How Important Is Oreo-Style ‘Real-Time Marketing’ Now?

After the Oreo team’s big social media win dominated the post-Super Bowl buzz, a whole lot of people who had never used the phrase “real-time marketing” before started throwing it around like a hot potato.

The point is that pretty much any business whose description includes the words “firm” or “agency” now needs to claim that it has “real-time marketing capabilities” in order to win the interest of big-name clients. McCann Erickson, for example, named its new social media-only division “McCann Always On”. The “RTM” phrase doesn’t just apply to agencies that label themselves “ad” or “marketing”, either — PR wants to “own” social media too, remember?

The problem is that the whole phenomenon just isn’t that simple — and it’s not too terribly revolutionary either. Explaining that to clients, however, may be a bit of a challenge.

When Digiday asked an unnamed agency exec about it, he said:

“It’s less about being real time and more about being predictive. You can plan ahead, to a certain extent and have content and ideas ready to go if and when you can use them.”

As our sister site Social Times reminded us this week, that prediction is really all about measurement. This feeds into the whole “universal standards for measuring PR success” debate, because most firms/agencies simply don’t have the sort of custom-made social media dashboards that helped the 360i Oreo team come up with their big win (not to diminish the quality of their work). The other point that so many reviews of the Oreo win made: one reason the team was able to get the content up so fast was that the key executive decision makers from the brand were in the room with them as they reacted to in-the-moment events.

Many clients, of course, don’t want to hear all this — they only want the firm/agency they’re considering to throw the “real-time marketing” phrase in there somewhere in order to convince said client that the agency in question can “give us an Oreo”. But in the end it’s just a catchphrase. It could mean everything or, in most cases, nothing at all.

Can the new PR production units typified by Weber Shandwick‘s Mediaco or Edelman‘s content strategy division pull this off? We think so, but the primary challenge at this moment is helping clients better understand how the whole “real-time” thing works (and bringing their expectations a little closer to earth in the process).

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.