By: Gigaom
October 05, 2012 at 10:27 AM EDT
PBS shows quick ad instincts with ‘Big Bird’ Twitter buy
This week's flap over Big Bird shows how unexpected digital media events can provide companies with amazing advertising opportunities -- so long as are nimble enough to make and buy ads in a matter of hours.

In the midst of Big Bird-gate, PBS shrewdly purchased the character’s name as a way to promote the public broadcaster on Twitter. 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:

Still flummoxed we’re the focus of budget cuts. Oscar lives in a TRASH CAN

— Skid Row Big Bird (@SkidRowBigBird) October 4, 2012

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

President Obama: “Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird.”

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 4, 2012

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 key word “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.

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