Getting Creative With Back-to-School Campaigns

It’s the mark of a good media buyer to always be thinking ahead. So even as summer holiday activities abound, many of you are already turning your minds to back-to-school ad campaigns. The Web will be overrun with display ads from apparel and office supply retailers before we know it, and it will be our role to ensure that our client’s promotions rise above the clutter.

Netting the Back-to-School Audience

Despite the recession, this year’s back-to-school season looks promising. According to recent research from Burst Media on back-to-school shopping habits, only 16 percent of shoppers will spend less money this year than last, and nearly one quarter will actually spend more. August is, of course, the most popular month for back-to-school shopping, with almost 40 percent of all shopping done during this month; the rest is completed in July or September.

To help marketers reach their target audience of students, parents, and teachers, Burst this year introduced the Burst Back-to-School Network. The niche network offers access to 125 sites that can be purchased as a single, prepackaged media buy.

“We can segment within the overall network to focus in on just teachers buying supplies for the classroom, college students, or moms based on their age and the number of children within the households,” says Chuck Moran, Burst Media’s VP of marketing. About the current economic climate, Moran notes that consumers will be cutting back on purchases for themselves but will continue to spend money on their kids. And given the summer season, when people generally spend less time with media other than the Internet, “it’s a great time to be using the online medium to reach these groups,” Moran says.

Summer Break

Online video destination Break.com is preparing for the back-to-school season by creating a unique content channel that will feature original live Webisodes promoting Microsoft’s PC products. According to the publisher, the videos will be hosted by blogger and author Christian Lander and feature him matching his audience to the perfect PC for their needs based on their personality.

The PC Hookup campaign and associated Break.com channel will include Microsoft TV spots that show the company giving college students a PC to test out in their dorm rooms overnight, along with other funny college-based video clips that appeal to Microsoft’s target audience. To promote the channel, Microsoft will also be doing a site-wide takeover one hour each week during the live Webcast.

Virtually There

According to recent data, Facebook’s annual growth rate for time spent on the site is over 700 percent. As social media continues to attract users and monopolize their time, one strategy for engaging consumers with your brands is to partner with a social site for a custom sponsorship. There is counting on your interest this year, pulling out all the stops to deliver a unique interactive brand experience around the back-to-school season.

This 3-D online community currently has over 1.8 million members, 74 percent of which are aged 13 to 26, with the median age being 22. Users can participate in any number of activities on the site, from decorating their virtual environment to playing online games, shopping, and connecting with other site members. Many of those members will be present at the site’s Virtual Back-To-School Party in September, and brands have a chance to be there as well through sponsorship programs that include virtual billboards displaying branded videos, photo backdrops that site users can use to take screenshots with their online friends, and virtual party favors that can be used after the party ends.

As unorthodox as a virtual back-to-school party might seem, there’s little difference from a standard display ad campaign when it comes to measuring results. There.com tracks and reports on attendance, time spent at the event, purchases made, and user exposure to each individual promotion.

Now is the time to plan your back-to-school campaigns, and publishers are keen to help you do it. The best way to educate yourself about the opportunities that exist for your clients is to contact your sales reps about what they have to offer and start studying.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center. Learn the ins and outs of SEM, including site optimization, link-building tactics, pay-per-click advertising, and landing-page testing and tuning to ensure high conversion rates.

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