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PBS shows quick ad instincts with ‘Big Bird’ Twitter buy

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In the midst of Big Bird-gate, PBS shrewdly purchased the character’s name as an advertising keyword on Twitter to promote the public broadcaster on the social network. The decision shows how companies are learning to respond to the massive but short-lived ad opportunities that bubble up on social media.

First, some context. If you somehow missed it, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney thrust Sesame Street into the center of the election debate by declaring that he liked Big Bird but that he didn’t want to subsidize the bird’s employer, PBS.

Romney’s comments set off the predictable social media firestorm on Twitter, including the inevitable parody accounts like this one:

Which began sending out funny tweets like this one:

The more people took notice of the Big Bird flap, the more important people wanted to weigh in too:

While these type of instant-memes are becoming ever more common, what stands out in this case is how quickly PBS responded. As Mashable reports, the broadcaster purchased the keyword “big bird” in order to have a PBS message appear atop the Twitter stream:

The episode shows how PBS has learned an important new communications skill: whipping up ads on very short notice. As Twitter VP Joel Lunenfield noted on Tuesday at an advertising week event in New York, social media creates massive, passionate “transient communities” around certain events. These audiences, however, dissipate very quickly — is anyone going to be tweeting about Big Bird a week from now?

What this means is that advertisers in these situations don’t have months or weeks. Instead, they have just hours to make a message (or better yet a pretty picture) and to buy spots to place it. Despite what the old proverb says, for marketers, the race will indeed be won by the swiftest.

3 Responses to “PBS shows quick ad instincts with ‘Big Bird’ Twitter buy”

  1. G. Duerr

    I think we should keep the “Big Bird” issue alive as long as possible. This tipifies many rich, conservative opinions. That somehow, PBS is spreading “Collective” views of things. This is their code word for Socialist or Communist. There are some things that shouln’t be “owned” by a company or individual as it isn’t good for the group as a whole. I am reminded of the first President Bush in a Supermarket marveling at a scanner, a technology that anyone that goes to a Supermarket regularly had stopped being impressed with about a decade before.
    Even if you are rich, you should be interested in seeing that those less fortunate than you do well. You can’t build walls high enough or hire security effective enough to keep the “rabble” out, if there are enough of them.
    Even the effite can be reasoned with if you appeal to their bias. All you have to say to them is “If the rabble is kept desperately discontent constantly, they will resort to taking what you have”.
    If voluntary efforts or charity was enough, we would have no lower class to be looked down on, or at least they would be content & controllable!