Hill, Holliday

Trying to Lure a Boston-area teenager into a retail environment in high summer is a bit like asking him to wear a Derek Jeter replica jersey in the bleachers of Fenway Park—such an excursion is almost wholly outside the realm of possibility for the kid, and as such, the suggestion may be met with seething adolescent contempt.

The marketing team at Bob’s Stores, a northeastern casual/sports apparel outlet with a dozen stores throughout Massachusetts, understands that summer is a difficult season in which to reach teens. Thus, the TJX subsidiary—sister retailers include T.J. Maxx and Marshalls—enlisted media agency Hill, Holliday to cook up a plan that would hit teens where they live without taking a big bite out of Bob’s marketing budget.

With an assist from Comcast Spotlight Boston, Hill, Holliday put together a video-on-demand campaign designed to reach Boston-area teens via the convergence of a novel digital application and the adrenalized hook of extreme sports. Using archival footage of ESPN’s X Games, the media agency and Comcast Spotlight developed 30-second spots that drove viewers to a sports and fitness VOD menu where exclusive X Games content was housed, and a Web site that offered users a shot at winning a trip for two to Los Angeles for the twelfth installment of the summer sports series.

The campaign ran from mid-July to mid-August 2005. In that period, Comcast registered 2,261 unique set-top views, and 36 percent of them dropped the remote to go online and register for the X Games contest.

“The original idea was for Bob’s to leverage their association with extreme athletes that they naturally have through their apparel sponsors,” says Hill, Holliday associate media director Tanya McMahon, who helped spearhead the campaign. While Bob’s traffics in dozens of athletic apparel products, labels of particular interest to the X Games set include Billabong, Vans and Etnies; all three of which were ranked as top-10 brands by the store’s younger shoppers.

Besides the allure of extreme sports, VOD fit into the overall plan like a wetsuit, McMahon says. “The campaign really reflected Bob’s ongoing commitment to television, their ongoing relationship with Comcast and the desire of both parties to do something different,” McMahon says. “It was a win-win for everyone. It drove traffic to Bob’s and stirred awareness and usage of Comcast’s VOD product.”

Stephen Flaim, vp/general manager for Comcast Spotlight Boston, says that while the younger demo may stray from linear TV in the summer, VOD fits their what-I-want, when-I-want-it relationship with media. “They love anything new, so we know that VOD is a great place to reach them,” he says.

While Hill, Holliday says that Bob’s Stores were pleased with the campaign, McMahon says that the agency hasn’t developed another VOD plan since, but “we’re definitely encouraging clients to think significantly about all sorts of opportunities in the digital media space.”

Flaim says VOD advertising will take off once other categories begin to explore the on-demand platform. “Our early successes have primarily been with automotive and financial,” he says. “While we haven’t done much on VOD with retail, we’re looking to work with the Home Depots and the Lowes. We may be able to put up their weekly circulars on-demand.”

McMahon says the big takeaway from her first VOD campaign was the relative ease and thrift with which Hill, Holliday was able to implement it. “We’re talking about a regional outlet with a small marketing budget. But it was a really easy execution. Comcast did all the heavy lifting.” Anthony Crupi is a senior reporter for Mediaweek.