Tide's coup at a NASCAR crash generated millions' worth of social media love

Although the Golden Globes are behind us, the Grammys, Super Bowl, and Oscars are imminent. And with such a large chunk of the US viewing audience planted on the sofa, punching button on the remote with one hand and swiping through screens on their phone or tablet with the other, these events present enormous challenges and opportunities for multi-screen advertisers.

The biggest brands, those who understand how social media works, will be drawing lessons from Oreo's coup during last year's Super Bowl blackout and assembling their "war rooms" ready to pounce on any marketing opportunity during these blockbuster events. Brands that are set up to respond and leverage context to establish a brand presence will be rewarded; for instance, Tide, responding quickly to clean up a NASCAR crash's fuel spill in 2012, earned an estimated $8 million in free media as fans poured their gratitude into social media.

Most advertisers won't have an opportunity of quite that scale, but many will publish updates that strike a tone with social media followers and will want to get as much mileage out of them as possible.

How do they do it?

By giving social memes with legs extra reach via paid media. Because paid media delivers an audience far broader than a brand's social media followers, and because it can extend the life of that meme once the firehose torrent of social media has moved on to other things.

It Starts with Bought Media

Media plans need to be hammered out months ahead of time. Fortunately, cloud-based advertising means the creative development and updating processes can be decoupled from tag generation and propagation.

In practice, this means supplying media with tags that tie to a cloud-based ad server in which creatives can be pulled in at the time the page is rendered for the user. These tags are simply containers that call the ad server for the most up-to-date creative files.

This translates into two salient benefits.

First, rendering and distributing tags doesn't depend on finalizing campaign creatives. It can be done in parallel with ad unit design.

Second, it affords advertisers the opportunity to update creatives real-time without having to touch tags, which, for large and broad campaigns, can number in the hundreds.

Read a case study in which the decoupling of ad tag generation and creative development allowed a campaign to take flight in record time.

Then Comes Collateral Assembly

What is the range of media assets that could be used on event day? Because sourcing, licensing and legal clearance for use are too time-intensive for the event day, when the focus needs to be on reaction and rapid design, putting together the gamut of media options should be done well ahead of time.

For awards, it could be high-res shots of all the nominees. For the Super Bowl, it could be of all players. Venue shots could be useful. The same could be for any performers, sponsors, endorsers and prominent advertisers, and venues.

By collating all of the potential assets beforehand, their use on event day can be immediate.

And Finally Social Media and Advertising Teams Working Hand-in-Hand

The agile response to in-the-moment opportunities should include both social media and advertising teams.

If a particular tweet, image, or even video is strongly resonating with a brand's most loyal audience—its followers—the advertising team should quickly prototype this into a display ad. Then, updating existing ad placements instantly with the fresh, socially-vetted ad creative is just a matter of pressing a button.

Monitoring audiences' response to the refreshed creative real-time can provide advertisers with the sort of insight into how well this message is construed by a broader audience, and when the ad creative should be swapped out (when engagement metrics drop off).

Read a case study in which an advertiser immediately updates in-market ads with a real-time social media stream as macroeconomic events unfold.

A Scalable Process

Such an agile approach shouldn't be limited to gigantic shows such as the Oscars. Planning and staffing can be appropriate for the largest entertainment and sporting events, but a more modest, but similar, approach can work as unexpected happenings present opportunities for responsive advertisers to jump in on and extend the power of a social media conversation.

A protocol that allows social media marketers and display advertisers to work together can make a process of transforming social media surges into advertising tsunamis.