Overworked? Overstressed? Undertanned? If the answer is "yes (and, honestly, who among us can't answer "yes" to all three?), you're a prime candidate for a Bahamavention, according to the creative minds at Fallon in Minneapolis, who developed the Bahamavention Web site.
The microsite for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism features, among other things, professional Bahamaventionists - Connie and Steve - who, through a series of tests, diagnose the degree of one's suffering before prescribing a treatment, which inevitably involves a Bahamas vacation.
The site is targeted to a broad audience. "Think about all the people that could use a vacation this time of year," Fallon interactive media director Joe Germscheid says. "It's definitely an adult population and covers a wide variety of occupations, but it's more of a mindset than it is a demographic target we're trying to reach."
Bahamavention was launched last December as part of a fully integrated campaign, including TV commercials, print ads, nearly 600 Bahamavention branded subway cars in New York City, and a 30-minute infomercial. Traffic is driven to Bahamavention through online ads that appear on the sites that overworked and undertanned people tend to frequent, according to Germscheid, citing Weather.com and celebrity gossip rags, among others.
Paid search is also a driver. In addition to buying the obvious terms such as Bahamavention, Fallon purchased words relating to stress and unhealthy obsessions. Intentionally cheesy, with an infomercial vibe, Bahamavention.com certainly stands out among other travel industry advertising in focusing on the reasons why one might need a vacation. And it does so with humor.
Asked why the agency decided to go with a funny approach, Mike Haeg, Fallon's interactive art director, deadpans, "It's actually a very serious situation. Life-threatening untannedness is nothing to be laughed at. You may be mistaking hope for humor. I think you may need a Bahamavention."
While a vacation to the islands is tempting, OMMA chose not to pack just yet. Instead we convened a trio of digital creatives - AKQA's Lars Bastholm, Big Spaceship's Matthew Lipson, and Campfire Media's Steve Wax - to assess Bahamavention while sipping coffee in a rather chilly Starbucks in New York's Soho.
OMMA: What are your impressions of the home page? Are you inspired to explore the site?
Lipson: There is no flow. They should be telling you right in that main well where to go next.
Bastholm: There are two places they want you to go. One is the big square on the right: "Are you living in denial?" They want you to go over there and meet with the two guides, and then they want you to go to the one place you're not going to go -the blinking "Free Kit" box in the corner below. Who the hell wants to click on something blinking in the corner for a free kit?
Wax starts to read the block of text in the center of the home page aloud, with the headline "What is a Bahamavention?"
Wax: This is too long, and it's not grabby. Nonetheless you persevere, and you read this paragraph. Still hasn't answered "What is a Bahamavention?" Just tell me what I'm doing here.
Bastholm: There's a big disconnect in that when you do a spoof it's supposed to be actually funny, and this Web site isn't. It's slightly boring and hard to navigate.
Lipson: They don't tell you what your reward is really going to be. It should be this-plus-this equals vacation.
We click on the Success Stories link on the navigation bar. The section features the campaign's TV spots, which the guys loved, as well as print ads
Bastholm: The idea behind this campaign is so simple. Bahamavention - you get it when you hear the word. But what they're trying to do here [on the site] is take an easy concept and blow it out, and since the concept is self-explanatory, the more you add to it, the less effective it becomes. It makes simplicity overcomplicated by adding all the content.
Wax: What they've got is a campaign that's apparently effective outside this site, and they needed for this site to give another dimension to the campaign. It needs to involve me.
Lipson: What would have been easier to do here is actually just lead the site with a commercial, because this campaign is centered around those spots. You don't run away from what your best piece of content is.
Bastholm: Yeah, use that content you've spent a lot creating. Don't just show it. Involve people in those spots. Do something simple from a technical standpoint - they could easily do a cut and paste of your head and put it in the commercial and send it to you as if it were your intervention. Instead, they're doing that really lame guided evaluation.
Wax: Why did you choose this site for us to discuss?
OMMA: I understand the points you are making, but I actually like the site. I think it is funny, and I got a kick out of the tests you take during the evaluation, especially the typing test.
Lipson: The tests are funny.
Bastholm: Why not focus on [the guided evaluation] then and do that one thing well?
Wax: That should be the theme of the whole site.
Lipson: If you [go through the entire guided evaluation], it's a pretty sizable time commitment.
Bastholm: What is the point of this site? It is making you want to go to the Bahamas. But does this make you want to go there? Not really. I get information about what should make me want to go on vacation, but not why I should go to the Bahamas.
OMMA: There's a "Therapy Options" section where you can learn about different vacations, and order a pamphlet on how to perform a successful Bahamavention, which comes with a CD with 700 images from the Bahamas.
Bastholm: Maybe if they put those 700 images on the site, they'd actually entice us to go there. That would be a better place to put them.
OMMA: So no one is inspired by this site to pack up their bags and head to the Bahamas?
Wax: If a top agency is producing something like this, I want to take a vacation from this ...Drumroll, please.
Bastholm: ... industry.