Taste Testers: What RTB Can Learn From RTM

One of the more interesting topics raised in the real-time marketing report the Altimeter Group released today was bad real-time marketing. I’ve used this space to complain about bad real-time marketing in the past, but this particular report brought up something I had overlooked: bad real-time marketing, not because the creative was bad, but because the timing was downright insensitive. 

The most recent example was Uh-Oh SpaghettiOs’ Pearl Harbor tweet #fail, but there are plenty others. That’s why the Tumblr “RTM Sucks” sprung up in the first place, isn’t it?

Altimeter calls real-time marketing based on breaking news “the most spontaneous, challenging and difficult type of real-time marketing brands will encounter.” It also says that “all too often breaking news isn’t good news, so an acute degree of sensitivity is called for.”



While real-time marketing and real-time bidding (RTB) are different in many ways, there is data from RTB exchanges that proves brands typically shy away from being seen during negative news cycles. Real-time marketers might try to do the same, but as their usual platform of choice — Twitter — happens to be used by millions of consumers, any misstep is immediately exposed.

It’s much easier to track RTM fails than it is to track RTB fails when it comes to poor taste; there is no “retweet” button on display ads. But then again, RTB advertisers don't typically try to market based on general current events — one of the draws of RTB is personalization.

But as marketers get smarter with Big Data, I can see a situation in the not-so-far future where RTB ads are based on current events on a regular basis. In the exchange-based marketplace, plenty of trading already occurs based on location, so why not news? Maybe because the creative would be hard to develop? Perhaps, but I think it’s a logical next step. Maybe it’s already happening on a smaller scale.

But as Altimeter points out, doing real-time marketing based on breaking news is the most challenging and difficult. If real-time bidders are to try the same thing in the near future, I think they would be wise to learn a thing or two from some RTM fails. 

In an ironic twist, the best person to quote when that day comes could very well be Walter White: “Tread lightly.”

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