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Thinking Outside the Media Buy

  |  June 30, 2005   |  Comments

Elevate your brand -- without spending a fortune on a chicken breast shaped like the Pope.

As an interactive marketing columnist I hate to say it, but media buys alone are no longer enough for a successful ad campaign. Certainly, placement and format are a fundamental part of every promotional strategy. But without genuine creativity and the ability to cut through clutter, most campaigns will fall flat.

Countless companies have managed to capture online consumer attention and astound fellow marketers with their ingenuity. Many among them are recipients of this year's ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards. There's one, however, whose promotional practices are so distinctive it will likely never be honored through traditional means. Yet it's sure to remain in marketers minds for years to come.

If you're like most North Americans, you've probably heard of GoldenPalace.com in conjunction with a number of unusual events, online and off-. Maybe you saw its logo sprawled across a professional boxer's back during a fight, or the streaker emblazoned with a GoldenPalace "ad tattoo" who jumped into the pool at the Olympic Men's Synchronized Springboard Finals last year.

Online marketers most likely know GoldenPalace for its unusual Internet shopping sprees. This is the company that dishes out obscene amounts of money for weird stuff on eBay -- including people's legal names -- which it promptly changes to GoldenPalace.com. It also purchased Britney Spears pregnancy test, and the right to sponsor a newborn baby boy (think tiny human billboard) for a month.

How you know about this company isn't the point. It's that you do know. Through publicity stunts such as these, GoldenPalace has managed to get mentions in countless mainstream newspapers and blogs and on popular TV programs such as The Today Show and The View.

Why does the company advertise in such an unconventional manner? The answer isn't as simple as originality. True, ads for online casinos already bombard the Web, making it nearly impossible to garner consumer attention. But the move is also fueled by necessity. As an Internet casino that's based in Antigua (it also has offices in Montreal), GoldenPalace faces restriction regarding how and where it can advertise. This inability to utilize traditional ad vehicles creates a need to generate publicity in other ways.

GoldenPalace cleverly built a brand on controversy and notoriety. It's now one of the most familiar domain names. Though its tactics certainly aren't appropriate for everyone, they demonstrate a couple important points about the state of advertising.

First, you can no longer rely entirely on traditional ad avenues to establish and promote a brand. There's a place for mainstream media buys, but in a cluttered environment, a handful of ads simply isn't enough to make an impression.

Second, it's essential to keep consumers (and the media) on their toes. Consistency is vital, yet predictability is a curse. It guarantees good ad dollars go to waste.

If you dream of elevating your brand to a GoldenPalace-level but aren't about to spend a fortune on a chicken breast shaped like the Pope, focus on thinking big and differently to cut through clutter and get people talking. Creating a parody of a familiar cultural event, employing humor and ostentation to generate mass buzz, and offering the extreme and unexpected, can often be enough to significantly increase brand awareness. Like GoldenPalace, a little-known domain-name registration company, a well-known media and travel conglomerate, and a company not normally associated with what it's now renowned for have all managed to do just that.

Combine what you know about viral marketing, guerilla marketing, and teaser campaigns, and you start to get the idea. Whether you find yourself unable to advertise in a traditional manner because of laws restricting your message, time restraints, or budget concerns, or you simply view media buying as an imagination-free magic bullet, take a look at GoldenPalace. This company proves it pays to think outside the media buy.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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