Newsjacking and Advertjacking both get a new lease of life thanks to social media

Marketing people love their buzzwords. And the latest that seems to be doing the rounds is ‘Newsjacking’. Which basically involves a brand, product or service responding to news events in ‘real time’ and can result in social media gold or a social media backlash… depending on which end of the ‘taste stick’ your execution is at.

For example, would you associate A-list actress Kate Winslet with London’s FireBrigade? Me neither. But, last year, Kate was staying at Sir Richard Branson’s private retreat in the British Virgin Islands when lightning struck his home. His place set on fire and Kate had to enter the building to save Branson’s elderly mother.

News channels all over the world were all over the story, but so too was London’s Fire Brigade. Within hours they had written a blog on their website offering Kate Winslet the chance to train with their firefighters. Reporters got wind of the offer and the London Fire Brigade got loads of free publicity, site traffic and inbound links. Now that is great advertising! Or, should I say, Newsjacking.

Newsjacking Kate and Will’s baby
The news of the birth of Will and Kate’s royal baby as also quickly capitalised by businesses. B&Q showed us what the front of Buckingham Palace would look like if it were a playroom and changed their strapline from “you can do it” to “one can do it”.

The whole idea of running pieces of marketing based on news events is really nothing new. People involved in Political Advertising have been doing it for decades. However, social media has given Newsjacking a new lease of life.



Oreo takes advantage of Superbowl blackout
During the blackout at this year’s Superbowl, Oreo responded to the news by creating an ad in under 30 minutes. The ad was embedded in a tweet. It was real time advertising that was funny, clever and, most importantly, relevant.



Slap Nick Griffin
That’s what Jon Plackett, a London-based advertising creative asked everyone to do. He was so incensed by Griffin’s public appearance on BBC’s highly regarded Question Time TV show that he immediately felt the need to act. Plackett discovered a piece of footage showing Griffin addressing a Klu Klux Klan rally in Texas, next he designed, wrote and coded a site called The idea was simple: you could slap Griffin in the face and the site would record the total number of slaps.

Plackett uploaded his site the message board the day after Question Time had aired. It quickly went viral and Griffin earned a total of 25 million slaps. Ouch!

This example of Newsjacking shows just how powerful it can be. Plackett created this piece of Newsjacking all on his own, yet still achieved a reaction from tens of millions of people.


Meet Advertjacking, Newsjacking younger brother
Just like Newsjacking, Advertjacking relies on news and events that are currently occurring, except that they specifically relate to advertising content. Again, just like Newsjacking, Advertjacking has been around for quite a while.

One of the most famous examples I can think of is the Levi’s ‘Through the Walls’ advert directed by Jonathan Glazer, which was famously ‘jacked’ by Lilt and their ‘Lilt Ladies’.

Whilst coming before the age of social media, Lilt’s creative execution generated conversations in lifts and chatter on radio stations as well as articles in newspapers.

Home improvement chain gives Apple ads more colour
Rona, a home improvement chain in Canada, advert-jacked Apple’s iPod nano campaign when they placed an ad underneath their billboard near the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal. The copy read “Nous récupérons les restes de peinture” translating into, “we recycle leftover paint.”

Coca-Cola ‘shares’ its campaign with rival

A more recent example of advertjacking is from Fentimans Curiosity Cola, as they advertjacked Coca Cola’s current “Share a Coke” campaign.

The idea was placed on a billboard van next to Coke billboards across London, positioning Curiosity Cola as the superior-tasting Cola. The concept was thought up by independent London agency, Sell! Sell!

They poked fun at the personalised bottle campaign with their own posters saying, “Buy a weedy cola with your friend’s name on it or buy a proper cola with our name on it.” In today’s social media age, creating that kind of buzz through Advertjacking is likely to gain a snowball effect on the web, making the advertjack even more effective.


Where Advertjacking first began
One of the first forms of Advertjacking was ‘subverting’. It specialised in creating parodies of corporate and political ads. They take an iconic logo or ad campaign and alter it in a satirical manner.

In 1972, Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign posters were subvertised. An extra x was put in Nixon’s name to wink at the Exxon logo; this was done to imply the corporate ownership of the Republican Party.

The Canadian anti-consumerist organisation, Adbusters Media Foundation is renowned for creating ‘subverts’ to challenge consumerism. Two of their most famous subverts are ‘Obsession’ and ‘Reality for Men’, spoof Calvin Klein ads that were made to ch
allenge perceptions created by the fashion industry.

Where Advertjacking is heading

Historically, Advertjacking has been embraced by smaller companies that aim to jack big advertising campaigns. The reach of any jack would only be regional, attacking existing outdoor media around that specific area.

Thanks to the web, successful jacks can now be showcased online and reach a far bigger audience. This makes them more valuable to the brands that embrace them.

Like newsjacking, perhaps we’ll next see Advertjacking evolve online? It might be only a matter of time before a company attempts to Advertjack another brand’s online advertising campaign. Could it be the jacking of a banner ad? Perhaps a brand will be brave enough to Advertjack directly on another company’s Facebook wall?


Stealing the show
Newsjacking, advertjacking and subverting… Each one effectively takes existing news or advertising content and adds to that conversation with its own advertising message, giving the brand interrupting an advantage.

You let the original piece of communication grab people’s attention and then you let your brand steal the show. Of course, this is no easy feat as you have to add something smarter and still related to the content of the first ad.

Some may perceive this kind of strategy as underhanded. But advertising is judged by how creative, timely and effective your executions are, and you need a strong dose of all three to see your Advertjack succeed.

Advertjacking can be part of a brilliant strategy, especially when it can be shown online and discussed via social media. The speed in which advertisers can now respond to news or advertising content via social media is only encouraging their use as an advertising tool.

If you’re a smaller brand who wants to throw a few big punches, all you have to do is find the right advertising campaign already circulating and out-think its message by executing something that will resonate better with your audience. After all, isn’t that an important part of what good advertising is all about?