Media Plan of the Year: Best Use of National Television and/or Cable – Fallon Minneapolis

With all the programming choices TV viewers have today, there is not much on the air that can be considered “appointment” television. That’s why an ad campaign for Archipelago, the Chicago-based electronic stock-trading network, was so unique. Instead of airing traditional 30-second spots, Fallon Minneapolis created and produced a TV program that would air in one-minute increments every morning at 7:59 a.m., one minute before the opening of the Archipelago exchange.

The “sitcom meets soap opera-type storyline,” as Fallon media supervisor Danya Tepfer describes it, featured two characters, Neal and Jeff, on a road trip across the country, searching for different ways to open the exchange each morning, in a program titled “The Open Show.” “Open” refers to the fact that, unlike competitors such as the New York Stock Exchange, Archipelago offers no memberships or special privileges but the same trading rules for everyone. (It also refers to the stock market “open” each morning.) Since Archipelago is a virtual exchange, there is no location where an opening bell can signal the start of the exchange’s business day.

“Our goal was to increase order volume by promoting Archipelago’s exchange status and driving buzz within the trading community,” Tepfer says. The campaign, which aired on CNBC, “reinvented television advertising by turning ads into appointment TV,” she adds. Each day, a new spot ran.

Margaret Nagle, an Archipelago spokeswoman, says the concept was to have Neal and Jeff visit different cities around the country and come up with possible ways to open the exchange, like using a town crier or a cannon blast. Each time, they would decide, by the end of the minute, that this was something that would not work. As the series of spots ended, “the message was that Archipelago really didn’t need an opening bell since what really opens the exchange are the traders that begin to use it each morning,” Nagle says.

Among traders—a sizable portion of the CNBC daytime audience—the one-minute spots became a popular morning destination. During the four months the campaign aired, Archipelago’s order volume increased by 64 percent, and of traders surveyed, 43 percent said they made a daily attempt to tune into “The Open Show.” According to Tepfer, unaided ad awareness rose to 33 percent, the highest in the category—including the New York Stock Exchange, which outspends Archipelago by 10-to-1.

Booking the ads in the same time slot each morning was no small task. “The buy specs we took to CNBC were daunting,” Tepfer says. The agency requested that the net give it the same 60-second time slot each morning, make it exclusive—that is, not in a pod with other commercials—and have it flow directly into the next show. In addition to the one-minute spot each day, CNBC was also supplied with tune-in promos to hype the next day’s installment. “A heavy rotation of episodic tune-in spots teased viewers and reminded them to tune in to the next day’s show,” Tepfer says. Spots on CNBC also promoted a contest in which participants could visit “The Open Show” Web site and win the chance to appear in an episode.

“Despite this tall order, we successfully negotiated the exact package we went after,” Tepfer says, “and in doing so, began to change the core seller-buyer dynamics in TV advertising.”

Tepfer says viewers got so into the daily, minute-long series that many sent in plot ideas and offered comments via the Web site. More than 400 traders entered the contest to guest on the show. One firm even requested to have an episode filmed on its trading floor.

CNBC was selected as the media vehicle because of its large business audience and the fact that trading desks across the country have the network tuned in all day for the latest financial news. The challenge, says Tepfer: the agency’s research showed that “traders were tired of seeing the same boring ads day after day, so we concluded we needed a new way to keep our campaign fresh.” The campaign cost about $1.8 million.

Nagle says trading offices usually watch CNBC with the sound down, reading the scrolls, but surveys showed traders would turn up the sound during “The Open Show.”

“We received tons of e-mail about this campaign, and we were even asked by some of our clients to put together a DVD with all the spots that ran,” Nagle says.

For “The Open Show” campaign, it was Archipelago employees who first raised the question of whether a concept could be developed to get the exchange a level of publicity equal to the New York Stock Exchange, whose opening bell is televised each morning. Once handed the task, it was Fallon Minneapolis that created the solution and developed the media plan.

“While it did have a few detractors, it seemed like everyone continued to tune in to see where it would go each day, because each episode was different,” says Nagle.

This was not the first time that Fallon Minneapolis was honored for an Archipelago media plan. Last year, the agency won a Mediaweek Plan of the Year award in the $1 million or less spending category. Judging from the results, it seems there will be more media plans developed by Fallon for Archipelago. Says Nagle: “We’ve been working with Fallon since June of 2000 and have definitely been pleased with the work they have done for us.”

John Consoli covers network TV as a senior editor for Mediaweek.