed the ad via social media, tweeting a link to an image of an Oreo cookie and the simple tagline: “You can still dunk in the dark.”

In Australia, fast turnaround ads are a well-used tactic, particularly for newspaper ads, but CEO of newspaper industry body The Newspaper Works Tony Hale says there are lessons for brands in the success of the Oreo campaign.

“With this sort of advertising there are three things you need,” says Hale. “Firstly the ad has to be relevant for the situation you are talking about. Secondly it has to be relevant for the brand and thirdly it has to be funny or have something clever that brings those other two things together.

“If you have a look at the Oreo ad, it does all of those. It’s relevant to the brand, the situation and you put that together and say ‘gee, that’s clever’.”

In Australia creative agencies and in-house teams pumping out fast turnaround ads often use politics as a topical hook for the ad.

Recently betting agency Sportsbet had success with a print ad that ran in metropolitan newspapers across Australia the day after Julia Gillard announced the September election. The ad showed Gillard and Tony Abbott holding a football with the opposition leader saying: “I’m going to win big on election day”. In the ad the Prime Minister responds: “Only if you back me at sportsbet.com.au”.

Sportsbet marketing director Barni Evans says members of the company’s public relations, brand, advertising, design, production and media teams were all involved in the creation of the election ad.

“(We) identify an opportunity, in this case the federal election being called, to illustrate our brand, which is all about fun. We then highlight the fact Sportsbet is the market leader in political betting,” says Evans.

Other brands to take up the political theme in recent years include Jetstar which, in the wake of Kevin Rudd being deposed, ran pictures of the politician with the tagline: “Taking a break?” and Ikea which featured images of its cabinets and the line: “Kevin, here’s a cabinet that won’t let you down”.

Another notable local example came from hair removal cream Veet when it welcomed America’s new president in 2009 with the tagline: “Goodbye Bush”. According to Hale, political ads can run the risk of backfiring. “Sometimes the political person being attacked – Rudd, Gillard or Abbott – overpowers the message itself,” says Hale. “The ones from Ikea worked well because of the tagline and it wasn’t reliant on having his mugshot everywhere.”

Michael Abdul, managing director of The Sphere Agency, a Melbourne creative agency specialising in tactical advertising, says campaigns of this nature require the right client.

“You need a client who is prepared to be a bit edgy, progressive and who is not necessarily numbers driven but wants to drive awareness,” says Abdul, who has worked with brands such as Nandos to deliver audacious stunts, most notably the ambushing of the screen debut of Sacha Baron Cohen’s film Bruno in 2009.

Abdul argues agencies need to think more creatively and learn to respond faster to opportunities. “The reality is the world is changing so fast that you put together a marketing plan for 12 or 24 months and it is superseded these days within three,” he says. “There is nothing better than being able to communicate with the audience in real time. It’s the way you remain fresh these days.”

Hale agrees fast turnaround is increasingly important but says he would like to see publishers and media agencies also looking for opportunities.

The Newspaper Works points to the ‘red dawn’ initiative masterminded by News Limited in 2009 as an example of what can be done. In September 2009, Sydney woke to a thick fog of red dust and many of Australia’s biggest advertisers had chosen to create ads that appeared in Sydney newspapers acknowledging the dust storm.

Among the ads was one from Telstra asking: “How do you get red dust out of white pants? Time to call your mum?”, while Omo used a similar photo and proclaimed: “A little dirt isn’t the end of the world”.

“News Limited did a great job,” says Hale. “Everything was red and they went out and sold a whole lot of space to relevant advertisers. That worked because of the collective nature of the campaign.”

As to whether an Australian version of the Oreo campaign would have similar success, both Hale and Abdul agree it could, but Abdul cautions those considering tactical advertising.

“You have to be thinking on your feet and you have to be able to capture the sentiment of people,” he says.

“If you don’t do that there’s the risk of the campaign being a letdown and the audience will be able to feel that.”


This feature first appeared in the tablet edition of Encore. To download click on the links below.


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