In traditional advertising channels, the process of producing a 30-second TV or digital spot can be a grueling pursuit. There’s the creative brief, concept ideation, scripting, production, sign-offs, lawyers, standards and practices, more lawyers, and ultimately a slew of layers that threaten to derail — or water down the project — at every turn.
But times have changed.
People follow brands on social, skip ads and have built-in BS detectors that act up when they feel they’re being sold to. That’s why more clever, unorthodox approaches are popping up. Quicker, reactive plays that consider the cultural landscape and deliver ideas to the masses faster (instead of the speed of molasses), while an idea is trending.
How fastvertising can impact a brand’s content marketing success
It’s been called fastvertising — a word you might hear more of once the world resumes to a semblance of normality. But first, to understand the potential impact of fastvertising, we must consider the best recent example from late 2019 B.C. (aka Before Coronavirus) to explore the kind of impact this can make to a brand’s content marketing success.
After releasing a 30-second holiday spot they thought would resonate with customers, high-end brand Peloton went viral for the wrong reasons in late 2019, taking a ton of heat for a commercial deemed “sexist” by many. Perhaps you remember it — it depicted an already rail-thin mom and working woman getting a Peloton bike from her presumed husband. She seems mildly surprised, yet decides to dedicate herself to near-daily workouts while chronicling her fitness pursuit with self-taken vlog entries confessing things like, “I didn’t realize how much this would change me.” Turns out, this video diary is pieced together as a “thank you” for the guy who gifted her the bike.
Framed against the Me Too movement, the backlash from the ad was swift and mighty contributing to a sizable drop in Peloton’s stock price — before the brand rebounded mightily during the pandemic with record bike sales.
That’s when Hollywood A-lister and ‘Deadpool’ star Ryan Reynolds and his small Maximum Effort agency team of “marketeers” got to work, showing just how much earned media could be generated with a quickly spun, “sequel ad” from Aviation Gin (a company owned by Reynolds) starring — Monica Ruiz — the same woman from the Peloton ad. Their response depicted Ruiz at a bar guzzling gin with girlfriends, clearly distraught about something, in an implication that her marriage to the man who stuffed her stocking with a $2,200-plus exercise bike, well, didn’t work out.
Reynolds released the ad by tweeting it to his 16M followers on Twitter with the caption: “Exercise bike not included.” It was a hilarious response to the Peloton debacle (while it was still on everyone’s mind) and what Reynolds calls an attempt to “move quickly on an idea and execute it quickly while it’s still in the zeitgeist.”
It’s a creative approach Reynolds recently discussed in-depth in an interview with Adweek upon being named their Brand Visionary for 2020.
To date, the clever Aviation spot has ginned up:
- 13 billion media impressions in 2019 for Davos Brands (co-owner of Aviation Gin) thanks to Reynolds’ “cheeky, eye-catching digital ads and marketing stunts” according to Adweek.
- Over 10M video views on Twitter, 6M+ views on Aviation’s YouTube channel and unquantifiable amounts of earned media coverage, which no doubt played a part in Aviation’s roughly $610M late-summer sale to Diageo.
Given the success of the spot, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t work out for Aviation’s cause spectacularly.
But that’s not what this article is about. This is about how fastvertising can potentially work for you, marketer, with high hopes of translating short-term solutions into long-term content marketing success.
So, in the spirit of drinking in what Maximum Effort did right in their approach (double pun intended), here are five things to ponder and potentially adopt in your own efforts as you look to make a maximum impact by learning lessons from those who’ve gone before you.
5 things to do if you think “fastvertising” could work for you:
1. Get it out there quickly
Take a guess. How much time do you think it took Ryan Reynolds and Maximum Effort to conceive, shoot and tweet out their Aviation Gin ad after the Peloton spot ran? It was 72 hours from conception to completion, according to Reynolds. That’s unheard of in advertising circles. In all fairness, what’s also relatively unheard of is the fact that Reynolds had an ownership stake in both the product and vendor — serving as agency and client. That no doubt makes approval rounds easier, but that’s not to say it couldn’t be replicated with an in-house marketing team that trusts its agency and has the desire/ability to execute fast.
Just keep in mind that when something’s trending in the media, the window for success is short. If you’re going to pull off a proper news jack, you must do it quickly — and make sure it fits into your content marketing strategy or else it could misfire.
What you want with fastvertising — and you could argue the Aviation’s ad succeeded on both counts — is a quick win, yes, but also something that’s on-brand. The Peloton woman’s plight was very much trending on social media and in the zeitgeist that week (even earning a brief mention on ‘SNL’), which made Aviation Gin’s ad score even bigger time in terms of timeliness.
It also succeeded tonally given the dry humor Reynolds’ team had established for the hard-liquor brand. Or as Reynolds calls it in the first brand spot he and Maximum Effort created for Aviation: “An American original… now owned by a Canadian.”
Given this cocktail of elements, it’s no surprise the Aviation spot took off.
2. Capitalize on the window of opportunity
Remember the time Sprint hired the “Can you hear me now?” guy who dominated Verizon spots for almost a decade prior? That was all about recognizing a rare, opportunistic window that aligned nicely with the goals of the mobile carrier at the time.
It was also the kind of idea that creative marketers salivate over because the idea to do that itself is so good, you can’t deny its brilliance — if you can pull it off. If you want to employ fastvertising correctly, you need to be open to (and aware of) these opportunities because they don’t come around very often. But when they do, it can be lightning in a bottle, so harness it.
To set yourself up for success in this regard, you’ll want to make sure you do three things:
- Keep an eye on the news cycle for a well-known (apolitical) news story that could serve as a clever pop-culture reference for your spot — assuming it makes sense for your product to do so.
- Understand which creative element it makes sense to borrow without disparaging the brand you’re borrowing it from.
- Make sure you don’t violate any copyright laws that could land your brand in legal hot water along the way.
Worth noting is that 2020 has been a time when brand safety is of foremost concern when it comes to marketing. If you choose to employ fastvertising as a tactic, please just make sure your ad is in good taste given what’s been deemed the new normal. For now.
3. Be authentic
For better or for worse, the rise of social media has fueled a push toward authenticity. Coming off too sales-y; or having a transparent agenda; or projecting an unfaithful portrayal of the truth has a way of provoking negativity in today’s world.
In his interview with Adweek, Reynolds noted authenticity as a mandatory ingredient given lessons learned on the ‘Deadpool’ films, which had a smaller budget than more traditional superhero movies and hence required more of a focus on creating real characters. “I knew that authenticity connected with audiences,” reveals Reynolds of his Hollywood crash course out of necessity. “I think audiences want to feel that they relate to the brand, that the brand is kind if theirs to a certain degree.”
In an interesting twist, authenticity is something that Peloton aspired to recently in their first TV spot since the “Peloton Wife” controversy. In the new campaign, they put forth a candid depiction of Peloton members across the globe and their actual home lives — versus a confusing portrait of a woman who may be pedaling down a rocky marital path paved by the patriarchy.
4. Be bold, instead of risk-averse
There’s no greater faux-pas in advertising than producing an ad that lands with a thump. Either because it fails to evoke emotion or is confusing to the point of turnoff. One of the reasons the Aviation Gin ad sticks its landing so well is… simplicity. The other is boldness. There are many ways you too can be bold a la Maximum Effort’s Aviation Gin ad to elicit a positive response.
You can do this by:
- Not being afraid to ‘go there’: By taking a seemingly apprehensive modern-day woman and transitioning her into a sudden divorcee with potential alcoholic tendencies took a bit of chutzpah. It’s also what made the Aviation ad so funny.
- Surprising your audience: New ads don’t usually get dropped out of nowhere, getting released via tweet, without a hint of hype or media when there’s a global movie star associated with them. In this case, the launch itself was a surprise.
- Knowing which media channel is best for your fast response: For some, it’s not a video so much as a quick comeback on social addressing content already there. Brands such as Netflix, Wendy’s and even the more vanilla Merriam Webster’s dictionary have made sport of cleverly joining the social conversation, responding to followers and stories in real-time.
It’s worked for them and who knows, it could work for you.
5. Back your brilliance into a long-term content strategy (if you can)
All sound good so far, but you don’t know where to start?
Try letting your long-term content marketing strategy dictate how you think about your short-term marketing wins (a la fastvertising). For Peloton, it’s true their ad agency produced a controversial TV ad. But in defense of the brand, they do a rather impressive job of understanding how content marketing can keep their cultish following hooked on their not-cheap product.
Peloton’s version of fastvertising is one that smartly uses trending topics across the cultural landscape to devise playlists and themed rides for their content hub.
For example, producing popular classes such as ‘The Last Dance’ ride, which capitalized on the most-watched sports documentary of all-time on the Chicago Bulls NBA dynasty of the 1990s (which ran early pandemic). The ride from Peloton instructor Alex Toussaint hit while the documentary was nearing the end of its ESPN run. ‘The Last Dance’ ride did crazy numbers generating over 20,000 riders during the live — now archived for all time — class.
Like most things, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach — and the same can be said for fastvertising.
J. Barbush, co-owner of L.A.-based digital marketing agency Cast Iron LA, worked on hundreds of social media campaigns as a VP/CD at RPA while advertising for Honda (amongst others) over roughly two decades.
He reveals a potential downside to fastvertising as a technique:
“Fastvertising makes headlines, but quickly falls out of favor as the news cycle moves on to other things and if it doesn’t really say anything about the brand, it’s hard to justify. Ryan [Reynolds] nailed it, because both those objectives aligned. But finding, connecting (and responding) to these opportunities are few and far between.”
It’s true: fastvertising probably isn’t for everyone and depending how spread thin your team already is, you might have to bring in a teamlance to do it. But hey, it has been proven to work in some circumstances as evidenced by the Aviation ad.
So if you make it happen, let me know… we can all meet up for a virtual toast afterward.
I know a good brand of gin we can use.