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Advertising in the Digital Age: Real-Time Marketing

Today’s CMS Panel, on Advertising and Marketing in the Digital Age, seeks to answer a number of thought-provoking questions, such as: how is advertising and marketing evolving in the digital age? What does this evolution mean in terms of practices, philosophy, outreach, and design? These are questions that a lot of CMS students might already be thinking a lot about in their classes, such as Media Literacy, Social Marketing, and Gender and Popular Media. The advent of digital media has made possible a myriad new approaches to designing and implementing successful marketing campaigns.

Real-Time Marketing

A new trend in the world of advertising and marketing is “real-time marketing” – the idea of seizing on real-world events to create spontaneous advertising campaigns/ready-made product placement, catalyzed in particular by Twitter. Real-time marketing is based on the idea that today’s customers are no longer on the internet for only a few hours a day, but are spending a significant portion of their days connected to the web through mobile phones, laptops and tablets. If someone sees an interesting product on TV they might Google it or post a question about it on one of their social networks. Companies can take advantage of this exposure by providing responsive information to their clients on an instantaneous basis – for example through a company Facebook page or Twitter account that provides a response right away. A repeated emphasis of real-time marketing strategy is “engagement.” And some companies are finding real-time marketing to be increasingly important – according to one report, “RTM [real-time marketing] should no longer be regarded as ‘icing on the cake’ for modern marketing plans, but rather an integral ingredient for lean-forward communication with impact.”

Even the movie industry is beginning to move toward real-time marketing in advertisements during trailers before films. A darkened room with a captive audience is clearly an ideal advertising platform for companies, but in the past the use of ad reels created by hand could lead to lag times for cinema advertising. With the introduction of digital film, companies can supply ads to movie companies and they can be broadcast much more quickly. For example, the company Tesco ran a campaign promoting apples in September, taking advantage of the faster turnaround time to run ads before the apple season ran out. Previously, opportunities to tie in product promotions to films were often missed – for example, the 2001 sci-fi flick “Evolution” featured a plot line in which aliens were killed by the anti-dandruff shampoo Head & Shoulders. The company found out that the brand was in the film two weeks before its release and was therefore too late to take advantage, though they did later run a campaign with samples featuring the slogan “Use this sample to save the world.”


Another form of real-time marketing is newsjacking – the idea of using topical events to create advertising/product placement opportunities for brands. Newsjacking has become a phenomenon during all types of popular televised events; for example, during the recent Super Bowl XLVII power outage, many companies went to town tying it in to their brands, with the winner probably being Oreo on Facebook:


Oreo: You can still dunk in the dark. Source:

The image received over 19,800 likes, 790 comments, and 6,600 shares to date!

Other honorable mentions: Tide, and the Radiological Society of North America!

Well, at least radiologists can work in the dark. Source:

RSNA: Well, at least radiologists can work in the dark. Source:

Tide: We can't get your blackout. But we can get your stains out. Source:

We can’t get your blackout. But we can get your stains out. Source:

Companies clearly came prepared to take advantage of Twitter buzz created by the recent 2013 Oscars. Here are some of the night’s highlights:

US Cellular: How to get red carpet-ready. Source:

US Cellular: How to get red carpet-ready. Source:

Charmin: Don't forget to look down before your speech. Source:

Charmin: Don’t forget to look down before your speech. Source:

Kellogg’s made light of long acceptance speeches while launching a new snack line:

Kellogg's: We're gonna need a shorter speech. Source:

Kellogg’s: We’re gonna need a shorter speech. Source:

And Oscar Mayer paid tribute to James Bond:

Oscar Mayer: Bacon not stirred. Source:

Oscar Mayer: Bacon not stirred. Source:

Interested in doing this kind of thing for a living? It’s important to keep in mind that working in social media isn’t just writing clever tweets. There are many other, perhaps less exciting aspects to social media marketing such as community managing and developing social strategy, but this is certainly a trend to keep aware of and stay up to date on.

Stella: That's all! Goodnight. Source:

Stella: That’s all! Goodnight. Source:


About Tufts CMS

The Communications & Media Studies Program of Tufts University

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