Most people who work in or around social media will have heard about the “Oreo moment” at this year’s Superbowl.

To recap, the game was plunged into darkness for a full 33 minutes due to a power failure at the stadium, and the one brand that everyone remembers from this is Oreo thanks to the tweet below

Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” has been discussed on many blogs, including those of Ford’s head of social media, Scott Monty.

david-bHearing that agency 360i was behind this, I took the opportunity while having lunch with David Berkowitz, Vice President, Emerging Media in London recently to ask him more about the secrets behind the “dunk in the dark” tweet.

I first meet David at the Kred New York Influencers summit held in February, and was delighted to be able to catch up with him again in London.

I had heard a lot of information online about what happened to allow Oreo to master “real time marketing”, and wanted to hear it from the agency direct.

While David was not in the room during the superbowl, he obviously has first-hand knowledge of what went on.

Key to the success, David explained was Oreo had actually been planning for this moment for 2 years. While it would be near impossible to predict a 33 minute power outage that would stop play at the Superbowl 2 years out, Oreo has been training for this type of opportunity for some time.

Their daily twist campaign in 2012 to celebrate their 100th birthday was great practice at engaging in near real-time and being able to produce compelling and sharing content on a regular and sustained basis.

It also helped on Superbowl night that the 360i team and the client were all in the same room, and therefore able to monitor the situation and the mood, develop an instant strategy and creative on the spot and get it approved, and then sent – all before the lights came back on.

The risk Oreo took was twofold:

  1. was the power outage going to last just a few minutes and not 33?

  2. what if the cause of the outage was something more sinister?

Over the days following the terrible tragedy in Boston, where our hearts and prayers go out all those affected, we have seen that many brands simply kept tweeting their scheduled campaign messages, oblivious to the mood of the nation, or even more amazingly, used the tragedy to promote their products.

In the case of Oreo and the superbowl tweet, according to David, the team actually held off sending the tweet for several minutes even after it had been created and approved to check that the power outage was just a normal issue.

Is Real Time Marketing appropriate for any brand?

Since the Superbowl, we have seen many brands try and copy Oreo’s spontaneity, with very mixed results.

The brand tweets during this year’s Oscars telecast, covered extremely well by Jay Baer on his blog, point to how for some brands, this strategy is not right.

Poland Spring waited nearly a day to capitalise on their #watergate moment when during Senator Marco Rubio’s GOP rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union address, he awkwardly reached for a small water bottle in the middle of the speech.

Because the water bottle was placed way too far away from where Rubio was standing, it lead to a funny moment. We all now know that he bottle he reached for was Poland Water.

The brand at the time did not actually have a Twitter feed to respond from, although they do now – @Poland_SpringW, so it is probably correct to assume that they had not been planning for such an event.

The key learning from Oreo’s success is that you can’t just “jump into” social. It needs to be planned and supported at all levels in a company.

Going further, even when you are “doing social”, something as brave as a real-time tweet during a Superbowl power outage is not to be attempted without years of practice.