Tips for Thinking Outside the Banner

When you’re in the thick of planning a campaign, it’s easy to fall victim to archetypal patterns and succumb to the urge to recycle the same old formats you’ve used time and time again. You start out with the best intentions, but before you know it, you’ve developed another campaign around banners, buttons, email, and the occasional pop-up. The creative is pedestrian, and the call to action is blatant. Strict deadlines can hinder creativity.

Luckily, finding unique new placements can be as easy as watching TV.

For decades, advertisers have aligned themselves with high-profile TV events, taking advantage of programming with mass-audience exposure offered by the Super Bowl and Olympic Games. As marketers recognize the effectiveness of cross-media promotion, budgets previously reserved for TV are being reallocated. Some of these dollars are invested in the Internet, which in turn has become a wonderland of event-related media options. Sites with event coverage offer a number of creative placement ideas, whether you are prepared to be a full-fledged event sponsor or just want to boost your client’s online exposure. These placements can liven up a campaign.

In recent weeks, you’ve probably stumbled across the official site of the latest TV mega-event, the Academy Awards. In Oscar style, advertising on Oscar.com is a mix of the traditional and the avant-garde. Banners run alongside more interesting placements. Some advertisers mix and match for increased exposure.

One of the more popular sections of the site (now that the main event is over) is the Red Carpet Gallery, a slide presentation showcasing the stars’ Oscar looks. Sponsored by Cadillac, it includes a Flash banner that runs across the top of the browser. There’s a Cadillac text link in the left nav bar.

What’s sure to drill Cadillac into your consciousness is a print-style ad interspersed among the slideshow pictures. You’ll come across it after viewing a few images — it’s almost like a brief intermission (or attempt at a subliminal message) that can be bypassed by clicking to the next image. Some may consider this intrusive, but it somehow doesn’t come off that way. This is sponsored content. There’s no hidden agenda — this advertiser’s cards are on the table. If consumers respond negatively to tricky advertising (those “error message” and “warning” banner ads come to mind), they should appreciate candor. Either way, it’s a placement consumers aren’t overly familiar with and one they’re likely to recall down the line.

If your budget can’t support a placement on a top event site such as Oscar.com, you can look to second-tier sites featuring event coverage. With the Oscars, entertainment and gossip site E! Online would be an ideal choice. Though E! Online offers multiple sponsorship opportunities, it’s not which placement options are available but what the advertiser do with their placements.

Adiamondisforever.com, one Oscar section sponsor, attracted attention by cleverly incorporating the event into banner and skyscraper ads. The ads, which invite viewers to “see more celebrities in diamonds” and link to a celebrity photo gallery, take full advantage of the audience’s interest in celebrities and the competition of the show itself. Quiz questions such as, “Who wore a variation of the diamond-encrusted Heart of the Ocean… Kate Winslet, Celine Dion, or Gloria Stuart? Or was it all three?” tie in with the Oscar trivia that abounds online. They’re engaging and interesting to consumers. Some ads were created in Flash, allowing users to mouse over multiple-choice options to locate the correct answer.

How many consumers who click through just happen to be in the market for a diamond necklace? Probably very few. But if the goal was to increase brand awareness and traffic, Adiamondisforever.com struck gold.

These advertisers used online Oscar coverage to their advantage — one example of how to successfully find and use out-of-the-ordinary media placements. Adding spice to a client’s campaign can be as easy as choosing the right ally.

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