Purpose-Driven Online Advertising

Informational advertising helps brands explain complex, confusing, or controversial issues. Here are four examples.

Ads that entertain or inspire viewers get all the glory. Look no further than the Super Bowl XLIV spots, where Snickers satisfies with Betty White, and Hyundai scores when quarterback Brett Favre “wins” an MVP award in the year 2020.

Then, there are informational ads – boring by contrast, yet their effectiveness cannot be underestimated. As Augustine Fou, chief digital officer of Omnicom’s healthcare consultancy group, points out, “thou shall be useful” is one of modern marketing’s 10 commandments.

Today, brands such as Coca-Cola, Intuit, and CVS are tuning their informational messages to connect with consumers on YouTube and other online venues. Paid search, sponsored tweets, promoted videos, display ads, and e-mail marketing are all part of the marketing mix.

CVS: Staying Informed and Healthy

Since December 16, 2009, CVS has been adding one- to two-minute long informational videos to its CVS Pharmacy channel on YouTube, covering topics such as “getting over a cold,” “prevent colon cancer,” and “drug interactions.” (These videos also appear on CVS.com’s video library.)

In developing the health-related video series, CVS has avoided the temptation to overtly promote its products and services. This series stands to achieve several objectives:

  • Increase CVS Pharmacy’s visibility in search results for health-related queries such as “how to fight the flu.”
  • Humanize the 7,000-store chain by featuring pharmacists in the video.
  • Establish CVS pharmacists as a go-to source for practical health-related information.

Another section of CVS’s YouTube channel includes videos that discuss the finer points of the drug store chain’s somewhat confusing customer loyalty program, called ExtraCare Rewards. Interestingly enough, “Double Bucks 101” recorded 1,708 page views – apparently far more than most of the CVS health-related videos on YouTube.

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Coca-Cola: Counting Calories

In a display ad on NYTimes.com, Coca-Cola promoted its new label, designed to more clearly present the calorie content in a beverage.

“Calorie Information. Right up front,” reads the ad. “Portion Control Options. New 90 calorie mini can,” reads another message from the same ad campaign.

Not only do these ads inform, they build awareness for Coca-Cola and its pledge to help consumers make informed decisions about their nutrition choices.

Toyota: Rolling Into Action

After acknowledging safety defects in its vehicles, Toyota used informational ads online to alert consumers about the models and years affected and to outline next steps for motorists. Included in the initiative: online display ads, paid search ads, and e-mail marketing. Christopher Baccus, senior digital brand strategist at Wunderman, told ClickZ News that digital advertising is better suited than TV spots to communicate complex issues such as the recall.

A search for “Toyota recall,” for instance, turned up sponsored links to Toyota.com/Recall; Autoland.Toyota.com, a Springfield, NJ, Toyota dealership; and a New York City law firm promoting its product liability practice.

TurboTax: Taxing Questions

Because of media’s fragmentation, brands are typically advised to go where their consumers are. For a company like Intuit’s TurboTax, that “somewhere” could mean just about anywhere.

TurboTax’s informational messages turned up on TweetMeme, a service that aggregates popular links on Twitter. In a sponsored message – sandwiched in between non-sponsored tweets – TurboTax alerts taxpayers to an article on its site titled, “Eight 2009 Tax Law Changes that Can Fatten Your Refund.” That particular article outlines recent changes in the tax law, such as the alternate minimum tax and new vehicle tax deduction, and what they mean for taxpayers. As @TurboTax points out on Twitter, “The U.S. tax code as of 2008 is 13,458 pages long.” What better way to make a case to get help preparing a tax return?

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