Have You Had Your Daily Oreo?

The mythological status of Modelez’ Super Bowl gesture demonstrates what PR firms should actually be doing every day.

For many the 2013, was actually won – not by the Baltimore Ravens – but by Modelez, the firm behind the Oreo biscuits. In what has become advertising folklore, while the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans suffered an unprecedented power outage, the brand tweeted the immortal line: “Power out. No problem. You can still dunk in the dark” with an image of the eponymous biscuit.

The tweet, which was created with the help of agency 360i, quickly went viral, amassing thousands of likes and retweets.  According to the Huffington Post the following day: “one of the most buzz-worthy ads of the Super Bowl on Sunday wasn’t even a commercial – it was a mere tweet from Oreo during the blackout.”

This piece of quick, spontaneous thinking has spawned much conversation (most of it limited to the echo chamber of marketing communications) including a wonderfully irrelevant deconstruction by Melbourne Business School Professor, Mark Ritson, claiming that the actual impact of the Tweet was insignificant in traditional advertising terms.

With all due respect Professor, I’m not sure that’s the point.  That’s like dismissing the Beatles’ For No One because you don’t like the sound of the French horn . . . .

It’s supposed to be the ‘ensemble’ that counts; if Oreo’s were regularly engaging its potential customers in conversations, making itself relevant, and contributing to the same, #DunkingInTheDark would have simply been one of a thousand such conversations.

The frenzy surrounding the tweet suggests otherwise.  Such interventions should not be the result of a singular piece of creative inspiration – ie Alan Civil’s French horn solo – but a systematic and concerted process to engage . . . . in my view, every day.  In musical terms, we are talking about the difference between a horn solo and the entire Beatles back catalogue!

#DunkingInTheDark type thinking should be a fundamental part of a brand’s communications approach; not merely in terms of individual, opportunistic tweets, but how the brand relates to its audience.

But why does this happen so rarely, in reality?

My take is that advertising has ‘claimed’ this entire approach.  This is absolutely and fundamentally misplaced; #DunkingInTheDark is a wonderful example of – not advertising – but public relations.  In particular, audience-based programming; the protagonist of the story is the audience (facing a blackout) rather than the brand, the latter is relating to its audience on its terms in a discreet, highly relevant manner.  In fact, the brand association is established (only) through the accompanying visual, not the text.

The key to success was timing; and not the brand’s but with respect to the audience and the situation it was facing. It’s pure public relations.   Comparing it to advertising – the ROI of a single tweet (or ‘horn solo’!) – misses the point. Such an approach is about entering and participating in relevant conversations; eventually being accepted by the audience to make such contributions. It’s about building relationships.

And it’s equally relevant to B2B as B2C; serious conversations are worth participating in if the audience is relevant and the brand can genuinely contribute.  This is (or should be) the principle role of a PR agency.

Don’t just take my word for it.  I’m currently reading the immensely intelligent and illuminating Ogilvy on Advertising In the Digital Age by Miles Young, the worldwide non-executive chairman of Ogilvy & Mather – it’s good to know your enemy! He writes:

“Those who hyped the Oreo tweet as an advertising breakthrough really did it a disservice.  It was a brilliant piece of public relations.”

While our own profession continues to neglect this technique, its potential will never be realised.

My question to brand and communications professionals on the client side is simply this: Did your PR firm deliver your daily Oreo moment today?

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Image Credit / Source : https://icon-a-day.com/post/124857339689/oreo-buy-artwork-society6-redbubble-follow-me