A Widget Campaign for VH1’s ‘Charm School’

Between seasons, TV viewers’ loyalties can shift from a favorite show to something new. Such was the challenge for VH1 as it readied the new season of “Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School,” the wild girl reform school reality series with the tagline “Ditch the trashy, embrace the classy.”

To ramp up to the April 15 season premier, VH1 ran a one-week campaign seven days prior to the season’s start. Urban culture and music video sharing site Blastro created the campaign, which lived at the microsite blastro.com/vh1. The site was set up to let viewers learn “Charm School’s 10 Commandments,” take a quiz about the show’s participants, known as the flavorettes, and play with a widget that let them dress flavorettes as if they were paper dolls.

“The main idea was very simple: basically playing paper dolls and dress up characters,” said Blastro co-founder Ben Davis. “In the final product, you generate a banner for the show.” The 300 x 250 Flash banner can be posted on web pages, blogs, or personal pages on social networking sites.

“The main challenge was getting it ramped up fast enough to get people interested to tune in [to the show] in time,” said Davis.

For the campaign, Blastro created images for each of the 13 flavorettes who started the season. Users got to pick and dress a selected character with hair accessories, makeup, and purses. “We wanted to create something that featured all the characters in a fun way,” said Davis.

Once dressed, users could e-mail the character to a friend, or take the code to post the figure on a blog or personal page on a social networking site. Before the flavorettes could traverse the Web, Blastro had to plant seeds.

To get traffic to the microsite, Blastro ran banner ads on targeted pages within its own site, primarily R&B and pop videos, which are frequented by female site visitors. “The content of the ad and nature of the promotion attracted people who like to play paper dolls,” said Davis.

Over the week of the campaign’s run, users created over 3,000 outfits, and the creations appearing across the Web were viewed by 60,000 users. The executions generated a click through rate of 1.25 percent.

While the widget promoted the show, and pointed back to the microsite with links to VH1’s show page, Blastro benefited from the traffic. To add to the search engine optimization, Blastro placed a plain text kink underneath the embedded code describing where the site was linking to. The strategy increased organic traffic.

“Another great thing about widgets, they have search engine optimization benefits. You can create inbound, relevant links from wherever users embed the code. It’s a nice side benefit,” Davis said.

The music interest site has run previous campaigns for VH1, and for other brands. It created a CGM campaign asking users to submit slam poetry videos for the HBO series “The Wire.” Davis said it adds “interesting new things to the landscape.”

“Publishers are able to get into the creative process instead of an agency,” he said. “[Publishers] know their audience better than an agency. It is a unique and interesting way of working.”

Carat Fusion worked on the media component of the VH1 campaign.

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