The Half-Decent Oreo Tweet That Dazzled a Nation

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 4 2013 12:37 PM

The Half-Decent Oreo Tweet That Dazzled a Nation

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

"How Oreo 'Culture-Jacked' the Super Bowl." — The Wall Street Journal
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When the Superdome went dark Sunday night, Twitter lit up with clever cracks about Bane, Beyoncé, Clint Eastwood, and Downton Abbey. But the one that garnered the rave reviews above was this one, from Oreo:

Dunk in the dark, get it? It was dark, but you could still eat Oreos! OK, so maybe it wasn't much of a joke, but how about that alliteration, amirite? And the, um, the timeliness!

So bowled over by Oreo's display of basic social-media competence were the nation's business media that editors around the country raced to be the first to explain to an awestruck nation exactly how the company pulled it off. Buzzfeed won the big scoop. "Twitter has been collectively wondering who deserves a raise," journalist Rachel Sanders enthused, less than two hours after the now-legendary tweet went live. "The answer: The agency behind the on-the-fly ad was 360i." Here how it went down:

"We had a mission control set up at our office with the brand and 360i, and when the blackout happened, the team looked at it as an opportunity," agency president Sarah Hofstetter told BuzzFeed. "Because the brand team was there, it was easy to get approvals and get it up in minutes."

AdAge had more:

The Oreo graphic was "designed, captioned and approved within minutes," according to Sarah Hofstetter, president of the cookie brand's digital agency of record, Dentsu-owned 360i. All the decisions were made in real time quickly because marketers and agency members were sitting together at a "mission control" center, or a social-media war room of sorts ...

And the venerable WSJ:

Hofstetter said Oreo exemplifies some of the “best practices” when it comes to effective digital branding: “They are relevant, visible and constant. And they are a brave brand. So whether it was the Daily Twist program from this summer, their amazing 100th birthday celebration last year, or last night’s real-time culture-jacking, Oreo finds a way to be relevant and on brand,” Hofstetter said.

Oreo wasn't the only company to jump on the blackout, Fast Company and others noted. Tide, Audi, and Volkswagen also managed to post vaguely relevant messages on social media during the outage, thus securing their own heaps of praise in the press. But their tweets all got second billing to Oreo's, which suggests that 360i's real coup may have been one that none of the above-mentioned outlets mentioned: getting Hofstetter on the horn posthaste with hungry reporters like Sanders to serve up that "how Oreo did it" pitch in a bite-sized little package. The press ate it up.

The real lesson here is that, at a time when most brands are so bad at social-media advertising that royal screw-ups are the norm, the bar for a Twitter campaign to be considered a smashing success is about knee-high. Clear it, and you'll have a viral hit on your hands, with reporters tripping over each other to tell the country how you did it. (And the country seems to be listening: Buzzfeed's making-of post has itself been tweeted some 7,000 times in just over 12 hours.)

I was beginning to think I was the only one who found all the fawning a little hyperbolic when I ran across this refreshing tweet from New York Magazine's Kevin Roose:

Yes. Or, at the very least, please let it mean something more than this.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.