In today’s world of non-stop reportage, social journalism, and grab-and-go newsfeeds, brands need to respond to breaking news quickly. Financial firms likely have a vested interest in an economy threatening to fall off a cliff, while a home furnishings company may want a voice around sudden news of housing-market improvements. Traditionally, this type of responsiveness has been the domain of brands’ owned and earned media channels to get a message out quickly.

But the rise in real-time ad buying has created a new opportunity for brands to own their destiny in the face of unpredictable news and events. As a result, there are now paid-media opportunities to add to your marketing arsenal.

For example, let’s say you lead an airline brand and a competitor is under fire for repeated mechanical issues and associated delays. This provides the perfect opportunity to proactively message your own carrier’s investment in the newest fleet of planes, or highlight a positive track-record of on-time arrivals as a counterpoint to your competitor’s negative press. Or, should a massive heatwave suddenly hit the headlines, it’s a natural fit if you market sunscreen, air conditioners or convertibles. There are endless examples of cases in which a brand could benefit from getting a controlled message out in the marketplace rapidly.

But quick is only half the equation; of equal importance is ad adjacency. How does this work? When news breaks, the marketplace is flooded with new inventory – the ad space adjacent to editorial news coverage. Leveraging paid media in conjunction with earned and owned channels can be extremely effective in influencing consumer perception, particularly when relevant ad messages appear directly beside related, breaking-news content.

This is uniquely possible with RTB, where the inventory neither pre-exists, nor can it be purchased in advance. Capitalizing on these programmatic opportunities, within the ad exchanges, brings a real-time marketing approach to ad campaigns based on granular news triggers.

All the rules of brand-safe media buying apply twofold when dealing with unpredictable news and events. Be mindful of the limits of keyword targeting in programmatic buying – which are bound by literal interpretation and subject to linguistic ambiguity. What’s more important is to enlist deeper, concept-based targeting of the news content associated with every impression. This understanding is a key piece of the equation for brands to ensure they don’t inadvertently cause a faux pas that perpetuates a crisis cycle.

A brand surely would not want to advertise next to coverage of its industry mishaps, which would devalue the message. However, if you’re a consumer banking company marketing a zero-fee credit card at a time when banks are being fined for misrepresenting their credit services, it’s the perfect opportunity to tee-up a rapid response campaign – including creative you may already have in market – but aligned with the inevitable stories about smart ways to avoid credit card fees and related editorial.

There’s an opportunity to think a differently about opportune ad campaigns, particularly as they relate to programmatic buying. Doing so gives brands another strategic option in their real-time toolkit around both strategic brand messages and crisis-driven opportunities. In this case, a little advance planning could translate to an exceptionally relevant voice, and a big impact.