Oreo Speedwagon

OK, that title has nothing to do with the article itself except for the word “Oreo” -- but along the same lines, neither did Oreo’s Super Bowl commercial have anything to do with its stellar opportunistic play on Twitter following the now-famous blackout, when the brand tweeted a photo with the tagline, “You can still dunk in the dark.”

16,000+ retweets later with a total paid media investment of zero -- and you might be scratching your head, wondering why it was necessary to spend $4 million plus on a Super Bowl commercial at all. Or why Oreo chose to put all of its eggs into the Instagram bucket, as opposed to the seemingly 2013 passé Facebook.

Here’s what we know: Oreo’s Instagram account went from zero (2,000) to hero (almost 22,000) within Super Bowl seconds. Right now it’s sitting on 78,000. In a rather brilliant activation, Oreo used its account to invite Instagram users to tag a photo with its handle @oreo, as well as either #cookies or #cream (actually #creme, but I’ll come back to that shortly). In-studio designers or sculptors were standing by to create a rendering of the photo using either cookie crumbs or cream.



It began with a cookied background and cremed date of 2.3.13 photo and the caption “Are you cookie? Or are you creme? Choose your side and come back Sunday to battle it out. Instagram style.” The post has since had 5,145 likes and 6,168 comments. Clearly a lot of people have an opinion about cookies or cream.


 Since then, roughly 150 of these photos have been transformed into cookilism or creamism art (as in pixelism or pointillism, but decidedly more edible.)


And then about 48 hours after the whirlwind began, it all stopped as quickly as it began, with a photo depicting a gallery of all the creations and the words, “IT’S ALL OVER! The final score: 17,060 tags for cookie, 21,050 for creme. Creme wins…for now. But there’s still lots more coming from OREO, very soon…”


If you’re doing the math that’s potentially as much as 38,000 photo requests all things being equal. It’s a pretty good rough estimate of engagement or a correlation between “follow” (passive) and “request for cookie” (an active RFC).

And so, instead of asking “Why only a few days?” or “Why disappoint so many eager beavers?” I’ll give the company the benefit of the doubt with its open-ended “there’s still lots more coming from OREO, very soon….” but I will be watching very closely and will hold the brand to its promise.

As an aside, it was interesting to see consumers continually use “cream,” versus the brand’s use of “creme.” It made me think of the Lego v. Legos case, without the brand’s stubborn defensiveness.

In the interim, to complete the thought leadership sandwich, let’s go back to the opportunistic tweet. I’m fairly certain the folks over at Oreo parent Mondelez International (a client of mine), were NOT responsible for the blackout. On one hand, this was déjà vu all over again with the spirit of Old Spice’s Isaiah Mustafa living large in a content studio with a team of copywriters, art directors, clients and suits on sugar highs. On the other hand, this showed the power of thinking quickly, being responsive and adapting to pop culture in real time.

Why haven’t more brands done something similar? Many reasons, including the fact it’s extremely difficult to scale and execute such a move with any consistency and authenticity.

Why do so many brands continue to advertise on the Super Bowl without a single call-to-action? Only one in every two commercials even carried a URL, according to ExactTarget’s Jeff Rohrs.

Will Oreo be back in next year’s Super Bowl, but this time without spending a dime on paid media?

So many questions. So few answers.

3 comments about "Oreo Speedwagon".
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  1. Jeffrey Rohrs from ExactTarget, February 14, 2013 at 6:25 p.m.

    The action here is two-fold. The original spot sells like any classic SB ad. It either introduces you to the brand (unlikely due to awareness of Oreo) or it reminds you of how fun they are. The implicit message--go buy them for the part you love: cookie or creme.

    The more important action here is the push to build a proprietary audience on Instagram--one that Oreo can reactivate at will and without the $4M/commercial cost. Oreo was one of the only brands to make any effort to build an "owned" audience via their SB commercial. By doing it on Instagram and having an image-related campaign there to boot, they created tons of amplification as Instagram fans posted their #cremethis or #cookiethis creations to Facebook, Twitter & beyond.

    In short, Oreo's Super Bowl ad generated sales and a nearly 80K direct fan audience on Instagram--an audience that they can activate in different ways well beyond the Super Bowl.

  2. Casey Fitzsimmons from iProspect, February 15, 2013 at 9:44 a.m.

    Jeffrey makes some great points. Oreo was also successful in building its earned audience because it was prepared. Oreo and its agency set up a "war room" to be prepared to take on any potential issues... and take advantage of any opportunities that allowed it to show its brand spirit. The team likely would not have been in place if the brand hadn't spent $4M on the commercial, but in this case it wasn't the commercial that got them the attention. Perhaps a lesson to all brands, especially those without huge budgets - you can make a splash if you're prepared, and willing to take a risk.

  3. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA), February 15, 2013 at 6:25 p.m.

    Have any of you tried to Instagram, or do anything else on your phone or tablet when you're hands are covered in cream or creme? It will feel like your 4 year old has just played with it...

    In all seriousness though, I get the increase in Instagram followers, but it really is no place to "sell" cookies.

    To me the most important question any advertiser considering social media should be asking themselves is "do I have a role to play in the consumers' moment (whatever that moment is: the morning commute; watching the SB at home or in a pub; while at work, etc.)? If yes, what role?"

    Oreo did that smartly: creating an awareness spike for their classic product in an entertaining way, and smartly but unobtrusively reminding consumers of the little joy the cookie can bring even in the darkest moments... Mission accomplished!

    But no - we need to of try and "campaign" the very successful one-off! In my mind that has no reason, no role and no benefit to the consumer and therefore it's not necessary.

    I think the "internet one-off" has a great future as an attention grabbing option (SB, Oscars, World Cup, State of the Union, a meteor shower, anything really). But leave it at that.

    If you, as an advertiser, do more, spend more and clearly expect more, then I agree with Paula - show me the money!

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