Acura Latest Automaker To Raise Periscope

Excitement and urgency. How do you create that today, when just about everything digital screams “exciting and urgent” but isn’t because, just like TV, you can watch it any time. 

The easiest way, because the medium is, after all, the message, is to find fresh, new media. How predictable, then, is it that that the newest media thing is impermanence? I'm talking Periscope, Instagram. It makes complete sense because these are the equivalent of must-watch, TiVo-proof TV. Automakers like BMW, Jeep, Harley-Davidson, Smart, and Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz have all used insta-media platforms like Meerkat and Periscope to reveal new products, and more and more are using it to create a quick flash for current campaigns. 

Acura, for example, went to Periscope on Dec. 10 for a four-hour program extending its holiday Winter Sales Event (“Oh, What Fun It Is to Drive”) campaign. The effort turned the slot car race, the must-have toy for anyone over 35, into a social media-driven real-time game. Not a virtual game, but an actual, real slot-car game. Alicia Jones, head of social media at Acura, told me that Acura developed the function that translated the Periscope hearts to the electricity that actually powered scale-model Acura TLX cars around the track.

So, users could participate in the three-minute TLX race by pressing the Periscope “heart” button. The more hearts a team car got the faster the car went through a “winter wonderland” set taken from Acura's “Oh, What Fun It is to Drive” commercials. Acura pledged to donate up to $10,000 to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, as each of the 20 races held a $500 purse.

Jones says Periscope makes sense because of the temporal quality of the experience. “Periscope allowed us to connect in real time with our target audience.” 

She makes a good point about why this kind of campaign is an effective way to avoid the saturation bombing you usually end up delivering for a year-end “buy now” campaign. “Messaging a sales event is difficult to do effectively or natively in social media due to the heavy-handed sales message,” she says. “Simultaneously, we’re always looking to try innovative ways to engage with fans in social. With this approach, we're able to do both.” 

Also, the very fact that Periscope and channels like it exist means marketers can make this kind of experience — and are more likely to do so — without also having to create both the idea and the channel. “It lent itself well to the live nature of Periscope,” says Jones. “And while the experience itself was only ‘live’ for a few hours, our goal was also to capture new and different creative imagery for our social advertising campaign [for Acura Winter Sales Event].” 

As for being able to do targeting on Periscope? “Not yet. But when you can, we’ll be ready. We like to be the first to do something cool and different that conveys our brand’s commitment to innovation.”

BMW and its digital agency, KBS, this year used Periscope to promote its X1 compact crossover with a program that was mechanically similar: Periscope fans could “heart” famed climbers Jimmy Chin and Alex Honnold to determine in real time where they would go and what they would do in their X1. 

Harley-Davidson's Periscope-driven product reveal this past summer constituted a live-streamed global “ride” of its new products, involving several cities around the world. The  30-minute global ride starting in Portland, Ore., then went to Sydney, Tokyo, Barcelona, Toronto, Mexico City, Las Vegas, and then back to Portland. 

And more automakers are going to such channels for auto show reveals, as well, which used to be streamed on the OEM consumer-facing web site. Jaguar, Smart, Hyundai, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz all used Meerkat and/or Periscope to show new products at the New York auto show this year.

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