Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Wiener Icon Enters the Digital Age ; Oscar Mayer Rallies Its Sausagemobiles to Get Attention on Social Media

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Wiener Icon Enters the Digital Age ; Oscar Mayer Rallies Its Sausagemobiles to Get Attention on Social Media

Article excerpt

The Oscar Mayer marketing tool is being rebooted as a cross- country road rally in a change that is emblematic of how Madison Avenue is remaking event marketing under the influence of social media.

A summer promotional mainstay in the United States, the mobile marketing tour of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles, is being rebooted as a cross-country road rally in a change that is emblematic of how Madison Avenue is remaking event marketing under the influence of social media.

The revamped tour, called the Wienermobile Run, was to be announced Monday by Oscar Mayer, part of Kraft Foods. To encourage consumers to follow the promotion on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the young men and women who drive the six hot- dog-shaped Wienermobiles -- Hotdoggers, in Oscar Mayer parlance -- are being organized into teams.

Each team's vehicle gets its own name -- among them Autobuhn, DriftDog and SpeedyWiener -- and hashtag. The teams will race around the country accumulating points as the drivers perform tasks or challenges submitted by the public on a Web site, wienermobilerun.com.

"People have interacted with our Wienermobiles for decades," said Tom Bick, senior director for integrated marketing at Oscar Mayer in Madison, Wisconsin -- by, for instance, waving as the vehicles drove past or "visiting them in the parking lots of supermarkets."

"Now we have the tools for people to really, really interact with them," he added, as the Wienermobiles become "powerful social media engagement vehicles."

"What we're trying to do is create stronger bonds between the Wienermobiles and consumers," Mr. Bick said, by cultivating "communities of support" in the form of the six teams.

The promotion is an effort to mash up "the classic cross-country road rally with gamification," he added -- that is, the infusion of marketing campaigns with aspects of online games or video games.

Oscar Mayer is working on the Wienermobile Run with Olson PR, the public relations division of the Olson advertising agency.

"If someone handed you the keys to six giant hot dogs on wheels, what would you do?" asked Jody Moore, vice president at the Chicago office of Olson PR. The answer, she said, was to develop a campaign that would "put the Wienermobiles in the hands of their fans."

"The folks at Oscar Mayer are flooded with requests to have the Wienermobiles show up at parties and events," Ms. Moore said. "This is giving people what they wanted for a really long time."

The Wienermobile Run is not the only example of how social media are transforming event marketing, also referred to as experiential marketing, as advertisers venture onto U.S. highways for summer road trips. …

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