We’re two years removed from Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” Super Bowl tweet, a watershed  moment for marketing when the concept real-time marketing (RTM) burst onto the scene as the “in” thing for brands to do.

Since that third-quarter blackout tweet, the number of brands creating “real-time content”  has tripled. According to data from Marketing Land, a record-breaking number of elite brands participated in RTM during this year’s Super Bowl. Of the 2013 Interbrand 100 brands, more than 30 made RTM the core of their content strategy, up 19% from the previous year.


Some of the most well-known brands doing RTM this year included Budweiser, Coca Cola and McDonald’s. But RTM wasn’t just for the world’s biggest brands with enormous budgets. Papa John’s, Wingstop, State Farm, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Whataburger – and a host of smaller brands also got in on the action and kept the conversation going on Twitter.

What Does the Future of Real-Time Marketing Look Like?

While the data shows an increase in brand participation in RTM, the growth is nowhere near as big as it was from 2013 to 2014. In fact, if 2014 was the year of Super Bowl Twitter hashtags, 2015 was given to Facebook. The number of gametime commercials with Super Bowl hashtags slipped to 50% this year, down from 57% in 2014. Facebook was the platform that received the most mentions (four, compared to Twitter’s three), although most ads themselves did not mention a specific social network. 

So what does this say about the future of RTM? Is RTM dead?

To start, yes, the era of RTM defined by speed and volume is officially over. But this is never what consumers really wanted anyway.

Great RTM — creating thoughtful, interesting content that adds value to the conversation is the future we’re building towards. Brands should and are looking to create innovative experiences for audience members. Events like the Super Bowl demonstrate that brands are sitting in front of live-TV events, following along just like everyone else watching.

Making Real-Time Marketing Useful

As we’ve said in the past, RTM is not about bombarding customers with more content at a greater speed than ever before (even if it’s an event like the Super Bowl).

RTM is – to paraphrase Ben Wilcox, head of data and technology at Havas EHS – “anticipatory, hinging upon a deep understanding of consumer behavior, providing something in advance of a consumer wanting it.” It is content provided within a context (time, place, location, emotion) that enables the consumer to simply engage with the product or services, and it needs to be valuable!

Perhaps the most inspiring example of RTM at the Super Bowl this year was Coca Cola’s #MakeItHappy campaign. As part of a cross-platform campaign around turning the negativity of the Internet into more positive messaging, the food and beverage giant encouraged people to reply to negative tweets with #MakeItHappy. When they did, Twitter users could watch the original negative tweet be transformed into a piece of ASCII digital art with a cheerful message.

Since before 1980, Coke has always been about the smile. This campaign not only ties back into Coke’s Super Bowl ad messaging around happiness (“the world is what we make of it”), but is consistent with what has been one of Coke’s core brand pillars for more than 35 years — happiness. When they created this year’s Super Bowl commercial, Coke didn’t just extend the campaign’s story on social – they brought people and their networks into the story. Coke invited and empowered people to be the change agents, instead of the brand.

Although RTM has come to equal content, RTM is really about brands understanding the lives of their customer.

Coca Cola, Budweiser, McDonald’s, Miller Lite, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Denny’s, Snickers, Papa John’s, Wingstop, and many others that we mentioned earlier have realized that RTM is really about building real-time relationships with their audience members. Simply put, the brands that build a consistent voice and rapport with their customers are the one’s that will win.

Characterized by thoughtful, relevant, and interesting ideas, backed with deep understanding of consumer behavior patterns and served in the right context, RTM is alive and well.