In an earlier column this summer (MediaPost, June 19, 2004), I explored the power of Neopets - the online game where kids create mythical identities and care for them. By playing a series of games, the kids earn "Neopoints," a currency they can later spend to clothe and feed their little creature. I noted that in a user-friendly, non-invasive way, branded advertisers found marvelous (and inexpensive) opportunities for product placement that kids actually enjoy and interact with.
Case in point came from my favorite focus groups of all things kid - my kids, Jack, 8, and Julia, 6. Among their favorite games on Neopets? Action-packed adventures called, "Trix" and "Lucky Charms." Yes, our friends from General Mills. Think about it. What would any brand pay to have their target audience engaged, uninterrupted, for 10 minutes in an interactive and enjoyable experience?
Great creative! Great experience! Great targeting! Great certainty that a member of their desired audience is, in fact, seeing the experience! The only thing it misses is a clear tie to whether it translates into great purchase experience. Four out of five ain't bad, certainly as compared to, well, just about any other ad buy.
So these creative folks in the cereal world are at it again, and this time they are embracing a truly multi-media approach. Let me illustrate how powerful this can be through an experience I had this summer during our stay in the Adirondacks.
I was gathering myself together to go out to the grocery store, when my two little focus group members came up to me and said, "Daddy, can you get us Trix Yogurt?" Well, I thought, how nice that they want something healthy for a change.
"I'm happy to get you yogurt, what flavor would you like?" I asked.
"Oh, whatever, but remember Trix Yogurt."
I immediately smelled a plot here, assuming that Trix was laced with candy-sugar flavors or some other anti-parent offering. To my surprise, all the obvious fruit options were available, and the nutrition was comparable to the other brands. So home came two packages.
Over the next week I noticed the following behaviors:
When my kids ate their yogurt, they scrupulously studied the containers and wrote down letters on a pad of paper. When Trix television ads came on TV, one of the kids would shout "get the pad, get the pad!" When they went to their allotted computer time, they asked me to get them to Trix.com, where they sought clues, re-watched Trix television ads, and wrote more letters down on their pad. What was all this about?
It was a classic word hunt! Each container of yogurt had a quiz about animals, and when you wrote the right answer, certain letters were given numbers. The TV commercial gave supporting clues, and the Web site offered a map by which a kid could re-shuffle all the letters to receive a secret message which offered a clue to where certain treasure was buried. Then, off deeper into the site, the treasure discovered, the kids could download a congratulatory diploma - which they still have!
And, in the grocery store as we go by the dairy section, they still make a beeline for Trix Yogurt!
This campaign is one of several in recent years that represent nothing short of the vanguard of truly multimedia advertising. This isn't about media mix, but about MIXING media. Each media - online, print, packaging, television - does what they do best on the terms of their own media. But by connecting each experience - making each experience a necessary complement to each other -- a uniquely memorable, enjoyable, and entertaining experience was created. An experience that leads to action, both online and offline!
Don't get me wrong, I love the creative, even artistic genius that ad agencies covet - that TV ad we all laugh about, the evocative magazine ad that takes us away to another place. The problem is that these campaigns are few and far between, and consumers are and will progressively SEE less and less of these in the crowded, skimming, remote-controlled world we live in. But when that creative genius is turned towards the kind of multi-media experiences that are in their earliest innings, we may be at the dawn of an exciting new ball game of creativity and impact in advertising.