Campaign Analysis: Adobe's 'Flash On'

Adobe's Flash Player is pretty ubiquitous, right? More than 98% of Internet-connected computers around the world have some version of the Flash player installed. But there's one place--ironically, it's in Times Square in New York City--where there is only one screen that is plugged-in and enabled.

It's a billboard.

This is the leap that Flash is running toward as it moves from being a standard of Web interactivity and video to the future of entertainment. And that's the point of Adobe's Flash On campaign, which is currently in market.

A Marketing Challenge

One of the major hurdles that Adobe is facing is that although Flash is a vital standard for online video creation, production, streaming and viewing, the brand is invisible to all but a handful of people who are making design and technical decisions. Flash is an unsung hero for just about everyone else.

Adobe believes that among media, broadcast, and online publishing industry executives, Flash has low awareness and is taken for granted. For a Web-video-savvy audience, it's a similar story. Flash is considered a browser plug-in rather than a video player (much less an entertainment enabler). Mark Randall, chief strategist for video products at Adobe, describes the challenge this way: "The only time people really become aware of their video player is when it's not working...when an error box pops up."



With the Flash On campaign, Adobe is out to create awareness of its product's value with a more positive and bigger association.

The Future of Entertainmentt

The Flash On campaign demonstrates how Flash handles professionally produced entertainment by showcasing it in the ads and campaign microsite themselves. The content selected for the campaign comes from top film, television and online video producers, like NBC, Sony Pictures, Paramount, and Yahoo. These are not reruns, and include previews for new film releases like "Beowulf" and "American Gangster." The campaign microsite enlivens the message by allowing visitors to view a selection of video content menued into a number of categories, such as comedy, music, animation, lifestyle and documentary.

An interactive HD capability allows users to view whichever clip they selected in full screen via a simple on/off click. The switch to full-screen mode occurs without any perceivable delays or buffering, and the images look sharp and clean without any blurs or jaggies.

Online. On Screen. On Device.

The Flash On campaign runs across a number of different media types, most of them Flash-powered. The online advertising carries the message through a variety of unit sizes often placed in combinations so that the ads break through. With Flash being a standard on the Web, the online ads are the simplest of the lot, although the executions that expand-to-HD probably took some work. (When expanded, they cross the border from ad- to edit-space.)

Bigger challenges included the out-of-home piece. The first Flash-enabled billboard ad was run in New York's Times Square for this campaign. I'd wager this installation was somewhat heavier than upgrading from Flash Player version 8 to 9. John Travis, vice president of Brand Marketing at Adobe, explained that they are constantly keeping an eye out for new ways of demonstrating the message, and of extending the advertising into different marketing channels.

One example includes building a large-format interactive screen for Adobe's booth at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, so that show attendees could experience the Flash On message. Ads running via Flash's mobile player were mobilized for the campaign, too. Given that Flash penetration on mobile handsets is estimated at near the 500 million mark, no significant piece of the intended audience would be unable to watch (if they chose to).

Reconciling Creativity and Efficiency

For those who actually make advertising campaigns with your heads/hands, you will understand that great efforts were made to get this work out into market. For those who deal with procurement types, you may also be thinking most of these placements don't seem restricted to reaching the most people, at the lowest effective frequency. Since that's one of the themes I plan to explore via this column, I had to ask John Travis. He was very pragmatic in his answer.

"Adobe as a brand stands for engaging experiences. It stands for creative. Our advertising should reflect that," Travis said. "For other marketing efforts, it might not make sense. But in this case, the advertising was literally the showcase for the product."

The people that Adobe is targeting with this campaign are busy and difficult to engage, and this time, the decision went to getting in and leaving an impression. To be fair, not all of the ads were disseminated over Flash-enabled billboards and giant interactive screens at conferences in Mediterranean Europe. For example, the campaign employed search engine advertising (text ads!) to develop an audience for the Flash On microsite.

Adobe seems to have found the right balance with their agency partners: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners came up with the big idea and executed the Flash On advertising, while Big Spaceship built the microsite.

Initial Indicators Are In

I'm told that initial results seem to show very high audience response and engagement rates versus industry averages and Adobe's own standards as well. So the Flash On campaign is working. Keep two things in mind:

1. The creative use of media--like in Adobe's Flash On campaign--can make a difference by demonstrating a message. That is, when media's role is not limited strictly to maximum dissemination.

2. The future of entertainment is on the way. It's on almost all Internet browsers already. It's on many mobile handsets. It's on a billboard in Times Square. It's Flash.

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