Last spring, Erica Campbell, Marketing Manager, ForRent.com, and her team were charged with creating awareness of their brand and its regional offices while spiking traffic at their site. They had never launched a consumer campaign before.
“In our marketplace, there was a lot of confusion between the different [Internet] apartment rental listing services and publications,” Campbell says. “We were looking to separate ourselves from the competition and build brand differentiation. On the advertiser side, we also wanted to get more qualified leads.”
Campbell’s target group was 18-to-35-year-old consumers, including the coveted college-age demographic. CAMPAIGN
Given the college-age demographic, Campbell and her team dove into the Web 2.0 world by sponsoring an online video contest. Before plunging into the campaign, though, they did thorough research into consumer promotions and online contests to get tips on creative and overall direction. Here are the seven steps they took to zero in on the campus kids:
-> Step #1. Test ads in a relevant magazine
Campbell and her team began by targeting students at the 135 campuses included in UMagazine’s semester mailings. They ran a full-page color ad in the spring and summer issues promoting a $10,000 giveaway with the slogan: “If Only Your Apartment Furniture Could Talk….”
To cultivate offline-online synergy, the ad featured an image of an online media player below the slogan. It also displayed the URL for the contest.
Campbell says the April ad was designed to introduce the contest to the audience; May’s ad was meant to reinforce it. “Overall, the circulation was about 1.25 million students per issue.”
-> Step #2. Piggyback with a PR campaign
Campbell and team supported the magazine ads with a PR blitz aimed at 91 college newspapers. Press releases via snail mail and targeted emails were sent out. To keep costs down, they handled the PR in-house.
-> Step #3. Test vinyl versus digital billboards
The team chose vinyl and digital billboards in the San Antonio, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio, markets. “They appeared in a combination of major streets and interstate highways. They were different sorts of sizes, depending on the location and whether or not they were digital or vinyl.”
Campbell and her team worked for just over one month to organize the billboard campaign. They worked with an agency to create the billboards and placed them with the following advertising vendors:
- ClearChannel Columbus
- Lamar Columbus
- CBS Columbus
- Lamar San Antonio
- ClearChannel San Antonio
- CBS San Antonio
-> Step #4. Combine online and offline promotions
Campbell’s team also wanted to mix offline efforts with targeted online ads. So, they ran banners across three major networks popular with college kids: MySpace.com, Facebook.com and Advertising.com.
One of the Facebook ads was text-only and ran with a 110-by-80-pixels icon. The other banners (or display ads) appeared in the following pixel sizes:
-> Step #5. Back banners with social networking
To support the banner ads, the team created a corporate profile on Facebook and MySpace and began collecting ‘friends.’ They encouraged their regional offices to do the same. While the contest ran on the URL, WinApartmentFurniture.com, it let people share videos with friends at multiple Web 2.0 communities.
The watermarking tracking technology used in the contest also allowed Campbell and her team to track the videos’ exposure around the Internet after the campaign ended.
-> Step #6. Take advantage of existing email list to spread the word
They also used ForRent.com’s email opt-in list of 56,000 names to publicize the 10-week contest. An initial message was sent during the first week of contest. A follow-up was sent during week four.
Here are the two subject lines they used:
o ForRent.com’s If Only Your Apartment Could Talk Video Contest
o ForRent.com Video Contest
-> Step #7. Get legal help with contest parameters
The contest began on May 1 with a June 15 deadline. Voting took place between June 16 and July 6. The winner was announced on July 21. Voting took place between June 16 and July 6.
The team consulted with legal counsel to ensure that contest rules would help prevent copyright violations. The rules suggested that submissions be less than two minutes long – while conforming to predetermined judging parameters.
“And we gave them a wide variety of video format files, so it was easy for them. We understood that some people were more familiar with QuickTime versus MP4s and things like that.”
The multichannel effort generated:
o 51 submissions in six weeks
o 57% increase in site traffic over the same time frame in 2007
o More than 300 qualified leads for their brick-and-mortar partners
o 20.1% boost in college-age visitors to their website
Campaign data also showed:
- contest page received more than 59,000 unique visitors and more than 251,000 page views
- average time on site per user was three minutes
- videos received more than 500 comments and more than 346,000 video views
- banners received more than 193 million impressions and more than 128,000 clicks
- the first email got a 17% open rate and a 1.7% clickthrough rate
- the second email got a 38% open rate and a 3% clickthrough rate
Participant videos went viral thru syndication to these social networking and video-sharing sites:
o Google Video
o AOL Video
o MSN Video
o Yahoo! Video
Campbell notes that 27% of video views came from metacafe, 26% from YouTube and 22% from Revver.
Campbell and her team also learned these lessons about billboards and magazine ads:
- Pushing something like an online video contest with billboards was not the most cost-effective strategy. “We now think billboards are probably better for branding than they are to promote a contest like this one.”
- The magazine ads were a winning campaign element. “We received the most site visits from campuses where UMagazine was distributed. I feel very confident about the success of the magazine ads and press release. In terms of the PR, we’re still getting a lot of coverage for the contest.”
Summing up, Campbell says: “I think the campaign was extremely successful, especially for our first time in this space. A lot of our video submissions came on the last night. Some people waited to the last second because they didn’t want anyone else to see what they had worked on.” Useful links related to this article
How to Attract College Demographic with Video Contest: Creative Samples
Online Video Contests - How to Start Them, Promote & Track ROI + Pitfalls to Avoid
How to Turn Video Contest Into a Viral Extravaganza & Get Millions of Views on YouTube
Vitrue – social media advertising services firm
Lyris EmailLabs – ForRent.com’s email services provider
Seventh Point – the ad agency that helped with billboards