Discovery’s ‘Life’ Campaign Gives Yahoo Chance to Show Off

Yahoo had the opportunity to do some digital grandstanding over the weekend as the primary online advertising partner for Discovery’s new 11-part Oprah-narrated nature series, “Life.”

Discovery and its media agency, PHD, selected Yahoo as its chief partner on the approximately $2.5 million online ad push – the lion’s share of which appeared on Saturday and Sunday – based on the publisher’s promise to create “something new and different,” said Jeff Liang, group digital director at The Omnicom Group’s PHD.

“The strategy itself was all about building media that created curiosity and has the ‘wow’ factor, getting people to say, ‘What is that on my screen? I’ve never seen that before,” Liang said. “We wanted to create that experience with the [ads], because that’s what the show was all about.”

The centerpiece of the campaign was a Yahoo homepage takeover that users could customize. Visitors to on Sunday the 21st, the day of the show’s premiere, were greeted by a praying mantis that crawled around the screen and into a banner ad with two buttons. One button launched a video player featuring a preview of the series. The other allowed the user to select one of several wallpaper themes that would remain in place throughout the day, even if the user closed his browser or restarted his computer. A similar takeover occurred on Yahoo’s mobile page (pictured below).

“The entire execution had never been done before” by Yahoo, said Mitch Spolan, Yahoo’s VP of North American field sales. “We leveraged every tool we have, from the width of the video to the wallpaper that stays the same to the animation to everything.”

discovery-yhoo.jpgDiscovery also took advantage of Yahoo’s new Rich Ads in Search product, which allows advertisers to place video in a search ad. Users who search “Life Discovery” are greeted with a three-minute preview of the show (searchers needed a bit of luck to see the video, however; it did not appear in searches for “Life on Discovery” or “Life Series on Discovery”)

Yahoo integrated the campaign into its Mail and Messenger tools, as well. Messenger users were given the option of changing their avatars to one of several animals featured in “Life” and could use the chat platform to instantly share videos from the series. Yahoo Mail users also saw wallpaper ads for the series over the weekend.

Coming from the same team that produced the popular Planet Earth series, Life is a major event for Discovery that it has been promoting aggressively offline, as well as on the Web. The network is looking to target an unusually broad audience – adults 25 to 54 was the only criteria, said Liang – which necessitated a partner that could offer vast reach and scale. Liang said early results suggested the Yahoo home page takeover “overachieved by roughly 26 percent.”

Yahoo was not Discovery’s only partner on the campaign for Life. Microsoft Advertising also created a multi-platform campaign that included a custom Web site, customized desktop themes for Windows 7 and mobile ads. Other publishing partners included Facebook, Hulu and the

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