A Web-only video ad featuring Jerry Seinfeld and the Man of Steel spiked traffic on American Express' site and is sparking considerable buzz.
The video launched March 29. For the seven-day period beginning that day and ending Sunday, April 4, the American Express site had nearly 2.4 million at-work visitors, a rise of 31 percent over the previous week. At home, the site received nearly 1.7 million visitors during that same period, compared to 1.5 million the previous week, according to Nielsen//Net Ratings.
The movie sub-site was visited by an average of 19,500 users each day between March 30 and April 7, according to comScore Networks. There were only a few thousand visitors on March 29, launch day. "The numbers appear to be trending upward," said Graham Mudd of comScore. "The peak was on April 7, and that was about 32,000 visitors."
According to American Express, from March 29 to April 12 there were over a million visits to the sub-site.
The video, directed by "Rain Man" veteran Barry Levinson, is available online only. American Express is promoting it via sponsored links on Google, postcards, wrapped newspapers and TV ads. On April 16th, thousands of LidRocks, tiny DVDs of the Seinfield/Superman video atop of soda lids, will be distributed in New York movie theaters for four weeks. A second video is to follow.
Matt Lauer interviewed Seinfeld and Superman on the Today Show March 30 by means of animation. The appearance was not a formal part of the comedian's contract. The movie sub-site got 20,300 visits the day of the appearance. Seinfeld also appeared sans his Man of Steel sidekick on Jon Stewart's late night Comedy Central talk show on April 5.
Traffic spiked the days following Seinfeld's promotional appearances on the Today Show and Stewart's The Daily Show, according to Desiree Fish, an American Express spokeswoman.
As part of the campaign, TV ads featuring three 15-second teasers are running on cable and network TV, during Seinfeld reruns and during primetime, according to Fish. In one teaser, Seinfeld and Superman are sitting on the couch when the Green Lantern, another comic superhero, calls. Another teaser features the duo walking together through the desert. The Green Lantern calls again and Superman blows him off.
Fish would not disclose the amount spent on the media plan overall.
The campaign has three objectives, Fish said: branding; getting people to sign up for American Express cards; and helping those with cards understand what's available to them.
In the current video, Seinfeld's DVD player is snatched. Superman apprehends the thief but fails to catch the machine when the thief tosses it back. It crashes and breaks. No problem, Seinfeld says. His American Express card will enable him to exchange it. As the video ends, an ad for the card appears.
"The thing I like best about it [the video] is that it has a product message," said Gary Stein, an analyst with Jupiter Research, owned by Jupitermedia, parent of this publication. "It's old school advertising. They used the situation to point out a benefit of the product."
Auto company BMW pioneered the use of online videos in product promotion in 2001. BMW continued the videos, made by top-name directors like Ang Lee, in 2002. Those videos did not contain direct commercial messages.
"When the product message came out at the end, I was surprised in a good way," Stein said. "This looks like it was created by David Ogilvy 30 years ago, it's just drawn out in a format you can only do online."
"Definitely it [the campaign] has generated buzz," said Stein. "I've heard about it from multiple sources, friends and family. I think it's a great idea."
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