Create Contests That Inspire Ad Creative

A great way to engage customers, raise product awareness, and increase sales, contests have long been a staple of cross-media marketing campaigns. What they haven’t been is particularly useful in helping marketers develop great ad campaigns.

Most contests are simple in nature. They offer the chance to win a prize in exchange for the completion of a challenge, contact information, or a product purchase. They’re usually based on a theme specific to the contest — kids submitting reasons to a flower shop for a Mother’s Day contest about why they love their moms, and the like.

Such one-note themes are fine where formulating the contest is concerned, but when it comes time to promote it, they don’t give us much creative license. As such, most contests come off publicly as supplementary afterthoughts. Submission information is awkwardly inserted into existing print and online ads, instead of inspiring a media campaign of which the contest is a central feature.

To make the most of a contest’s potential, it behooves marketers to come up with a substantial, multi-layered theme that has the strength to inspire and support attention-grabbing creative and a media buy to match. Opportunities to drive substantial traffic and entries abound online, but then so do contests, making it that much more difficult to ensure that yours stands apart.

Don’t believe me? Just visit any one of the dozens of contest indexes that link to hundreds of active contests at any given time. Fortunately for brand marketers (at least those who weren’t involved in launching those contests), most will experience a limited online penetration because they aren’t fully integrated into a product campaign, and thereby can’t fulfill their marketing potential.

If you’d like to see how a cross-media campaign with a contest for a foundation looks, look no further than CPG (define) company Nestlé ‘s recent Canadian initiative promoting its new Singles 100 Calorie chocolate bars. The bars are personified and attached to the slogan, “Mingle with Singles,” where the “Singles” are meant to represent eligible bachelors and bachelorettes in the dating world.

Consumers can meet the Singles products through a microsite at “Mingle with Singles”. That’s also where they can get contest information and enter for a chance to win what else but an LG Chocolate Spin Phone.

Capitalizing on the “Sex and the City” theme and buzz about the upcoming feature film, but still remaining true to the product and campaign theme, the contest is being promoted in cross-media ads with the tag line “Singles and the City.” Ads describe a steamy romance with the newest Single in the office through suggestive copy with a double-entendre: “I know office romances are supposed to be hush-hush, but at less than 100 calories per bar, I can’t possibly keep this delicious secret to myself.”

Every aspect of the contest ties back to the “Singles” theme inherent to the product. To enter by phone, consumers can text “FLIRT” to a designated short code; Nestlé even spun the fact that it’s giving away a phone a day for 100 days as “100 days to flirt.”

When they’ve exhausted the campaign’s contest aspect, consumers can interact with the product further at the microsite. Visitors can choose to send a personalized Cand-e-Gram, view a profile of each Singles product that cleverly blurs the lines between product description and dating profile, or read the best and worst pick-up lines and even submit some themselves.

From start to finish, it’s clear to consumers this contest is an integral part of the product marketing campaign, and not a secondary attempt at drumming up interest and sales. Most importantly, the nature of the contest theme gave marketers something tangible to work with in their ads, just as the product inspired a theme that could be extended to multiple media channels without diluting its appeal.

It’s this kind of substance that should be top of mind to brand marketers as you devise your next contest idea. To conceptualize and build a contest in a silo is to disregard its potential to motivate a truly memorable media effort. As with most aspects of modern marketing, ad creative and media placements should be considered early on, instead of treated like a postscript. With so much competition out there, your ad creative needs all the help it can get.

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