Commentary

Does Trending Move Product?

In February, Mindshare North America launched "The Loop," a self-proclaimed "proprietary operating system" to basically mulch through data in order to quickly leverage fast-moving trending opportunities. That might mean shifting a media spend or quickly changing the creative approach of an ad, creating timely content or, as the company said, "altering a search keyword buy, changing the targeting parameters on a paid social media campaign buy or swapping elements of a display campaign." This week it added data that ranks the fastest-moving stories on social media from BuzzFeed and its 200 partner sites at any given moment.

What is this all about?  The CEO said that the company plans to "organize ourselves around smart data and a real-time marketing approach." And why not? Increasingly, you can buy media in hundredths of a second, so why not make the ad creative reflective of trending data such as likes and retweets? (Seems to me that you might want to use a company like blurbIQ to simply hotlink to ecommerce various elements in trending pictures and videos, but that's another column).

Some questions arise, though. While it is probably pretty easy to preprogram changes to standard creative units such as background color and typeface (and perhaps stock images), do agencies have the human bandwidth to think about what the trends are really saying, and fundamentally alter or wholly produce new creative in a way that will move enough additional product to pay for the bandwidth?

And is fast thinking necessarily good thinking?  Does identifying with a trend necessarily move more product? Certainly it might generate more social media buzz and sharing -- but does that translate into sales?

Adaptly ran a Domino's campaign that showed conclusively that paid social media placements generated more sales (and part of that was constantly optimizing the message to get more buzz). But it was not tied to something trending at a given moment.

One of the downsides of automated advertising is that ads that seem contextually relevant show up adjacent to stories that work against the brand. Perhaps the most famous was the suitcase maker whose ad showed up next to a tabloid story about a head chopped off and found in a suitcase. Given the Wild West nature of some social media content, I can imagine this sort of thing happening more and more. Similarly, trending streams are often filled with vitriol and invective, and brands that try to "inject themselves into the conversation" run the great risk of having some of that anger directed at them.

While polls have shown that vox Americana likes ads that are "relevant," that does not necessarily translate into ads that are au courant or straining to find a way into the slipstream of trends. Am I going to buy a new shampoo because it somehow entered into a discussion on  five ways to be irresistibly attractive?  Or on secrets of Hollywood hairdressers?  Unlikely.

On the other hand, tell me it is half-priced for the next three days...

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1 comment about "Does Trending Move Product?".
  1. Shannon Smith from SocialFlow , March 28, 2014 at 8:14 a.m.
    At SocialFlow we have found the convergence of owned and paid media has made optimizing distribution against real time or "trending" topics and conversations more important than ever. As you mention, one of the challenges is having relevant content, be it a post or ad creative, that is relevant and ready to deploy. We have taken the step of letting real time engagement with content show what is relevant AFTER it is posted, and quickly amplifying this content with an ad spend when we see it gaining traction.