Social media lessons from Oscars’ real-time marketing

A number of brands flooded Twitter with messages related to the Academy Awards last night—some of those tweets rubbed consumers the wrong way.


In the world of real-time marketing, a cookie has created a monster.

We all have Oreo to thank. The cookie brand had a big win on Super Bowl Sunday with its post about the power outage at the Superdome. That prompted a series of articles and calls to action around creating a “newsroom” feel to marketing, but it may have backfired during Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony.

Too many brands to count hopped on the bandwagon, and the result may have turned many people away from social media marketing.

What fans and followers saw were brands being on social media just to be on social media. It appeared little thought was put behind why certain brands were creating real-time assets. Much more thought was put into being clever on the fly for the sake of being among many who were trying to be clever on the fly.

The result was a conversation around the hashtag #oscarsrtm—as in, Oscars real-time marketing. Several marketers, for instance, celebrated U.S. Cellular’s use of Twitter, while others on Twitter (including marketers and regular consumers) thought otherwise.

The Onion sparked a social media firestorm by inexplicably calling nine-year-old Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis a derogatory name. (It deleted the tweet shortly after publishing it.)

While no brand—even a satirical news outlet—should stoop the level of insulting a nine-year-old in the way The Onion did, this isn’t to say brands shouldn’t practice real-time marketing. While U.S. Cellular may not have hit a home run with its execution, the brand team is to be commended for taking that risk.

Last night was likely a lot of brands doing gratis proof of concept. Marketers wanted to show their clients that they could and would abandon their families on a Sunday night and hole up in an office with mediocre pizza, cans of domestic beer, and snark it up over intricacies of an eventful Oscars night.

A tweet showed U.S. Cellular’s team hard at work on Sunday night:

One brand that got real-time marketing right during the Oscars was Smart Car, which used Vine the way brands should be using Vine, creating six-second stop-motion GIFs celebrating the winners (the brand called their GIFs “smart sized” versions of the films).

Thankfully for the brand, its efforts were smart. That wasn’t an easy execution, either, as anyone who’s attempted to use Vine or stop motion can attest. Those had to be conceptualized well ahead of time and executed during the show.

JC Penny, Special K, Stella Artois, Sharpie, Visa, Heinz, Skinny Girl, Skinny Cow, Twix, Sprint, Starbucks, Oreo, Oscar Mayer, Chili’s and many more brands joined Smart Car on the bandwagon with varying degrees of success.

Of the thousands of brand posts that went out last night, Chobani won with this post:

Every marketer who worked last night has a story about legal that they can relay. Chobani just chose to celebrate it rather than cower behind it.

We can certainly take a few lessons away from last night:

Fit the brand message to the event and the moment. The consensus last night around the #oscarsrtm (Oscars real-time marketing) hashtag was that too many brands were forcing it. The reason Oreo’s social efforts are working is because they’ve fit the execution to the brand purpose. There’s more strategy behind the move than “We should be doing this.”

When it comes to real-time marketing, the bigger the event doesn’t always mean better returns. Find smaller, even local events that your fans are already passionate about, and create content around those.

Just because another brand has great success with something doesn’t mean that it will precisely work for your brand. Real-time marketing is a tool in the tool belt. It’s not the solution to every modern marketing campaign.

Without the infrastructure in place to execute in real time, you’re going to have difficulty making it work. Legal is going to be a nightmare when there are trademarks involved, so preparation and staffing is key to real-time marketing activation.

Perhaps most importantly, brands should remember to add value to the conversation online. Don’t just shoehorn your brand into some event that happened.

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