Friday, October 03, 2008

Great brand experience at the expense of brand experience

By definition a brand experience is an isolated unit of experience created beyond the traditional destinations for information on a brand, but is that definition holding true in the online world? There are not infinite creative opportunities for things like BMW Films, or its self-proclaimed heir apparent, the recently gone beta Lexus' L Studio that provides a forum for a completely unique form of branded content engagement. Not every brand has the budgets required to produce a film series and drive busloads of engaged eyeballs into an online landing experience, or the stomach to resist turning it into a direct response vehicle at the expense of the standalone success of branded content.

On the other side of this equation the only real advertising opportunities that you can buy on major eyeball destinations in order to provide temporary immersive experiences are the interstitial (read "Click Skip or Next ASAP") or the dedicated landing page advertorial content that gets blended into the clickstreams and traffic reports of any of the major or minor portals/media brands that are surviving from this income.

How do you stand out in the crowd? One of the better innovations I have seen of late is an example whereby one brand, technically a sub-brand of a major brand, convinced a major online brand to give up their user experience in exchange for one key return favor - cash. Apparently this approach works. I am not going to spoiler but I am going to set you up to better understand what this might entail if you decide that this amazingly creative use of agency resources and media planning is just the thing for you.

Any potential media outlet has several things that you can consider when brainstorming well outside the box to try and drive engagement and perhaps the odd award or two for your well-paid efforts. It should be no surprise to you that you do not always have to fit in the IAB-sanctioned ad unit specifications, but it will be a surprise to many how far some portals are willing to go to be a part of something really creative or unique. I know. I have worked on many major portals and professional content brands and if the idea and the budget are there then the sky is the limit.

Let me be clear. The plan is to completely take over a portal user experience with your own brand experience (your customer's brand is fine too) and derail the user into "total" engagement.

Lets break the considerations down:

1) Site users: Look at the demographic and behaviors of a site and determine how open you think they are going to be to having their reading, browsing or viewing experience hijacked.

2) Site depth: Determine how many pages will not be impacted in a typical viewing session - this lets you ensure the media brand that all is not lost when you completely take over with your dastardly plan. If a site only has a couple of page views per visitor, they are going to be much less likely to let you completely "hack" the clickpath.

3) Site traffic: How much. How random. From which sources. Typical enter/exit paths. All of these things will let you build out a plan that will not only drive traffic to what you have in mind, but ensure that site users can back out or move on if needed. At the same time, you do want to stop them, so pay attention to how you are going to get them there in the first place.

4) Existing ad model: If a site is already doing a plethora of branded content but has relatively similar models for every brand that is present, then your idea is going to grab massive mindshare. If you are throwing your chips in a stacked deck, you will be splitting the take.

5) What you do: How are you going to get users to visit, stop, engage, click and what compelling event are you going to exhibit to ensure that the visitor stays and loves the choice they made to do so.

Now that you have found the right crowd doing the right thing in the right place that is open to new ideas for what you have in mind, you're all set. As solid as your plan is, you now have to execute with exacting detail, coordination and an eye to the quality of what you will output. And you have to do it fast, because the sales team you just talked into this is already thinking of ten other customers that they can bring to the table.

Intrigued? Think it's a good idea? It is. And below is one of the best examples of this I have ever seen.

Nintendo did, and they talked Goodby into making an experience for Wario that YouTube completely got behind. This will win awards (unless the awards shows are cancelled) and has already generated massive discussion in the industry. is what you are looking for if those links don't work.

You don't have to go that far of course. There are a myriad of ways to take over a page, a site or a clickpath and to engage the users. Offerings from EyeBlaster, VideoEgg, and others are completely targeted at major brands that want more than text, popups, banners and in-streams - and know that they have to work a lot harder than most if they want to get through to even the weakest infections of ad blindness wrought into the ad marketplace.

What are you waiting for? Why are you still reading this?

Get out there and figure out how you are going to do it.

And when you're ready, why not see if you can talk to my incredibly talented team here at Overlay.TV into helping you get it live. ;-)

FOOTNOTE: Visceral reactions abound for this campaign, ranging from pure fandom to carefully pointing out technical issues and specific error messages generated by different browser/OS combinations.

Don't do this at home (unless you have an agency in your basement) and don't do it all if you are looking for a "zero-fallout" situation.

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