Marketers Use Facebook for Reindeer Games

Correction: An earlier version of this column attributed JibJab for OfficeMax’s Facebook campaign, Elfmas Town. The campaign was created by advertising agency, Palm+Havas.

One can always count on the holiday season to deliver some of the most creative digital advertising of the year. In 2009, brands launched customized applications and microsites with viral value. This year, many are hanging their Santa hats on online games.

OfficeMax Elves Get Social

For four years, OfficeMax has been benefiting from the viral magic associated with “ElfYourself,” the holiday microsite that lets consumers visualize themselves as the jolly, generous elves the retailer affords them to be. With some 416 million elves having been customized so far, Forbes Magazine this year bestowed upon the tool the title of seventh best social media campaign ever.

Now, OfficeMax is adding online games to the equation with an enhanced version of the legendary viral microsite, created for Facebook with the help of Palm+Havas. Elfmas Town includes such games as Kittens in Mittens, Bouncing Through the Snow, and G-Bread Man, which allows users to customize a rap song that’s sung by a hip hop-style gingerbread man.

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The expansion of OfficeMax’s ElfYourself to Facebook allows the retailer to leverage its almost 63,000 fans – a built-in user base – as well as migrate past users of the application to the social site. From a targeting perspective, Facebook is also a perfect fit; OfficeMax’s primary audience of women 25 to 54 aren’t just “casual gamers,” but major social network users as well. Post-game, they’re encouraged to visit the OfficeMax site for elf-themed savings and an additional holiday game – this time for the iPhone and iPad – called Holiday Party Bingo.

Deck the Halls With Savings

Also on Facebook, grocery store chain Safeway (and its subsidiary Dominick’s) has launched “Ornamize Me,” a playful app that allows users to create a tree ornament in their own likeness. Consumers can select a photo already uploaded to their Facebook page or choose to use another image, as well as pick the style of ornament on which their face appears.

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The festive game has the potential to increase Facebook “Likes” for the brand, but like ElfYourself, it’s also designed to boost in-store sales. In this case, users who can successfully encourage five of their friends to create their own ornament receive a $5 gift card for use within Safeway brand stores. This approach adds value to a digital marketing tactic that has historically been designed to increase branding and affinity; there are countless examples of applications that animate consumers in the name of brand awareness and recall, but little else. To promote the campaign, Safeway is advertising with banners on such food and lifestyle sites as Real Simple.

For Girls on the Nice List

Fashions for Black Friday and the holidays are getting extra attention this year in, of all places, a Facebook game. Instead of opting to create a branded app, though, Old Navy partnered with an existing social game platform called “It Girl.”

Created by social game developer CrowdStar and Sibblingz, a platform for building social games, It Girl caters to female teens and young adults with an interest in fashion. The campaign will be live from September through the end of December during which time players can browse an online virtual store, participate in a virtual shopping spree, and attain gifts for their Facebook friends. The effort includes two virtual holiday parties, the first of which was exclusive to Thanksgiving (with a name like “Gobblepalooza,” is it any wonder?)

With some 5.5 million players at Old Navy’s disposal, the branded game does more than keep the retailer’s styles top-of-mind for teen shoppers. According to Old Navy, Thanksgiving and holiday promotions appear within the virtual world on branded billboards that launch TV spots informing players of real-world deals, ultimately driving traffic in-store.

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