Media Plan of the Year 2010

Any marketer looking to move more product or increase market share in 2009 was in for a tough time. Read through this year’s group of Media Plan of the Year winners, and that fact emerges in virtually every single story. But that didn’t stop sharp media planners at agencies big and small from getting their clients that extra bump in share — and more, in most cases — without busting the budget during one of the toughest media economies on record.

It’s also a sign of these media-obsessed and -fragmented times that several clients are among the winners: HBO, Starz, Syfy — media companies looking to stand out in some way from their competitors. Thanks to their media agencies and innovative planning activations, they achieved their aim.

This year’s group of winners, besides being more numerous, are also more varied. We tried to reflect the changing ways in which media is planned, bought and executed. Gone are the days of a siloed TV campaign or an out-of-home-only effort. Every plan involves several media working in concert to achieve clients’ marketing ambitions. Hence our use of dollar ranges are married to a particular medium (which had to represent at least one-third of that campaign’s spend). For those radio-heavy agencies and media companies, please note that we did not have a single submission from which to pick a winner in the $10 million-$25 million, focus on radio category.

Additionally, we live in a time where the end user gets a say, and we would be remiss if we didn’t allow our readers and subscribers to weigh in. Hence, a big shout-out to the three People’s Choice winners. First place goes to Fallon, for its work on Syfy’s Alice premiere, which happens to be our winner in the less than $1 million, focus on out-of-home category.
In second place, The Gate Worldwide also employed an innovative blend of old- and new-school out-of-home executions on behalf of financial client State Street Global Advisors. Third-place honors go to fledgling firm Merlino Bauer for its low-cost use of key radio and transit ads (Katz 360) and a print partnership (with RDA’s Every Day With Rachael Ray) for client Nature’s Path, an organic food company.

Congratulations to all the winners. Well done.


Branded Content – $25 Mil. or More

Integrated Campaign – $25 Mil. or More

Digital – $10-25 Mil.

Digital – $1-10 Mil.

Digital – Less Than $1 Mil.

Best Multicultural Campaign

OOH – $10-25 Mil.

OOH – $1-10 Mil.

OOH – Less Than $1 Mil.

Print – $10-25 Mil.

Print – $1-10 Mil.

Print – Less Than $1 Mil.

Radio – $1-10 Mil.

Radio – Less Than $1 Mil.

TV – $10-25 Mil.

TV – $1-10 Mil.

TV – Less Than $1 Mil.

Branded Content — $25 Mil. or More

Draftfcb, U.S. Census Bureau

By Richard Brunelli

On the face of it, Tyler Perry, George Lopez, U.S. Olympian Julie Chu, Nascar’s Greg Biffle, CBS Sports’ Clark Kellogg and Dora the Explorer would appear to have very little in common. But that was before the 2010 U.S. Census came along.

The diverse group of celebrities — and many more — created the backbone of a massive, multimedia campaign for the 2010 U.S. Census, a campaign that had a straight-forward but seemingly impossible goal: to educate every man, woman and child in the United States and its territories about the importance of filling out and returning the U.S. Census form.

To accomplish that, Draftfcb New York, the agency that won the assignment of devising and implementing the campaign’s media strategy, assembled an unprecedented branded-content initiative that included more than 400 ad executions playing out on TV, radio, print, out-of-home, digital, cinema, social media, events and sponsorships. The end result was a media blitz that built an emotional connection around filling out the Census form and a higher-than-expected 72 percent response rate as of May 1.

To begin to get its arms around the campaign, Draftfcb put together a team of top executives from 14 partner companies, including GlobalHue and GlobalHue Latino, IW Group, Weber Shandwick, and Draftfcb Puerto Rico. Once assembled, the group, which came to be known as Team Census, dove into granular research culled from the 2000 Census and conducted more than 4,000 interviews with U.S. citizens about their perceptions related to the report. One key finding: People are far more likely to participate in studies and surveys if they come with the backing of “trusted voices,” well-known influencers with whom people have formed a positive association.

That finding, according to Bhavana Smith, vp, group media director at Draftfcb, led to the decision to partner with a wide range of media companies and make branded content the linchpin of the effort. In all, the initiative included more than 75 separate branded-content messages that involved more than 90 notables.

According to the agency, the campaign generated an estimated 600 million impressions from branded content alone. “One of our biggest challenges was that we had to reach everyone, every resident of the United States,” Smith says. “So we couldn’t just align ourselves with one media outlet. We made a conscious effort to associate the campaign with every media outlet that made sense. And all of our media partners really came out and embraced what we were trying to do.”

One of those partners was Rick Beispel, an svp at MTV Networks’ Generator group, the unit that builds marketing programs across Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central, as well as the broader assets of parent Viacom. He says one of Draftfcb’s top attributes on the campaign was its willingness to be collaborative. “They brought a very senior team to this campaign, and they were very clear with all their objectives,” Beispel says. “And they did a great job with their media partners. They didn’t just come in here and force things on us.
They gave us a lot of latitude to do what we do best, which is to be creative and strategically sound.”

Beispel says the Generator group tapped into Draftfcb’s insights about “trusted voices” by creating a series of PSAs that ran on MTV “extolling the virtues of filling out the Census form with a tongue-in-cheek, slightly satirical” flavor that appealed to that network’s younger core demo. Another campaign revolved around Nickelodeon’s animated Dora the Explorer series, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. TV and print executions in English and Spanish drove home the message that it was important for those filling out the Census forms not to forget about counting children. “They really took a long-term view in developing this campaign,” Beispel adds.

Steve Jost, associate director of communications for the U.S. Census Bureau, knew he had a success on his hands last December. That’s when, he recalls, the pollsters at Gallup came out with data showing that awareness of the then-upcoming Census was in the high 90 percent range and intent to participate was in the low 90s. He credits the campaign from Draftfcb, which, he says, had a total marketing, PR, advertising budget of $370 million, with just over $170 million going to paid media. “The notion of ‘trusted voices’ and building all these connections to media partners via branded content was absolutely on the mark,” Jost says. “The people at Draft really became Census aficionados, and they took ownership of the whole thing. The various media companies that we partnered with stepped it up and gave us a whole lot more than what we expected.”

Jost notes that Draftfcb’s efforts helped turn around dropping participation rates in surveys since 2000 and dealt with the greater number of people displaced from their homes due to the recession. He also highlights Draftfcb’s expertise in creating a multiagency approach in which “everyone worked seamlessly together and there were never any turf-oriented issues.”

“We worked very hard to cultivate an environment in which great ideas could come from anyone and anywhere,” agrees Rich Gagnon, chief media officer at Draftfcb. But, with all those partners, he admits, “our project management and the coordination of all our planning and purchases had to be flawless to pull it all off.”

Integrated Campaign — $25 Mil. or More

Campbell Ewald, U.S. Postal Service

By Noreen O’Leary

In the best of economic times, the U.S. Postal Service goes up against daunting competition in the form of FedEx and UPS, iconic brands that have traditionally outspent the USPS 2-to-1. In last year’s tanking economy, the government agency upped the ante for agency Campbell Ewald by setting even more aggressive sales goals at a time when industry volume was slipping 5-9 percent. C-E was told to increase revenue and volume by that amount in the first 90 days of a campaign that kicked off mid-May 2009.

The Interpublic agency devised a plan to create awareness of the USPS’s Flat Rate Box, a product that has resonated with customers in recent years and casts a halo effect over other Priority Mail offerings. C-E created the tag, “If it fits, it ships…for a low flat rate,” and introduced a direct-response strategy to generate leads for the Flat Rate Box, something the postal service had not done previously.

To support those efforts, the postal service last year significantly increased its marketing budget to the level of its rivals, with measured media ad spending hiked to $87 million from $16 million, per Nielsen Co. data.

Initial results surpassed the USPS mandate to the Warren, Mich., agency. Within the first three months of the campaign’s launch, USPS revenue increased 38 percent and volume rose 35 percent. By the end of the postal service’s fiscal year in September 2009, it posted a 3 percent increase in Priority Mail revenue at a time when UPS and FedEx reported double-digit revenue losses, according to C-E. The campaign delivered more than twice the number of leads set as a goal by the USPS through February of this year and generated those leads while increasing cost savings.

The results are even more impressive given the economic meltdown that was 2009. For those efforts on behalf of the USPS,

C-E wins recognition for the Media Plan of the Year for an integrated campaign spending at least $25 million.

“We wanted to get the shipping kit in as many hands as possible, and our objective was to create awareness of the Flat Rate Box as well as generate leads,” says Al Gilbert, the USPS advertising program manager overseeing media planning. “We beat our sales and volume goals by seven times and, through continued media optimization, we drove down our cost per lead by 46 percent over that same time period.”

Previously, the USPS advertised multiple products. Last year’s efforts, however, put a single focus on the Flat Rate Box, with an emphasis on targeting small-business owners. To do so, C-E created cross-platform video segments to be used in multiple media channels in an effort to make it easy for those owners to request shipping kits. Small business segments were developed with CNN Headline News, which concurrently ran on the Web and were featured in Fortune Small Business magazine. Similar programs were developed with Fox News Channel, Fox Business and One of the ways C-E increased efficiencies was through the use of Google TV ads to take advantage of remnant pricing in desirable programming.

“Essentially, we turned a USPS shipping kit into a direct-response vehicle; the Flat Rate Box starred in its own DRTV commercial,” says Kevin Pietsch, C-E director, media planning. “We had 60-second spots with a strong call to action that created the opportunity to call an 800-number or go to the Web site.

DRTV is usually more business-to-consumer. It’s very unique to have business-to-business marketing on TV. We were targeting a more entrepreneurial customer, nontraditional businesses, small businesses, micro-businesses. We used a variety of dayparts in cable news, business and sports channels.”

Other DR channels included DR print, Web banners, search, direct mail and e-mail. Display banners, used around business news content, provided one-click access to order the kit. The banners also leveraged TV buys, using cross-platform activity: broadband pre-roll spots aired prior to digital news segments with companion banner ads for easy access to the kit-request page. Added value sponsorships were developed around business content on cable nets like CNN and FNC and highly targeted sporting events. “We expanded our presence without having to pay for it,” says Pietsch.

During the Q4 gift-giving season, the USPS added a consumer element, targeting women and families through nontraditional channels like cinema advertising tied to holiday movies.

A key component of the campaign was the constant optimization of costs. DRTV buys were optimized daily, for example, on a cost-per-lead basis, with a 21 percent improvement in October 2009 to February ’10 compared to the initial five months after the start in May ’09. During the same time, C-E also said it improved CPL levels 84 percent for print, 55 percent for display banners, 30 percent for search and 42 percent for direct mail.

And while the messaging strategy has proven itself with target customers, C-E and the USPS will continue to fine-tune the delivery channels going forward — something that promises to assume greater urgency as Washington grapples with a ballooning deficit and higher operating costs. “We’re staying the course with the marketing strategy, but we’ll continue to optimize the results, weekly [and] daily,” says Pietsch. “As we evolve the campaign we’ll continue to improve efficiencies.”

Digital — $10-25 Mil.

Mindshare, SAP

By Mike Shields

Last year, a handful of executives from Mindshare’s media planning team were having a conversation over lunch with a sales rep from The New York Times. The topic was media strategy for Mindshare’s client SAP, which was aiming to attach its brand to content that could portray the software giant as a recession-savvy business partner.

By the time the meal ended, the group had hit upon an idea: Why not shoot a series of topical interviews with some leading business figures? Less than four weeks later, Mindshare, having leveraged its relationships with various publishers, had assembled quite a cast: publisher Steve Forbes, blogger and pundit Jeff Jarvis and The New Yorker “Financial Page” writer James Surowiecki.

For a backdrop, SAP would have nothing less than the Times’ late-modern skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. (“We’re a full-service media company,” says New York Times Media Group svp and chief advertising officer Denise Warren, “and happy to help our clients in any way we can.”)

The end result was a series of slick videos that helped associate SAP with thought leadership. Production, location and talent — all were secured at no cost. (Talk about negotiating added value.) In fact, Mindshare elected to use the clips as ads, placing them in pre-roll video spots, within rich-media banners and across social media. The original interview segments would become the centerpiece of a digital media plan that exceeded all expectations and make Mindshare worthy of Media Plan of the Year honors.

“It is a challenge to market SAP, given that it is [already] a premium product,” says Mindshare media director Suzanne Weis. “It’s a big investment for any company to make. Launching in a downturn, we recognized a need for valuable, timely information.  There was not a lot of content out there like this for business decision makers. So we worked together to produce [that] information.”

For example, Mindshare was also able to forge a partnership with The Economist. At the center of the deal was a unique digital tool called Corporate Expectation Barometer through which users could weigh in on what their expectations were for the economy, then compare their thoughts with those of leading industry experts. After sharing their own economic forecasts, users were then provided with customized reports, white papers and podcasts.

“The Economist had never done anything like this before,” explains Mindshare’s digital director, Asli Hamamci. “This tool provided users with the chance to compare their thinking with [that of their] peers. But what also came out of this were reports from economists and intellectuals that are really, really valuable. So not only were [users] able to interact, but they also got to take away key pieces of content they could use for their jobs.”

Along the same lines, Mindshare tapped MSNBC, CNBC and global idea forum Big Think to create a series of short vignettes centered on the theme of Business Sustainability. Like The New York Times effort, these featured video interviews with various pundits who discussed sustainability issues. And, also like the Times clips, these spots (originally shot for a custom digital hub) were aired on TV as advertising/content.

Mindshare took pains to ensure that all the original content produced for SAP felt legitimate, and nothing like an advertorial or an infomercial. “Our media partners are companies that have a trusted, credible following. It wouldn’t have worked if it was forced,” says Weis.

“It is important to make it seem like this was more than SAP delivering a marketing message,” adds Costanza Tedesco, SAP’s vp, global advertising and branding. “We wanted to [send customers a message] about the big challenges they were facing, and the idea that SAP could bring them clarity.”

In the process, Mindshare was able to bring impressive results to SAP, which saw its unaided brand awareness among large enterprises jump from 34 percent in 2008 to 44 percent in ’09, according to company research. Mindshare also found that, among those exposed to an SAP banner ad between four and nine times, purchase consideration climbed nearly 9 percent. Those who saw the ads more than 10 times exhibited an 18.4 percent increase in purchase consideration.

Perhaps most important, however, SAP was able to move the needle in terms of brand perception. Before the campaign began, 67 percent of large-enterprise respondents identified SAP as a thought leader; by 2009 that number had risen to 79 percent.

“What this campaign reinforced was the power of true integration,” Weis says. “Every partner worked together.”

Adds Tedesco: “Given the engagement and responsiveness we saw, we were really pleased. It was a testament to the strong relationships that Mindshare has.”

Digital — $1-10 Mil.

Wieden + Kennedy, Nike

By Brian Morrissey

It’s a long way from the U.S. indie rock scene in the late 1990s to the streets of France in 2009, but that was the journey taken to create the “Chalkbot” campaign for Nike Livestrong.

Back in the ’90s, Adam Heathcott was both an art student and in a band called To Dream of Autumn. Nathan Martin sang lead vocals for metalcore band Creation Is Crucifixion. The two toured together briefly and then went their own ways, staying in touch.

Fast forward to early 2009: Heathcott, now an art director at Nike agency Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., phoned Martin, running a machine hobbyist company in Pittsburgh, with a question: Was it possible to create a machine to take messages submitted online and put them on the roads of the Tour de France? Martin, backed by an eclectic team of artists, designers and engineers, said it was.

Five months later, the Nike Chalkbot was in France laying down hopeful and inspirational messages for those fighting cancer. The campaign is a rare example of how the digital and the physical can meld to create a unique and powerful experience — in this case one that became an integral part of the Tour de France TV coverage on Versus.

“Chalkbot resonated with people because it brought the Tour de France right into their homes,” says Derek Kent, U.S. media relations director for Nike. “It made people feel like they were a part of something bigger.”

The campaign tapped into a Tour de France tradition of fans writing encouraging chalk messages to riders prior to each stage of the tour. Over the course of the campaign, more than 36,000 messages were submitted through texts, Twitter, banner ads and the Livestrong Web site. Many played off the campaign theme of Lance Armstrong returning to the tour to raise awareness for the fight against cancer.

Martin’s firm, Deeplocal, set up a system that collected the 40-character-or-less message submissions, passed them along for human approval and then queued them for writing on the streets via the Chalkbot, a robotic trailer created with the help of Standard Robotics. Chalkbot used 48 nozzles to spray an emulsified paint onto the streets and then captured the message in a digital photo, tagged with its location, which was then e-mailed to the message writer.

The effort was the culmination of a campaign W+K kicked off to support Armstrong’s return after two years of retirement. The agency shot a video of Armstrong discussing his fight, along with six videos of celebrities talking about their cancer battles. The Chalkbot was used to top off the efforts.
Versus agreed to make it a part of its Tour coverage. It’s announcers, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, regularly discussed Chalkbot and encouraged viewers to visit the Livestrong site to submit their own messages.

Its success was widespread. Chalkbot returned innumerable earned media impressions thanks to the Versus coverage and news stories in France and the U.S. During the course of the campaign, Livestrong recorded a 46 percent sales bump that directed $4 million to the Livestrong Foundation. Livestrong Facebook membership nearly doubled to 558,000 members. The campaign has been a darling of the ad award shows, earning the top prize at the One Show Interactive and recognition at the Andys and CLIO Awards. It is expected to be a contender at this month’s Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

And now, it’s also the winner of Mediaweek’s Plan of the Year in the $1-10 million category, with a focus on digital.

Daniel Sheniak, group media director at W+K, gives Nike credit for approving a project that had lots of unknowns. “Not a lot of clients will do that,” he says.

The campaign had its challenges. It included a frantic stretch of tinkering, with the machinists at Deeplocal working closely with W+K creatives to figure out what was feasible. Deep Local presented three different mechanical options, including a robotic arm, before W+K settled on the trailer. Issues like font style needed to be hashed out and permission needed from government authorities along the route. Chalk options were tested and rejected — Crayola was even consulted — before Deeplocal found a soy-based ink that would decompose and not clog the nozzles. The biggest challenges came on the road: a broken nozzle, language barriers and at least one instance of a Lance basher trying to run Chalkbot off the road.

But the biggest challenge, says Martin, “was staying in front of a massive, 27-stage sporting event.”

W+K got maximum exposure for the effort thanks to a one-day buyout of all the commercial inventory on ESPN’s SportsCenter. The time was used to show the short videos of Armstrong and others talking about their fights with cancer. The buy was supplemented with programs on Facebook, YouTube and other online destinations.

“It was a ton of work to pull this off,” says Sheniak. “But we overcame every single one of the obstacles to make it happen.”

Digital, Less than $1 Mil.

OMD — Gatorade

By Elaine Wong

Bob Porcaro had a problem. As group account director for Omnicom-owned media agency OMD, Chicago, Porcaro had been charged with the Gatorade account, along with a considerable mission: Get the attention of hard-core, high-school-aged athletes — without talking at them (more on that in a minute.)

The issue wasn’t so much making young jocks aware of Gatorade. Within the athletic community, the electrolyte-replacing beverage (concocted in 1965 for players on the University of Florida’s Gators football team) already enjoyed a cult-like following. Plus, as Porcaro says, the PepsiCo-owned sports drink was “a mass brand” that did “a fair amount of advertising [to] a mass audience.”

But Gatorade has faced stiff competition in recent years from Coca-Cola rivals Powerade and Vitaminwater and — believe it or not — tap water. (The recession had a lot to do with that.) As Gatorade’s senior manager of consumer engagement Morgan Flatley observes, the target consumer is “all about getting that performance edge” — and Gatorade would have to promise them that.

That gave Porcaro an idea. He tapped Stack Media (which produces and distributes performance, training and lifestyle content for die-hard athletes) to develop a dedicated site known as the Gatorade Performance Center. It would be a one-stop training destination for teens, complete with training tips, customized workouts, and an interactive “Ask the Experts” feature.

The effort (which captures the honors for digital Media Plan of the Year in the under-$1 million category) went beyond Gatorade’s standing reputation as a sports drink and helped establish the brand as an athletic-training authority.

As Porcaro puts it: “It was a classic example of what happens when [a brand] finds the right [media] partner and they’re both on the same wavelength.”

The alliance allowed Gatorade to trade on Stack’s already considerable rep with high-school jocks. Stack Media, whose online properties include, has 4 million unique monthly visitors, per comScore, and Stack Magazine (which will reach 15,000 high schools this fall) has a readership of 5 million.

When it came to Porcaro’s directive to capture youth athletes’ attention without screaming at them, that wasn’t hyperbole. There’s a big difference between marketing that talks to teens and marketing that can truly speak to them. “[Other] sports properties out there talk about the news in sports — the team standings and stats,” explains Carl Mehlhope, Stack Media’s svp, sales and marketing. By contrast, he says, “Stack is all about the how-to.” The site (along with its various media platforms) is about “what [teen athletes] eat, what motivates them, how to stay hydrated and [how to go] through the recruitment process.”

In its first three months (September through November 2009), the campaign attracted 100,000 site visits, surpassing the brand’s initial goal by 60 percent. Some 15,000 teens registered to use the Performance Tracker, a personalized workout tool that dispensed daily workout calendars and printable training routines. The site’s “Ask the Experts” section drew 1,000 inquiries about training and working out. Meanwhile, Gatorade tapped high-profile athletes like Peyton Manning and Dwyane Wade to star in its 150 training videos — popular, Mehlhope says, because teens see the pros as giving them access to “underground” information.

And all of this was created for an ad budget of under a million bucks. Gatorade would not comment on the exact cost, but OMD’s Porcaro explains that “a little went a long way” because the campaign was so specifically targeted. It was intended to “test the waters,” and if effective, Gatorade would spend more, he added. (That’s just what Gatorade is doing. At press time, the sports drink was running a teaser for its Performance Center on its microsite.)

 The campaign’s second phase, which launches this week, includes “a lot more interaction between athletes” and between coaches and their teams, Mehlhope says. It’ll also expand to include more high school sports, he adds.

How’s it worked out for Gatorade corporate? The company’s sales are up, though that’s probably most attributable to new-product launches like the G Series. But having all those kids religiously visiting your Web site surely cannot hurt. If nothing else, the site is an investment in the brand’s longevity.

Young athletes, Porcaro says, are  “the core” demo for the drink, and intense athletic teens will “always be the bread and butter of what Gatorade is about,” he says. Now, thanks to OMD, they have a Web site that speaks their language.

Best Multicultural Campaign

Draftfcb — U.S. Census

By Richard Brunelli

Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution determines that the “enumeration” of the entire population should take place every 10 years, include “the whole number of free persons,” exclude “Indians not taxed” and add in “three-fifths of all other Persons.” Happily, the U.S. Census today has become much more multiculturally sensitive. In fact, for the 2010 version, agency Draftfcb New York turned the tables with a media strategy that relied, to an unprecedented extent, on insights into the patchwork of cultures and ethnic groups that make contemporary America what it is.

“The country we live in now is so much more fragmented than it was even in 2000,” says Vito Ellison, vp, associate media director, Draftfcb. “So the challenges we faced in developing the plan for this Census were unique from a multicultural standpoint.”

To better understand the “significant pockets” of ethnicities now spread all over the U.S., the agency dove into the Census Bureau’s proprietary Census Barriers Attitudes and Motivators study. CBAM told Draftfcb there were various “responder mind-sets,” some of which had lower response rates. Two of those mind-sets were “The Insulated,” people who were indifferent about the Census and felt it wouldn’t improve their lives, and “The Unacquainted,” transients or those living with relatives and were peripheral in the community.

Draftfcb’s plan called for a 30 percent hike in multicultural media spend compared to 2000. Paid media efforts in 28 languages via more than 2,500 multicultural media outlets got the Census message out to an extensive list of ethnic groups. In addition to traditional media platforms, the effort included a traveling fleet of 11 vehicles that brought Census education to some of the country’s most diverse communities.

Another key finding: Diverse ethnic groups tend to respond better to celebrities and media vehicles from their own culture. So the agency helped design a Census-related newsmagazine hosted by journalist Maria Elena Salinas on 18 Univision affiliates, disseminated lunch-truck advertising to reach Latino laborers and placed 11,500 insertions in a variety of ethnic papers. But perhaps the best illustration involves TV ads targeting the Asian community that were reshot in 11 languages. “The level of detail was unbelievable,” says Steve Jost, the U.S. Census Bureau’s associate director of communications. “If they were doing the Korean execution, they made sure they used Korean actors and had a Korean-made rice cooker in the background. If it was the Filipino execution, there was a Filipino rice cooker.”

OOH — $10-25 Mil.

Compass Point Media, Johnsonville Sausage

By Janet Stilson

Johnsonville Sausage was a Wisconsin company with sizzling ambitions. Sure, it had a whopping 80 percent share of the national market when it came to brats, and it was well known in the Midwest-the so-called Brat Belt. But it wanted to raise the awareness of its other lines of sausage with a unified, delicious brand theme and waft its message out to the coasts.

The challenge resulted in a campaign of about $18 million, which began in May 2009 and continues to this day. While it employed TV, radio, online and print, about a third of the budget lasered in on a nontraditional out-of-home strategy.
It’s not the boards themselves that are nontraditional, but rather the way they’ve been used. The campaign, called “Blank-ville,” plays on the “ville” in the company name and melds it to words associated with very specific locations and consumer passions. A sign outside Chicago’s Wrigley Field was emblazoned with “Bleacherville.” A “Thrillville” sign was perched on a Coney Island building. And California travelers zooming off to Mexico were greeted with “Adiosville.”

“Traditionally, when you place an OOH campaign, you’re looking for market coverage, getting the whole DMA,” reminds Jessica Nytes, media supervisor at Compass Point Media, which devised the Media Plan of the Year-winning effort. “With this campaign, location was king. We went in and researched each location. We really had to get to know the markets.”

Compass Point worked closely with agency Cramer-Krasselt to make the executions come to life. “We had to tell them where we were finding highly attractive board locations for specific venues and let them know what that venue was about so they could marry the creative messaging to it,” adds Jim Romlin, svp, group media director at Compass Point.

About 300 placements were tapped in 44 markets for last summer’s campaign, with about 20 creative executions, according to Nytes and Romlin. Around 18 billboards were tailored to specific locations, like the “Rockerville” sign near Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And some were more generic, like “Vacationville,” strategically placed along major routes to summer getaways. A separate tailgating campaign last fall was even more customized to specific football stadiums and involved about 50 placements.

“They did a fantastic job of elevating our awareness,” says Ryan Pociask, senior brand manager at Johnsonville, speaking of the company’s agency partners. “We saw significant growth across many regions and across all our product lines in terms of driving consumer unaided awareness of the Johnsonville brand. They also did a wonderful job of giving us a platform to communicate the brands all in the same way.”

Specifically, the unaided awareness of the brand jumped 50 percent nationally. The familiarity rose 53 percent, and favorability increased 47 percent, according to Compass Point, citing statistics from Millward Brown Brand Health Tracker in November 2009. Awareness resulting from the OOH efforts jumped 50 percent, three times the growth of Johnsonville’s competitors.

Those results were certainly abetted by linking the “ville” concept to other media as well. “There was a very unique strategy with [online invitation service] Evite, which used some unique and first-time only things: a potluck module,” says Romlin. The Evite partnership involved Super Bowl party invitations, and the potluck module included Johnsonville recipes. If sausage was on the host’s “wish list,” it was made specific to Johnsonville sausage. And there were customized Evite sweepstakes as well.

Pociask was particularly surprised and delighted by the response when Johnsonville invited consumers to drop by its Web site and create their own “ville” messages. “We saw just a tremendous response,” he says. “Over 2,500 consumers uploaded their own photos, named their own ‘villes,’ created their own captions to photos in ads that they entered. It was a wonderful way to see consumers take ownership of a campaign and extend it themselves.”

“I think what made this campaign different is they defined the sense of place, a sense of community,” comments Amy Burckhard, a senior account executive at Clear Channel Outdoor’s Minneapolis division, who worked closely with Compass Point on the OOH location strategy. “It associated the brand with a culture that consumers are proud of.”

Roy Schroeder, vp, sales for Clear Channel’s Minneapolis unit, notes that it’s oftentimes difficult for OOH campaigns to say a lot with a few words: “This campaign succeeded in using a single word that not only played out the emotions of the purchaser but also played out the Johnsonville name.”

OOH — $1-10 Mil.

Wilkins Media Co., Starz Entertainment

By Andrew McMains

Starz caught a break in the waning seconds of 2009. Kathy Griffin, a comedienne known for pushing the boundaries of good taste on CNN’s annual New Year’s Eve broadcast, took aim at a Times Square billboard for the premium cable channel’s latest original series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand. But this time, rather than get profane, she poked fun at the juxtaposition of the descending Waterford Crystal ball and a 45-by-54-foot ad featuring chiseled series lead actor Andy Whitfield.

“I love the purity of a movie ad behind it, or a TV ad, whatever. It’s . . . so pure,” Griffin quipped to co-host Anderson Cooper.

“It’s what New Year’s Eve is all about, really,” continued Griffin, somewhat ironically, given that Times Square is virtually blanketed with advertising.

To Starz and Wilkins Media Co., the New York agency that bought outdoor media for Spartacus’ launch campaign, Griffin’s relatively mild riposte was well worth the free publicity it created for the series, which premiered a week later to a respectable cable audience of 661,000, according to Nielsen. Spartacus’ viewership nearly doubled during the course of its first season — to 1.23 million viewers for the final episode — -in part due to favorable reviews and the cult-like following of supporting actress Lucy Lawless.

But Starz and Wilkins executives credit the out-of-home effort, with an estimated budget of $1.3 million, with sparking initial interest with Starz’ core target of “entertainment individualists” between the ages of 25 and 49.

“New York is a key market for us,” explains Lauren Ruetz, director of media strategy and promotions at Starz Entertainment in Englewood, Colo. “The outdoor boards in that area are kind of larger than life and put our brand in a bolder environment.” Kelly Bumann, Starz’ svp of consumer marketing, adds: “The plan for Spartacus outdoor was different than it was for other shows. Because it was a big, bold show, we picked big wallscapes and really unusual, bigger-than-life kinds of units.”

The series tells the story of a Roman prisoner who survives a death sentence of arena fighting only to become the slave of a couple played by John Hannah and Lawless. They put him to work as a competing gladiator. In a review, The Washington Post described the drama as “just about the grimiest, nastiest, bloodiest thing you could hope to find on TV on a Friday night,” before concluding, “You slay me , Spartacus, that’s for sure.” Similarly, The Los Angeles Times noted the series’ “buckets” and “waves” of blood, adding, “If the show’s concerns do not rise far above the level of pulp — and there is nothing wrong with that — it does what it does with a sure hand.”

Other Spartacus outdoor buys in Times Square included a 39-by-67-foot street level board at 47th Street and 7th Avenue, phone kiosks, subway posters and urban panels. Starz also purchased billboards in five other key cable and satellite operator markets: Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Denver. But the centerpiece of the OOH effort was the space near the apex of the sparkling New Year’s Eve ball at 42nd Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue. That ad was in place on Dec. 24 and stayed up for two months — about twice as long as the other ads, according to Ruetz.

“That board [cost] basically $65,000,” says Ruetz. “In previous campaigns, we were looking at TV buys. And [for] one campaign in particular we were thinking about doing a TV buy. This would have been national cable for three days leading up to a premiere. And that would have been $3 million. So, if you compare that $65,000 investment, I would say we did pretty well.”

Outdoor’s “high reach and really good frequency” also makes it a powerful medium for promoting premium cable programming, particularly in New York, adds Dana Burleson, an svp at Wilkins Media. “Out of home is viewed as kind of like New York City’s TV Guide now,” Burleson explains. “People know the shows are coming up because there’s out of home.”

Beyond outdoor, the multi-million dollar launch campaign included TV and cinmea spots, print ads, advertorials, online banners, a video posting partnership with YouTube, mobile phone applications and outreach to interested bloggers. Starz developed the creative in-house and strove for simplicity, particularly for the outdoor executions, says Bumann.

Earlier this year, Spartacus lead Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which forced Starz to push back plans for a second season. He’s undergoing treatment and is expected to recover. In the meantime, Starz, which has about 17.1 million subscribers, is developing a six-episode prequel that will focus on other characters and launch in January. If all goes according to plan, Spartacus’ second season will launch in late 2011.

OOH — Less Than $1 Mil.

Fallon, Syfy

By Janet Stilson

New Yorkers have pretty much seen it all when it comes to street life. But last December, when 50 people wearing business suits and giant white rabbit heads disappeared into a Union Square building and immediately swooped up the side of it in projected imagery, it had to be a first.

That stunt was part of a campaign to promote Alice, Syfy Channel’s four-hour rendering of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which debuted Dec. 6, 2009.

It’s an example of the channel’s strategy of reimagining classic tales in fourth-quarter extravaganzas.

Like Alice when she took a certain magic potion, Syfy and media agency Fallon stretched the under-$1 million budget a very long way. They focused on the white rabbit in the promos after research showed it was the most remembered figure in the tale. (The rabbit morphs into an assassin in Syfy’s version, making it all the more striking.)

New York became the scene of the OOH campaign because “when you do a nontraditional stunt, you want to make sure it gets amplified. And if you’re looking for a megaphone, New York is the place to be,” explains Rocky Novak, Fallon’s director of digital development.

Dana Ortiz, Syfy’s vp, brand marketing, says that one reason the campaign was so successful was because elements in each medium fed off the others. “If you saw something online, you would probably remember something that was out-of-home or in print. You try to make sure you do that with all of your campaigns, but you’d be surprised how difficult that can actually be,” she says. “We were forced to work with a very modest budget, and everything we did was just that much more efficient.”

The strategy had a pronounced online element, involving banner ads and faux micro-sites featuring the killer rabbits in business suits on a quest to find Alice. But the piece de resistance, in many respects, was the OOH strategy on the streets of Manhattan. Two days before the premiere, the bunny-headed street team spread out across town, handing out playing cards that tipped consumers off about the premiere. Then they converged, flash-mob style, in Union Square to break out in a choreographed routine. Simultaneously, huge images of the same rabbit icon climbed, ran and jumped across a series of well-known buildings. The two OOH elements came together in Union Square with help from Pier Nicola D’Amico and Ricardo Rivera, executive creative director and chief creative officer, respectively, at the company that supplied the projections, Klip Collective.

D’Amico says he was “blown away” by how integrated the campaign was. The rabbit imagery Klip shot for the projections was also used for the promo bugs on Syfy and on Web sites. “I thought it was neat the way they were creating efficiencies,” adds Rivera.

They also created a big impact. The average tweet mention of @WhiteRabbitInc came every two minutes during the New York invasion. And received 1.4 million clicks, according to Fallon.

The movie’s premiere netted 3 million viewers, Syfy’s highest-rated Sunday prime time since May 2008. Among all basic cable channels that night, Syfy ranked No. 1 among adults 25-54, men 18-49 and men 25-54. It also ranked No. 2 in adults 18-49, No. 3 for women 18-49 and No. 4 among women 25-54. The bonus: 34 percent of the premiere audience were new viewers to Syfy, according to Syfy’s analysis of Nielsen data.

For Novak, the campaign stands out from most projects because of “the lock step with which every person around the campaign worked together.” Klip Collective and the  street team’s supplier, Target Marketing, became extensions of the creative team. “They were on call early on when this series of ideas was first thrown out,” says Novak.

“When you’re trying to tell a consistent story across so many different mediums, you need someone to explain to you exactly what’s possible. If there are places in the city where 50 actors with white rabbit heads can’t go, you need to know that before you get into choreographing their path,” he adds.

The campaign realized a mantra that gets voiced a lot at Fallon: “Build it. Don’t buy it,” says John King, the company’s chief communications officer. Everybody involved “checked their egos at the door and built it together — with the client, by the way.”

In Novak’s view, the project was like a political campaign because it was such a “live, real-time event.” The cards given out by the street team included a Twitter address, stimulating the digital buzz. And back in the office in Minneapolis, around 20 Fallon staffers were busy tweeting to help the public “connect the dots” between the rabbits and the show. “It was fast-paced, and people had to think on their feet. It was incredibly fun,” Novak says.

Print — $10-25 Mil.

PHD, HBO’s True Blood

By Lucia Moses

To bleary straphangers, the story in the June 12, 2009 issue of am New York on protests over subway service cuts might have passed for a typical day in the Big Apple. But to read the story, and the ads that accompanied it, one might be led to believe that the city that never sleeps was being stalked by vampires.

The eight-page insert was, of course, a sly wink to True Blood, the HBO show about vampires living openly among humans in a small Louisiana town. In its first season, True Blood pumped new life into the somewhat ailing premium cable network, drawing viewers and critical acclaim.

The show was about to return for its second season, and HBO wanted to build on the awareness of the first season, bring in new viewers and fire up excitement. HBO also had to pass the bar it set for its high-profile campaign for the series’ first season. A year earlier, HBO created a fake blog,, and most famously, distributed samples of a drink called Tru Blood.

For Season 2, HBO sought to bring to life the show’s premise that vampires live among humans. “One element of the Season 1 campaign that we saw strongly resonated with consumers was the idea that vampires and humans, much like in the show, coexist,” says Zach Enterlin, vp of advertising and promotion for HBO. “We sought out with our Season 2 strategy to amplify that.”

In that vein, HBO, working with agency Digital Kitchen, got well-known brands such as Gillette and Harley-Davidson to play along. Together they created a series of co-branded ads that ran in entertainment and general interest publications like TV Guide and The New York Times.
Vanity Fair helped along the idea with a custom ad that showed fang-sporting celebrities partying into the night, getting permission to use talent that had been photographed at VF events.

“The idea of ‘vampires are among us’ needed to be translated in a way that was correct for the talent, our environment and credible with our reader,” says Edward Menicheschi, vp, publisher, Vanity Fair. The print effort featured an extensive tune-in campaign that included a first-ever cover wrap around The Los Angeles Times and a 12-page ad takeover in Entertainment Weekly. For handling the print buying, PHD takes the honors for Print Media Plan of the Year in the $10 million-$25 million category.

It wasn’t hard to get publishers and brands to get aboard the reality-hijacking campaign. Terry Seitz, associate director, strategic planning at PHD who was heavily involved in the buying, says the challenge was to identify the media partners that would be the most cutting edge. With am New York, for example, the goal of the insert (which PHD created with the newspaper) was to convey a day in the life of the undead while keeping the feel of the paper.

“It was a fine balance between staying true to the idea of hacking reality and this idea of vampires living among us vs. just plugging the show,” Seitz says.

Others at PHD involved in the print buying were Marie Hughes, associate media director; Justin Alcantara, media supervisor; and Jacqueline Robin, media planner.

At the same time, it was critical to keep the creative true to the show. “[Creator]Alan Bell and his staff vetted the content to ensure every detail was completely faithful to the show,” Enterlin says. The story on vampire hotels in am New York mirrored a storyline in the show itself, down to details like the blackout shades and other vampire-friendly amenities.

Meanwhile, the co-branded ads that ran in am New York and elsewhere deliberately played down the show and network. “[HBO] was there, but it wasn’t screaming HBO True Blood. It was a secondary read and a discovery element,” Enterlin says, adding that the campaign’s understated nature “ultimately made it that much more powerful.”

Was he worried that blurring the lines of fiction and reality would confuse readers? “I don’t think we misled or fooled anyone,” he says. “I think most people pretty quickly recognized what the campaign was all about.”

Other elements in the campaign included a reprisal of the site, line — blurring radio spots, viral videos and the launch of an actual Tru Blood beverage.

As for the results, nearly 4 million viewers turned in to the June 14, 2009 premiere, and its ratings jumped 51 percent over the Season 1 finale. Amid a wave of vampire entertainment mania, and aided by PHD’s innovative print campaign designed to glamour viewers into watching religiously, True Blood became HBO’s most watched program since The Sopranos finale in 2007.

Print — $1-10 Mil.

GSD&M Idea City, BMW North America

By Eleftheria Parpis

Artists have long provided custom paint jobs for BMW’s Art Car collection.

Alexander Calder, the legendary American artist, was the first to paint a BMW in his vision in 1975, and Jeff Koons, who earlier this month revealed his colorfully streaked M3 GT2 at the Pompidou Center in Paris, is the latest.

Following the footsteps of iconic artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, South African performance artist Robin Rhode joined the tradition last year with his treatment of the new Z4 Roadster. While past participants painted their vehicles, Rhode instead painted with it. Using the tires of the Z4 as his brush, Rhode created an abstract painting that became the centerpiece of an advertising campaign from GSD&M Idea City for the sports car called “Expression of Joy.”

Partnering with director Jake Scott to document the creation of the painting, the Austin, Texas-based Omnicom agency created a multimedia campaign that included print, outdoor, online, mobile, a 30-second commercial and a 28-minute documentary that aired on Discovery Channel HD.

Selling Americans on the idea of buying a $60,000 sports car during the recession was no easy task, says Carmen Graf, svp, group media director at GSD&M.  “It was a challenge to say the least,” she says. But “we are strong believers that if you understand your target, media fragmentation can become your friend.”

The agency’s success led to its win of Mediaweek’s Media Plan of the Year  honors in the $1-10 million range for print.

The brand’s rich art history provided the perfect platform from which to pitch the joy of driving the Roadster, says Graf, with the agency focusing on the consumer insight that the target for the new sports car lived at the intersection of art and automobiles. “Knowing we had this rich heritage of the art car, we created the whole campaign around this idea of art,” she says.

The $10 million effort was primarily centered on the footage captured by Scott as Rhode created the massive painting on a 100 x 200-foot canvas at Downey Studios, Los Angeles, a former NASA site. The performance artist used a remote control to direct the car’s movements from a 30-foot-high tower above the canvas. Fifty gallons of red, blue, green, yellow and gray paint were used to create the painting with jets mounted behind the wheels and 40 HD cameras  documenting the process.

The $3.5 million print portion of the campaign featuring the car on the canvas touted the Roadster with headlines like “To celebrate one work of art, we used it to create another” and “Art movement.”

Ads went far beyond standard auto enthusiast magazines such as Motor Trend and Car and Driver and appeared in art publications such as Art & Antiques, ARTnews and Art in America, as well as lifestyle and design publications like Vanity Fair, Dwell, Travel + Leisure and W.

The car’s new design, featuring a hard top, allowed the brand to reach out beyond the Z4’s core male sports car enthusiast audience and target a broader demographic, including women, and go head-to-head against competitors such as the Mercedes SLK, says Graf. “We like to drive hot cars too,” she says, but “we don’t always like the soft top.”

The print media buy emphasized gatefolds, imitation front covers and painted editorial in magazines that decorated pages alongside the advertising with the colorful tire tracks. A partnership with Vanity Fair teamed the agency with late actor and art enthusiast Dennis Hopper, who photographed the shoot and wrote about the production for the magazine’s June issue in an eight-page special section. A VF-sponsored event in New York City’s Grand Central Station also previewed the work before it went public.

In the first month of the campaign, intent to purchase increased 32 percent and the number of pre-sale leads exceeded the number of vehicles available, per BMW. As media weight and exposure increased during the May-to-July campaign flight, sales increased 84 percent.

The “Expression” Web site received more than 800,000 unique visitors the first week of launch. An iPhone app that allowed users to create their own art via a driving game became one of the top 10 most downloaded. The unique project captured media attention, generating 296 million unpaid impressions. By the end of 2009, 3,492 vehicles were sold, slightly shy of the company’s 4,000 sales goal.

“It’s tough to sell a Roadster in a recession,” says Ken Bracht, relationship marketing and strategy manager at BMW of North America. “We’re happy with where the vehicle was in terms of share. We held our own or increased in some segments.”

The positive results, he adds, are a testament to “what happens when the media team works hand in hand with the creative.”

Print — Less Than $1 Mil.

Mediacom, H&M

By Dan Ouellette

In the midst of the economic downturn last year, retail clothiers suffered their own double-digit sales shortfalls as customers forced themselves to curb their appetites for the latest fashion apparel.

The challenge the international chain H&M faced in its stateside stores (190, as of April 8, 2010) was getting its message of “fashion and quality at the best price” out to shoppers who were looking for deals that appealed to their chic taste but didn’t bust their budgets.

In forming an innovative collaboration of H&M and fashion magazine Elle, MediaCom orchestrated a media plan that not only helped increase H&M’s year-over-year sales by 36 percent, but also developed a template for future partnership of Elle-endorsement sales strategies. For its success in forming an alliance that looked beyond traditional solutions to increase sales, MediaCom is the winner of the Media Plan of the Year for less than $1 million, with a print focus.

Given the long-term partnership between H&M and Elle, MediaCom sought to get shoppers excited about the fall fashion season. “We started by doing research on the consumers at H&M and discovered that they were overwhelmed by the layout of the stores,” Kristin Goodloe, senior partner, group account director, MediaCom. “They would turn away or not go in at all. Our core impetus was to use Elle’s fashion trustworthiness to overcome [that] obstacle.”

The plan: Elle stylists would pick items in the H&M merchandise line and endorse them, and then “bring that to life in the front of the store to entice people to come in to see the Elle picks,” Goodloe says. “We looked at what we do best and what the Elle brand stands for,” says Justin Tarquinio, international advertising director at Elle. “We brought our fashion authority into the mix.”

While there was an in-book advertorial in Elle that showcased H&M clothes, the MediaCom plan featured a “360-degree platform reaching the customer at multiple touch points,” says Rebecca Rogalski, integrated marketing manager at Elle. Adds Tarquinio: “Print works, but we’re not just focused on the magazine.”

The H&M plan launched with a two-part in-store activation designed to focus on “intercepting” the shopper, engaging them and then closing the sale. Phase one took place last September in H&M stores in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. Traffic was driven by e-mail blasts and social media alerts. Three Elle stylists set up at each store, ready to give shoppers advice on the fall trends and how to mix and match the clothing.

Key to the plan was that all the picks were tagged with the magazine’s name and placed on display at the front of the store. “When the customers walked in, they saw everything that Elle endorsed,” says Elyse Estrada, H&M advertising specialist.

The stylists got customers excited, says Estrada. “One mother came in with her daughter and ended up buying clothes for herself after talking with a stylist,” she says. “It was all about someone else validating your tastes and encouraging people to be pushed a little beyond their comfort zone.” Shoppers who spent $50 or more received a free subscription to Elle.

The second part of the plan that took place in November involved a national campaign in all H&M stores, which again featured the Elle-endorsed products front and center. Elle helped to attract shoppers by developing the H&M Store Online (, which featured get-the-look videos of the stylists in action in the three stores. As a result of both in-store activations, H&M sales increased dramatically.

Potentially the biggest hurdle to leap in the plan was to get H&M to allow MediaCom to reconfigure the store layout. But Goodloe says MediaCom met no opposition. “That was scary,” she admits, “but H&M headquarters embraced the idea because they believed the plan would drive sales.”

The program proved to be a unique success. “All three partners in the plan were simpatico,” says Goodloe. “We didn’t hit any roadblocks and everyone benefited, all for a major investment under a million dollars.”

More is in store for the H&M-Elle partnership, though all parties are reluctant to go into any detail. “It’s being developed as we speak,” says Tarquinio.

Goodloe goes as far as saying, “We’re definitely taking the idea of co-branding with in-store activities and putting a new spin on it. You always want to keep things fresh with what’s coming next.”

Radio — $1-10 Mil.

Haworth Media, Target Stores

By Katy Bachman

Target’s winning Media Plan of the Year harnessed the unique power of on-air personalities to enhance the workhorse of retail advertising: the venerable newspaper circular.

Developed by Minneapolis-based Haworth Media, the radio campaign connected the two tried-and-true advertising tools, giving Target’s promotions a personal touch during last year’s make-or-break holiday season.

Every Monday from Nov. 30 to Dec. 21, more than 100 morning radio personalities in 24 top markets, such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Portland, Ore., voiced live reads to promote Target’s weekly circular. The live reads were placed in the first position of the commercial pod for a seamless break between programming and advertising. In addition to the endorsements, Target also overlaid a traditional national spot radio schedule.

At a time when just about every retailer on the planet was using coupons and circulars to generate more sales and reach the consumer focused on value, Target’s personality-driven approach stood out and delivered. Sales growth was up 2.1 percent from the 2008 holiday season on a 2.5 percent increase in store traffic.

“Radio was the perfect match for our hardest working vehicle,” says Shari Schraber, Haworth Media’s associate media director. “It gave us the ability to deliver a credible, customized, local experience. We were able to differentiate [Target] by combining in-program content and local personalities with a value-focused promotion.” 

Target and Haworth began discussing last summer how to push the circular to work even harder during the holidays, especially since newspaper circulation had ebbed. “The way people seek out information has evolved as newspaper circulation declines. We wanted to make sure we get the circular into peoples’ hands,” says Heather Cruse, group media director for Haworth.
Target, a brand that depended on visual media, had avoided radio during the holidays. The idea to work radio into the holiday strategy, a first for the retailer, surfaced as a result of discussions with the Radio Advertising Bureau, which had been working with Target and Haworth to increase Target’s use of radio for the past three years. “Our challenge with radio is often tied to needing visuals for so many of our campaigns,” says Schraber.

To coordinate the campaign, Katz Marketing Solutions put together a calendar of events that was forwarded to 70 adult contemporary and country stations, detailing what needed to be done and by whom. Talent would go to the Target Web site each week, find out what products were highlighted in the circular (which is both available online and in print) and pick one or two products to talk about that would best suit their lifestyle and on-air patter. Target provided talking points for the products. The resulting endorsements were extemporaneous and genuine.

“Personality endorsements are not a new concept, but the way Target used it to reinforce the visual brought a 50-year-old visual component to life,” adds Tammy Greenberg, svp of business development for the RAB, which served as the liaison between Katz and Haworth.

In Portland, on KWJJ-FM, Mike Chase of Mike and Amy talked about getting his 2-year-old Fritz a train table, while Amy Faust talked about how she was going to change her entire holiday theme to add more red.

Susan Wise, morning co-host at Miami’s WLYF-FM, proclaimed she was a professional shopper. “I finally had a day off all to myself. So the first thing I did was go online and check what’s going on at Target.” Her co-host, Jeff Martin, needed to keep up with the Joneses: “All the neighbors are decorating their balconies. I can buy two light sets and get one free.”

That kind of from-the-heart endorsement doesn’t come easily. “It’s a lot more than just running a schedule. There’s a tremendous amount of backroom coordination to pull it off,” says Bob McCurdy, president of Katz Marketing Solutions, which had an eight-person activation team to ensure the campaign went off without a hitch. “But it was all worth it. There’s no finer word of mouth than personalities talking to their listeners.”

For an advertiser, which hadn’t used radio a lot, the whole prospect of turning over the messaging to on-air personalities was a bit daunting, even scary. “Target holds creative control very closely,” says Haworth’s Cruse. “But they’re getting more comfortable with radio as we learn that to get the authenticity, radio is a two-way street. It’s a new avenue that needs to be harnessed.”

Target’s experience with radio could lead to more dollars in the future.

According to data from Kantar Media, Target has slowly increased its spend in radio, allocating 6 percent of its traditional media budget, up from 2 percent in ’07. As a result of ongoing discussions, Target’s radio ad spend was up 7.2 percent in ’09, while total ad spend among traditional media slipped 15 percent.

Says Schraber: “This [holiday campaign] was a good step in the right direction that showed us how we can creatively use radio.”

Radio — Less Than $1 Mil.

Hill, Holliday, Marshalls

By T.L. Stanley

Pity the lowly interns. They’re underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. And yet they had a starring role — complete with Hollywood-style celebrity appearances, flashing cameras and free swag — in a campaign for Marshalls discount chain.

Boston agency Hill Holliday gave interns their moment in the spotlight as brand
stewards and consumer liaisons, spreading the Marshalls gospel about designer clothes on a dime. Executives could easily have used popular local DJs to talk to the teen-girl target about stocking their closets for less money by shopping at the stores. But the agency opted instead to have teens target teens. After all, they speak the same language.

For the shop’s radio effort, which cost a mere $900,000 and yielded a four-fold return in key markets like Chicago and Seattle, it wins Mediaweek’s Media Plan of the Year honors in the radio, under $1 million category.

The effort started during the pivotal back-to-school season, with two weeks of spot radio buys in 21 markets carrying the hot-fashions-at-bargain-prices message. Young female interns at the radio stations — usually obscure and in the background — became Fashion Ambassadors, charged with talking about great deals to their “friends,” which consisted of listeners to a couple dozen top-rated pop stations.

In four markets, ad and media executives built multiplatform campaigns around the interns that included on-air, streaming, mobile, online and in-store promotions, dubbed Fierce Fashionista Fridays.

“These are voices you don’t normally hear, so we felt like it was a unique use of talent that sparked great peer-to-peer conversations,” says Bob McCurdy, president of Katz Marketing Solutions, which executed the program for Hill Holliday. “We felt like it would be surprising and engaging.”

The interns had talking points, but also had the freedom to speak in their own
language, as they would if they were excited about a new outfit and couldn’t wait to broadcast the details. (They had been armed with Marshalls gift cards, so they could shop in the juniors department for free.)

The interns encouraged listeners to show up at stores on Fierce Fashionista Fridays so they could meet and talk about what they might wear on the first day of school (and converse about other major fashion-related decisions). Teens could get their photos taken in Marshalls duds and posted on station Web sites.

The photos could further be shared via social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Those named the Fiercest Fashionistas from voting fans got shout-outs on radio stations and store gift cards.

“Fashion’s very visual, but radio’s not,” says Cindy Stockwell, Hill Holliday’s svp of media planning. “This was a way to get real people involved in fashion and really personalize it. It’s so much different than seeing clothes on a mannequin.”

Stations amped up the local events with their own twists. KISS Chicago, for instance, sent out e-mail blasts to some 150,000 listeners, adding a contest that gave away a trip to Las Vegas to see a Britney Spears concert. Radio stations reported significant traffic boosts to their Web sites, per Hill Holliday executives. For example, KUBE in Seattle logged more than 1,200 unique visitors to the custom landing page during the two-week promotion.

“This demo loves to talk about their designer fashion finds, so having the chance to share it via the station Web site and be recognized for their fashion savvy only made it more appealing for them,” says Laura McDowell, a Marshalls representative. “We think the plan had great strategic thinking with great integration and buzz among Marshalls, the stations and their listeners.”

The chain has its loyalists, many of them moms who hold the purse strings and try hard to save a buck. But fickle teens looking for the hottest and latest can be a tougher sell.

“The way to get prospects, we’ve found, is to educate people about the off-price model,” Stockwell says. “When they understand why the deals are so good, they’re likely to become a customer. At back-to-school, there’s so much screaming in media. We felt like this program cut through in just the right way.”

TV — $10-25 Mil.

Media Storm, Cisco

By Anthony Crupi

While Cisco Systems went all-in with its March 2009 purchase of Pure Digital Technologies, spending $590 million in stock to snap up the two-year-old camcorder line Flip, the computer networking giant took a measured approach to the brand’s first major ad campaign.

Tapping actual users of the pocket-size camcorders to serve as virtual brand ambassadors, Cisco looked to build awareness and generate a good amount of viral buzz around the versatile little gizmos ahead of the 2009 holiday season. To that end, the company reached out to a triad of media partners, including Media Storm, which handled all buying and planning, the San Francisco start-up Urgent Content and boutique shop Bird Design, both of which contributed creative.

The eight-week “Do You Flip?” initiative featured consumer-generated videos shot by a volunteer muster roll of Flip Video users. Upwards of 50 individual 10-second spots were crafted from the raw footage, lending the campaign an immediacy and authenticity that a more polished traditional push may not have been able to convey.

For example, one spot captures a pre-school Jackson Pollock in the process of finger-painting…only he’s using his face. A second spot seizes on an impulsive raid on an ice cream cake; in this case, a hungry kitchen forager digs into the confection with his bare hands, much to the chagrin of his wife. (Like many of the Flip ads, humor plays an integral role in the spot, although the look of disgust and consternation on the face of the woman, coupled with the fact that she’s brandishing a knife, suggest that the behavior isn’t likely to be repeated any time soon.)

Submitted by a Flip enthusiast from Brooklyn, a third clip features a mortified pug dressed like Sid Vicious. The camera pulls back to reveal the Flip screen, underscoring the notion that the color-saturated, high-def image was captured on a device that’s not much larger than a deck of cards.

The spots ended with the “Do You Flip?” tag line, an interrogative that looked to establish the brand as a verb in the pop-culture glossary. (See also: Googling, tweeting.) While Cisco may have to deliver a few more campaigns before Flip becomes a recognized generic, certainly the brand has market share on its side. Estimates have Flip controlling 75 percent of the affordable (between $100 and $229, depending on the model) minicamcorder market.

Along with the user-generated clips submitted by Flip adherents, the campaign also put a few select celebs in the spotlight, including actor Samuel L. Jackson, skater Tony Hawk and the alt-rock band Weezer.

Because most networks are unwilling to slice their inventory into 10-second units, Media Storm fused the user-generated clips to five seconds of co-branded lead-out material. For example, the punk-dog ad ended with a nod to, the cake-raid spot closed with a call-out to OK! magazine and the face-painting piece concluded with a shout-out for Best Buy. The partnerships nabbed more than $1.3 million in value.

“Within the category, we were not among the leading spenders, so we had to do a lot with a little,” says Media Storm co-founder and managing partner Craig Woerz. “We needed mass media. But we also wanted to retain that grassroots feel, and the shorter spots played into that.”

The Flip plan focused on broad-reach national cable networks and syndication. At the local level, buys were placed in the top six spot broadcast markets as well as the top 10 spot cable DMAs. Along with the TV buys, Flip was also featured in an outdoor campaign in major U.S. cities. A digital push included video ads in banners and a Do You Flip? microsite that invited users to submit their own Flip-enabled moments. A Facebook page also drew in prospective auteurs.

“Flip is one of those brands where there’s so much authentic enthusiasm that it seemed as if all we had to do is put a call-out on the Facebook page,” says Urgent Content principal founder Brandon Gross. “The final product was a disruptive, shock-and-awe media experience. We had so many Flip users submitting their own clips that it felt like we were carpet-bombing the airwaves.”

Naturally, the inclusion of submissions by UGC enthusiasts helped democratize the Flip conversation — a goal that Cisco emphasized in early talks with its media partners.

Per Cisco, over the life of the 10-week campaign, Flip sales passed 1 million, growing 110 percent year over year and besting initial expectations. In the run-up to the holidays, Flip outsold rivals Sony, JVC, Canon and Kodak combined.

Moreover, brand awareness grew 27 percent in those 10 weeks. Flippin’ good.

TV — $1-10 Mil.

MEC, Royal Canadian Mint

By Steve McClellan

It’s no secret that Canadians are gaga for winter sports and that they got pretty excited a few years back when Vancouver won the rights for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

So when the Royal Canadian Mint  (RCM) decided to become a first-time Olympic Games sponsor, it did so with multiple objectives in mind.

First, it wanted to use the Olympic platform to sell special-edition coins to the Canadian public.

At the same time, RCM wanted to boost awareness of itself and change the prevailing sentiment that the RCM was an unapproachable, somewhat elitist institution. Finally, it wanted to provide a way for Canadians to get involved with the games, above and beyond simply watching the competition each night.

After lots of brainstorming with its media shop, MEC, a unit of WPP’s GroupM, RCM opted to focus on a combined TV and online campaign.

The key component of the campaign was a program to identify the top 10 moments in Canadian Olympic history — with the public voting to decide the ranking of each moment and with the top three moments immortalized with special commemorative coins issued by the mint.

To announce and showcase the results, the client, MEC and the consortium of Olympic broadcasters in Canada, led by CTV, jointly developed and produced a special one-hour broadcast entitled Greatest Canadian Olympic Moments.

“The overall engagement idea was, ‘Be a participant, not just a bystander,'” says Bruce Neve, president of MEC Canada.

The Olympic Moments program thus provided several ways for Canadians to participate, including voting on their favorite moments and collecting the commemorative coins.

Both the coins and the broadcast strengthened “emotional links” between the mint and consumers, says Neve. The broadcast deftly integrated the client into the content at several points, including a short segment that explained the process for making coins at the mint.

In addition, program host Brian Williams (who is considered the voice of the Olympics in Canada) made mention of the coins that RCM planned to mint at the top and near the end of the broadcast.

The RCM also had eight 30-second ads in the program showcasing the coin program and driving people to its Web site where they could get more information, sign up for future alerts and buy the coins.

But most of the program was devoted to the 10 greatest moments, each of which was narrated by a different Canadian celebrity, including actress Kim Cattrall, pro golfer Mike Weir and musicians Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo) and Ed Robertson (Barenaked Ladies).

The Olympic Moments broadcast debuted in September 2009 and was repeated on multiple networks within the Canadian Olympic broadcast consortium. According to Paul Boult, RCM’s director of corporate marketing, the results hit the mark and then some.

The Olympic Moments special garnered a total audience of 4.5 million. And media from press accounts about the Moments campaign added an additional 8 million impressions.

More than 40,000 Canadians voted online for their favorite Olympic moments. The top three standout performances they chose were the Canadian Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams’ gold medal performances during the 2002 Games at Salt Lake City and speed skater Cindy Klassen’s performance during the 2006 Games at Turin, Italy, where she won five medals.

In addition, visits to RCM’s Web site tripled, says Boult, and some 15,000 consumers opted in for future contact by the mint. RCM sold all of the 6,600 Moments coin sets that it manufactured, while the public collected millions of the commemorative coins that were put into circulation.

Boult credits MEC’s media strategy for helping RCM achieve its objectives. The campaign, he says, “was instrumental in creating buzz,” about the Greatest Moments program. At the Olympic Games in February, he notes, RCM had a pavilion where attendees could file through and have their picture taken with an Olympic medal (the mint produced the gold, silver and bronze medals that were awarded at the Vancouver Games).

A quarter-million people did so, sometimes waiting up to eight hours in line for the opportunity — one strong  indication that the campaign helped RCM overcome its seemingly “unapproachable” reputation.

Ross Campbell, communication strategy director at MEC Canada, who had direct oversight of the RCM campaign, says the idea behind having the TV special air in the fall before the Olympics was to build excitement for the client during the six months leading up to the games.

Campbell says that the impact of the TV program was immediate and long lasting. “There was a spike in Google searches for phrases like Olympics coins and the Royal Canadian Mint” as soon as the broadcast aired, he says. After the initial surge, he adds, the volume of searches “kept climbing right up to the games.”

A medal-worthy effort, to be sure.

TV — Less Than $1 Mil.

The Buntin Group, O’Charley’s

By T.L. Stanley

Some neighborhood O’Charley’s restaurants — famous for overloaded potato skins and cheddar bacon burgers — looked more like tailgate parties  before a Southeastern Conference football game last fall. Not accidentally, the set of Fox Sports South’s football preview show, SEC Gridiron Live, resembled the family restaurant.

The transformations were by design, the result of a multilayered deal between the casual food chain and News Corp.’s Fox Sports South, which aligned the brands that share a passion for college football. O’Charley’s media agency, The Buntin Group in Nashville, Tenn., conceived the partnership that sent Fox crews into 11 O’Charley’s restaurants during the 2009 football season to interview fans and customers in advance of game day. The low-cost initiative generated buzz, delivered an attractive target audience for the chain and boosted sales in participating restaurants by 5.5 percent (and customer count by 6.6 percent). It also garners the agency Mediaweek’s Media Plan of the Year honors in the under $1 million, TV category.

Executives at Buntin Group and O’Charley’s, with some 240 locations in mostly Southern states, had been scouring for a regional partnership that could help stretch their limited ad dollars. The chain is outspent $10 to $1 by national competitors like TGI Friday’s, Chili’s and Applebee’s. During the economic downturn, as consumers dined out less, O’Charley’s needed a cost-efficient way to grab customers.

“We wanted something unique and ownable,” says Theresa Chang, Buntin Group’s media planning director. “We needed to make our spend look more competitive.”

In that area of the country, football is religion. “People schedule their weddings around football games,” Chang says. So Buntin saw a perfect link between the restaurants and the games.

At the same time, Fox Sports South was developing an hour-long TV show, SEC Gridiron Live, to showcase its new package of late summer and fall games. Chang and media supervisor Kelley Carpenter pounced on the opportunity to become part of the series from the ground up.

“We know broadcast works. But it’s more expensive every year, and we can’t afford it,” says Carpenter.  “We wanted a significant presence on TV without having to spend huge dollars.”

Buntin Group designed and built the SEC Gridiron Live set, which was packed with O’Charley’s spare props, down to the custom mural on the wall. The commentator cast — including Charles Davis, David Pollack and Cassidy Hubbarth — sat at an O’Charley’s cocktail table and discussed each week’s matchup. O’Charley’s aired commercials during SEC Gridiron Live and branded in-show features like In the Trenches, which previewed key battles.

The restaurants became hubs for SEC fans and were outfitted with SEC posters, table-top ads and menu inserts; servers wore T-shirts to remind people to watch SEC Gridiron Live.

Hubbarth, a social media aficionado, used Twitter to keep fans updated on O’Charley’s-related activities. She helped attract nearly 8,000 Facebook fans and more than 2,000 Twitter followers.

Nancy Kell-Culbertson, O’Charley’s vp of marketing, says the effort was integrated on every level. “The impact was huge,” she says. “We got in on the ground floor of something exciting and special.”

Steve Jones, senior account executive at Fox Sports South, says if viewers didn’t know better, they’d think O’Charley’s was an official SEC sponsor from the looks of all the restaurant branding during SEC Gridiron Live and on game day. (That would’ve been a much more expensive proposition, one that would have been out of the chain’s reach.)

The partnership created an unprecedented level of integration on Fox Sports South, Jones says, because Buntin Group was determined to make the most of the alliance. “They pushed so hard for their client,” Jones says. “But they gave us a lot in return, like lots of in-store marketing that we’d never had before. It drove traffic to our show.”

Not about to let a golden opportunity slip away, O’Charley’s has already committed to another go-round of the program later this year, with plans to expand it in a number of areas. Fan footage shot in the restaurants that doesn’t make it to air and behind-the-scenes bits from the show could go up on the marketer’s Web site.

“We snagged a good one here,” Kell-Culbertson sums up. “Now we want to make it bigger.”