Twitter-Enhanced Display Ads Get Viewers Hiking With Mountain Hardwear

Mountain Hardwear recently tested a display campaign that asked viewers to use Twitter within ads to enter a weekly drawing for a new backpack. The 30-day effort in April bolstered the company’s presence in the backpack niche it entered only a year ago, increased Twitter followers by 38 percent, and created a new marketing research channel.

“Since we don’t sell direct, the first thing we wanted to do was get consumers excited about the products so they eventually go into retail stores or online stores,” explained Dustin Clark, Web project manager for the manufacturing/wholesaling firm. “The second priority was to legitimize ourselves as a [backpacks] brand.”

The Flash-enabled ad opened with the copy “Tweet To Win” and appeared on sites like Trails.com, SportsIllustrated.com, OutsideHub.com, MapMyRun.com/MapMyRide.com, and WashingtonLakes.com. To enter, viewers needed to tweet a message about Mountain Headwear’s backpacks (or “packs,” as the brand calls them) to a dedicated hash-tag.

Nearly 10,000 tweets were registered, according to Clark. He suggested that number and other results have encouraged his team to run similar Twitter-enabled campaigns this summer. “It exceeded our expectations,” he said.

Mountain Hardwear grew their Twitter follower list from 3,200 to more than 4,400 during the campaign. “Gaining followers was just a side effect,” Clark said. “They weren’t prompted. They didn’t have to follow us to enter the contest.”

There was more to the ads than tweets. Within the ad, viewers could watch 20-second product demo teases for full-length videos that appeared at the campaign landing page, MoutainHardwear.com/packs. They could also use a scroll bar in the ad to look at different backpack styles, and copy encouraged them to click through to a landing page to “Check Out More Packs Now.”

The ad produced a modest click-through rate of .11 percent across the targeted Web sites, while receiving a better “interaction rate” of 6.4 percent. An interaction was tallied if viewers utilized any of the ad’s media features.

Twenty-nine percent of click-throughs played a product video within the ad, and 36 percent clicked on different backpacks to learn more about them. While 19 percent used the ads to sign into Twitter, 12 percent tweeted from the ad. (Viewers already logged into Twitter could tweet without signing in.)

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Clark said that it was the first social media + rich media display campaign his company had run. “In other campaigns, I would’ve considered a click-through rate to be [a more important] metric,” he said. “For this effort, we just wanted people to see the ads and get immersed in the packs. This one far exceeded the engagement level when compared to past efforts.”

Rich media firm EyeWonder provided the technology for the ads, while digital agency White Horse handled creative. “We built a lot of functionalities into the ad itself that would’ve otherwise been seen on the landing page,” said Eric Anderson, VP of marketing for the Portland, OR-based White Horse. “This was a contest, but the user could do everything he or she needed to do within the ad.”

Clark said a positive side benefit from the test occurred in the quality of the participants’ tweets (see image above), which his company plans to employ for marketing and product development purposes. “I have hundreds and hundreds tweets that are completely well thought-out,” he said. “And it’s stuff we are going to use. What they tweeted about those packs are things we are going to highlight.”

Meanwhile, incorporating Twitter in rich media ads isn’t exactly new. Last year, carmaker Volvo used the tactic for ads appearing on YouTube’s home page. Michael Rosner, SVP of global sales for the Atlanta-based Eyewonder, suggested more examples like Mountain Hardwear and Volvo are to come. “We see more brand marketers using social media in their advertising to foster relationships with consumers by giving them the chance to provide feedback and interact with like-minded peers,” he said.

Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.

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