Online Halloween: Trick or Treat for Advertisers?

very year we set a new record for traffic in October as Halloween approaches," explains Leigh Lucarelli, executive producer of Circle 1’s Kidscom.com. "For kids it’s like New Year’s Eve and Christmas rolled into one." It’s also, she believes, a holiday that’s a perfect fit for the Web. "Halloween is about imagination and action, making up stories, costumes, and games," she adds. "But on TV kids just watch other kids play or dress up, or worse, just watch adults tell them what to do." This year Kidscom.com will attempt to capitalize on the Halloween traffic spike with a seasonal "Fun Page." In addition to lots of games, from hangman to jack-o’-lantern, the page will feature areas where kids can design their own monsters and costumes. There will also be prize contests to see who can best dress up well-known cartoon characters. Advertisers, Lucarelli says, will be able to sponsor specific games, or opt to create their own "Play Section" with contests, prizes, product offerings, banners, or animated ads. The ads can also be mirrored on Circle 1’s ParentTalk.com. Site advertisers include games technology companies like Nintendo; vendors of children’s edu-tainment toys, books, and CDs; and food and snack vendors such as Nabisco. In addition to the season’s popularity with kids, a truly unique feature of Halloween for advertisers, according to Jodi Turik, president and co-founder of Women’sForum.com, is the ability to simultaneously communicate with parents and kids. "It’s extremely rare in any media to be able to bring generations together," says Turik. "Moms go to the Web for information about parenting, health, and other things, and kids go to play. The magic thing about Halloween is that it’s the one time of year when parents and kids are encouraged to use the Web to play games together." Several channels in the Women’s Forum will be Halloween-themed for the entire month of October. FamilyCorner.com will feature a constantly changing array of Halloween recipes, from Peanut Butter Caterpillar to Muenster Beetles. The MakingFriends.com Halloween mini-site will highlight Halloween craft projects for families to work on, including door wreaths, window watchers, pumpkins, and scarecrows. There will also be special sections on Parentclub.com, childfun.com, and familyfun.com devoted to costume ideas and design, as well as sections featuring seasonal songs, games, and guides to throwing a Halloween party.0 Turik sees opportunities for advertisers to sponsor individual projects, contests, or customized Halloween games. Advertisers include PC retailers like Dell Outlet, clothing stores like Whimzz and Old Navy, and cable networks such as Discovery Channel. Though Halloween is traditionally a kids’ holiday, fascination with the holiday doesn’t end when people reach 12 or 13, according to Mike Newman, EVP of sales for Excite. "We’ve found," he says, "that Halloween has become a very popular season for adults too. Adults go all out to celebrate with Halloween parties. They’ve become nearly as big as New Year’s Eve parties." Newman believes that advertisers of a wide variety of products — candy, food, and beverage —as well retailers have become increasingly interested in associating their brands with the festive mood of the season. The season is also a favorite of entertainment industry advertisers, who, Newman observes, now find Halloween a great time to launch and publicize action, "scary movie," or thriller genre movies. Terra Lycos is also excited about Halloween’s potential for appealing to all age groups. "Halloween used to just be a holiday celebrated on October 31," observes Kim Clark, group product manager of e-commerce at Lycos. "Now," she says, "the holiday seems to begin earlier and earlier every year. People start thinking about their Halloween parties as soon as summer ends."

Lycos’ "Halloween Gallery" will feature a continually changing array of model costumes, as well as special shopping sections for Scary Vacations, Halloween Cruises, and Halloween Fashion Accessories, a Halloween party center, and a section on Halloween Romance, sponsored by Matchmaker.com. It will also highlight a Designer Boutique, where people can bid on costumes (for kids or adults) from top designers like Gucci. Lycos is also partnering with Bertelsmann in an online music and books section, featuring seasonal literary fare such as horror novels and mysteries, and music for Halloween parties. According to Clark, Lycos believes that a well-designed Halloween promotion should try for maximum integration of e-commerce direct sales and branding. "As Halloween has broadened its appeal," she says, "it’s become an opportunity for a much wider spectrum of companies to get their products and brands in front of people."

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