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FEATURE31 October 2013

Headline grabbers

Features

A creative director explains how brands can turn current events to their advantage – with a little help from social media data.

NMA

Tech wars: A lightsaber duel between Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs, as imagined by Next Media Animation

You might not have heard of Taiwan’s Next Media Animation, but you’ll have seen its work. It produces crude, humorous CGI re-enactments of the day’s news and it shot to global fame with its re-telling of Tiger Woods’ infamous 2009 car crash. Its videos go from concept to YouTube within three hours. It is an example of what Grant Hunter and Jon Burkhart call “urgent genius”.

Hunter is APAC creative director for ad agency iris Worldwide, while Burkhart is a social media creative consultant. The pair have written a book called Newsjacking, which serves as an eight- step programme for bringing urgent genius into marketing departments.

“We will be looking at analytics from social sites and the social listening tools that we have. We’ll be following what’s trending on Twitter. But a lot of the time it comes down to a judgement call”

It’s an approach most can adopt, but few have mastered, says Hunter. “Lots of people love the notion of it, but when you get into the nitty-gritty – to try to work out how to get the right system in place – it becomes a tougher sell.”

Largely it’s a question of trust and confidence. The companies that have done it well have spent months refining the process. Oreo’s highly-regarded ‘You can still dunk in the dark’ tweet – sent within minutes of the 2013 US Super Bowl blackout – followed its Daily Twist campaign: 100 ads, 100 days, 100 different creative treatments, all tied to national events (You can review the campaign at pinterest.com/oreo/daily-twist/).

“It had got into a real-time mindset and built trust between client and agency,” says Hunter, “so when it came to the Super Bowl, it had its real-time newsroom set up with agency, client and partners all in one place, so it was a perfect storm for it to be able to respond.”

A marketing newsroom? It’s not as weird an idea as it might sound. Former journalists might well be a fixture of the planning team of the future, suggests Hunter. Brands and agencies need to adopt an editorial mindset, he says. They need people with a nose for a story.

Grabbing the right news event to respond to involves some data input, says Hunter. “We will be looking at analytics from social sites and the social listening tools that we have. We’ll be following what’s trending on Twitter. But a lot of the time it comes down to a judgement call.”

Brands can get it wrong, of course. “There was an example in China where an SUV was stolen with the owner’s baby still inside, and a rival manufacturer put out a social media post suggesting its cars were safer. That caused a massive backlash,” says Hunter.

However, for brands that do find themselves becoming the news – rather than responding to it – a dose of urgent genius can help them turn the situation to their advantage. In their book, Hunter and Burkhart give the example of French fashion retailer La Redoute, which, in January 2012, published a picture on its website of four child models – unaware that there was a nudist in the background. “La Redoute is a really good PR case study in the way it turned that around,” says Hunter. “It didn’t bury its head in the sand: it acknowledged it, apologised and then hid loads of other gaffes in its online catalogue and gave out prizes to people who found them.”

Newsjacking is published by Thames & Hudson

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