Case Studies for Innovative Branding: Telecom Companies

Ground-breaking brands are utilizing top content sites to connect with consumers on a deeper level. These advertisers want consumers to be more involved, in a way that’s not ordinarily possible with traditional banner ad units. Numerous approaches have proven effective, as illustrated by the telecoms.

Today, marketers and interactive agency people are increasingly demanding what Jupiter has aptly termed “evolved advertising.” While this doesn’t mean the traditional banner will be going away tomorrow, it does mean that savvy media buyers are increasingly looking at more powerful advertising opportunities.

These new approaches include “nested” content, fully integrated sponsorships, and what we call “info-ads”– ad units that deliver clear-cut messages to the consumer regarding the information behind the click, thereby serving the consumer while delivering a better back-end result for the advertiser.

And in today’s competitive arena, these savvy media buyers are also increasingly looking to the publishers who can provide the smarter, more customized solutions. Given the choice between a buy on a site that is simply peddling banner tonnage, even at bargain basement prices, and a site that offers a powerful, integrated sponsorship approach that specifically delivers on the advertiser’s objective, the tide is beginning to turn toward sites which are willing and able to deliver integrated solutions. Last month we explored the major credit card companies and their innovative techniques for driving increased applications and usage on the Internet. This month we’ll take a look at some recent campaigns from telecommunications companies to show you how they are cleverly integrating their brand within site content.

MCI: Maximum Communication And Integration

MCI’s recent campaign on Christmas98.com is an example of this idea of moving beyond straight “wallpaper” advertising to a more evolved form — one that truly marries the advertiser’s objective with the content’s function.

MCI wanted to associate its “5 cent Sunday” calling program around the holidays, but were looking for a more integrated approach. The “holiday e-card” area of the Christmas98 site turned out to be the perfect match — the place where the site’s visitors sent electronic greetings to all their friends and family.

Visitors would go to the card section of the site, select an e-card, create a personal message on the card, and then send it. The MCI “5 cent Sunday” message was integrated throughout the card generation process — within every step of creating the card, the actual email itself (a “sponsored by” message and text link back to MCI’s site), and the card retrieval area.

The entire program effectively used the consumer as “evangelist” to spread the word about MCI’s calling plan with the advantage of targeting and timing. It targeted the person most likely to take advantage of it, at the exact time when that target was receptive to “connecting with a loved one’s message.”

This campaign created a deeper level of involvement than is possible with a static banner, which can fill only one-tenth of a user’s screen.

At Hand Yellow Pages: Information On Demand

Another approach rapidly gaining favor on the web today is to integrate the advertiser’s search functionality into the site’s content. This delivers the advertiser’s search capability as an added value to the site user, producing a deeper level of consumer engagement.

This model, used by At Hand (a consortium of the regional Bells, including Bell South, Ameritech, PacBell and others) and Trip.com, appears to be an extremely simple (yet highly effective) way of driving usage. By positioning the At Hand Yellow Pages functionality as a resource in the Trip.com’s Guides and Tools pages, At Hand’s advertising is perceived as a useful part of the site’s content, not mere advertising.

By working together, taking the time to review the advertiser’s objectives and the needs of the site’s users, programs can result in solutions like the above, which deliver far more value to both sides. Not only that, as advertisers and marketers discover more powerful and intrusive ad models, creativity and strategic thinking will begin to supplant price as the driving force behind Internet ad dollars.

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