There's more to a great digital campaign than great ad creative. An innovative ad may engage, and it may incite an immediate response…but if that's where the action ends, so too does the brand experience.
If you think back to the most memorable digital campaigns you've seen, you'll likely uncover a pattern: a rich media ad format leads into an interactive microsite, which in turn points the user to a distinctive environment within which to make a purchase. These are the campaigns that get both consumers and the media talking and leave a favorable impression of both brand and publisher site.
One such campaign recently surfaced on iVillage. Just in time for spring, apparel giant Ralph Lauren launched "The RL Gang: A Magically Magnificent School Adventure," a follow-up to the brand's first online storybook, "The RL Gang," which launched last summer. Part fairytale, part clickable (and shoppable) video, the effort – which is narrated by actress Uma Thurman – uses an adorable cast of young characters to showcase looks from Ralph Lauren's new spring collection.
In the RL Gang story, a class of young students welcomes a new arrival by "painting a party." As they begin to paint, they find that what they put on the canvas appears in the classroom, beginning with vines that envelop the room and transform it into a garden.
Through the month of March when consumers visit iVillage.com they will be able to witness this same transformation on the publisher's home page. A rich media banner promoting the RL campaign doesn't just expand to present the video, it initiates the appearance of the same painted tangle of vines experienced by the storybook characters themselves. As the vines wind their way from the top of page banner down the screen, the iVillage home page content dissolves to reveal a full-page Ralph Lauren "ad" complete with the interactive storybook video. The immediate effect is that the user's interaction with the banner reveals a magical second world, an impression that is later cemented by the video itself.
To further encourage consumer interaction, Ralph Lauren incorporated a social media contest into the campaign. Until the end of March, parents in the U.S. and the U.K. are invited to submit photos of their children, which Facebook users and fans of the Ralph Lauren Facebook page will have the opportunity to view. Their votes will determine the winner, who will appear in an upcoming online storybook. Timing the contest to coincide with the release of the brand's current shoppable storybook serves to drive additional traffic and word of mouth.
As a publisher, iVillage is known for delivering memorable home page takeovers, but a takeover ad doesn't necessarily guarantee the depth of experience that consumers receive from the RL Gang campaign. It comes back to the issue of substance: the ad itself may be magnificent, but what happens after it has resolved? Is the consumer left with enough of a brand impression to warrant the investment? Has the brand done its part in extending the allure of the ad beyond the publisher home page?
In the case of Ralph Lauren's RL Gang, the ad isn't just an extension of the site on which it appears – it's an extension of the marketing content. Users who begin the brand's "virtual shopping experience" on iVillage are able to instantly understand what the campaign is all about because instead of luring them to a payoff that can only be obtained on the brand site or microsite, the ad in fact launches the experience. In its placement and design it has just as much whimsy as the product it promotes. And that alone makes the ad a success.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
March 19, 2014