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Mini Cooper: Retro Webisodes

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For Mini Cooper, the question was how to promote a 2007 model that has few improvements on the outside and major upgrades on the inside.

"Television and print ads do a better job of showing the exterior of a vehicle than they do explaining less obvious interior upgrades, such as a start button, and performance features [like] fuel efficiency and improved handling," says Hardy.

The client and its agency, Sausalito, Calif.-based Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, also wanted more time and space than is available in traditional ads to show the upgrades in an entertaining way and to develop memorable characters. Thirty-second spots, according to BSS&P's Butler, "don't provide enough time to weave a story and would require distracting professional driver disclaimers for all the car stunts."

They also were working with a limited budget. The solution: a series of six connected Webisodes, about four minutes each.

For inspiration, the agency looked to retro TV series and movies in which cars were the stars. It then developed a microsite and a series of short online films based on old The Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch TV shows. The spoofs, called "Hammer & Coop," revolve around a '70s-era guy, Hammer, and his nimble, wisecracking car, Coop.

The agency treated the online work as a movie, with traditional and Web ads hyping the series' premiere. Starting on Feb. 1, billboards, print ads, inserts in lifestyle magazines and ads in movie theaters reflected the creative in the microsite and Webisodes, and teased consumers about the plotlines. Web marketing includes banners on major portals, and virtual parties with the Hammer and Coop characters in Second Life.

The Webisodes, launched on Feb. 15, "are designed to demonstrate product features, drive people to the Mini Web site to configure their own cars and encourage them to visit a dealer," says Hardy.

Each week a new episode is aired on the microsite, hammerandcoop.com, then often shared on sites like YouTube and in the blogsphere. From Feb. 2 to March 5 there were nearly 790,000 views of the trailer and the Webisodes, and 150,000 visits to hammerandcoop.com averaging five minutes per viewing, according to BSS&P. The agency also notes that dealer leads are up 60 percent.



Nike: A Real-Time Race

The challenge: To boost race participation and expose active, Web-savvy urbanites to Nike's latest products around the brand's ongoing sponsorship of the annual Run London 10K race. The solution: A digital effort from AKQA, London, tapping into an entrenched crosstown rivalry between Northern and Southern Londoners.

The digital work, according to Simon Jefferson, AKQA account director, was "central and multi-dimensional; it helped prepare and motivate people for the event and created a dialogue between Nike and the participants."

The marketing, which began eight weeks before the race last October, included a Nike microsite, e-mail alerts and mobile phone ads that promoted Nike shoes and gave runners personal encouragement to sign up and train. The microsite included product promotions, content about the run tailored for both Southerners and Northerners, and interactive pre-race training information. Also, this was where participants had to register and were directed to pick up their race T-shirt at the London NikeTown store.

Nike representative Bridget Elliot says that the e-mail, customized phone messages and Web site allowed Nike to "get more personal with its customers" than traditional marketing ever could.

For the day of the race, AKQA created Nike-branded digital billboards and mobile ads designed to give encouragement to runners as well as up-to-the-minute news of who was in the lead.

During the course of the race, a van with a branded digital screen displayed average North and South running times, which were updated every 10 minutes. Also, individual times were sent to each runner's mobile phone within minutes of crossing the finish line. After the race, the digital van roamed London for 24 hours flashing news about the South's win (by less than two seconds).

Wieden + Kennedy, London, developed the graphic look of the marketing, and promoted the event and Web site with newspaper ads, bus sides and signs at training events, according to Emma Trotman, Wieden new business director. Both traditional and digital work reflected the same cheeky tone.

The 2006 run saw a 7 percent increase in participants, to 32,000 entries in the 14-day registration period, says Jefferson.



Oakland A's: Connecting a Fan Base

After a roller-coaster season—in which the A's won the American League West crown in three straight games, then got knocked out of the championships in a sweep by the Detroit Tigers—the team decided to forgo a congratulatory newspaper ad. Instead, the A's, along with its agency, San Francisco-based Eleven, looked to the Web to turn a negative into a positive.

Eleven's Buechert says as soon as the last game ended, baseball blogs were filled with fans sharing their conflicting emotions of exhilaration, anger and disbelief.

"The season was so intense and over so fast, people seemed to need a place to let it out, but there was no physical place to gather," he says. So the team used the Web to celebrate the season and give fans a branded home to commiserate about the abrupt ending. "[We] hosted an online after-game party for the whole fan base, something we could never do with traditional marketing," says Buechert.

Within two weeks of the A's final game last October, the team unveiled the helluvaseason.com microsite. Key features: exclusive mash-ups (or combinations) of radio and TV coverage of season highlights, a forum where people could post and read each other's comments, and a 200-word essay contest on why "you are the biggest A's fan ever." After a few clicks, users could also find the 2007 schedule and online ticket sales.

To promote the site, the team ran radio spots and full-page newspaper ads with the URL in bold type. Also, T-shirts with the URL were handed out at train stations.

"We wanted to give our fans an intimate experience via the Web site, and we used traditional media to drive them there," says Jim Leahey, vp of sales and marketing for the A's. "The Web gave us a comprehensive and cost-effective way to allow fans to dig deeply into the content, reflect on their emotions and get some closure."

More than 10,000 users had participated in the forum by March 8 and nearly 600 submitted essays. While marketing is only one factor affecting season ticket sales, Leahey says the campaign has helped increase sales by 10 percent compared to the same time last year.

Response was strong enough that fan-generated content will be a regular part of future marketing, with digital likely to stay in its primary role. Says Leahey: "The Web allows our fans to define their own message within the context of our campaign."