Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
How Oreo Won the Marketing Super Bowl With a Timely Blackout Ad on Twitter (wired.com)
91 points by caffeinewriter on Feb 5, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

Remember the posts on HN a few days ago how we're all just as poor and working even harder as we were 50 years ago? This is why.

Scramble to make the money to buy the food whose shelf cost is 90% marketing and 5% the cheapest, crappiest ingredients available. Or buy the washing powder that's 90% marketing and all made in the same factory anyway and the only difference is the self selected demographic targeting. Or #name_whatever_product_you_like.

> they had a 15-person social media team at the ready to respond to whatever happened online in response to the Super Bowl

This is what our society spends its money on. A crack team of Oreos marketers. Words fail me.

Good point. Fortunately, it's easy enough for individuals to opt out. And there seems to be a trend in urban cores towards this.

If you opt out of pacakaged foods and car ownership, you have a lot of surplus money to spend on whatever you want, or save. Ditto for owning a large house, or an oversized apartment.

Edit: to be clear, I didn't mean money is the purpose of opting out of these things. But it's certainly a significant side effect.

How can you afford grass fed beef? With the money you save not paying for oreo's marketing budget.

I wish I could save money opting out of crap food. Instead, I'm in the process of investing big-time. I likely won't see a dime back, but hopefully me, my wife and kids will all be healthier (which could conceivably pay dividends, but causality will be impossible to prove).

The sad reality is the corn[1] and wheat that makes up the majority of things in boxes is disgustingly cheap. I went to the grocery store tonight and avoided the middle aisles where the boxes of corn-crap live, and spent about 40% more than the old normal.

1. A gigantic lightbulb went of for me when I heard the following, "Farmers have known for hundreds of years the best way to fatten a cow up before butchering it is to give it corn." Now try to find some food item that doesn't contain some corn product. They even put the damn stuff in meat.

It's certainly possible to opt out of packaged foods as a way of saving money, but I don't think I know anybody who's done so. I'd go so far as to say most people do it to eat tastier, healthier, and/or more ideologically pleasing food, and usually spend more than they would on a diet of Hot Pockets or Taco Bell.

In Germany we have Aldi (they own Trader's Joe in the US), they only sell no name products, and I honestly belive food cannot be sold/produced any cheaper.

The two founders used to be the richest Germans for decades.

Good point! I'm in the midwest, and we have a few Aldi stores here too. There's definitely a distinction between opting out of packaged food (making things from scratch, eating more fruits/vegetables, ..) and opting out of the marketing-driven frenzy of brand name food. The latter can definitely save you money.

>> Remember the posts on HN a few days ago how we're all just as poor and working even harder as we were 50 years ago? This is why.

That would definitely be something I would like to read about, but looks like I've missed them. I've been going through the news page but can't seem to find it. Care to share a few links from your saved stories list? Many thanks.

I'm pretty sure advertisers feel the same way (but opposite) about writing code for a living...

I call it buying air. Most products are commodity and, more often than not, effectively identical. The only way such companies can survive is through the use of psychological arbitrage.

Let me offer a counterpoint to HN's cynicism. I watched the Super Bowl with tweets streaming through, it was fun and engaging to see reactions and wit to everything from plays, Beyonce, and commercials -- within seconds. If I scroll through now, it's like retelling a joke when the timing is completely off, and shrugging it off as, "well, you had to be there." It doesn't diminish the experience at the time, but it's hard to it relate now.

This isn't the first time for me that Twitter really added to a lengthy real-time event. I fired up my Tweetbot for both Hurricane Sandy and Election 2012. It depends on who you follow, but for me, it made for a much more entertaining night than just watching the CNN talking heads.

As for the value that these brands got, it's hard to say. We're still in the early stages of brands + social, and Oreo can't possibly account for an extra box of cookies sold with any level of confidence. But I do know that I enjoyed seeing Audi, Tide, and Walgreens get retweeted more than I saw my SF friends swearing at the 49ers for the 100th time.

> I fired up my Tweetbot for both Hurricane Sandy and Election 2012. It depends on who you follow, but for me, it made for a much more entertaining night than just watching the CNN talking heads.

Tragedies like Hurricane Sandy, all about the "entertainment"...

Talk about a debatable choice of words…

Hmm, oops -- late night edit fail. Originally had "Golden Globes" in there instead of Sandy. "Engaging" is probably the more appropriate word.

Yes, or maybe "interesting".

Just like a car crash. Or why do you think people slow down?

> Twitter really added to a lengthy real-time event

But a sporting event shouldn't feel like a lengthy real-time event imho. When I'm watching a good boxing match looking at anything but the screen is the last thing on my mind.

Now american football on the other hand ... 4 hours for 11 minutes of gameplay. I just don't get it.

Yeah completely nuts. Now, Cricket! Stasis for 24 hours, punctuated by - a guy trotting across the field! Wow!

And horse racing - that's a sport, man. Nothing for half an hour, then a whole minute of horses running across a field a quarter mile away. Oh, the humanity.

Don't get me started on track and field. They are a gut-busting good time. All those people milling around for hours, then somebody hops over a pole! I can't tell you how riveting.

Yeah, American football is in great company the world 'round.

I don't like the amount of clock management that's in football or basketball. Baseball can drag on forever with all of the pitching changes, and is best watched with something else to do. But when getting together with friends to watch an event, 2-3 hours is about right.

Watch them online at NFL game pass and it's around 2 hours per game commercial free, or edited and condensed down to around 1 hour. It is awesome.

Maybe that's because boxing doesn't stop a lot and is meant to be played in a short period of time while American football is more a military game of attrition with tons of breaks between skirmishes.

Or are you just being willfully ignorant about this?

Is that question really necessary? While the question is not directed at me, I AM ignorant to American football. Not everyone is familiar with the way American football is played, especially those from other countries. Your description does shed a new light on it - but I still don't care for it.

Apologies, the normal trope on the internet is to be stupidly ignorant about American football as an excuse to insult it. "Lol handegg rules are so strange! Who would have thought Americans would like watching people stand about for hours!"

Did that article just reference a comment on Digg's Tumblr?

I feel like I am through the looking glass. Magazine cites one social media website has-been's new social-media website's page.

Hmm, I first thought that it was the work of a brilliant marketer at Oreo; but this is even better. They had prepared for it and reaped the rewards.

Considering they were running a TV commercial (involving a comic fight in a library over the 'best' part of an Oreo cookie) in a time slot that sells for >$1m, having a social media team standing by to monitor and possibly curate reaction to the advert just seems like common sense. If you manage a major brand and you don't have someone whose primary job is to keep an eye on how that brand is discussed on the internet, then you're not looking after the interests of your employers.

Yes, this is really a great example of how most things that we attribute to brilliance are due more to preparation and foresight.

I looked once the game had come back up- the tweet had been retweeted around 6,000 times. That's not actually that successful- it seems like the media are talking about it a lot more than people are.

That's part of their promotional strategy - talk about why nobody's talking about it.

Earned media is a part of any successful marketing strategy.

MLB had a good tweet during the blackout: https://twitter.com/MLB/status/298247417462140928

I don't get it. Is it some baseball joke? I don't watch it.

Spring training begins in a few days. It was a light jab at the NFL--in the middle of the power outage--that the MLB season is starting soon.

Well, given that it's from the official account of Major League Baseball, that seems like a likely conclusion.

Can you explain what's so good about it? Is it just a reminder that they start playing baseball soon, or is there some joke there?

I think it's just a light jab at the blackout situation with the "this brief pause" bit

People frequently dunk Oreo cookies in milk, thus leading to the "dunk in the dark" ad.

I'd love to see more reactions to the blackout. When I was waiting for the game to continue, I instantly remembered all the Buffalo Wild Wing 'Overtime' commercials.

If this is how Oreo's marketing team reacted, you can imagine there was someone at BWW corporate working on acquiring the blackout's footage today.

It's cute, and I bet it helped sell exactly zero oreos. Marketers patting marketers on the back, w00t!

There's also Audi's great quip tweet about Mercedes-Benz not paying the lighting bill.

Audi got similarly beat by a quip a few years ago:


Still suffering a pretty crippling depression from that loss, was hoping to at least escape it with sticking with HN and other of my non-sports related content sources.

How is this "winning" the Marketing Super Bowl? How many people saw this? A few hundred thousand at best? 108 million people were watching the Super Bowl. A Tweet does basically nothing for Oreo's brand when compared to an actual Super Bowl ad.


Oreo spent $xM on a superbowl commercial which everybody saw and promptly forgot when the blond / old people / puppy came on next.

That dumb small tweet was a historical event. I kid you not, it will be studied by pros for the next decade. It just defined a whole new market.

The pros can study it all they want. Best case scenario, the Tweeted image probably had 0.5% reach of their Super Bowl ad, in a completely unproven medium for brand marketing. Outside of some niche groups interested in advertising, the Tweet will be forgotten just quickly as the TV spot. EDIT: maybe a win for 360i, who will no doubt garner a lot of interest here. I just don't see what this does for Oreo though.

Basically, it got them a lot of recognition for fast ad turn around time, on black swan event. No one expected the power to go out at the game. Heck, Entergy (the utility) didn't expect anything like that to happen. Everyone expects event appropriate ads for the easy to predict or contingency stuff (e.g. post game ads for appropriate for each team's win, even post game ads differentiating between blowout and close conditions for each team) - we all know that those are all ready to go. But a decent add responding to the unpredictable, in a timely way opens a lot of new possibilities. This ad would be downright stupid if it happened after the fact. Further, the later into the event it happens, the lower the amusing aspect of it is to people. In situations like this, the timing is everything. You know that "oh it would have been funny to say $witty_comment" feeling? Advertisers get it too.

So the big deal is oreo just showed the general public that you can have big corporate response to real-time events (for smaller step sizes than before), in a way that the public just didn't think possible.

It's Tuesday morning, and I'm still talking about a superbowl ad. This doesn't happen. I've never discussed a super bowl ad any later than monday evening happy hour, no matter how good. I've written and said and read the word oreo more times in the last day than I had in the month prior. Even assuming they paid 15 people overtime, I'm pretty sure the cost of this compared to the amount of airtime they get over this beats the cost/coverage numbers for almost any other superbowl ad. So, how is it not a win for oreo?


And here you are talking about it on Hacker News.

Massively successful move on their part.


I haven't seen any of the ads and not the game (not American), but the Oreo tweet has reached far beyond USA.

The title is admittedly overcooked. But Super Bowl commercials cost $4mm but the tweet was free ...

The tweet was 15 persons on standby, a strategy that assembled such a team much earlier, and possibly a lot of money for so called social media experts even earlier.

So you call this tweet free? No, if you ever bought an cookie from them in the last (lets say) three years, you payed for that tweet.

sorry, don't wanna sound rude, but knowing the cost (in terms of consultants, human resources, et al) of advertising, marketing and the like, free seems to be such a wrong term to me.

I won't argue that it cost them precisely $0. But the marginal cost of this tweet was pretty close to free.

Let's be realistic -- there's no way they had 15 FTEs fully dedicated to social media. Instead, it's 15 people from Customer Service, and/or Marketing, who are already employed at the company. When the company spends $4mm on an ad, it likely turns into a Super Bowl party at the office, with free pizza and beer in the biggest conference room in the building. The 15 get a bit of training and access to Hootsuite, which is what @Oreo is using, and asked to stand by with their notebooks if things got crazy.

At a previous job, when we had a big marketing event like this, it was all hands on deck, and everyone, no matter what your normal job function, was to answer phones. Our 40-person Customer Service team was actually 2 Customer Service people, augmented by the CEO, all VPs, marketers, sales, etc.

Can someone explain- is there actually a joke in that ad, aside from "haha the power went out"? Are they doing anything particularly clever, aside from showing that they are really on top of things?

I think it was mostly viral due to the speed at which the ad was placed. I think it was something around just a few minutes, which for a major brand, is insanely impressive.

If it had been basketball instead of football it would have really good.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact