Gallo Uncorks Rebranding Effort with Online Newspaper Buy

Bottles may be for sharing, but in planning a locally-targeted campaign for its client Gallo Family Vineyards, mediaedge:cia wasn’t so sure newspaper sites were the place to share the Gallo Family dough. “Newspapers tend to skew old,” said Liz Solomon, strategy director for the media agency, noting the campaign aimed to reach folks in their 30s as well as those a bit older. Once she concluded wine drinkers tend to be more affluent and technologically savvy, she changed her mind about newspaper sites. After all, that’s the very demographic newspaper Web sites typically reach.

“I realized it’s not about the newspaper; it’s about the news,” she said. “The actual channel is less important than the environment.”

Anticipating the need to solidify the re-branded Gallo Family Vineyards name with consumers before the wine-imbibing holidays began, mediaedge set its sights on national and local online newspapers buys. Its longtime vino-making client hoped not only to push its brand through the Web and campaign and its print complement, but to target local media in support of the salespeople in charge of getting product into stores around the country.

Homepage Bottle Buyout

Developing a cohesive campaign buy across 14 local and three national paper sites can be a daunting task when it comes to working with multiple contacts to synchronize ad units, site placements and launch dates. “Most agencies aren’t staffed up to handle local buying,” said Mario Diez, director of the New York region for Centro, a media firm that facilitates local online media buying and selling.

Centro provided its services to mediaedge when it came to reserving homepage buyouts and other spots on regional paper sites like Houston Chronicle’s Chron.com, Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s AJC.com and San Francisco Chronicle’s SF Gate. “Trying to find a contact name and reaching out to all those local newspapers would just be a nightmare,” said Liz Phillips, partner, group media director at Mediaedge’s MEC Interaction.

“Good opportunities online like [homepage buyouts] get sold out,” Solomon, who worked with Phillips on the campaign planning, told ClickZ. Other local paper sites included in the buy were Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel.com, Minneapolis-St. Paul’s StarTribune.com and The Boston Globe site Boston.com.

In some cases, these were the first homepage takeovers sold by the local sites. Oftentimes, said Diez, smaller paper publishers aren’t aware they can sell a takeover campaign. The media liaison aims to educate local sites about these types of ad options that today are commonplace on larger national sites and portals.

Following the initial day of homepage domination in September, a variety of ad units, from large, interactive formats and expandable banners to vertical skyscraper units ran in the local news, entertainment and lifestyle sections on 14 smaller paper sites, in addition to NYTimes.com, The Wall Street Journal Online and USAToday.com. Sixty million impressions were served all together in that whirlwind three-day period, according to Phillips.

“We do need a slightly higher frequency in order to create an impact and break through,” said Phillips. “This is a new approach for the Gallo brand,” she continued. “This is really much more a brand launch strategy we see companies like AT&T and Cingular doing.”

The campaign was reinforced through a longer-running Gallo ad stint in the print versions of the local papers, which started September 12. That print buy was purchased through The National Newspaper Network, and handled without Centro.

Sentimental Spirits

Although those who overindulge may not realize it, sharing a good syrah with friends can be a memorable occasion, and Gallo wanted to associate its brand with that notion. Some of the most interactive Web ad formats employed for the campaign lent themselves to evoking sentimentality. Creative agency VML chose a photo album-style unit that allowed users to flip virtual pages displaying snapshots of people at a get-together or dining out, a bottle of Gallo placed prominently in the foreground.

The goal was to inspire “people to think of exciting times in their lives and associate them with Gallo,” said VML Creative Director Tony Snethen. “We created almost a little scrapbook.” Those scrapbook units were especially labor intensive, said Snethen, explaining that the interactivity required a lot of Flash ActionScripting. It didn’t help that VML was brought in on the months-long project with just one month left to develop their Web campaign components. “We jumped in a little late,” he said.

BBDO did the creative for the print elements, and VML was able to repurpose photo assets from BBDO’s print ads for use in its Web creations. “It was great having solid creative to work from,” Snethen said. “In this case it was a rich and inviting,” he added, recalling campaigns he’s worked on in which the Web team was handed unappealing assets late in the game.

The flipbook units were used only on the three national paper sites, while sliding billboard formats that expanded and collapsed into smaller in-page units ran on the local sites. A unit that automatically flipped through album pages without user interaction ran on all the newspaper sites. The ads linked to the Gallo Family Vineyards site.

A deep claret hue on black, combined with a simple design set the ads apart from the often busy, text-heavy pages they appeared on. “Being on newspaper sites, there’s a lot of copy,” said Snethen. “The sheer contrast between the black and the red of the branding helps make the ads really pop.”

Bringing It All Bacch Home

Despite the localized quality of the campaign, Web ad creative wasn’t tailored to specific geographic regions. “If we were to do that,” said Snethen, “you start segregating some of the people you may reach.”

Mediaedge’s approach to the media buy and ad placements reflected that too, said Solomon, who noted, “We were more interested in getting consistency across the geographies, [especially online].”

Indeed, the goal was less about distinguishing one place from another than expressing how the brand’s wines can help bring people together. Snethen pointed to the ad copy as central to that effort. “All your friends are coming. Get an extra bottle,” read one page of the picture book ad. “All bottles are best shared,” declared another.

That’s not to say establishing a local brand presence didn’t matter. By advertising in local venues, Gallo helped ensure the stores stocking its libations that consumers would be aware of the brand. “We use it as a way to incentivize the sales force in their local markets,” said MEC Interaction’s Phillips.

Placing ads on local print newspapers and their Web sites brought that support system full circle, by aligning the Gallo brand with publications that have long-established brands in their respective communities. “Newspaper brands remain very strong with the consumer,” said Solomon, “but more and more so in the online space.”

According to Phillips, who has worked on the winemaker’s account since it began advertising online, Gallo will continue with similar campaigns this year. “We do have plans in place to execute a similar approach in 2007…around key promotional periods happening in-store for the brand,” she said.

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