Brand owners take a real-time approach

18 May 2010

NEW YORK: An increasing number of brand owners are attempting to implement a more real-time approach to updating their advertising strategies.

Visa adopted this kind of model during the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where it sponsored several members of the US team.

The financial services provider broadcast a TV spot minutes after one of these athletes, the snowboarder Seth Westcott, won his second gold medal.

"When it comes to the sport of Snowboard Cross, you deserve a certain amount of recognition for just finishing, let alone winning two medals. Congratulations, Seth," the voiceover in the ad said.

Visa ran a similar spot to applaud Johnny Spillane, who took a silver medal in the Nordic Cross, and reported that both executions delivered a significant impact among viewers.

"Our research has proven out that [these ads] are one of the best connections between Visa and the Olympics we have," Michael Lynch, Visa's head of global sponsorships, said.

"We know the opportunity in the moment when we're sharing with Seth his accomplishments is special, and it's worked extremely well for us."

Such was the success of this idea that Visa exported it to Canada, in recognition of the performance of the home nation at the Games.

"We're a global company, and synergistically this works around the world," Lynch said.

Procter & Gamble employed a related strategy in the Winter Olympics, using the feedback yielded by social media services to help decide which of its spots should receive the heaviest rotation.

Based on these and other insights, P&G also asked Wieden & Kennedy to produce an ad showing the reactions of the mothers of US athletes as their children picked up medals.

This tied up neatly with its Thanks Mom campaign, the corporation's first ever multi-brand marketing effort, and also had an immediacy and relevance that was hard to achieve in any other way.

Such was the speed with which this ad was made that it was not subjected to the pre-testing that usually forms part of P&G's development process.

Joan Lewis, svp, consumer and market knowledge at Procter & Gamble, said there was no guarantees pre-testing "wouldn't have made it better", but added the FMCG giant was keen on this approach.

Elsewhere, a spot for Unilever's Dove Men+Care range starring Drew Brees, of the New Orleans Saints, hit screens just hours after his team won the Super Bowl in February this year.

Prior to the NFL's flagship game, Unilever shot ads featuring Brees, ultimately voted as most valuable player, and a member of the Indianapolis Colts, and aired the former once the result came in.

"It just ended up perfectly with Drew being MVP," Rob Master, director of media for Unilever's North American operations, said.

Both advertisers and media owners have been forced to adapt by the changes to long-held habits among consumers, Master continued.

"You're seeing a brand community much more aggressive, much more flexible than it's ever been," he said.

"Then you have media companies who I think also are much more willing and open to being innovative."

"And I think you have the technology in many cases that allow you to do things much faster and take advantage of pop culture and events."

Data sourced from AdAge/; additional content by Warc staff