BrainTrust Query: Contextually Relevant Promotions…Do They Produce?

Discussion
Jul 27, 2006
Laura Davis-Taylor

By Laura Davis-Taylor, Founder and Principal, Retail Media Consulting

(www.retailmediaconsulting.com)


This week, Burger King announced a very creative online promotion with Maxim magazine. Together, they created a microsite featuring video footage of three “hometown hottie” models that guys choose as online companions for a “virtual lunch.” Naturally, a sweepstakes offers participants the chance to win an actual lunch with one of the ladies. A spokesperson notes that the idea was born as a strategic initiative rooted in understanding what the guys in their target audience are looking for, thus making it “contextually relevant” to their young male diners.


Burger King spurred the movement of contextual relevance when they launched the “Subservient Chicken” a few years ago with agency Crispin Porter. Known as one of the most successful online guerilla campaigns in history, the campaign allowed the user to command a man in a chicken suit to perform any action that they so desired. Generating 385 million hits with an average site visit of 6 minutes, according to Fast Company, it launched a firestorm of similar media campaigns.


The question with campaigns such as these for many marketing and advertising constituents is obvious. Was it truly successful? With such a campaign, what exactly does success mean?


In the case of the two examples above, the stated goals were/are to build a deeper connection to a niche target audience and stimulate brand affinity strong enough to make the chain the de facto choice for quick service dining. This success is measured by site visits, interaction, brand awareness and making relevant brand connections. However, based on the lack of a call to action or online incentive, the goals apparently do not include driving sales or restaurant traffic.


There are two schools of thought to debate here. On the one hand, why would an effort with the potential to relevantly connect with a hot target audience not carry a measurable call to action to drive sales? On the other, having created an engaging and delightful “contextual experience,” would they ruin the affect by blatantly trying to close the loop with a sale?


Direct response marketers believe that every campaign should be trackable, ideally to sales and a tangible ROI. Brand planning marketers don’t always agree, saying that making a powerful connection to a consumer — even if not measured beyond visits and interaction — is still potent. They feel that trust is at the root of the matter and it must be earned differently in today’s jaded marketing environment.


Discussion Questions: Should contextually relevant promotions be tied to incentives to generate actual sales? Or, is this old school thinking that continues
to erode trust?


This is a tough one, as ROI is becoming increasingly important to prove to executives in today’s media climate. Agencies and brands may in fact be trying
to avoid tracking these kinds of campaigns because site hits and interactions are easier to shape into success stories. Brand connections do not always equal sales and it is indeed
easier to gauge success by awareness.


However, trust is at an all time low and consumers are tired of being taken advantage of. Especially with a younger audience, there is a common thread of
wanting to identify with a brand that shares ones interests and ideals. Tough call for marketers, but perhaps there’s a way to accomplish it all.

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10 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Contextually Relevant Promotions…Do They Produce?"


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Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 7 months ago
The BK campaign may be “contextually relevant” marketing, but then what isn’t? The Subservient Chicken, which was brilliant entertainment, well I don’t know what that was. The more interesting tactic is contextual targeting. The Maxim campaign is better characterized as appropriate creative for a known audience. What decent branding campaign doesn’t take the context into account? You take a known medium with a known audience, on that is desirable to you, and create an ad for it. Contextual targeting is more about knowing what message you want to get out there, and delivering it when the context is right, whenever the context is right, without knowing in advance when or where that will be. Contextually targeting, to me, is about exposing a consumer to your message when they are most likely to be responsive to it. (Disclaimer here: our Concordance product is a contextually marketing service for coupon offers.) The idea is that a consumer is far more likely to be interested in hearing about your new slow-churned low-fat ice cream when they are reading… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

This is good old product differentiation through target market segmentation – just under a different name. The key here is that folks are doing something which has been tried and proven over the years. Assuming that their message is clear and effective, this campaign and others like it will be effective because they address specific segments for each product. This allows a better focused message while differentiating the product attributes which will ensure successful product launches and sales.

Craig Johnson
Guest
Craig Johnson
14 years 7 months ago
Shouldn’t everything we do in the marketing mix be contextually-relevant? As for ROI and driving sales, I would agree that those should sometimes be our goals. Key word, sometimes. There are also those circumstances where awareness and building brand equity is the more appropriate objective. TV’s not the only solution. Think of the Sub Chicken or lunch date promotion as media…just a lot cheaper and more targeted. Brands suddenly have the opportunity to say what they should, in the way they should to the people they should vs. what the mass audience wants to hear. When was the last time we required our advertising to work this hard?!? The reluctance to hold traditional mass media to the fire amazes me. Every brand I’ve worked with or on has been afraid of their ad agency. What’s that all about? Grow up and demand results from the entire mix. That’s when we’ll see contextually-relevant and truly media neutral marketing plans come to life. I hope I live long enough to see it.
Peter Fader
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

These recent Burger King campaigns are perfect examples of what’s wrong with marketing today. They are very clever, very buzzworthy, yet they only generate a handful of incremental purchases. More generally, today’s focus on “engagement” marketing is the same thing. The old adage “measure twice cut once” applies to marketing campaigns just as much as it applies to carpentry. In the eyes of “real” business people (finance, accounting, operations), marketers look like fools and bring little value to their firms when they rely on these kinds of tactics at the expense of more measurable activities. This isn’t to say that contextually relevant promotions can’t be measurable and truly effective, but today’s practices don’t seem to have this in mind as a serious objective.

David Zahn
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

I concur with Professor Fader. Paying for eyeballs to see a site proved to be at the core of the dot com bust. Where it can be shown to coordinate with other efforts, integrate with initiatives, or provide some other measurable value – certainly creating buzz is of value.

Buzz for buzz sake may win Clio awards – but it will be accepted by someone who USED to work for the company, because they no longer have a job when sales dwindle, revenue decreases, and customers do not take actions!

Bill Bishop
Guest
Bill Bishop
14 years 7 months ago

We’ve got a great question here; a great question but it probably doesn’t have a single right answer. Recognizing that, I’m going to vote to include the incentives/specific call to action in the ads for the following reasons:

>There’s growing evidence that mass market advertising, i.e., the place where context-relevant ads make the most sense, is becoming a thing of the past. This mode of advertising is producing less impact and increased cost, and to continue to stay on this line of thinking will be throwing more good money down the hole.

>All of the new technology as sell as what’s coming down the pike makes it easier to both deliver targeted ads, which certainly can be context-relevant, as well as to measure results. It seems to me that this is the direction we need to head because it is truly, a “whole new world.”

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
14 years 7 months ago

I hate to be the broken record, but where’s the proof that these types of things work? Has there been any published statement by BK? Will these fun games make our children bring themselves, their children, etc. to BK in the future? Now, offer free I-Pod music and you’ll have something.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Yes, sometimes it’s hard to measure the effect of public relations and publicity. By their very nature, public relations and publicity sometimes are hard to tie to a specific return on investment. So ad agencies take the second best measurement: the audience size. Great managers appreciate direct cause/result ROI numbers, but also exercise insight when those numbers aren’t reasonably available. Was the Maxim campaign worthwhile? Was the Burger King on-line chicken campaign profitable? These are judgment calls. Great managers have great judgment. One way to help make the judgment: what did the campaigns cost per participant? Ten cents? Ten dollars? If the cost per participant is minimal, it’s easier to feel OK about the effort.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
14 years 7 months ago

Peter Fader’s comments directly reinforce data we have gathered: fewer than 10% of media dollars spent appear to have any observable effect of any positive kind. On the other hand, a survey of over 200 large ad agencies shows that 92% of ad agency account executives say that “most” or “all” ad dollars spent can show a positive observable effect, but not a single executive we talked to had data for this assertion. In other words, it appears that advertising overall, as it is currently done, is ineffective, but that ad agencies either don’t know that or are unwilling to admit it. Who drives this kind of advertising, anyway, clients of ad agencies?

Evan Slater
Guest
Evan Slater
14 years 7 months ago

The question here isn’t either or, but rather a challenge in finding more effective ways to promote and measure the correlation between contextually relevant advertising and long term sales shifts. The marketing world is shifting from an awareness based, corporate serving model to one that is fundamentally consumer-centric. While direct sales driving promotions may reach a specific audience, consumers are becoming more skeptical every day of such messages, particularly the younger crowds. The questions we must be asking ourselves are “have I created a deeper connection with the consumer?” and “is the consumer more likely to talk about this brand positively with friends or family?” The onus is on marketers not to force contextual advertising into a promotional realm, but rather to figure out how we develop metrics to measure the relationships we share with our consumers and how that ultimately affects the bottom line.

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