Culture-Jacking: how to make your story bigger

By now the Oreo tactical tweet during the power outage in the Super Bowl has been feted and celebrated globally amid a wave of hyperbole

“Perfectly zeitgeisty… The most powerful bit of marketing during the advertising industry’s most expensive day.”
— BuzzFeed

“Arguably the best ad of the game.” — AdAge

“How Oreo ‘Culture-Jacked’ the Super Bowl.” — The Wall Street Journal

The millions of ad-dollars spent on half-time mega spots were over-ran by a quick bit of photo shop and a neat line in alliteration.

Or so the story goes. What has been really brilliant about the whole piece was not just how quickly they reacted with some basic social media competence but how quickly they were able to feed the media with the story of ‘how they did it’.

“We had a mission control set up at our office with the brand and 360i, and when the blackout happened, the team looked at it as an opportunity,” agency president Sarah Hofstetter told BuzzFeed. “Because the brand team was there, it was easy to get approvals and get it up in minutes.”

The way that Oreo pounced on the opportunity quickly became the story itself. They had their story ready with some journalist friendly quotes, and were able to become one of the stories of the night despite Audi, Tide and Volkswagon also attempting outage tweets. In short, they told their own story better than anyone else.

Oreo were able to bend the event to become part of their brand story, which is about being a participant in popular culture.   The initial tweet was just the start of it; the interview on Buzzfeed has itself been re-tweeted over seven thousand times.

Let’s hope ‘culture-jacking’ doesn’t enter the marketing vernacular alongside such gems as ‘value-added’, ‘strategic fit’ and ‘clicks and mortar’, when what really happened was just a classic case of the right message in the right context, (albeit thanks to some damn quick thinking).   The real ‘culture-jacking’ was being able to get the press to run with their agenda.

The other implication is that if brands want to be noticed ad-dollars can only get you so far. Ad spend can be matched and advertising copied, but if you are quick of the mark you can join in with what people are really talking about in culture. It was notable that few if any of the half-time ads referenced the event that they had forked out so much cash to be part of. It was as if they had started believing their own hype, that the ad-break was as important if not more so than the big game.

So the advantage which Oreo grabbed was the opportunity to join in existing conversations about an event they were already watching unfold with the rest of us.   This grounding in what people were already tweeting about (and the relatively lo-tech nature of what they did) made it all the more endearing in comparison to the mega bucks commercials.


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