On Twitter, PBS stands up to Romney after 'Big Bird' quip

After the Republican presidential nominee suggests he would cut funding for PBS -- a threat to the famous "Sesame Street" character -- the network buys a promoted tweet tied to the term.

A look at the promoted tweet PBS bought that's tied to the term 'Big Bird.' Screenshot by CNET

Proving a point that Twitter made yesterday that the microblogging service gives brands a powerful way to build loyalty and find new customers, PBS today purchased a promoted tweet tied to one of the hottest terms to come out of last night's presidential debate, "Big Bird."

According to BuzzFeed, the purchase comes as a response by the network to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's suggestion that he would cut funding to PBS as a way of reducing government spending, despite his personal affinity for Big Bird, one of the main characters on the hit PBS children's show "Sesame Street." Romney's comments quickly generated a slew of satirical Twitter accounts, including @SadBigBird, @FiredBigBird, and others.

As a result, anyone searching Twitter today for the term "Big Bird" will see a promoted tweet from PBS that reads, "PBS is trusted, valued and essential. See why at http://www.valuepbs.org."

Yesterday, during a talk at Advertising Week in New York, Twitter's president of revenue, Adam Bain, and sales marketing chief, Shane Steele, shared a number of stories about brands jumping into the middle of trending topics and winning fans by being clever and innovative in the way they leveraged those moments. Examples included Tide getting into the mix after a NASCAR driver tweeted a photo of an on-track accident and fire, a back-and-forth between Oreos and AMC theaters, and the creation of special Twitter-only exclusives by the men's apparel brand Bonobos.

Perhaps the biggest star of the first presidential debate was 'Sesame Street' character Big Bird. Twitter user @FiredBigBird

One can imagine that if the Big Bird kerfuffle had already happened, Bain and Steele would likely have included it in their Advertising Week talk as well. Or, as Mashable put it today, "PBS could teach other brands a thing or two about how to turn a meme into a marketing opportunity."

Though Romney was almost universally declared the winner of last night's debate against President Barack Obama, Twitter was not as kind to the Republican nominee as political pundits were. Studies released today suggested Twitter users on balance panned Romney's performance, and it's safe to say that his perceived threat to Big Bird was a part of it.

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