Online Halloween: Trick or Treat for Advertisers

“Every year we set a new record for traffic in October as Halloween approaches,” explains Leigh Lucarelli, executive producer of Circle 1’s “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 attempted 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 featured areas where kids could design their own monsters and costumes. There were also prize contests to see who could best dress up well-known cartoon characters. Advertisers, Lucarelli says, were able to sponsor specific games, or opt to create their own “Play Section”, with contests, prizes, product offerings, banners or animated ads. The ads could also be mirrored on Circle 1’s “” Site advertisers included games technology companies like Nintendo, children’s edu-tainment toys, books and CD vendors, 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’s, was the ability to simultaneously communicate with parents and kids.

“It’s extremely rare in any media,” Turik says, “to be able to bring generations together. 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 were Halloween-themed for the entire month of October. featured a constantly changing array of Halloween recipes, from “Peanut Butter Caterpillar” to “Muenster Beetles.” The Halloween mini-site highlighted Halloween craft projects for families to work on, including door wreaths, window watchers, pumpkins and scarecrows. There were also special sections on the, and devoted to costume ideas and design, as well as sections featuring seasonal songs, games and guides to throwing a Halloween party.

Turik saw opportunities for advertisers on all these sites to sponsor individual projects, contests or customized Halloween games. Advertisers included PC retailers like Dell Outlet, Kid’s clothing outlets like Whimzz and clothing retailer Old Navy, and Television networks such as Discovery Channel.

Though Halloween is traditionally a kid’s holiday, fascination with the holiday, according to Mike Newman, executive VP of Sales for Excite, doesn’t end when people reach 12 or 13.

“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.”

Advertisers of a wide variety of products, Newman believes, not only candy companies, but food and beverage firms including beer and liquor advertisers, and retail and other items, 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 movies, especially in the action, “scary movie” or thriller genre.

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” featured a continually changing array of model costumes, as well as special shopping sections for “Scary Vacations,” “Halloween Cruises,” “Halloween Fashion,” “Accessories,” “Halloween Party” center and a section on Halloween “Romance,” sponsored by It also highlighted a “Designer Boutique,” where people could bid on costumes (for kids or adults) from top designers like Gucci. Lycos also partnered with Bertelsman in an online music and books section, featuring seasonal literary fare such as horror novels and mysteries, and music for Halloween parties.

Lycos, according to Clark, believes that a well-designed Halloween promotion should try for a 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.” The Gallery, Clark believes, will drive strong e-commerce sales for a variety of retailers and service companies, such as travel firms, while serving as a strong atmosphere for branding for traditional soft drink, candy and food companies.”

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