Here’s How to Make Your Marketing War Room More Zeitgeist Than Zombie

Real-time efforts must be perpetual, not pop up

In the 2000s we built media labs. In the 2010s we've built "live rooms"—much heralded pop-up work spaces in which brands and agencies sift through the noise of real-time data.

Shenan Reed Illustration: Alex Fine

Live rooms proudly boast a war room orientation where everyone sits together, ideally gathering deeper insights and rich actionable meaning from data. Holy Grail kinda stuff.

But let's be honest, so many of these gatherings are nothing but great theater. In most organizations, live room use only accounts for a mere fraction of any given team's working hours. They also require a great deal of space, time and resources to set up—and when the project is finished, they turn back into sad, lonely conference rooms with lots of expensive screens gathering more dust than data. Yep, your live room is more zombie than zeitgeist.

Despite these general shortcomings, live rooms do hold the promise of being very powerful and useful for real-time event marketing. We've created really successful ad hoc live rooms for marketers on competitive quests, outperforming rival announcements with a social storm of relevant messaging. So yes, the concept of getting brand and agency partners in the same room, and working together as a team against the clock on a specific task, can be very effective and rewarding. But done as one-offs, it doesn't really move the needle.

This way of working and focus shouldn't just drift away when the war room shuts down; in fact, it's often only just beginning. It's time to escape the live room and take the data with us, embedding it into our everyday workflow. For example, setting up live workstations that power an always-on approach would allow for some seriously tricked-out customized real-time and predictive data feeds that drive some valuable insights. The key, however, is to avoid the confusion of data overload, by putting people and systems in place to optimize both content and media. But you already knew that, right?

In today's digitally powered world, agencies and brands must seek to engage with consumers in real moments, both endemic and nonendemic. We must get out of the room and be always on and always live. It's our chance to be nimble and opportunistic, supercharging brand experiences that enhance the newsfeed experience. And finding the customers who are posting about your brand on Twitter, Facebook and other social channels will allow brands to create one-to-one interactions with them. Again, the Holy Grail.

Recently, Ikea (full disclosure, an MEC client) found a couple who announced that they were expecting on Reddit with a cleverly Photoshopped dream interior design that used the Ikea catalog treatment. The brand instantly responded by sending the couple a very personalized gift, resulting in not only 140,000+ views and a robust amount of comments, but also a couple who will be brand loyalists—and more importantly, word-of-mouth evangelists—for life. And who doesn't love the Nissan stunt in which the automaker purchased a beater 1996 Maxima from a cleverly posted Craigslist ad and turned it into a social media campaign that put the fate of the car in the hands of automotive enthusiasts. This quick decision turned a simple post into a viral campaign and a beat-up car into a company asset now on display at the Nissan North American headquarters.

Ultimately, with or without a live room, to power forward-looking, real-time marketing strategies, brands must ask themselves these four questions: Are tent pole events important enough that you need a war room where people can work in real time? This would be a great case for a live room activation during which these questions should be asked and answered.

What are your consumers' interests and behaviors outside of the obvious? Being with your consumers all the time, not only in the live room, is critical to connecting with them in real time.

Are you prepared to listen all the time? Once you enter the conversation in real time, be prepared to meet consumer expectations on responsiveness.

Can you be nimble and opportunistic in your responses, or are you mired down in process? In some instances, being always-on could be more of a challenge for your brand.Live is not a space, but a cultural transformation, a new way of working. Social media has allowed brands to invite people in to help tell their story and has moved beyond the desktop to OOH, TV, mobile—even packaging. Those marketers that are ready and willing to work live, meeting their consumers in real time, whether from inside the live room or not, are poised to win. Gather data, not dust.


Claim to fame Performer, baker, entrepreneur, mom and geek, Shenan Reed is president, digital, MEC North America.

Base New York

Twitter @shenan

This story first appeared in the June 22 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Publish date: June 21, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT