Mindshare’s advertising ‘war room’ goes in search of magic social moment

In ‘The Loop’, the media agency is creating ads that react to events as they happen

Mindshare Dublin managing director Emma O’Doherty in ‘The Loop’, its adaptive marketing ‘war room’.

Mindshare Dublin managing director Emma O’Doherty in ‘The Loop’, its adaptive marketing ‘war room’.


Inside Mindshare’s advertising “war room”, The Loop, there are eight screens tracking social media activity and a large table intended for ultra-fast collaborations between campaign planners, creatives and clients.

The purple-hued room in the agency’s offices near Christchurch is the Dublin version of some 30 similarly known facilities in Mindshare offices around the world, and like those other Loops, it is designed for one thing: adaptive marketing.

Adaptive marketing is industry jargon for a phenomenon that every social media user knows – it is the paid-for ads and the promotional messages that seem to react to events in “real time” or, at least, lightning-fast. The bad ones make the mistake of exploiting negative news stories for their own ends, the good ones are often humorous riffs on mass-market entertainment, especially what are known in the US as “tent-pole events” like the Super Bowl.

“It will be the Rugby World Cup for us,” says Emma O’Doherty, managing director of Mindshare’s Irish operation. But it has also brought clients into the room on marriage referendum day, when the feelgood hashtag #HomeToVote became one to target.

The best pieces of adaptive marketing are deceptive, in that they have likely been in the oven for some time. In the US, Mindshare worked with its client, Jaguar, on this year’s Super Bowl night to create “extra”, reactive content, but “probably 80 per cent of the work was done in build-up to that night”, says O’Doherty.

In 2013, the most talked-about Super Bowl ad in industry circles was not a 30-second broadcast spot for which a brand had paid millions, it was Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet, a reference to a stadium power outage.

On that night, 13 other brands sent tweets reacting to the power problem, but Oreo triumphed, in part because it had the cutest line, but also because theirs was not a text-only tweet – the biscuit brand’s team had easily adaptable artwork ready to go.

“Oreo won that day,” says Mindshare digital strategy director David Kirkpatrick. “They were really well-prepared. They had their templates ready.”

Mindshare, part of WPP, the largest advertising group in the world, is now in preparation for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup matches, though there are other tent poles on its horizon. “The Late Late Toy Show really is our Super Bowl,” says Kirkpatrick. “That is the programme that really could produce an Oreo moment.”

Halloween, also, has “huge potential for us”, and then there is November’s Web Summit. “We started planning for the Web Summit in January,” he says.

O’Doherty says a room like The Loop is about “changing our working practices”. This means that the people who create the content and the people who book paid-for ads and control the overall campaign strategy must sit down together.

“You need to have a creative person in the room and you need to have the client there to sign-off on it,” she says. In some circumstances, it may be necessary to have legal advice on standby.

Long before the rise of social, media agencies planned adaptive campaigns – for example, Mindshare last year ran an print advertisement for Dove Men that used the line “superior performance . . . Ireland P1 W1”, in reference to the fact that the Irish rugby team had just won its first match of the 2014 Six Nations campaign.

Adaptive marketing campaigns in print were “a once-a-year, once-a-quarter kind of thing”, says Kirkpatrick. Now that about 30 per cent of ad budgets go to digital formats, the opportunity is greater.

As television platforms converge with broadband, it will soon be possible to place different television spots with different households depending on demographics and precise location, bringing another big chunk of the market into the scope of adaptive marketers.

The digitisation of out-of-home advertising will also boost the practice. Dublin is some years behind London on that score, and upgrades to the infrastructure will require serious investment.

“It’s slow progress,” says O’Doherty. “But there’s lots of different things we can still do – just not on the scale that we would like.”