The Lunge That Refreshes

It was the lunge seen round the world: Senator Marco Rubio got cottonmouth during his live, televised response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.  So Rubio suddenly lurched left of camera range to gulp a spot of Poland Spring water.

A gift to comedians, the awkward GIF became an instant Internet meme, with most of the tweets joking about a possible product placement. Even Rubio himself showed a self-effacing post-speech sense of humor by tweeting a photo of the rather unappetizing-looking mini-bottle in question.

Response from the PS brand itself? Crickets.

“ Poland Spring Water hasn't Tweeted since July, 2010. Right now, their rep is frantically trying to remember the password,” @JoryJohn tweeted.

Another tweeter even mused that Poland Spring had missed its “Oreo Moment,” referring to the now famous, insta-response to the recent Super Bowl blackout. In a prodigious stroke of social media genius and creativity, even before the power was restored, Team Oreo released an ad featuring a visual of the cookie, with text reading: “Power out? No problem. You can dunk in the dark.”

Try to top that.

The actual media cost was zero, as opposed to the almost $4 million for the brand’s actual Super Bowl spot, a giant production number showing a silent, choreographed fight in a school library over the concocted issue of  preferring “cream or cookie?”  (The sandwich cookie version of “Tastes Great, Less Filling.”) Viewers were then asked to vote their tastes on Instagram.

A team from 360i was already assembled, war room-style, to deal with the votes, and, with all the stars aligned, managed to jump on a response to the sudden blackout.

Given its immediacy, the quickie brand message intended for the Internet, or tweeted on the fly, can often have more resonance than the carefully planned mainstream campaign with byzantine levels of concurrent on- and offline components.

At the Big Game itself, this was the case not only for Oreo --  but, with variations, also for Pepsi and Coke.

In an attempt to surpass last year’s digital play with responsive, team-scarf-waving polar bears, Coke sought a more interactive, “gamifying” experience for consumers. “Mirage,” the richly cinematic spot shot in South Africa, involved three teams of characters -- showgirls, cowboys, and Mad Max-types -- fighting it out in a desert for a giant bottle of Coke. Viewers could vote for the winning team.

Arab groups immediately objected to the depiction of the secondary characters in the background: caricatures of Bedouins on camels. Even the LGBT community objected to the Vegas showgirls in the pink bus being played by women, rather than the transvestites from the movie “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” on whom they seemed to be based. (Never mind the opinions of women who would prefer not to be objectified in heels and plumes.)  Plus, there were online glitches in voting. In the end, though, the showgirls won.

But what really connected for Coke was the sleeper spot that snuck in during the first quarter. Called “Security Camera,” it started as a series of viral videos in Latin America. Showing acts of kindness captured (or recreated) on video, it carried the upbeat feeling of the “Open Happiness” campaign preceding it. This version ended with hundreds of the individual videos in tiny squares forming the Coke bottle. The spot ran in Latin markets and on the London Olympics this summer. In the end, on game day, the little video-that-could, a last-minute contender, outranked the big, badass “Mirage” production. 

Meanwhile,  the early release of “Mirage” allowed arch-rival Pepsi to play its own knowing game. For Pepsi Next, the giant bottler created “Vending Machine,” an almost-instant video parody complete with similar showgirls, cowboys, and biker dudes shown walking off the obviously fake set to cool out with a soda. One of the Mad Maxxers takes his plastic axe to the Pepsi machine when it malfunctions. They all gather together to open the machine, rather than choosing the working Coke machine right next to it.

It was a clever, kick-ass response, and in my view would have done better on the game than the Pepsi Next spot that did run. Called “Party,” it was a copy of a copy of a mash-up of about 25 more-inspired previous Pepsi spots, showing suburban parents arriving home unexpectedly and interrupting their teen kid’s verboten blow-out. Much to the kids’ shock, the parents are not furious -- because, get this, they taste the kid's Pepsi Next and they like it!! 

The point is that the past few weeks -- and even Rubio’s speech-- prove that every brand needs to be on its feet to take advantage of a pop cultural glitch, or lunge at whatever big glug becomes part of the cultural vernacular.

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11 comments about "The Lunge That Refreshes".
  1. Mark Dubis from The Dubis Group , February 13, 2013 at 3:34 p.m.
    Barbara, great post and insight. Poland Spring missed a golden opportunity. In our fast moving world you got to act quick to maximize the effect.
  2. Nina Lentini from MediaPost Communications , February 13, 2013 at 4:12 p.m.
    How true, Barbara. PR people need to be ever-vigilant for their clients. Nice column. Thanks.
  3. Gary Throckmorton from IAA , February 13, 2013 at 4:35 p.m.
    It is a bit sad how trite social media "news" is. A politician's slightly awkward movement is big news on the silly channels, a.k.a. as social media, while a storiy of 10 more Afghan civilians killed by a US drone strike vanishes into the ether. My apologies for bringing up real news, but my point is social media is drowning in the inessential, and features primarily gratuitous distractions...which may make it the perfect marketing medium now that I think about it...
  4. George Parker from Parker Consultants , February 13, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
    Barbara... You do know that "Poland Spring" is just tap water and they had the shit sued out of them a few years ago for using treated waste water. Ha, you can't make this shit up. Also, you and Alison are on "AdScam" today, concerning the night she saved my life!!! Cheers/George
  5. Steven Kirstein from OnProcess Technology , February 13, 2013 at 5:17 p.m.
    This, like the "Oreo Moment", may be of far more interest to the PR/Ad community than anyone else. Clever? Absolutely. Lasting/impactful? Less certain.
  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , February 14, 2013 at 10:09 a.m.
    Rubio can go back to Cuba as a gain for US, but it was not his choice of water and still a human being who in not immune to normal human needs (although he loses that note for others) like thirst. Other than that, Gary Throckmorton said it best. So many people don't have enough to do.
  7. Wally Greene from Greenefields Talent Advisors LLC , February 14, 2013 at 11:37 a.m.
    Reminds me of the Tiger Woods "Nike moment" on the 16th hole of the 2005 Masters where the ball paused to show the logo before falling in.
  8. Carol Gray from WriteAway , February 14, 2013 at 5:07 p.m.
    Right again, Barbara. Super Bowl or not, we've always got to be on our best game.
  9. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER , February 14, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.
    The President meanwhile has moved ahead on several fronts in the face of the weak rebuttal. He's closed the office opened to close Gitmo; he's disbanded the Presidential Jobs Council so he no longer has to no show every month for his Presidential Jobs Council meetings; and he's put himself "on principle" against filibustering Presidential nominees such as Hagel, his previous principle having been voting to filibuster Justice Alito's nomination; and his skeet-shooting shot has been proposed as his official Presidential portrait.
  10. Alex Lekas from PTI Security , February 14, 2013 at 7:29 p.m.
    The president has spoken of Navy corpse-men, 57 states, acknowledged the "fallen heroes" in attendance at a ceremony, has decided it's okay to kill Americans with drones, demands that same debt ceiling whose raising he opposed as a Senator be raised now, but somehow we are to believe that someone taking a drink is a career killer? Seriously? No wonder the nation is in such disarray.
  11. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , February 26, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
    Actually, Rubio responded very cleverly to the sip-hah-ha-- his tweets and use of social media were right on. It was Poland Spring that was criticized-- and took about 48 hours to respond. Win for Rubio!