Digital Campaigns That Set the Bar High for 2010

Another year of award competitions has come to a close. I don’t know an agency that doesn’t work hard to gain industry recognition and exposure through these contests, and would bet that most are already considering what they’ll be submitting next year. Before you position your trophies, hang your plaques, and put 2009 behind you, it’s worth taking a minute to review this year’s wins — not your own, but those of your competitors and peers.

The winners in the plethora of competitions arguably represent the best ads and sites on the Web, and therefore are invaluable to digital media strategists forever looking to push the creative envelope. As you review the initiatives that have taken top honors, you’re bound to see some trends that offer insight into what resonates most with consumers, as well as what strikes a client’s fancy.

It’s important to keep in mind that campaign results aren’t required documentation in all award competition submissions; some ads are judged solely on more “superficial” factors like creativity, design quality, and technological innovation. That said, efforts are judged by panels of experienced industry professionals who know what works, so presumably, the value of campaigns to consumers is taken into consideration as well.

Ads That Engaged

Several winners of the annual Eyeblaster Awards had something in common: their campaigns were highly interactive. From Pringles, Bridge Worldwide, and Starcom, the “Pringles Can Hands” creative took a unique spin on engaging its audience: it kept consumers clicking an endless string of funny messages. Never mind that the text had nothing to do with the product. It had everything to do with the Pringles brand and the youthful humor it exudes.

Also a big winner, IKEA, MediaFront, and Mediacom’s (Norway) “Set the Table” display ad, which took a more conservative approach to interactive. Users were invited to use a wide array of IKEA products to set a virtual table. While selecting their preferred products, they were able to view product names and pricing information to get to know the line before making a purchase.

The winner of the Best Consumer Goods rich media online campaign in the Web Marketing Association’s Internet Advertising Competition was also a brand and agency team that relied on interactivity to engage. The Kraft Ritz “Open for Fun” campaign, created by Razorfish, made the product (marketed as a “party cracker”) more entertaining with a series of display ads that allowed users to play traditional games like tic-tac-toe and Pong in which Ritz crackers were part of the action.

Social Media Mavens

Tourism Queensland and its agency SapientNitro (formerly known as CumminsNitro Brisbane) delivered a multi-platform campaign promoting its “The Best Job in the World” contest that won top honors in the IAB MIXX Awards, but it also took the gold in the Social Marketing category. It isn’t difficult to see why.

The campaign included a presence on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter along with a dedicated YouTube channel and generated over 34,000 video job applications from consumers eager to spend six months as the paid caretaker of the breathtaking Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Nearly half a million votes were cast for wild card applicants on behalf of social media users, and countless individual social networks were created on behalf of applicants (a case study can be viewed here.)

As if that wasn’t success enough, the campaign, with its use of social media, was ranked as number eight on a major PR company’s international list of the world’s top 50 PR stunts of all time.

Advertising, Live

The best banners as ranked in the One Show Interactive Awards stood out from the clutter by delivering live content. Ads created by Ogilvy New York for IBM’s Lotus Notes 8.5 software, which features collaboration and social networking tools, became collaborative themselves when they were networked to allow users to manipulate aspects of the creative in real time.

Agency Boondoggle/Leuven developed banners that featured live streaming concerts by young amateur bands for its Belgian banking client Axion (marketed as a “youth bank”). A contest allowed the brand to select 25 up-and-coming groups to perform live for an Internet audience that watched via 6 million banner ads.

In both cases, these advertisers and their agencies produced exciting campaigns that had novelty and relevance to the product being marketed, or audience being marketed to.

It’s been quite a year for digital campaigns. These and others have set the bar very high for 2010, but the motivation that they offer promises to put us all on the right track.

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