Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

3 minute read

The Hare Finally Beats the Tortoise: How Brands Can Get Up To Speed For A Real-Time World

Shankar Gupta from 360i, the agency behind Oreo’s Super Bowl blackout win, discusses how brands can rethink their content creation process to be better, faster, more relevant cultural conversationalists.

The Hare Finally Beats the Tortoise: How Brands Can Get Up To Speed For A Real-Time World

You often hear of the lengthy approval processes required to get a campaign underway. That’s not always the case anymore.

With the demands of content marketing to fill a 365-day editorial calendar, along with the desire to respond to cultural events in near real-time to build relevance for your brand, the traditional content approval process doesn’t always work. To maintain a brand’s edge in the marketplace for attention that all content must take part in, agencies often need to organize their content approval processes for faster timelines.

Looking at the brands we partner with on content marketing, from Dentyne to USA, we’ve found that the faster content gets approved, the better it performs. The most recent example of this being the Oreo Super Bowl #blackout tweet, which was produced in a matter of minutes yet garnered, in media impressions, more than five times the number of people tuning in for the game. In an era of culture-jacking, moving from idea to concept to publication in a matter of minutes or hours—not days—is critical to building cultural relevance.

The key to speeding these content approvals is recognizing when content needs to be fast-tracked to be relevant. Sometimes a brand’s opportunity to make an impact can last only a matter of hours—as when Morton’s Steakhouse met PR maven Peter Shankman as his plane arrived at Newark Airport, after he jokingly tweeted at the restaurant asking for a steak, or when Sesame Street, tweeting on behalf of Big Bird, riffed on Mitt Romney’s commitment to cut PBS’s funding. Brands that do this effectively often have a "bat phone" set up for this type of content, which lets them jump the queue and be evaluated as quickly as possible, outside of the standard process. In the case of the Oreo Super Bowl tweet, the brand approvers were in the room with the creative team. While this is easier to do as a one-off—especially when there’s some sort of crisis or major event—it requires a clear predefined process to seize an opportunity in creating that cultural cachet.

Big companies approach social content in the same way they do for multimillion-dollar TV shoots. For social media campaigns, it’s simply not practical to go through a full negotiation process. For example, short and sweet partnerships helped drive some of the top-performing examples of Oreo’s Daily Twist campaign, which produced a piece of content every day for 100 days—each one inspired by a cultural event. Many were unbranded, but several included intellectual property like Super Mario Bros, Batman, and Star Trek—all of which were expedited in a matter of days or weeks, rather than months.

It goes without saying that brands must establish rules of the road—identifying the right people to take action and setting up a process in advance. Each brand is unique in its own right so these players and processes will vary and should be addressed on a case-by-case basis to better position themselves in a real-time content world. One guideline to consider though is that speed is everyone’s responsibility. It is essential to have a process in place that allows stakeholders make a decision as quickly as possible. Every person on the content approval chain—from the brand manager, to the legal counsel, to corporate affairs—needs to be easily reachable and have a clear understanding of how quickly they need to turn things around.

Real-time can’t be run by a committee. When looking to take advantage of a major media event, identify someone on your team to make the call on whether the risk is worth the potential reward. This will help expedite the approval process without having to enter multiple rounds. That person needs to be immediately accessible and empowered to make decisions, so that content can go live—and as quickly as possible.

Using the same approval that you use to approve traditional ads simply won’t work for real-time content creation. By establishing a faster pathway for time-sensitive content, you can help your brand build that relevance.

Shankar Gupta is director of strategy at 360i.