De-bunking Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” Superbowl tweet

Mark Ritson's latest column cuts through the hype and hysteria around Oreo's impromptu Twitter ad, which ran during the 34-minute blackout that interrupted last week's Superbowl.

In case you missed it, the tweet said “Power Out? No Problem”, accompanied by a picture of a biscuit and the line, “You can still dunk in the dark”. And as Mark explains, it got journalists gushing with praise: The Wall Street Journal says Oreo “culture-Jacked” the event and Forbes called it a “real-time slam dunk”. The Washington Post went even further, asking: “Can Twitter replace the Super Bowl ad?”

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But as Mark points out, when you dig into the data you get a different story. 

– Oreo Twitter followers: 65,000

– Click through rate: assume a healthy 5%, vs average of 2%

– Opening the link: 3,250

– Re-tweets: 15,000 x average of 208 followers x 5% clicking/opening = 150,000 people

– Oreo US buyers: 80 million

– Reach of ad: 0.2%

In contrast, the good old TV ads in the Superbowl were seen by an estimated 40 million people, or roughly 250 times more reach than Oreos' tweeting campaign. Mark also makes a good point about "clutter". There were 60 different ads during the Superbowl, but he argues that Twitter clutter was worse: 24 million tweets were sent by Americans during the game. 

So, what's the learning from this?

On the one hand, I actually do applaud the Oreos team for being "on the ball", and doing the tweet in real time. I guess it was cheap to do, and there was no media to buy. Second, what Mark doesn't talk about is the amplification of the ad achieved in the media. All those reports on the tweet that Mark mentions expanded the reach of the tweet way beyond the people actually clicking on it.

But, overall, I do still agree with Mark when he says: "My problem is not with Oreo, it’s with the lazy journalists and social media pundits who have hoodwinked a generation of marketers into believing that social media is far more potent than it really is."

Sure, social media has a supporting role to play in amplifying conventional marketing for most mainstream brands, and is not about to replace TV advertising any time soon. Conventional marketing can be planned, targeted, measured and delivers mass reach. In contrast, social media has limited reach, hard to measure and highly unpredictable. Don't forget that for every Oreo Dunk in the Dark tweet that gets picked up by the media, thousands of other brand tweets disappear without trace. 

For more on social media, click here for our research paper "Can Social Media Show you the Money"