Real-time marketing is hot.

By playing into the news and current events, a brand can reach out to a large audience. This is a useful insight for marketers who have more and more challenges getting their brand messages across.

Our timelines on social platforms are full of branded content. But is the strategy of using current events really feasible?

Research shows topical advertising is 20% more likely to be seen.
Research shows topical advertising is 20% more likely to be seen.

Real-time marketing as such is no new phenomenon. Long before the omnipresence of social platforms and native advertising, the power of current news was used to promote products and brands.

I refer to the popular use of topical adverts in newspapers. Both publishers and “mad men” are fond of this type of advertising, because it creates rumour around the brand and demonstrates the qualities of both the creative people as well as news media. News media have even organised contests to reward the best topical creatives.

Topical advertising was not only a nice showcase for creative agencies, it was also demonstrably powerful. In print, the impact of real-time marketing was proven by impact studies. Our online database RReporter shows topical ads are significantly better liked and observed. On average those ads are noticed 20% more and far better appreciated.

More than 17% of brand messages qualifiy as real-time ads.
More than 17% of brand messages qualifiy as real-time ads.

More and more real-time marketing is found on social platforms these days. Although successful cases have indicated real-time marketing can be successful, until recently the impact of those messages had never been studied.

This interesting research question has incentivised the researchers of The Network is the Message project to conduct a study to see if current branded online messages are more effective than regular publicity. And, if so, does it matter if a news event is unexpected or can be foreseen?

To monitor the effectiveness of real-time ads, a special monitoring tool was used. Researchers analysed 1,500 tweets of 30 brands to see if messages are newsworthy and unpredictable. Highlights of the study were published in the article “Real time is real money” by Mazerant, Willemsen, Kamphuis & Van der Veen. The details were published at the ICRORIA-Congress in Ghent, Belgium.

The results were eye-opening. The share of real-time ads is considerable. More than 17% of brand messages could be qualified as real-time. Most messages cited predictable news.

Ad messages referring to predictable events generate 2.3 more shares
Ad messages referring to predictable events generate 2.3 more shares

The added value of playing into current events is obvious. The results of the study show real-time ads have received far more sharing and publicity than other ads, especially for unpredictable messages.

The study reports:

  • Messages referring to predictable events generate 2.3 more shares than regular messages.
  • Messages referring to unpredictable events generate 3.6 more shares.

In the first publication, the researchers focused on likes and sharing, but brand metrics were also included in this study.

On the basis of the first results, one can conclude that ads referring to news topics manage to get more engagement, especially when the news is not predictable. To profit from unpredictable events, advertisers must be well-equipped and have a Web team and experienced marketing communications professionals available.

This Bic ad takes advantage of Women's Day to promote its brand.
This Bic ad takes advantage of Women's Day to promote its brand.

In most cases, advertisements referring to events that can be foreseen will be more feasible. The study shows this strategy can count on twice the advertising impact. And, the good thing about this type of publicity is that it can be planned for and prepared in advance. When drawing up a news content calendar, almost every day can be a suitable time because of holidays or planned events.

Social platforms may currently be the main playing field for real-time marketing, but this doesn’t mean news media can’t profit from this impactful way to advertise.

News content and timeliness are the core specialties of our news brands. Blending more news into native ads may be the low-hanging fruit for the advertising department. Sharing news calendars and ideas could be a simple incentive to building a relationship with public relations and advertising professionals to receive a better share of branded messages.

With a well-created topical ad, all parties involved can benefit. Advertisers will experience more consumer engagement with their brand messages, creative agencies can do their jobs better, and news media can be considered impactful. And, maybe most important of all, our readers who love good and playful advertising will have a positive news media experience.