Digital & Social Media

Don’t Mess With Romania

Don’t Mess With Romania
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Campaign: When news got out that the U.K. was running an anti-immigration campaign in Romania and Bulgaria to discourage residents from coming to Britain, Romanian newspaper Gandul (which translates as The Thought) fired back.

Since the British campaign was focusing on the downsides of life in Britain, Gandul decided to create a campaign that took pity on the poor Brits forced to live in such a rainy, economically bleak country. “Why don’t you come over,” was Gandul’s Visit Romania campaign. The newspaper ran ads promising cheap beer and another incentive to visit: “Half of our women look like Kate [the Duchess of Cambridge, wife of William and new mum]. The other half, like her sister.” The ads were shared on Facebook, where people also had the chance to write their own headlines encouraging people to visit before sharing them through a Gandul-badged campaign page.

The campaign also allowed Romanians to offer their couches for U.K. refugees through whydontyoucomeover.co.uk website, which imitated popular peer-to-peer sites such as accommodation network AirBnB. Some 300 couches were offered through the scheme within two days. Romanian firms were encouraged to use the site to advertise vacancies to British jobseekers.

Despite zero media budget, the campaign generated €2m worth of worldwide earned media, with 87 million media impressions, 5.1 million in Romania. Gandul.info readership increased by 30 percent, and the paper’s Facebook engagement was boosted by 37 percent. Social network buzz around the paper increased by 137 percent.

The campaign, orchestrated by GMP Advertising Romania in Bucharest, forced British newspapers to concede that the Eastern European destination was an attractive vacation prospect, while the U.K. authorities abandoned their campaign to deter the Romanian and Bulgarian migrants.

Contagious, McNeel Weigh In

Contagious: Gandul successfully “newsjacked” here, responding super-swiftly to the pledge from British Prime Minister David Cameron to close the doors to Romanian migrants: It took just two days for the paper to launch the Visit Romania campaign. What’s more, a tongue-in-cheek response with strong copywriting was a solid start to Gandul‘s campaign, strengthening its reputation at home.

But like any newsjacking campaign, humorous or otherwise, it was important to follow up. In this case, the Facebook application and couch and job offer site allowed readers to take ownership of their paper’s efforts, closely aligning them with the product. Engagement with the media outlet also increased; Gandul ran a news sidebar on its campaign site along with social media links.

It is debatable whether the campaign will reap long-term reward. A tourist office could make lasting use of the whydontyoucomeover website and use the headlines generated and web data extracted to build new connections with tourists and destinations alike. On the other hand, a media brand is unlikely to pan any more gold than the temporary boost afforded by its timing. This, perhaps, isn’t the point: Gandul.info is reinforcing its sense of national pride, which helps to differentiate it from other online news sources in Romania.

John McNeel: By now, everyone is familiar with the tweet that changed the face of social media: Oreo’s brilliantly opportunistic hijacking of the Super Bowl blackout.

It was really just the latest, greatest case of a brand understanding that, in today’s real-time world, a different standard applies. A brand’s message has to be not only on target, but also timely. Quick response is no longer just a nice-to-have; it’s a strategic imperative.

When the UK—somewhat foolishly and parochially—announced its intention earlier this year to launch a campaign to discourage Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants from coming, many in Europe were outraged. Yet, it took a small newspaper in the capital of Romania, on the fringes of the European Union, to respond, virtually overnight, to this affront to Romanian national pride. And to do it in a way that was not only social media savvy, but deliciously waggish.

This confrontation of David and Goliath on the battlefields of social media resulted in an about-face from Downing Street that was every bit as swift as the “creative projectile” had been well placed.

Many of us will cringe at the reference in the case video to the “millions in free media” that the campaign was able to garner. But the fact remains that this was an idea seized in the moment and executed in the moment. It earned those headlines because it was a perfect example of a brand (Romania) understanding that part of its national personality (scrappiness and street smarts) could find an expression in this humorous assault on British insular self-sufficiency.

Anticipation is one of the mainstays of the public relations industry. Developing scenarios for even the worst cases our clients might face is one of the ways we help mitigate risk.

But ultimately, as Oreo and Romania so effectively demonstrate, it’s our ability to think creatively, on our feet, in the moment, that increasingly will make the difference between simply serving our clients and helping transform their businesses and their brands.

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About the author

This article was syndicated from Contagious Feed, an indispensable resource to the marketing communications industry focusing on competitive intelligence, best practices, new technology and consumer behavior. In addition to the flagship quarterly publication, app and Feed, Contagious has developed a consultancy and a series of world-class conferences, including its annual Most Contagious event.

John McNeel is FleishmanHillard's global managing director of strategic integration, accelerating the firm’s integration of various communications disciplines across paid, earned, shared and owned media platforms.