Slam Dunk: Nimble and Playful at 100, Oreo Ties Dome Darkness Into Campaign


The Oreo brand showed a digital nimbleness heretofore unseen during Sunday night’s Super Bowl game — the stuff marketers dream about.

The Mondelez-owned Oreo had already aired its Super Bowl TV commercial, “Whisper Fight,” which promoted the “Cookie or Creme?” debate with a social marketing campaign: an Instagram link to continue the conversation, visually. The spot asks: Is the cream or the cookie that is the most delicious part of an Oreo? 

It was an engaging brand message that cost the company $3.5 million. But then the lights went out. “What happens when everything changes, when you go off script?” Hofstetter said. “That was where it got fun. You need a brave brand to approve content that quickly. When all of the stakeholders come together so quickly, you’ve got magic.” 

And then: Blackout. It took the cookie brand just 20 minutes from the time the lights unexpectedly went out in the Superdome to create and tweet an image of an Oreo cookie against a black background carying an inventive line of copy: “You can still dunk in the dark.”  

The quick response went viral, as it was retweeted more than 12,000 times and won the Twitterverse award of the game’s “Ad Bowl.” The Wall Street Journal called it “culture-jacking” the Super Bowl, while CNET called it “brilliant.” The brand saw its Instagram following soar. So how did they pull it off?[more]

The twitpic image was created by the formerly Kraft-owned brand’s digital agency, 360i. “We had a mission control set up at our office with the brand and 360i, and when the blackout happened, the team looked at it as an opportunity,” agency president Sarah Hofstetter told BuzzFeed. “Because the brand team was there, it was easy to get approvals and get it up in minutes.” 

B. Bonin Bough, VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement at Mondelēz International, tweeted: “SuperBowl Marketing At The Speed of Light (Or Lack Thereof)” and, “Kudos to @360i, @widen, @MediaVest and the entire @Oreo team. Amazing night all around. Real time engagement at its finest.” 

Having execs and digital agency in the room certainly helped. “That allowed them to quickly devise a strategy and get immediate approvals so they could capitalize on events as they unfolded,” commented Eddie Smith, senior lecturer at Clemson University’s Department of Communication Studies. “I predict we’ll see more of this in the future, especially from challenger brands that can’t afford the millions of dollars it takes to create and air a commercial during the Super Bowl.”

The social ninja kudos come as Oreo continues to celebrate a century of existence by using clever visual puns and inventive social media. A follow-up TV spot, also created by Portland, Ore.-based Wieden + Kennedy,  is slated to air in March. The campaign is to continue with digital activations that began during the Super Bowl with the hashtag #cookiethis vs #cremethis and a request for fan photos on Instagram. Consumers can text cookie or creme to 63065 for a chance to win $100,000.

Its 100-days long Oreo Daily Twist campaign — a visual pun-a-day shared on social media to celebrate its 100th birthday — culminated in September in a “virtual office” in Times Square, where the final social ad was crafted within hours based on real-time suggestions from its fans. The campaign had offered a new visually punning “ad” daily to fans on and social media platforms.

Oreo riffed on cultural touchstones, including the Mars Rover landing and LGBT Pride Day, prompting an illustration of a six-layer version with rainbow-colored creme filling and the words “June 25 | Pride” and the comment, “Proudly support love!” 

The quicksilver response to a real-time event at this year’s Super Bowl — coupled with the exigency of Twitter — prompted Scott Monty, global head of social media at Ford, to tweet that Oreo “gets it.”

Update: Bough blogged about the rapid response in a post titled “The Power of Real-Time Advertising” for Harvard Business Review here.