Reactive advertising is nothing new on the agenda of marketers, as social media provides a platform for brands to hop on news stories and trends. However, the best results occur when a little more planning is involved.

This article will help you understand how to use reactive advertising and what best practise reactive marketing looks like. We’ll be using our recent WaterAid campaign film ‘The Girl Who Built A Rocket’ as a case study to demonstrate a successful reactive strategy example.

Reactive marketing tends to piggyback on news stories, current events or a national conversation. It is commonly thought of as an instantaneous reaction, usually in the form of owned content social posts. Whilst this kind of reactive advertising can generate instant exposure, the trade-off is that the execution is more time-sensitive and often the benefits are short-lived with minimal depth.

Earlier this month, Twitter went into an online frenzy when the now infamous picture surfaced of some Weetabix artfully arranged, topped with baked beans. Within minutes, every brand on Twitter was mulling over baked beans and how they could enter the conversation. A huge number of brands reacted to the Weetabix tweet, but by the time you’re reading this it will be almost a distant memory and we’ll be laughing about the next viral zoom fail.

Being instantaneously reactive can be great, however, planning out your reactive marketing can have a greater impact with stronger long-term benefits. Being proactive about your reactive marketing may sound counterintuitive, but planning your reactive content to coincide with a national or global event can have just as much impact as an instantaneous reaction. The benefit of planned reactive content is having the foresight to understand when it’s the right time to enter the conversation. In this way, the content can be integrated into your wider marketing strategy, rather than sitting separately like is often the case with an instant reaction.

Adopting a reactive approach into your wider marketing activities can present a number of opportunities for your brand.

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Reactive advertising presents the opportunity to insert yourself into real-time discussions with your audience. Using hyper-contextual content is powerful as it resonates with audiences current state of mind and creates impact that lasts. In this way, you are becoming part of natural narratives, making your brand relevant and relatable too.

By tapping into current conversations, you can hitch a ride with an audience when they are most engaged. If the conversation is already created, half the work is already done; viewers are more likely to engage and share the content with their community if the content is relevant to what’s going on in society and within popular culture. This turns one-way brand communications into two-way conversations.

The benefit of joining a current conversation is that millions of people are already there, giving you the opportunity to get your brand in front of a global audience and hugely increase the chances of building brand awareness. The online community has the power to spread your message, building your brand and online presence with it.

So, what does it take to create reactive content? Here are our top tips for using reactive advertising to boost your brand.

There is no step by step guide on how to identify a topic – news stories and national conversations are constantly emerging and evolving. What might work for one brand, will be useless for another. Conducting research into your intended market will give you insight into what the targeted consumers like and don’t like, which cultural references are relevant and important to them, and what will motivate them to watch and share. Staying on top of emerging stories and cultural undertones is a good place to start, however, the reasons behind picking a topic are truly individualistic.

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The phenomenon of water on Mars is a global conversation and a link can already be established between the topic and WaterAid, whose mission is to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to clean water. With three Mars missions going into orbit at the start of 2021, launching a campaign simultaneously was the perfect way to put water at the heart of the news cycle and reframe the narrative around searching for water on Mars, reminding people of the issue of finding water here, on Earth.

By using a planned reactive approach, we were able to understand exactly when it would be a relevant time to enter the conversation and ensured the campaign felt integrated into WaterAid’s wider marketing activity.

The key to success in reactive marketing is to understand how the topic aligns with your brand and its values. Ask yourself if you have something to add to the conversation? Ensuring there is a strong and easily recognizable link between your message and the subject will help the content feel authentic and memorable. If it’s too far fetched or irrelevant to your brand, viewers won’t get it and will disengage. If you’re struggling to know if the conversation is relevant to you or not – firstly think about your online personality and secondly, your brand message. Ensuring there is a link between these two things and the topic will ensure relevance.

Working with WaterAid, we knew we needed to reframe the current narrative surrounding the Mars missions by putting water at the centre of the conversation. We wanted to bring a new angle to the story, highlighting that no-one is thirsty there and that, with 1 in 10 people still without access to water on Earth, our mission is here.

Content that evokes a strong emotional response is twice as likely to be shared or interacted with. Whether it’s joy, excitement, nostalgia, or hope, emotion is key in contributing to shareability. We believe that you need to encourage people to feel something before you can get them to think about your product, company or service, or take action. The type of emotion used in your reactive content will depend on your brand tone of voice and the topic you are reacting to.


We needed to engage the public in the global water crisis and drive consideration for the charity and its work. “The Girl Who Built a Rocket” is a poignant animation that brings the realities of the water crisis home, whilst inspiring action with a message of hope. To ensure authenticity in the film’s portrayal of Madagascar, the film was developed alongside a WaterAid Voices from the Field Communications Specialist, with all elements of the animation inspired by real people, places and experiences.

Tapping into emerging news stories and current affairs in your content can help develop a connection with your target audience. For successful reactive content, it’s important to think about the value of your reaction – ask yourself if you’re telling a meaningful story or if you’re piggybacking off unrelated news trends. Always remember the link between the conversation, your brand personality, and your campaign message; in order to obtain strong results, the marketing activity needs to serve a larger purpose on behalf of your brand. Don’t react just because everyone else is. Being able to tap into a conversation is all very well, but if it doesn’t deliver results it’s not that useful.

Our social media and content services can help you develop a brilliant reactive advertising strategy that increases brand awareness. If you’d like to talk to us about your next campaign, get in touch at for best services. #KhabarLive #hydnews