Newsjacking – essential marketing tool, or a cry for attention?

Newsjacking has become a mainstay of many comms arsenals – with search more influential than ever the huge spikes in web traffic and general public commentary surrounding hot-topic news stories presents an ultra-timely opportunity for brands to communicate with their consumers, and grab a share of cultural consciousness.

Newsjacking activity demands rapid, real-time strategic thinking, and can pay huge dividends – but it can also alienate your audience if done badly. We’ve picked some illustrative examples of the good, the bad and the ugly in newsjacking


Oreo - Dunk in the DarkBrand: Oreo

News story: Super Bowl XLVII

Why it worked: real-time marketing at it’s best – this ad was tweeted seconds after the power-cut at the Super Bowl – as Oreo was the first it was positioned perfectly for the mammoth amounts of traffic that ensued.

Harry - Lynx Effect

Brand: Lynx

News story: Prince Harry’s Las Vegas Fiasco

Why it worked: the 1-day ad fitted perfectly with the Lynx brand image and cheeky tone – Lynx’s social networking reach more than doubled after the ad ran, and by the end of the ‘newsjack’, Lynx’s ad had reached 5% of UK Twitter newsfeeds, of which 59% belonged to those between the ages of 18 and 34 – the brand’s main target demographic.


Brand: BMW – Mini

News story: Horse Meat Scandal

Why it worked: coinciding with the launch of their new, weightier Mini model – BMW used a simple play on words (in line with the humorous Mini tone), and jacked an edgy news story. The ad clearly resonated with fans of the brands with over 5,000 likes on Facebook, and 2,000 shares within 4 hours of its release.


Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 10.43.15

Brand: CAT Footwear

News story: Royal Baby

Why it didn’t work: successful newsjack campaigns bring innovative content ideas to the table – CAT’s attempt is unoriginal, lacklustre, and doesn’t resonate with their ‘work boot’ image. The attempt resulted in irritated responses from consumers – ‘’ridiculous comment… you should think more carefully on what you post”


Brand: epicurious

News story: Boston Marathon Bombings

Why it didn’t work: a ‘first at all costs’ approach can lead brands to misstep. Where epicurious should have left it at that first sentence, the person manning their twitter account that day tried to crowbar in a tactless product plug too. Newsjacking has to be fast, but it also has to have some level of thought behind it. We’re amazed this tweet got even 3 favourites.



Brand: American Apparel

News story: Hurricane Sandy

Why it didn’t work: the US retailer tried to exploit a national tragedy and although American Apparel proclaimed ‘innocence’ in their newsjack, the brand’s only remaining lifeline, was soon cut as damage went from bad to worse.

AA explained, “retail stores are the lifeline of a brand like ours so when they are closed, we need to come up with ways to make up for that lost revenue. People forget how expensive it is to run a Made in USA brand like American Apparel and if we made a mistake here it came from the good place of trying to keep the machine going – for the sake of our employees and stakeholders.” None of which probably gave much comfort to people dealing with the aftermath.


Newsjacking provides brands with power to demonstrate their consumer understanding, and join in the spike of conversation with them – before diving in brands need to make sure they are creating topical, relevant content that sparks a responsive connection. However, due to the capricious nature of world news, brands cannot use newsjacking as their content strategy protagonist, but should instead keep it on the peripherals, planning ahead, and ensuring a meticulous up-to-date understanding of the consumer is ready to be demonstrated in the spotlight through innovative content that resonates.

Marketers must not rely on news stories to create content – they must become storytellers, creating their own brand narrative and becoming publishers themselves. Fail to prepare relevant content, prepare to fail.

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Author: Nick van Buuren

Account Executive at Speak Media

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