We sat down with senior interactive strategist Agatha Asch to talk about the genesis of the Oreo “Cookie vs. Creme” Instagram execution for the Super Bowl, how it came about, and what was going on behind the scenes (hint: giant warehouses, and tubs of delicious white goo).
The Instagram execution was designed as a way to continue engagement from the spot that ran during the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2013, “Whisper Fight”. The spot shows people in a library arguing over which they prefer more: the cookie or creme part of an Oreo cookie.
“We were asked to come up with a campaign that would take the cookie vs. creme debate to the big stage and appeal to a younger demographic,” Agatha said. “We wanted to communicate with them in the places that they were hanging out, so that’s kind of where Instagram came into play.”
She added: “Our campaign is not nearly finished– the Super Bowl spot was the launch of a three month interactive campaign. So everyone should stay tuned.”
A call to action on the end card of the Super Bowl spot asked users to post a photograph to Instagram and tag it with one of two hashtags: #cookiethis or #cremethis. Selected photographs were transformed into sculptures using either Oreo cookies or creme as the medium. In the 60 seconds following the spot, the number of @OREO Instagram followers jumped from 2,000 to over 20,000.
But while it appeared simple on the surface, Agatha assures us there was a lot more going on behind the scenes.
“What’s really interesting is that this was a real time campaign that was reliant on something that defies being real time–a hand crafted sculpture. It was a little bit tricky,” she said. “Basically, we had a warehouse where we had 15 artists with different stations, and each station had a table and a stool. In the middle of the warehouse there were crazy amounts of cookies and crème that the artists could pull from to create their sculptures.”
Behind that team of artists was a cadre of social strategists, producers, creative and technical staff who worked around the clock to sift through what everyone was tagging and find the photos that would be the most fun to create.
Agatha had a lot of fun doing it, she says, adding that “it was kind of like Iron Chef,” because there were a limited pool of ingredients, and the artists were racing against the clock.
“We aimed to have sculptures completed in 15 minutes, but that wasn’t the case for everything,” she said. “We wanted the artists to take their time and create as close to the actual images as possible– for some that meant 15, for some that meant a little bit longer.”
The process of getting the images online was equally time-constrained.
“Once an artist was done creating their image, they’d ring a bell and they had a flag they could raise,” Agatha said. “The creatives would run over and check it out, and they’d take a photo. We used only iPhones for the photography–all iPhone, and all unfiltered.”
“Then, when the photos were taken, the copywriters and studio designers would get everything ready and do a handoff to my team.”
The pictures were posted using only one phone, for security reasons. But that constraint had its own challenges.
“It was crazy,” Agatha said. “The phone’s battery kept dying from all the notifications coming in. When the spot first launched, the app crashed and the phone wouldn’t turn on again. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Even when the sculptors’ work was done, the work of the digital team continued.
“We had a really great response,” Agatha said. “We opened it up to our community on Facebook first so it started small, but then once the spot aired, and everyone started submitting, it started raining down. There were many things that happened that we didn’t expect and were unprecedented. Instagram has never seen engagement and growth like that in such a short amount of time.”
To deal with the volume, the team worked in shifts.
“We took turns,” Agatha said. “I woke up at 4am one day to make sure I could start uploading, we went to bed in shifts. It was a lot of sleepless nights. Well worth it though.”
The team is very pleased with the response, and the Oreo-loving community has responded in kind.
“A couple of brands participated,” Agatha noted. “Chevy and Outback Steakhouse, which have very active online presences, both decided they wanted a submission. We’re always looking for ways to connect communities to other communities. We also had a mention on the Today Show and we made a cake for Facebook’s birthday. In addition, we had a post for Reddit that got picked up organically and made it to #1 on the front page. There continues to be a lot of buzz about the experience outside of Instagram, and we’re stoked about it.”
So, who won: cookie, or creme?
“Creme won for now, but it’s not over,” Agatha said, noting that there were over 30K submissions of #cremethis, and over 17K for #cookiethis. “There’s a series of other things we’ll be doing to determine the real winner. The campaign is just getting started.”