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Aug 05, 2003
Case Study

Cool Talking Head vs Standard Flash Intro: Xerox's Surprising Landing Page Test Results

SUMMARY: When we first saw a Web site with a talking head guide (a cartoon-style head that audibly talks to you) we thought it was exciting. Although we wondered, did it work as a marketing tool?

The marketers at Xerox and their agency Y+R 2.1, have stepped up to the plate, revealing results in this exclusive Case Study. Yes, includes audio scriptwriting and links to samples.

In 2001, Xerox launched an online lead-generation
campaign online that exceeded its goal by 17% and lowered cost-
per-lead by more than 50% compared to what it would have cost
using Xerox's traditional offline methods.

"We blew the doors off the goal," said Barbara Basney, who was
Marketing Communications Director, Xerox Office Printing
Business, at the time.

Although the campaign (which drove prospects to a sweeps
microsite where they could play a game and sign up for a chance
to win either a trip to the Olympics or a color printer) worked
well, Basney was not satisfied.

"We had no problem getting people to fill out the form," Basney

The form included a few qualifying questions so she knew which
leads to forward to sales. She wondered if she could
educate the leads a bit more before they hit sales desks and in
effect, make them hotter.

How do you turn a sweeps entrant's mind, which is obviously
focused on the prize, into a eager receptacle for your marcom?


Basney figured she had paid for sweeps entrants'
attention by offering them a chance at the prize. Now she wanted
to maximize their attention and run a brief educational pitch
across them on their way to fill out the sweeps entry.

With creative and strategic help from Young & Rubicam's Y+R 2.1 division,
Basney decided to test two different landing page (A.K.A. splash page)
creative approaches… (Link to samples of both below.)

Landing page test #1: "Max" the talking head

We all know that people look at people. It is a time proven tool
to get attention in both online and offline advertising.

With that in mind, Basney and her team created "Max," a female
virtual host. Max's looks combined the intellectual (black
glasses and sleek black hair) with the alluring (bright red
lipstick, almond-shaped eyes).

When users arrived at the sweeps landing page, Max greeted them
audibly with a witty remark; her eyes followed the visitor's
cursor as it scrolled across the page; and she continued chatting
away with them as they interacted with the site.

The tone was slightly personal and lightly jokey.

Max began by saying, "Welcome to the Xerox Phaser site for our
Xerox color printers. Sign up to win a trip to the Olympics,
since I can't. You'll even get a welcome gift."

"You're craving fast, affordable color for your office, aren't
you? Well, you should, because now you can have it."

Her spiel continued with product benefits as the user scrolled
over images of them; and, finally she audibly encouraged visitors
as they filled out the lead-generation form.

For example, if you answered "Within a year" under the question
"When do you think you will most likely buy a network color
office printer," Max commented, "Why wait? Now you can get a
color printer that prints full color at only 16 pages per

If you returned to the site, her audio greeting changed to a
personalized, "Hey there, welcome back."

Landing page test #2: Standard Flash intro

Actually this was far better than the "standard" Flash intro.
Instead of showing words swirling about on a screen to pounding
music (a format long mocked in Web design circles), Xerox showed
an animated presentation of several printers printing away
merrily while a voiceover touted product benefits.

In this case the script, although read by the same voiceover
artist who did Max, was much more formal:

"Xerox is proud to present an office printer for every need and
budget. Unlike traditional laser printers, Xerox uses single pass
technology for fast precise color in only one pass through the

"The new Phaser 7300 is the world's fastest workplace color
printer. The Phaser 6200 is a color laser, while the 8200 uses
colorstick solid ink. Just drop the easy-to-use color sticks into
their shape-coded slots, even while it's printing."

Although the Flash intro included a Skip Intro link (which is an
important best practice in Flash design), the intro was cleverly
designed to stop people from clicking on that link. At the top
visitors see a moving bar that says "loading entry form."

The impression is that visitors are simply being entertained with
an ad while waiting for the entry form to load.

Nevertheless, Basney knew that visitors would not sit through a
long pitch when what they really wanted was the opportunity to
win a prize. The design team kept the intro to a carefully
calibrated 22 seconds.

The sequence ends with eye-catching, colorful circles moving
outward around the words "Enter now to win …" and then visitors
are dropped into a registration form.


Max, the talking head landing page launched on May 15th 2002, and Xerox yanked her a few weeks later in late June.

That is because, believe it or not, the presence of a talking
head, no matter how pretty and witty, caused more people to bail
on the microsite before filling out the registration form.

On the other hand, the standard Flash intro with a more formally
scripted and limited-length audio intro resulted in a higher
percentage of registrants.

"The hypothesis was that maybe if you're in an office environment
and you have a woman talking that everyone can hear, it sounds
like maybe you're not working," says Basney. While you might not
get in trouble for listening to a 22-second pitch, the chatty Max
was another thing altogether.

Perhaps her hypothesis is right, or perhaps there is another
explanation. Three more data points:

1. Visitors landing on the Max talking head page were likely to
spend more time on average on the microsite, but less likely to
submit a registration form.

2. 86% of visitors landing on the standard Flash intro page watch
the entire 22-second intro. (This is a complete reverse of most
Flash intro sites which up to 90% of visitors bail on.)
12% click on the Skip Intro button, 2% leave the microsite

3. Both registration forms included a box in the fine print at
the bottom that users could click to be removed from email
communications. The two intros caused a slight difference in
clicks on this box. 27% of Max-viewers checked to get off the
list, 33% of Flash intro viewers checked to get off.

By the way, the Max campaign won AD:TECH's Best B2B Campaign
award in 2002, which proves that, like many of us marketers,
sometimes ad award judges are more swayed by cool creative than
they ought to be.

Useful links related to this story:

Microsite with virtual host

Microsite with animated intro

Young & Rubicam's Y+R 2.1 Division who handled creative:

Skip Intro - an educational site on Flash intro design

Our original Case Study on Xerox's online lead gen campaigns:

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