With election fever gripping us close on the heels of the Telangana verdict, brands are striking when the iron is hot.

As politicians vie for voters’ attention and party workers reach out to members of civil society, looking for common ground on which to engage them, corporate India hits the nail on the head and sees us for what we fundamentally are, irrespective of religion, class or politics — consumers. It’s no surprise then that companies are wasting no time in tapping into the buzz around Telangana and the General Elections 2014 to propel their brand image forward.

India is no stranger to the concept of ‘newsjacking’ or real time advertising — the use of a current news trend to gain visibility in the market — thanks to Amul whose long running campaign has captured the buttery essence of every current affair at the right time with tongue in cheek. This time around , the city’s local brands are riding the political wave that began with the state bifurcation.

You are most likely to catch them popping up on hoardings around the city. On the Begumpet flyover, the size of the hoarding and the pace of the traffic will give you ample time to read a message by Sunshine Hospital urging commuters to stay positive in the face of the Telangana verdict. Those who travel to Hitec city regularly would have noticed Utsav vegetarian restaurant advertising ‘Zabardast Khaana for Andhra and Telangana’. Moksh Banquets announces alongside caricatures of politicians that ‘no party is perfect without the right location’. Pizza Hut is also getting in on the fun with their ‘Pizza Party’ television adverts while Idea Cellular is not far behind with their ‘ullu banawing’ campaign which portrays a cellular-enabled democracy fitting right into the political zeitgeist of the season.

Real time marketing is, however, not as simple as just striking while the iron is hot; the blow must be carefully planned. Without innovation and a sensitive understanding of the issue at hand, real time marketing often leads to disastrous results. It’s important to add something of value to take the conversation forward and even more important to remain sensitive to those affected by the news; newsjacking bad news like natural disasters, riots and protests are in bad taste. Shanta John, Chairman Emeritus of JWT Mindset, says, “It has to be topical and original but not at the cost of someone else's feelings.”

Apart from grabbing eyeballs and eliciting some laughs, newsjacking fits right into the world of Web 2.0. “Social media is ideal because it allows us to change the message within minutes, unlike a billboard,” informs Shanta. Branding, cleverly disguised as political jokes or wisecracks, will be shared gladly by people on sites like Facebook and Twitter, some of whom are most likely doing their own share of real time marketing, to promote their web presence.

Around the world in real time advertising

The one’s that got it right

n The ‘royal baby’ was a celebrity long before it was born. Brands like Johnson & Johnson, Mothercare, Oreo and even SAP AG, a software corporation didn’t waste any time getting on the baby wagon.

In late 2010, as WikiLeaks brought US diplomatic cables to the public domain, RG Blue Communications, an advertising firm in Karachi penned the line, ‘Wikileaks, Butterfly doesn’t’ to advertise a brand of sanitary napkins.

n Almost as soon as UK passed a bill legalising gay marriage, Virgin Holidays tweeted an image of two lipstick-stained champagne flutes with the tagline ‘Time for a honeymoon’

What not to do

n Designer Kenneth Cole’s tweet joking that the protests in Egypt, 2011 had something to do with his new spring collection online stirred up quite a storm. That didn’t stop him from using news of possible military action in Syria and the ‘Boots on the ground’ slogan to remind people to buy “sandals, pumps and loafers.”

n AT&T, an American telecommunications company put up a picture of its phone taking a picture of the events of 9/11 on the twelve year anniversary of the event, leading to much criticism

* As fear of another Tsumani gripped Thailand in early 2011, KFC asked people not to worry and keep track of earthquake news with a bucket of it’s fried chicken.