Masters of Newsjacking!


Recently, I came across some really interesting topical ads and couple of them were related to Imran khan’s second and third marriage. Amul, the Indian dairy brand released these topical ads, the first one said “shaadi hai. Shady Nahin!” and the second one said, “Still bowling a maiden over?” There was another one talking about Mark Zuckerberg’s hearing before the US senators where, Amul talked about Mark and his ordeal during the hearing and quite smartly titled the ad ‘Everybody Questions Mark?’

Every brand these days is trying to be topical, clever and relevant but combining all three is no easy task. Topical advertising or Newsjacking is generally defined as taking advantage of a current news story or something that’s trending and then creating an advertisement around it. The potential benefits are obvious: get it right, and you build consumer affinity, affection, salience for your brand and gain substantial earned media which the brands wouldn’t have received otherwise but if things go south, it becomes a risky affair as there could be thousands to millions of people watching you do it, and there’s no easy way to recover.

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In order to create your own topical advertisements, you need an adept team that can gather real time information and create advertisements as soon as possible. If you leave it for later, it will be old news and people won’t be interested in it anymore. Advertisements can take many shapes and sizes, they can be functional, emotional, boring, witty, absurd or outright bizarre and it’s possible that they may not necessarily deliver on the brand objectives at all but they all take-off with the promise to do wonders and win awards left, right and center.

Brands that remain consistent and evolve at the same time, wins. This is exactly what Amul has done and has achieved over the years, it’s very first ad appeared in 1966 where they showed a praying girl and the words “Give us this day our daily bread: with Amul Butter.” The same icon – the Amul Girl – has been a part of their marketing efforts ever since. It has been a tradition for Amul to publish its butter advertisements in the form of pictures that often relate to economic, political or social issues and are thus dubbed “topicals.”

Nestle MilkPak also made some interesting topical ads in 2003-4 during the historic tour of Indian cricket team. The brand very cleverly took advantage of the hype around the tour and associated it with its “Khalis” (purity) proposition. Everyday a topical ad would appear on Jang front-page highlighting the main news of the yesterday’s match with a very clever brand connection (Khalis). The campaign was very well received and helped the brand further its association with the “khalis” platform.

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Nando’s is also known for its topical ads and witty lines but apart from these few examples, we don’t see a lot of topical ads being executed in the local market which in my opinion is a wasted opportunity because they are current, relevant and does generate a lot of word-of-mouth.If you ever decide to go newsjacking or create a topical ad, following are some of the key considerations that you must consider

1. Be clever with your “timing”.

Don’t be a copycat and do things just for the sake of it. You must be sure of the brand connect and don’t try of strong-arm yourself into a situation because campaigns developed in a haste can also blow-up very quickly. You can be robed of your #tags and efforts at wit can also backfire. Kenneth Cole’s social media misadventure actually came when Kenneth Cole himself tweeted about the Cairo uprising in 2011 which was trending at that time. People weren’t amused and later on, he was forced to delete the tweet and apologized. Humour can be a great tool for marketers to sway their consumers, but as said earlier, if things start going south or a joke goes sour, it’s easy to get criticized and blamed for all the mayhem.

2. Understand the local sensitivities and don’t become the fool.

Topical ads or Newsjacking generally revolves around intelligent wit but it’s important that the marketers strike the right balance between cultural nuances, religious beliefs and what the brand wants. If done smartly, all of this will help generate the right sort of conversations and you wouldn’t end up being the butt of a bad joke.Fast food chain Hardees, which landed its feet in Pakistan in 2009, wanted its customers to quite literally feel their buns through a campaign that they did, where they showed two buns neatly placed together and a woman’s hand firmly grabbing one. The ad read ‘fresh buns, eat like you mean it”. The campaign created quite an uproar on the social media and they had to take it off

3. Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Over a period of time, we have complicated the whole campaign development process and most of the times even a “good idea” gets rejected at the ABM level let alone going any further. Most of the times, what comes out after a month-long deliberation is something that is easily skippable and forgettable. We lose the money, the consumer and eventually makes our jobs even harder. Let’s argue for a min, even if the “good idea” gets through, the man with the golden pen doesn’t have the courage to take the risk and go ahead with it and we go back to square one. To take advantage of Newsjacking and create some interesting topical ads, both the parties, need to revise their processes so that they can respond quickly and that requires bravery and trust between all the stake holders.Maybe we should go back to the old way of doing things and house everything within a single agency. This system will help put all the specialists under one roof and will become easier for the brand to respond and reduce turnaround time.

4. …and finally know when to retreat!

Barack Obama once said, “that’s the good thing about being president, I can do whatever I want”. Well, neither are we President Obama nor our brands the magic wand. Whatever we do or say, has consequences. We all know that when we put something on social media, it stays there and it multiplies but we still see brands making stupid mistakes and then regretting afterwards. Such poor decisions are made mostly because of the lack of common sense and poor protocols. You have to have an adept team that can respond well in time to avert the disaster and retreat. Happy Newsjacking!


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