Audi Loses a Car
by Lynn Russo
In the early morning hours of April 1, an A3 -- Audi's new luxury compact car -- was stolen from a New York dealership. That evening, people showed up at the dealership expecting a launch party, but instead found yellow crime-scene tape, shards of broken glass, and an empty spot where the A3 stood just hours earlier.
Meanwhile, at the New York International Auto Show on the floor of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where the car was supposed to turn up after the party, a sign announced the theft and encouraged interested bystanders to help find it by going to StolenA3.com and two other microsites for more information.
Thus began the "Art of the Heist," a three-month-long game of crime and drama designed to attract and engage sophisticated, high-income consumers ages 25 to 34 with the brand.
"Audi calls them Type I," explains Jonathan Cude, group creative director at McKinney & Silver, the agency that orchestrated the campaign. "They're independent, intelligent, innovative, impassioned by cars, information seekers, and influential within their community."
"This consumer is difficult to reach through traditional media," says Chris Walsh, connection planner at McKinney. "We had to find a way to intrigue, entice, and engage them in the brand. Storytelling was a great way to get them involved." The campaign involved more than a dozen forms of media, including print, outdoor, TV, radio, podcasts, events, viral marketing, blogs, and RSS feeds. But "online was the connective tissue for this program," Walsh says. "The Web enabled the dialogue to take place between consumers and Audi, the brand."
The advertising-meets-entertainment idea wasn't new, but Audi's twist pushed the envelope. The "heist" had a standard cast of characters, including bad guys and a heroine, Nisha Roberts, whose business, Last Resort Retrieval, supposedly specialized in recovering stolen art.
To involve consumers, Audi placed clues for finding the stolen A3 on SD cards (small memory cards) in six 2006 A3s at dealerships across the United States. Then Last Resort placed classified ads to recruit participants, called retrievers. Enthusiasts who showed up to apply for the jobs were greeted by Nisha. "They only dealt with the characters, they never saw us," Cude says.
Retrievers hired to go after the cards were given Palm Treo 650 smartphones for tracking the vehicles, which they kept after the promotion. Fiction met reality again when another character, Virgil Tatum -- who in the story is the world's greatest game designer -- did an interview on VH1 with real-life game designer Kazunori Yamauchi, the inventor of Sony's "Gran Turismo."
Viral efforts, including seven fan sites, also helped spur the campaign. Audi even received e-mails from journalists who wanted to interview Nisha on the subject of art theft; they were told she was out of the country.
More than 500,000 people followed or were closely involved in the game, and 500 cars were ordered in the first two weeks of the estimated $5 million campaign. Visitors to VirgilKingof Code.com -- the microsite dedicated to Virgil Tatum's business -- averaged six visits at about five minutes each. At LastResortRetrieval.com, visitors averaged 7.3 visits at nearly 10 minutes each, for a total brand exposure of 71.7 minutes per person.
In addition, data analyzed about two-thirds of the way into the campaign showed that after a person clicked on an online ad about the game, 34 percent of user page views went to A3 buying-indicator pages on the Audi brand site pages. That represented a 79 percent increase in qualification over previous launch efforts. The RSS feed generated 21,642 downloads.
"We believe this campaign worked as well as it did because of the marriage of the broad reach media and the nontraditional media," Walsh says. "But one of the really cool things was it allowed people to select their level of engagement. Some would download the rss feed and go to live events, while others just went to the Web site. And I think that's an important point. It needed to be on their terms."
Converse's Fancy Footwork
by Sheree R. Curry
It's not easy for a pair of Converse high-tops to get noticed in a crowded athletic shoe market. Inspired by the brand, which has always stood for individuality, film director Doron Dor portrayed a young man dry-surfing at dawn in the middle of one of the busiest crosswalks in Tokyo. The image is especially striking because Japan is "a society that views such behavior as odd," Dor says in a voiceover.
The 24-second film, "Tokyo Rising," was plucked from nearly 1,000 submissions from more than a dozen countries; it's one of nearly 80 films made by consumers that are slowly being added to a dedicated Converse films microsite.
The site, conversegallery.com, was launched in August 2004 as part of a multimedia ad campaign for the 97-year-old athletic shoemaker, which was purchased by Nike in 2003. Each ad features a six-second tag with the director's name, the Converse logo, and an image of a Converse shoe. Forty of the ads from conversegallery.com ran as commercials on mtv, garnering the creators $10,000 apiece and a pair of shoes. Creators of online-only ads also received shoes, and a lower, undisclosed sum.
The idea that the shoes belong to the people, so why not let the people make the ads, was the impetus for the Butler, Shine, Stern, & Partners campaign after the agency won the Converse account last May. The idea also jibed with the "freedom of expression" image that accompanies the traditional Chuck Taylor All Star brand, recognizable by the blue-on-white encircled star on the side heel of the canvas sneakers.
Many free thinkers have embraced the brand, including Kurt Cobain, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Joey Ramone. Even John Lennon sported Converse sneakers on the cover of the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album. "You can barely turn on a rock video or movie without seeing someone wearing a pair of Chuck Taylors," says John Butler, co-creative director of the Sausalito, Calif.-based ad agency. "They are about inspiring creativity and originality. They stand for 'I am an individual,' and we wanted the films to reflect that." Butler adds, "We wanted to create the campaign so that it didn't feel like traditional advertising. Whenever [the filmmakers] try to emulate advertising, they fail. But when they look at [the brand] with a fresh eye and put it on film in an entertaining way, you get a nice little piece of film. The ones chosen were original, funny, smart, and you don't feel as if you've seen it done before."
For one, director Gregg Conde snapped 500 photos in a span of 20 minutes of artist Sean Boyles painting an All Star logo on his foot with black and white paint. Conde then edited the photos into a film. Another, titled "Charles," follows one boy's lifespan, first as a toddler on a skateboard, through his teen years, ending with his feet and those of his own toddler riding away together on a skateboard. Some of the films feature hand-drawn images, computer animation, or claymation, such as "Polymar Clay," a film by sculptor Meredith Dittmar.
The overwhelming positive public response to the films was evident in 400,000 unique hits a month and an increase in sales for the brand, up 12 percent from second quarter last year. In addition, traffic to the core Converse Web site has grown 82 percent since the campaign launched, Butler says.
The campaign was supported with magazine inserts, print ads created by emerging artists, artist-generated outdoor ads, wild postings, and faux movie-listing ads in weekly publications like the Village Voice. Butler Shine shares the credit for the conversegallery.com's success with Converse's interactive agency of record, Seattle-based ZAAZ. ZAAZ CEO Shane Atchison says the design aesthetic is clean, with an active interface that helps to measure affinity for and interaction with the brand. "People looked at multiple films, are spending more time on the site, and are exploring more of the Converse brand," he says.
To encourage online shopping, the site also highlights each director's favorite shoe design with a button allowing clickthrough to the shopping center. The technology powering the site has allowed the agency to track not only how many people purchased shoes, but how much each person spent, average order value, and even the number of films those purchasers viewed and the number of times they referred a friend to the site. There is also an opportunity for consumers to complete a profile questionnaire and opt-in to receive promotional communications.
"We are going to continue to build a community of people [online]," Atchison says. "As this evolves, we are going to move into other forms of communication." Exactly what that will be is still proprietary, of course.
by Sheree R. Curry
An ingenious blog, a key component of a McDonald's ad campaign that launched earlier this year, spurred a wave of interactive and viral buzz that successfully crossed the lines between reality and fiction. The McDonald's campaign, launched during this year's Super Bowl broadcast, began with two tv spots that told the story of a fictitious couple's experience with a french fry.
In a special version of one of the spots created for the Web, the couple, Mike and Liz, discover a french fry in their McDonald's meal that resembles the profile of Abraham Lincoln. A barrage of media ensues and curious townsfolk hound Mike at stop signs and at the store. All the attention spurs the couple to begin chronicling their lives -- and the life of the fry -- in a Typepad-hosted Web log that became fodder for watercooler chatter.
While the blog and the fry were fakes, that didn't stop interested customers on Yahoo! Auctions from bidding on the prop French fry used in the commercial. The deal closed with a $75,100 sale on Feb. 12, the birthday of the 16th president.
Although it would appear to be a no-brainer for marketers to include a Web url in their tv commercials, doing so with LincolnFry.com, was a big deal for the Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast-food restaurant chain. After the Super Bowl, the phrase "Lincoln fry" accounted for 40 percent of all search activity on Yahoo!, a tremendous amount of search activity considering the online giant represents one-third of all u.s. Internet traffic.
"We looked at it as a chance to create a bigger phenomenon, a consumer experience, versus just a funny commercial," says Paul Tilley, group creative director at ddb Chicago, McDonald's agency of record. "At the time we came up with this idea, everyone was talking about this woman who found an image of the Virgin Mary in her grilled cheese sandwich and sold it online for tens of thousands of dollars," Tilley recalls, adding, "It was a funny commentary on how the Internet has changed the way we share information, the way we shop, and the way we interact with one another."
Tilley says that two members of the creative team, Larry Ziegelman and Jay Manheimer, saw an opportunity to tie in to that kind of phenomenon with one of the fast feeder's most iconic products -- McDonald's french fries. "It's always fun to tap into something that's happening in pop culture, to show viewers that your brand lives in the same world they do," Tilley observes.
But why use President Lincoln's image? One might search for meaning in the moniker "Honest Abe" and assume ddb was trying to make a statement. It was much more casual than that, Tilley recalls. "We were looking for a famous profile and I think a penny was on the table. Seriously, it may have been that random. But we loved the absurdity of it. Why Lincoln? Why not?"
The concept was the brainchild of the creative minds at ddb, who share credit for the Internet and viral campaign with online sibling shop Tribal ddb and Yahoo!'s marketing department. Yahoo! provided banner ads on its search engines and tagged e-mail mentions, among other things.
"To get Yahoo! excited about this opportunity, we offered up the brand for inclusion in the two spots. In return, and with an input value of $80,000 per second of inclusion in the spots, we asked Yahoo! to step up with some creative ways to provide media exposure to our target audience," says Doug Chavez, senior account director at Tribal ddb, Chicago.
As a part of that deal, Yahoo! delivered 100 million impressions via Yahoo! Group e-mails tagged with, "The unbelievable blog of the week," and a link to the Lincoln Fry blog. In addition, more than 500 million impressions were delivered via Yahoo!'s Overture ad network searches for the term "blog." This meant that anytime anyone searched for "blog" via the Yahoo! search engine (including sites with searches powered by Yahoo!, like cnn.com, msn.com, and Altavista), the first link that appeared was the Lincoln Fry "unbelievable blog of the week."
"All these pieces were negotiated by Tribal as part of our deal with Yahoo!, with no cash outlay to Yahoo!," Chavez adds. Also, the Lincoln Fry Web-only version of the commercial was the most-streamed video that Yahoo! has hosted to date. "There was so much traffic during the [Super Bowl] game that it really taxed the Yahoo! platform."
The polyurethane prop french fry was auctioned off, with all proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House, and McDonald's received tons of free publicity from the event. The fry prop sold to GoldenPalace.com, an online purveyor of weird items like ad space on foreheads and pregnant bellies.
"In the end, consumers were actually creating the ending of [an] idea they saw in the commercial, only in real life," Tilley says. "I think it's a sign of where tv advertising is going. It's not just about making a great 30-second spot anymore; it's about using that spot as part of a bigger experience. [And the campaign] shows people a new side of the McDonald's brand," he says, adding, "It's entertaining advertising."
The Fifth Fantastic
by Lynn Russo
Moviegoers who had the opportunity to see 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Four" this summer also got a healthy dose of Samsung branding: The $3 billion electronics company's logo appeared in more than 15 different places in the film, including on taxi tops, on a stadium billboard, and on an array of products including digital camcorders, cameras, and cell phones.
But if you missed the movie, that's not a problem for Samsung. The company knows exactly where to find its target audience -- online. Samsung was an early adopter to Internet marketing. In fact, it has signed year-long commitments for home page banner positions on 426 Web sites that reach sophisticated, technologically savvy, entertainment-loving consumers, including the sites of Time, People, Entertainment Weekly, and Sports Illustrated.
The placements create about 1.5 billion impressions every four weeks, according to Peter Weedfald, senior vice president of consumer electronics and North America corporate marketing. It also allows Samsung to change, test, drop in, or otherwise quickly and competitively adapt to any market situation.
In essence, Weedfald has turned the Internet into Samsung's own private value chain. "The whole point here is about consistency and frequency. We are 100 percent consistent on the Internet." With such a well-connected program, he says, "I can launch anything I want to 24/7 on the Internet." Partnerships are also an important part of Samsung's infrastructure. "Today," Weedfald says, "building a competitive advantage is not a solitary art form. You must have friends who will stand up for you. The world has changed. Consumers don't have to watch your commercial and don't have to care about you. You must find a different way."
When putting together the marketing plan for "Fantastic Four," Weedfald certainly found a different way. He went to the movie's producers and made them an offer they couldn't refuse. "I said, 'We'll become your advertising and marketing company. We'll create the ads online, in newspapers, magazines, on TV, and in cinema. We'll do the creative and the executions and we'll pay for the media. All we ask is that you make us your most vested partner.'"
Two weeks before the movie hit theaters in early July, Samsung launched a three-pronged marketing campaign that lasted four weeks. The first component featured a dedicated landing page promoting a contest that enabled entrants to win a part in the next "Fantastic Four" movie. On the landing page, visitors could view a sample of the new "Fantastic Four" game being developed by Activision, and could download "Fantastic Four" ringtones and video clips. The second component focused on an exclusive partnership with Best Buy, offering additional Best Buy Reward Zone points for purchasing any of four featured Samsung products. Third was a promotional tie-in with Activision's "Fantastic Four" game, in which Samsung products are also featured, marking the company's first foray into gaming.
Approximately 300 Web sites were used to market these promotions, including Forbes, Fortune, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Car and Driver, and college sites. Offline media included regional and national newspapers, Best Buy mailings to Reward Zone customers, and 60-second commercials in 7,500 theaters nationwide. The exclusive Best Buy offer also included magazine, national television, and back-wall tv screens at Best Buy stores.
For all its focus on online media and marketing, Samsung spends no money on search. "What are you searching for?" Weedfald asks. "I don't know who my targets are, so I'm going to spend billions of dollars on search? Everybody [else should] keep searching. All my competition, keep searching."
Weedfald has equally strong opinions about tv: "I don't believe that running across 225 tv stations with a $3 million ad budget makes any sense in today's environment."
In fact, he adds, "in 1960, with $1 I could own 90 percent of the households on channels 2, 4, and 7. How do I take a dollar of $1 million or $10 million today and own 90 percent of the households?" The "Fantastic Four" promotion increased Samsung's overall sales dramatically during the campaign period, Weedfald says.
In addition, this summer Samsung was named one of BusinessWeek/Interbrand's 100 most valuable global brands for the fourth straight year. This year, the Korean electronics giant came in at No. 20, surpassing archrival Sony, which was ranked No. 28. Brands chosen for the honor were considered "intensely creative in getting their message out" and to have "widely varied marketing arsenals, with the ability to unleash different campaigns for different consumers in varied media almost simultaneously," according to the Interbrand report. The winning brands also "weave messages over multiple media channels and blur the lines between ads and entertainment," according to Business Week."
"I believe we did this one very right," Weedfald observes. "The [brand was] highly integrated within the film and across all relevant media touchpoints." As a person who believes the company's greatest strength is marketing completely differently from the competition, Weedfald is certainly achieving his goals.