A man dressed in an air-tight suit peers out at the earth spinning 21 miles below.  He pops open the door and steps on the ledge.  He leans forward holding on to the rails momentarily as he looks down and then raises his hands to his side like a cliff diver and falls head first into the cobalt blue sky.

Millions of people watch his descent as it streams live on the web.  It takes 9 minutes and 20 seconds for him to travel from the edge of the atmosphere back to earth.   After gliding to the ground he falls to his knees and raises his arms in celebration just like a the winner of a long match at Wimbledon collapses in simultaneous exhaustion and joy.  He’s broken the record for highest sky dive.  He’s traveled further above the earth and faster than any human before him.

The feat, of course, is the record-setting jump by Felix Baumgartner as part of the Red Bull Stratos mission.  It’s a remarkable event on several levels.  Most apparent is the human accomplishment.  Felix did something that no one else has ever done before.

For marketers, the event is noteworthy for how it meshed the fabric of real-time communication and advertising.  Felix’s accomplishment was news that was shared throughout the word and along for the ride — quite literally — was the commercial message and brand of Red Bull.  The event is still paying dividends for Red Bull.  There is a recap of the mission and more information about Baumgartner and his team at

In many ways, the Red Bull Stratos mission is a metaphor for the new world of social media and live communication.  We live in real-time.  Streams. Timelines. Updates.  Tweets.  Texts.  Snapchats.  Instant Messages.  Alerts.  We’re fixated on events as they unfold.  If attention is the currency of advertising, real-time news is the currency of attention.  If you’re not relevant to what’s happening now you could become irrelevant.  Felix Baumgartner’s accomplishment was captivating news and Red Bull attached itself to an event that captured the attention of millions.

Welcome to the new era of real-time marketing.

Adapting to the habits and expectations of digital natives has been difficult for advertisers.  It’s hard to let go of the old broadcast model where images and messages are carefully crafted and shaped over time for and on-screen debut before a captive audience.  But now the audience has been let loose and is flying along with Felix.

Twitter, once perceived as frivolous and lacking a clear business model, is now in the best position to take advantage of the shift towards real-time advertising.   Twitter has become the news source for a digital generation.  Adam Bain is president of global revenue for Twitter and responsible for turning what’s trending into dollars.  And he’s succeeding.  Twitter is an attractive advertising platform because it’s viewed in real-time and serves as a complement to other real-time media — most notably TV.  Here’s a quote from a recent article in Business NewsFactor about Twitter’s recent surge in revenue.

Twitter, according to eMarketer estimates, will generate more than $1 billion in revenue in 2014, a benchmark that leads many Internet analysts to expect a Twitter IPO announcement early next year.

Later in the article, Adam Bain says:

Twitter is a series of ‘now’ moments, while there are other platforms that are about yesterday’s moments,” and that “marketing is all about owning the moment.”

Wrapping your message within the context of what’s happening at-this-time is critical.  Marketers need to evolve their thinking from targeting a person to targeting a moment.

The concept of real-time marketing is similar to a technique used by savvy PR professionals called Newsjacking – a term coined by David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) and featured in his ebook of the same name.  The goal of Newsjacking is to inject your message into a breaking news story.   When executed properly, your company or commercial message can gain a lot of attention.  This article in Vocus by Frank Sallato provides three good examples of Newsjacking.   One of the best examples is an article written by Eloqua when IBM’s stock price surged after an investment by Warren Buffet.  The title “Why Warren Buffet Invested in IBM:  It’s not Tech, It’s Support” isn’t overtly self-serving but underscores the value of of Eloqua’s revenue performance management software and services.  As people searched the web to read about Warren Buffet’s investment in IBM, they also found links to the article written by Eloqua.  Eloqua successfully injected themselves into the story.

At this point you may be taking a step back and noting that Event Marketing (Red Bull Stratos) and Newsjacking PR (Eloqua) aren’t really the same thing as real-time advertising.  But this isn’t a case of apples and oranges, it’s oranges, tangerines and grapefruit.  We’re talking about the same general concept applied through different branches of marketing.

So, let’s take a look more specifically at advertising.  Typically when you run an ad campaign you produce the creative, load it into an ad server, configure the targeting settings and let it run over a period of weeks, months or years.  With the advent of real-time marketing this will change.  The most effective creative will adapt to the context of time and events rather than remain static.

To shift your thinking this direction, take a look at the case study written by D&AD about Old Spice’s use of rapid response video to build on their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign.   Here’s one of the videos produced during the campaign:

This campaign was remarkably successful:

In the end, 186 personal video messages responding to fans’ comments on social sites Facebook, Twitter and others were scripted, filmed and then posted online in just over two and a half days of production, with many of the videos churned out from start to finish in just 10 to 15 minutes. The work went on to record more than 65 million views, making it one of the fastest-growing and most popular online interactive advertising campaigns in history.

Admittedly this level of production — on-the-fly script writing, video production and acting — could be too costly to maintain on an ongoing basis but with new lower cost production tools, it can serve as a model for what will stand out in the mass of pre-produced content.

Like many things, this is much easier to pontificate about in a blog post than it is to put into practice.  I searched for great examples of real-time advertising and most marketers are still depending on things like offers, product launches and polls to prove they’re shifting to real-time.  Here’s a post by Twitter showing “How Real-Time Brands Adapt to the Moment on Twitter” There are some good case-studies, but they still don’t reflect where the market is headed.  At the risk of sticking my neck too far out, I’ll play the role of agency exec pitching concepts to major brands.  Here are some real-time concepts.

Example 1:  MasterCard has already linked their”Priceless” campaign to real-time news for a few major news stories like the birth of the royal baby.  Imagine taking this much further by localizing and updating the Priceless campaign through real-time production tied to events.

Here’s how it could work:   MasterCard could create an intro and outro for a video ad — what radio broadcasters call a “donut” — that has a standard, professionally produced MasterCard look and call to action at the beginning and end of a 30 second spot.  To increase the impact of the ads, a videographer could accompany local families and record them as they travel to events and then edit those elements into the ad and run it immediately online and on air.  Imagine watching a Monday Night Football game and seeing smiling family enjoying the game that you’re watching on TV within an ad that runs during the game.  It would definitely make you sit up and take notice.  The same technique could be used for Reality TV shows and other live events both locally and nationally.  The video spots could be supplemented by live updates and photos of the family posted in promoted tweets by @mastercard.  The campaign could be replicated in major markets where the production costs could be justified.

In other words, advertisers like MasterCard could use the same production technique pioneered by Old Spice as an integrated campaign that appears on live television and online.  With this approach advertisers would maximize the impact of their ads and engage in the multi-screen experience that viewers are now controlling.

Video production and ad spots are very costly but this concept could be applied for blog posts or even simple tweets.

Here are a couple of other ideas that don’t require any fancy production and could run in real-time on Twitter (these are totally fabricated so don’t go complaining to the brands and get me in trouble):

Dunkin Donuts

Wilting after 6 days of 90+ degree heat?  It's time to Coolatta.  
15 flavors from @dunkindonuts #RunOnDunkin
Mass Pike Traffic backed up 10 miles.  Have a @dunkindonuts ice coffee ready 
for the trip. #RunOnDunkin

Allstate Insurance

Wild burro kicks down garage door.  #MahemIsEverywhere Would you be covered? 
Compare @AllState
Well-intention kids scrape the paint off a new BMW while washing.  #MahemIsEverywhere W
ould you be covered? Compare @AllState

Real-Time Risk. Real-Time Reward.

I know that many people reading this will find reasons to be worry about the risks of real-time advertising.  With the rapidly changing nature of news it’s hard to be certain exactly how your ad will fit within the stream.  Yes, there are risks, but this is exactly the reason why real-time advertising is such a big opportunity for marketers who are ready to open the capsule door, step on the ledge and jump.


redbull jump













Added 12/16/13:  A newly-formed company in the Boston area, Relevant24, focuses on developing highly relevant campaigns that are shaped by consumer insight and updated daily.  Their web site provides more information and stats about the increase in effectiveness of real-time marketing:

“Our unique process creates original content around consumer insights, topical events, and cultural trends as they unfold daily. This allows brands to be invited into conversations by providing content at the precise moment it becomes relevant to their audience. We have been able to provide our clients with 5x the average reach in earned media, more than doubling engagement across all social channels.”