The Old Spice campaign’s special sauce: a real-time social media production team

A lot of marketing and social media folks are impressed by the Old Spice campaign that took the social web by storm this week, and amazingly, there are already some fascinating “behind-the-scenes” looks into how the campaign was produced in real time. Clearly, the team behind it had to get lot of things right to pull this off. The campaign’s success wouldn’t have been possible without great writing, a great character and hard-working actor, and a keen understanding of the social web’s culture. Also, they needed a technical set-up that could make it possible to produce and upload almost 200 videos in just two days — has anyone yet attempted anything like that before?

But as I see it, what is truly original and remarkable about what Procter and Gamble and the advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy did was that they designed and built a new kind of production routine for marketing and interacting on the real-time social web. Put another way, they had the right content strategy for producing a holistic social media marketing blitz that delighted and inspired.

By production routine or content strategy, I mean the combination of staff roles, technical capabilities and workflow procedures that are used to produce media, as well as the framework of creative message planning and story scenarios that has to be prepared beforehand. The real-time web requires a completely new kind of production routine than it took to make television, weekly magazines, or daily newspapers. Wieden+Kennedy’s Iain Tate explained to Fast Company:

One of the unique things taking place in the studio is we have a team of social media people, we have the Old Spice community manager, we have a social media strategist, a couple of technical people, and a producer. And we’ve built an application that scans the Internet looking for mentions and allows us to look at the influence of those people and also what they’ve said. They’re working in collaboration with the creative team that are there to pick out the messages that: 1. Have creative opportunity to produce amazing content; or 2. Have the ability to then embed themselves in an interesting or virally-relevant community.

What impresses me most about this campaign is that Procter and Gamble and Wieden+Kennedy understood that to be able to produce and interact in the real-time web, they had to create this new kind of production team*, with a dynamic, collaborative workflow and operating within a well-thought out creative (or editorial) framework.  I feel a lot of organizations don’t really get that, yet. They try to utilize their existing production routine for this new task, or worse, they don’t even realize they need a specialized team and strategy (‘we’ll just have the receptionist handle do Twitter’).

It took a big investment of time, money and foresight to create this brief, but intensive Old Spice campaign. But the reality is that the web is continuous, never ending. There is no launch, and no conclusion. It will be interesting to see where the Old Spice campaign goes from here. One thing’s for certain: silver fish hand catch will live on. For the rest of us, it’s a reminder that we have a lot of work to do.

* see more on who was on this team at @iaintate’s blog.

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