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Oct 11, 2000
Case Study Beats Goals by Almost 300% with a Streaming Video Email Campaign

SUMMARY: No summary available.

Increase traffic to the site and boost newsletter subscriptions. Stephanie J. Fierman, VP Marketing, explains how the campaign worked and why it’s now considered to be a model viral campaign.


The Win a Million Dollars Sweepstakes. The grand prize was, you got it, a million dollars. First prize was a brand new Mercedes. “We executed this program through We sent an email to a variety of lists and communities. The email contained streaming video of one of our television commercials and provided a call to action to come to and play the million dollar sweepstakes. The streaming video did not require any software downloads or plug-ins, nothing. The feedback we got was that this was pretty unique for a lot of people who received the email. They were able to click on a button and see high quality video and audio. Plus our TV commercials are really successfully so people thought that was a lot of fun. You could enter the sweepstakes. You could also gain incremental entries by trying to inspire your friends to enter the contest. You could forward the streaming video to your friend and suggest that they also play the groovy million dollar sweepstakes at We got to reach people that didn’t see the TV commercial because maybe these people don’t watch TV. It’s sort of the double whammy. The game ended up May 15 and ran for a quarter.

“We did a second promotion that just ended in the third quarter where grand prize was a Caribbean vacation and all sorts of groovy prizes. “


“We didn’t give away the million dollars but we did give away the Mercedes. To a man who’s now very, very happy with his new red Mercedes. We wanted to give away the million dollars but it was high odds. It was a sweepstakes, which means that you aren’t required to give it away. It’s a drawing in effect. We did a drawing and nobody won.

“We mailed over 1-million people -- 72% of people opened the email with a conversion rate of 14%. Our cost per lead was less than $2. For the viral, every person that played forwarded the streaming video to at least two friends – which is a really incredible number. Of the people that received it as a result of getting it from a friend, 20% of them opened it and 72% of those that opened played. The friend referral accounted for 39% of all the plays in the game. We exceeded our new user goal by almost 300%. People were very happy.

“It’s hard to follow cash. Cash works. Everyone can use it. It doesn’t have a credibility problem. The challenge in giving away a new home office or a Caribbean vacation or win your own ad in the Wall Street Journal is you run into credibility problems with heavy users of the web. We do everything above board. Our Caribbean vacation was a fantastic package. But there are other people on the Web and in the offline world that don’t do everything as ethically as we do.

“We exceeded all of our goals in the third quarter as well. We are going to launch another in the fourth quarter starting Nov. 1 that will run for eight weeks. We’ve found that we’re consistently well over 100% of plan. At lower acquisition rates than we are driving in from any other source right now and that would include online advertising.

“The million dollar campaign is up for the Email Marketing Campaign of the Year award. We sort of bucked some of the existing best thing about what a small business site should give away that executes promotions. There were people who wondered exactly how small business relevant our prizes should be. For example, we considered offering advertising as a prize. The challenge there is who exactly is going to be interested in that offer. Maybe the owner of a small business. But what is the incentive for an employee to play that promotion? For lots of small businesses, it’s not even that relevant. We believe that small business people are people too and things that appeal to all of us will appeal to them.

“To play one of our promotions, you have to sign up for the newsletter, which goes out once a week. But we’re going to be doing more. So we can track how frequently a customer that we acquired through a promotion clicks back to the site. Another question that people ask about promotions is are you really attracting a qualified audience? We can say emphatically, yes, because we can track the traffic from our newsletter back to the source of acquisition. The newsletter is free. “

NOTES: Do you have to stump up a million bucks for this kind of promotion? Nope. used a traditional risk management technique – it bought insurance. For $15,000, purchased an insurance policy. If the grand prize had been given away, the money would have come from the insurance company, not

Editor's Note: Tune in next week for our exclusive interview revealing Fierman’s thoughts about why TV does work as a marketing tool!
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