Here they are — the eight first-prize winners of PROMO’s 2007 Interactive Marketing Awards. Each of these brands created a groundbreaking campaign, using everything from e-mail to advanced Web site technology. Some created contests, others improved their search engine marketing. Some partnered with outside firms, the rest went it alone. Want to learn from the best? We tell how they did it — and the results they achieved.
Sony Pictures Cracks the Code
AWARD CATEGORIES Best Campaign, Promotional Web Site
CAMPAIGN The Da Vinci Code Quest on Google
CLIENT Sony Pictures Entertainment
How do you create buzz for a movie based on a world-famous novel? Sony Picture Entertainment pulled that off last year when releasing The Da Vinci Code.
Working in partnership with Google, Sony offered daily puzzles for 24 days, basing them on characters and plotlines from the upcoming motion picture.
“The book was a cultural phenomenon,” says Dwight Caines, executive vice president, worldwide digital marketing strategy for Columbia TriStar Marketing Group. “We asked, ‘How do we get the audience to opt in?’”
The studio knew the book resonated with an older crowd, but it also wanted the movie to be seen by a younger audience.
How did it work? The first 10,000 players to work their way through all the puzzles received a replica from the film. They went on to the final mystery.
Google crafted over 12,000 separate puzzles, and players used Google Maps or the engine’s book-search function to find clues.
The grand-prize winner received a trip for four to New York, London, Rome and Paris and a Sony electronics package.
“The movie is about cracking codes, unearthing a secret that is hidden in plain sight,” Caines says. “We wanted to make people think, ‘I could win this thing.’”
The promotion itself became an overnight hit. It drew consumers to the site for multiple visits, and players formed teams to share clues and prizes.
In addition, 1 million unique users signed up for a shot to crack the code, well exceeding Sony’s goal of 100,000. And they played 9 million puzzles.
The interactive effort also led to heightened awareness about the film, while keeping fans engaged.
Initially, executives considered running the contest as a text-based program, but that idea was nixed.
“The studio said, ‘I don’t a think that is a big enough idea,’” Caines points out.
One of the biggest challenges was running the program concurrently in three countries: the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Each had its own sweepstakes and contest rules.
The promotion was planned and executed over an eight-month period, but it was worth the effort for Sony.
“These opportunities rarely come up when you have two monolithic partners and a property that is already such a hot button for discussion,” Caines says. “It was the kind of program where I say I can’t wait until I get to build another. It was lightning in a bottle.”
— Amy Johannes
IDEA TO STEAL: DO SOMETHING THAT’S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE.
Puzzles may not be new, but Sony brought them to a new level in the movie field thanks to its partnership with Google. The effort required careful planning and lots of collaboration. “Being the first at something is a really great way to get momentum out of the gate,” says Columbia TriStar’s Dwight Caines. The result? Sony generated billions of PR impressions beyond its initial 1 million unique contest players. Now that’s a tough code to crack.
AWARD CATEGORIES Viral Promotion
AGENCY TOY and Maccabee Group
IMAGINE MILLIONS of animated elves singing and dancing their way across the Internet. Obnoxious holiday marketing clutter? Not when consumers themselves are the elves.
OfficeMax drew laughs and publicity last year with www.ElfYourself.com, a holiday Web site that let visitors mock up elves with their own faces and voices, then e-mail the result to friends.
An office supply chain is an unlikely destination for Christmas shoppers, so OfficeMax needed a soft sell with a humorous touch.
The retailer asked TOY, its interactive agency, to make up several Web sites where consumers could personalize silly holiday sweaters, roast a virtual turkey in real time, or sculpt an online block of ice.
TOY developed 20 sites appealing to different segments. Some were designed for the retailer’s small- and mid-sized business customers, others for Fortune 50 companies or consumers. Each one had subtle OfficeMax branding, and a link to the chain’s home site: www.OfficeMax.com.
Traffic was generated through PR on TV, in print and via blogs. And even this was offbeat: Sports teams made their mascots into elves and displayed them on their scoreboards. The PR effort was led by Maccabee Partners, with assists from TOY and PHD, OfficeMax’s media agency.
The most popular site? ELFYourself.com. Visitors uploaded their own photo to the animated elf’s body, and called a toll-free phone number to record a message. This was then manipulated to sound elfin and dubbed onto the resulting elf.
At its peak, this site generated an average of 41,000 elves per hour or 11 elves per second. Revelers created 11 million elves in all, and the site drew 36 million visitors in the five weeks it was up, from Nov. 27 through Jan. 1. Better yet, it helped boost traffic at OfficeMax.com by 20%.
The viral success became clear when elfin versions of Paris Hilton and Mel Gibson started circulating on the Web. Consumers also used the site to prank co-workers, to send invitations for their own holiday parties and to dress up their pets as elves.
ELFYourself.com generated 40 million media impressions, including mentions from ABC’s Good Morning America, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List,” The Associated Press, The New York Times and VH1′s Best Week Ever.
— Betsy Spethmann
IDEA TO STEAL: DON’T MAKE ADS, MAKE NEWS.
That’s the motto of Bob Thacker, senior vice president of marketing and advertising for OfficeMax. If it’s really funny (and easy), everyone will make an ad for you, he says. Give consumers the tools to make themselves the stars, and make them simple enough for your grandmother to use. Then stand back.
AWARD CATEGORIES SMS/MMS Mobile Marketing
CAMPAIGN Unlocking Mobile Value for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
CLIENT Verizon Wireless
AGENCY Vibes Media
How do you get people to engage with your brand? Create a mobile game — and make it interesting.
Verizon Wireless did just that last year with a text messaging campaign tied to the Disney hit, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Players had to navigate numerous obstacles — like ghosts, locked vaults and sea monsters — and then start texting their friends.
Created by Vibes Media, the game was based on the Choose Your Own Adventure novels. Participants could customize the game — there were 20,000 pathways in all — and stop and resume whenever they wanted.
“No one had ever done a game based on a movie and let players choose what happens,” says Becky Camhi, account director for Vibes Media. “It was so interactive. It really appealed to all ages.”
And timing was everything.
Vibes Media launched the game a week before the film’s release last July. To play, fans had to send a text message with the word DEAD to shortcode 3323.
The contest was advertised online, in TV spots and on movie cup holders.
The week-long Pirates game generated more than 4.2 million messages, reaching 61,337 people. Players sent an average of 69 messages apiece.
And 3,124 contestants finished the game. To do it, they sent from 138 to 300 text messages, depending on the decisions they made in the game.
What did they get for their trouble? The winner of a related sweepstakes will attend the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the third movie in the series, later this month. And two other winners are getting free trips to the Caribbean.
“The Create Your Own Adventure game was an example of a wireless/entertainment integration that got it right,” adds Jeffrey Nelson, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. “The game was hugely engaging for many of our customers, drove data usage and brought the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to our handsets.”
“It had a lot of personality,” Camhi adds. “We tried to make it fun and engaging.”
— Amy Johannes
IDEA TO STEAL: READ THE STORYLINE
Want to make your promotion stand out from the others? Get rights to a film property — and make sure you understand it. Vibes Media took this to heart when it developed the mobile game for Verizon Wireless. The agency met with Disney’s sponsorship team to get an inside peek at the storylines behind the Pirates movies. “We had access to the book, the Pirates mythology behind all three movies,” Vibes Media’s Camhi says. “We had an insiders’ glance.” The result? A winning campaign and built-in loyalty among thousands of Pirates fans.
AWARD CATEGORY Loyalty Marketing
CAMPAIGN My Coke Rewards
CLIENT Coca-Cola Co.
There were many chefs in the kitchen when the Coca-Cola Co. created the recipe for its My Coke Rewards program.
But one stood out: Studiocom, the agency that built the Web site that serves as the centerpiece of the program and hub for its 4.7 million members.
Consumers register at the site (www.MyCokeRewards.com), then collect codes from bottle caps and packages for any Coke products. They input these online and then redeem them for rewards ranging from magazine subscriptions to luxury cruises for two. Billions of cap codes are now in market.
The challenge was to develop a rich online experience that facilitated individual preferences.
“The genius of My Coke Rewards is rewarding customers for something they’re already doing,” says Doug Rollins, director of interactive marketing for the program at Coke. “It’s a great value equation for consumers and it’s all about thanks for drinking.”
The site, which was relaunched last month, allows members to redeem points and seek out rewards. It also serves as a platform for the company’s key properties while providing added value to partners like NASCAR, Blockbuster, American Idol, Spa Finder and the Oscars.
“We are leveraging those partnerships to bring more value to the customer,” says Julie Bowerman, director of My Coke Rewards.
The site has brought success on a number of fronts.
One new member registers every four seconds, and users average more than eight minutes per visit. The site has become the platform for a successful viral program, reaching many blog sites, eBay and fan sites specific to the program. And participation via mobile text entries has been higher than expected.
In addition, Coke has invested in the collection and mining of consumer information. This data is already fueling customization on the site, and is also being used for e-mail and mobile promotions and other types of communication.
“The power of the platform is in this data and how we use that to build the one-on-one relationship,” Rollins says.
— Patricia Odell
IDEA TO STEAL: FIND A PARTNER.
Partners can help you add to the types and number of rewards that you offer to members. For example, Coke’s relationship with NASCAR lets loyalty members earn points and then redeem them for ridealongs with drivers, autographed hats and jackets and other special treats not available to everyone. On the flip side, partners like Blockbuster gain tremendous exposure through My Coke Rewards and through members who redeem rewards that drive them into Blockbuster stores.
AWARD CATEGORY E-Mail Marketing
CAMPAIGN Money Monopoly
AGENCY The Marketing Store
put together two classic American brands — McDonald’s and Monopoly — and you will have a winning combination.
That was the reasoning when McDonald’s introduced its Money Monopoly contest in 2003, and when it brought it online in 2004. But the game really hit its stride last year thanks to a new marketing campaign.
McDonald’s sent seven weekly e-mail blasts, featuring HTML-rich invitations to compete for over 3 million prizes. Roughly 5.7 million messages went to inhouse lists.
All the recipients were “opt-ins to previous McDonald’s promotions,” says Chris Hess, marketing director for The Marketing Store.
That may explain the high average clickthrough rate of 9%. The chain’s best customers did even better — a blast to 71,313 during the third week was opened by 71%, and 29.2% immediately clicked through to play the game.
In addition, more than 500,000 patrons visited the Web site after receiving an e-mail, and their names were captured for the McDonald’s database. And the firm distributed 896 million game pieces through its outlets — the largest total for any restaurant game, it claims.
The online game attracted 31% more players than it did the previous year. Each player replayed the game 17 times.
What was the attraction? The sheer familiarity.
Of course, Monopoly must also get a good part of the credit.
“The real challenge is not to mess with a game that everyone knows and loves,” Hess notes.
Douglas Freeland, director of U.S. brand innovation for McDonald’s USA, partly attributes the annual jump in usage to the Internet’s user base growing even more last year.
— Larry Jaffee
IDEA TO STEAL: GIVE LOSERS A SECOND CHANCE.
Just because a consumer didn’t win anything on the “instant win” doesn’t mean there’s no value in that losing piece at the time of purchase. McDonald’s urged customers to try the code online when they made it home. Sure enough, 2.9% of the 26 million game pieces handed out with a purchase were used online, a 260% jump from two years before. “Giving them a second chance — that’s a huge draw,” says Hess.
AWARD CATEGORY Search Engine Marketing
CAMPAIGN Harley-Davidson Paid Search 2006
AGENCY Overdrive Interactive
Harley-Davidson wasn’t having much luck with paid search marketing. It was no easy task, given that the firm offers 36 models and thousands of options through dealerships around the world.
“We really needed to get pretty granular for customers in order to make the search pay off for them,” says Miah Armour, director of marketing for Harley-Davidson.
So Harley brought in Overdrive Interactive, an online agency. The job: to generate 20,000 leads per month during the last quarter of 2006.
That required a total overhaul.
The first task was to greatly expand the list of keywords to include both branded and non-branded variations of every term that had historically been searched relating to Harley-Davidson. This generated 16,000 keywords.
The second chore was to customize ad copy, following best practices for search marketing, for each offering and business line. Ads were then bid into the best-performing positions — not always the No. 1 slot.
Then the agency created customized landing pages to pull it all together. Each page featured relevant copy and images that encouraged visitors to register and set up a Harley-Davidson consumer profile.
Motorbike enthusiasts know what they want. “We pretty quickly realized that if they’re online and they’re searching for information, they’re looking for some very specific things,” Armour says. “We wanted to drive them to special services or offerings or a particular bike that they were seeking.”
The personal data collected will be used to send direct mail and e-mail promotions, and to support dealer programs for years to come, says Harry J. Gold, managing partner with Overdrive Interactive.
“There were no sweeps or incentives to prompt people to register,” he adds. “They had to voluntarily become part of Harley-Davidson’s marketing program. The success of the program shows the power of the brand.”
Key to the effort was a robust tracking infrastructure.
“The tracking system brings together keyword, click, conversion and cost data into a port that allowed us to identify the best performing term,” Gold says. “Then you can focus more media funds on those best performing terms, as opposed to optimizing on a cost per click.”
Did it work?
Impressions (the number of times that search ads were viewed) jumped a whopping 157% from August to November, while the cost per impression fell by 40%. In addition, the cost per action and cost per lead were halved. And the monthly lead quota was met.
“To take the integrated approach that we took across all of our services and offerings was one of the huge drivers of the success of the campaign,” Armour says.
— Patricia Odell
IDEA TO STEAL: BID LESS FOR CONTENT LISTINGS
Use only Google’s content targeting (AdSense) with established performing keywords and bid less than you would for content listings than search listings. By bidding less on content clicks that convert at a lower rate than search clicks, you can still get a viable cost per action from your AdSense program.
RACING TO MARKET
AWARD CATEGORY New Media
CAMPAIGN Indy 500 Ticket Renewal CD Postcardz
CLIENT Indianapolis Motor Speedway
AGENCY Serious USA
The Marketing Team behind the Indy 500 knows something about speed.
It wanted fans to renew their seats while the roar of the 2005 race was ringing in their ears. So it sent a video of historic Indy 500 races on a CD to 33,000 ticket holders-right after the event.
“When our fans got home from the race, this was sitting in their mailbox,” says Terry Angstadt, former vice president of marketing for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Playable on a computer, the disc provided a video timeline of Indy 500 classics, starting with the first in 1911.
The racetrack had previously given out a sheet of perforated cards showcasing drivers, and it has run radio and TV ads for renewals. But it had never done a push encouraging fans to buy tickets nearly a year in advance.
“We wanted to do something a lot more advanced, a sort of a future trading card,” says Jennifer Hutton, who served as marketing coordinator for the Speedway during the campaign and who now works as vice president of business development at Serious USA, the supplier of the CD cards.
The size and shape of a traditional trading card, the CD carried a link to the Speedway’s Web site. Ticket holders who renewed on the site within two weeks also got a DVD titled,“Great Moments of the Indy 500.”
Software built into the cards allowed the Speedway to track how many recipients viewed the CD, and what they did online.
The result? In all, 9,240 fans used the CD to renew online — a 28% response rate. What’s more, the racetrack’s ROI was 47 times the flat fee it paid for the cards, and ticket sales rose for the first time in many years, says Hutton.
— Betsy Spethmann
IDEA TO STEAL: HISTORY SELLS.
“Indy 500 fans really do appreciate the history and tradition of this place,” says Terry Angstadt, president of the Indy Racing League. “That makes for compelling content.” His advice? Put the action right into their hands. The Indy 500 campaign was the first in which a brand used a CD for an event instead of a takeaway or direct mail piece, says Peter Ellul, chief operating officer at Serious USA.
TWO MINUTES OF FAME
AWARD CATEGORIES Trial Recruitment
CAMPAIGN Write Your Own “Priceless” Ad
CLIENT MasterCard Worldwide
AGENCY McCann Erickson New York
MasterCard had no idea what it was getting into when it introduced its “Priceless” TV spots in 1997.
Consumers loved them, and soon started writing their own versions. And MasterCard is now trying to capitalize on that.
With help from McCann Erickson, the credit card issuer last year launched its “Write Your Own…” promotion.
There were two objectives: To create traffic for the www.Priceless.com Web site; and to engage consumers by playing on their passion for the Priceless campaign.
“Consumers have been writing their own Priceless ads since the campaign began,” says Joyce King Thomas, executive vice president and chief creative officer for McCann Erickson New York. “So we decided to use that as bait to get them to experience our new Web site.”
At the site, two blank ads invited people to fill in four missing lines of content; 100,000 of them did.
Using the Academy Awards as a launching pad, the commercials drove immediate Web traffic during the March 5, 2006 broadcast. The campaign was also supported through banner ads on numerous Web sites, including those of Yahoo, ABC, MSN, ESPN, CNN, AOL and iFILM. Ads were also posted on www.YouTube.com.
Did it work?
Yes. The site received more than 800,000 unique visits, more than 4.1 million page views and a total of 48 million online impressions. The TV commercials generated a gross of 630 million impressions. Average time on the site was seven minutes.
“The idea of the campaign wasn’t to get consumers to write our ads for us,” Thomas says. “It was to use the inherent interactivity of the campaign to get consumers to engage with the brand, and experience our new Web site.”
The momentum from the campaign continues with Priceless.com currently getting more 1 million visitors a month.
MasterCard received tremendous PR buzz with consumers and industry pundits, and was cited by The New York Times as a brand that utilized consumer-generated content in a successful way. — Larry Jaffee
IDEA TO STEAL: UNDERSTAND YOUR ASSETS — AND LEVERAGE THEM.
If consumers are showing an interest in interacting with a brand, capitalize on that by launching a contest around consumer-generated content.