Dunkin' Donuts made a PR splash last week when it was the first major advertiser to craft a TV spot entirely from the Vine 7-second video platform. The units are running on ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown” as billboard units. But the more interesting piece of this is the on-the-fly Vine videos posted later in the game that animate one of the highlighted plays. Hash-tagged #DunkinReplay, the animated coffee cups or Dunkin' Munchkins enact the play.
What are animated donuts doing aligned with Monday Night Football and Vine? Well -- it is all about bringing the “America Runs on Dunkin'” brand theme to national pastimes and doing it in ways that are natural to the product’s appeal. In other words, what red-blooded American football watcher is not going to respond to a latte with a pigskin under its lid or glazed Munchkins charging the goal line?
“Dunkin' is a very visual brand,” says Scott Hudler, vice president-global consumer engagement, Dunkin' Brands, Inc. “Vine is a visual way to represent the brand.” And it is, pardon the pub, as bite-sized as the product. “Consumers are looking for ways to consume content in a time-crunched manner.” And perhaps more to the point, it is an innovative way to get the brand into the football conversation that obviously is attracting notice. “It is far more engaging than a static corporate logo,” he says.
The #DunkinReplay program this season is an evolution of the #DDFieldPass second-screen program Dunkin' initiated last year on the ESPN program. Viewers could use the hashtag to post comments that would be read or shown on air. Hudler says they were pleased with the kinds of user engagement they saw from the program last year and looked for a new twist this time. the Vine animations were not only visual and fast (reflecting brand qualities), but just fun. “We are a fun brand. We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he says.
Hill Holliday is executing the program for Dunkin', and Hudley says the response after a week has been very strong from viewers. “We will look at a number of facets -- how we are growing organically, overall response. We are getting really strong engagement from week one, lots of great feedback.”
One of the reasons Dunkin' chose Monday Night Football is that “it is the only game in town,” Hudley says. This game dominates the water cooler conversation the next day, and “we want to be part of that.”
The crossover of TV to online to mobile has become much more fluid for the Dunkin' brand, as multichannel campaigns like this demonstrate. “Whether it is Vine, Twitter, Facebook, we look at these channels as a part of the media mix,” he says. “They are not on an island anymore. They are critically important to how we engage our consumer.”
The #DunkinReplay program is being supported by promoted Tweets each Monday as well as posts across 35 local Twitter handles for Dunkin'. And of course, the on-air Vine spots are pointing people to the Twitter handles.
I don’t envy the team that has to stage and record the Vine version of the highlighted play by the fourth quarter each game. But the combination of branding and entertainment value in this project is undeniably powerful. One has to wonder how long audiences will be drawn to the inherent cuteness of the super-short Vine stop-motion aesthetic that has become a cultural meme for all of a few months now.
In an odd way, Vine recalls some of the very earliest film animation shorts of the early 1900s when forgotten pioneers like M. Stuart Blackton animated blackboard drawings in shorts like “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces” (1906). The stop-motion effect even mimics the halting motion of what were once called "flickers." Every emerging medium seems to reenact and even recall aesthetics from nascent stages in previous media. As much as mobile platforms seem to yearn to be extensions of the Web as we have known it -- or even TV -- they may want to reach farther back for ideas that map better against this medium’s native strengths. Silent film, comic strips even early radio may be rich fonts of creative precedents that help mobile find its real aesthetic strengths.