Creative Advertising Engages Consumers With Brands

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Shoddy creative work is no stranger to TV and print, and it's unfortunately becoming a familiar presence on the Web as well, Los Angeles Creative Club director Roger Poirier says.

"Most creative--both online and off--falls flat. We've all seen TV, print and Web ads that suck. I've written some, you've written some, and still others of you have signed off on it and paid for it," Poirier says in opening remarks to the Creative Panel at OMMA Global Hollywood.

Still, a number of agencies are creating inventive, effective and aesthetically pleasing online campaigns.

Austin, Texas-based T3, for example, did just that when it crafted the JCP Today widget for JCPenney. Aimed at adding branded functionality to the lives of the retailer's 35- to-38-year-old female demo, the widget made it easy to search for clothes and find out about special offers. But it also boasted a calendar feature allowing users to keep track of special events like birthdays--and to receive gift suggestions accordingly.



"It showed the users that tech tools and toys are not just for the younger generation," says Jay Suhr, T3's senior vice president of creative services and account planning.

JCP Today also served up original advertorial content on a weekly basis, with T3's copywriters working with the retailer's brand managers to come up with fashion tips and articles. "It was like creating our own media channel," Suhr says. "And it was hugely popular with the most loyal customers." He praised its efficiency, saying the average ticket price for purchases via the widget was double the price of the average online purchase.

T3 also developed campaigns for the youth brand Arizona Jeans Company, including "Board Builder," a user-generated content effort that launched with the online retailer's spring fashion initiative. Users could customize a surfboard and port it to their Facebook profile, and just two months later, over 3,700 visitors had posted a personalized board. "Creativity doesn't always have to be about the transaction or sale," Suhr says. "It can be just as effective if it gives the audience the ability to engage, share, vote and otherwise create commentary with the brand."

At TBWA Chiat Day's Media Arts Lab, coming up with compelling display ads for Apple meant taking a step back from the technology and getting acquainted with the brand's overall strategy. "Apple's brand was built on TV and outdoor--these big, iconic, emotional and impactful mediums," says Zach Leary, Media Arts Lab's director of production. "And we thought about changing the model for the Web, but we had to think about how we could help the campaign evolve and be sustained online--and not at the expense of the work that had been done before."

So Media Arts Lab piggybacked on the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" TV spots when it came to the display ads, creating the "Leopard is Better and Faster than Vista" and "Don't Give Up on Vista" two-paneled rich media spots that ran on sites like CNET and The Wall Street Journal. Creative placement was also key to the display campaign's success, as the ads ran against content like comprehensive user guides for Vista, as well as the Journal's home page. "It was using online media as mass media, which is somewhat contradictory to the way we view this media as behaving," Leary says. "The Web can be niche and targeted, but it can also be used for mass, broad reach. Of course it costs more, but it's still cool and effective."

Leary adds that tech partners were crucial in flawlessly executing a display campaign. "The execution part was difficult, because there were no specs--we just progressively streamed video and there was a lot of Flash 9 work, and local connection stuff to synch two banners together," Leary says. "So we partnered with companies like PointRoll and EyeWonder to make it work."

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