In digital marketing hindsight is 20/20, and that's a perilous fact. While we can't know for certain how our buys will pan out before we make them, we must do our best to keep ourselves informed. One way to prepare? Assess what others have done, whether it worked, and why, and look for opportunities to make a similar impact for our own brands.
In the examples that follow you'll find a nod to some of the biggest trends of the year, from social media to mobile apps and branded videos. But you'll also see mainstay formats and platforms used in creative ways. What sets these 2011 campaigns apart wasn't how much the brands spent to produce them, but how much value they provided, both to the consumer and advertiser alike.
1. Dunkin' Donuts' Geo-Social Buys
We saw an uptick in Foursquare usage this year as the social service grew (it now boasts 15 million users), and Dunkin' Donuts was among the brands to embrace it. In August, it sought to crown the "President of Dunkin' Nation" in a five-week campaign that allowed consumers who checked in at its nationwide locations to enter a contest to earn the name and a grand prize.
Now it has set its sights on the holidays. Since late November, it has been granting entry into prize sweepstakes to mobile users (both Foursquare and Facebook Places) who check in at their New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut locations. By the end of the first week of the holiday campaign, the brand collected 1,500 registrations and awarded 300 prizes as digital-savvy consumers clamored to gain from an easy action that is quickly becoming a force of habit.
2. Kathy Beth Terry's Facebook Page
Singer Katy Perry's imagined teen attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of consumers this year, on Facebook and Twitter alike. The star of the video for Perry's hit song "Last Friday Night (TGIF)" made good use of her fame to extol the singer's virtues through exclusive videos. The comedic campaign generated so much attention that it attracted over 180,000 Twitter followers, nearly 740,000 fans on Facebook, and spawned additional videos on Funny or Die and MTV online. Most remarkable of all is that Perry managed to take a fictional character and turn her into her own personal brand evangelist.
3. X-Men Takeover Ads
When the latest film in the franchise, "X-Men: First Class," came out this year - first in theaters and then on Blu-ray and DVD - consumers knew it, thanks to a series of international home page takeover ads. On MSN in the Netherlands, the ad began with a page skin and video clips and ended with an attention-grabbing page distortion and full-screen presence that launched the film's trailer.
A few months later additional takeovers ran on TMZ.com, Yahoo Movies, and YouTube. The latter was a clever play on film character "Magneto's" ability to attract and warp metal objects at will; after the movie trailer ran for a few seconds, the content on the surrounding YouTube began to break apart and fly into Magneto's hands. Whenever a brand is able to thematically tie ad functionality into its product, consumers are bound to take notice.
4. Toyota's "Living" iPad Ad
In November, iPad users were treated to some advertising eye candy courtesy of Toyota's Prius V. By sponsoring the new Yahoo Livestand digital reading iPad app, the brand was able to place interactive and sequenced videos promoting the model, while presenting them in a magazine-style expanded format. The ads appeared next to news content and featured clickable content throughout.
According to Yahoo, ads within the app generate higher than average interaction rates and a favorable perception of advertisers. Compared with static ads, Yahoo says, consumers were 78 percent more likely to interact with the "living" ad and twice as likely to spend more time with it. One thing's for certain: the app ad has major impact that can't be missed.
5. HBO's "True Blood" Facebook App
Brands have asked consumers to "Elf" themselves, "Simponsize" themselves, and turn themselves into celebrities, so it was only a matter of time before they were invited to become immortal. HBO series "True Blood" this year launched a Facebook app that allowed fans to insert their image (and those of their Facebook friends) into an interactive video. The clip used as the foundation of the experience was exclusive and never before seen on the air, making the concept that much more interesting to fans of the show. In the first few weeks alone users created more than 90,000 videos and the brand gained over 35,000 new Facebook fans, but the app served a purpose beyond generating buzz: it helped to bridge the previous and upcoming seasons of the series, thus inciting past viewers to return and inviting new viewers to give the show a try.
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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.
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