The medium is the message—and never before has there been so much different media and, hence, so many ways to shade, inflect, blow out, or screw up your message. Marshall McLuhan’s formulation, more than half a century old, is more relevant now to the advertising business than ever before. The choice of media is the most complex, strategic, and formative part of any campaign. In many ways, media choice and strategy defines the brand. What’s more, the difficulties of achieving mindshare (not coincidentally the name of one major media buyer), once accomplished by mere repetition, have expanded exponentially. This issue celebrates the brains behind media planning. While often thought of as mere administrative function, as the winners of Adweek’s media planning competition show, the men and women who choose the space are some of the advertising business’s truly creative and innovative people.
Adweek this year selected 30 leading media agencies and asked them to submit their best TV, print, and integrated planning work across four dollar thresholds. The agencies were also asked to submit plans in three open categories: mobile, branded entertainment, and alternative. The following selections represent, in the estimation of Adweek’s editors, the most strategic use of media to best define message and maximize mindshare.
Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Electronic Arts ‘Hell in all its infernal glory’
$1 Million – $10 Million
Street teams “protested” the game at E3
When Wieden + Kennedy began its campaign for the Electronic Arts video game Dante’s Inferno, the agency knew it would have to put EA through hell if the game was going to compete with genre giant God of War from Sony.
Launched nine months before the game’s debut, the campaign’s first phase focused on hard-core gamers, with a “Highway to Hell” theme keying on a different circle of hell (and associated sin) each month. That involved sending bloggers $200 checks during “greed” month and stunts like staged religious protests at the E3 games confab. Second phase? Reach. The agency bought the first Super Bowl spot for a video game in 20 years, which was watched by 115 million people and led to a huge spike of online interest. “Big, impactful cultural moments are viable, and mass media can still make a huge statement,” says Wieden group media director Kelly Muller.
As launch neared, Dante’s Inferno had 100,000 preorders, and the demo had been downloaded 4 million times. And despite mixed reviews, both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions broke into NPD’s top 10 sales list for February. —Anthony Ha
1 ASCII art hidden in source codes depicted game characters
2 Bloggers were sent $200 checks to showcase the concept of greed—with consequences for either cashing or keeping the check.
3 It was the first Super Bowl ad for a video game in 20 years. Gamers got a sneak peak at the spot the day before on Xbox Live.
Newegg ‘Mancave Madness’
Less Than $1 Million
Seizing on 2010’s March NCAA basketball frenzy, KSL Media, in its campaign for online tech-electronic retailer Newegg, created the “Mancave Madness” sweepstakes, which gave guys shiny entertainment gear to trick out their sports sanctuaries.
To expand beyond its main customer base of hard-core geeks and draw a wider swath of electronics enthusiasts into the contest, the KSL campaign, created by goodness Mfg, placed sponsorships on scoreboards in select cities while airing satellite and nationally syndicated radio promotions, and running banner advertising on websites like ESPN. “[The Man Cave] is the place for all your toys,” explains Michael Oddi, KSL’s chief marketing officer. “Men are into sports, and they’re also into electronics.”
The campaign’s centerpiece came with the integration of social media tool Dukky, which let Newegg.com track and analyze in real time as contestants shared word of the sweepstakes with friends and followers on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The campaign resulted in a flood of entries. “We drove over 200,000 submissions,” says Oddi. “Thirty-two percent of those sign-ups were a result of adding social-media sharing.” For Newegg.com, that helped fuel a double-digit sales jump in March 2010 over the previous year.
Perhaps the best part? The media spend was a relative bargain, costing the client under $1 million. —Gabriel Beltrone
Gillette Fusion ‘ProGlide Launch’
$25 Million +
Guys know a razor is pretty much just a razor, whether it has three blades or five. So when Gillette wanted to drum up buzz for its Fusion ProGlide, the P&G brand and its agency Carat USA had to convince men thoroughly bored by shaving marketing that the product was worth its higher price tag.
“Everything we did was guided by this mantra of turning skeptics into believers,” says Adrian Heney, vp, communications planning director at Carat. How? Largely by turning regular dudes into salesmen. Gillette wooed grooming bloggers and Facebook fans with free samples. It dispatched a truck to roam key markets and offer Joe Schmo a shave in exchange for a testimonial. As the blitz progressed, Gillette promoted reviews through search and on YouTube. “We created a program whereby we’d put the razor in the hands of people, then capture their reactions, then amplify them out,” says Heney.
It wasn’t just a Web campaign, though. Cable spots featured celebrity endorsers like Yankees icon Derek Jeter and wrestler John Cena urging men to try out the Fusion ProGlide. After launch, Jimmy Fallon lathered up for a shave during an episode of his show. And the brand repurposed its everyman plaudits into creative for print and TV buys.
The numbers speak for themselves. “We hit close to 60 percent awareness before the actual launch [June 6] last year,” says Michelle Potorski, associate director, marketing at Gillette’s male shave division. “We’re now over 80 percent.” When the razor hit shelves, sales beat projections by four times. And, fine, for those keeping score: the thing has five blades. –Gabriel Beltrone
Testimonial truck Real people were invited to try the new razor in a mobile studio outfitted with video cameras to record their reactions.
Mindshare Dove’s Men+Care
“Journey to Comfort”
$10 Million – $25 Million
The natural affinity between sports and men’s grooming, which filled in spending gaps left by auto and financial during the recession, made Mindshare’s integrated plan for Dove’s Men+Care line a natural fit. Launched in conjunction with the 2010 Major League Baseball season, the campaign migrated to the hardcourt in the spring, as a series of 30-second spots and vignettes ran throughout Turner Sports’ and CBS’ coverage of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The “Journey to Comfort” campaign uncovered some off-the-court moments in the lives of Magic Johnson and two other familiar faces—Georgetown head coach John Thompson III and former Duke point guard Bobby Hurley. By allowing them to speak candidly about family and fatherhood, the spots made it clear that the men are “truly comfortable in their own skin,” says Cindy Gustafson, managing director, Mindshare. Because they aired during the first year of the CBS-Turner NCAA pact, the in-game spots were seen on four networks: CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV.
“We don’t have the luxury of avoiding our competition, so our job is to really carve out that engagement space,” says Gustafson. “The brand stands out because the commercials are contextually relevant.” Web buys were made around relevant NCAA content. All told, the campaign served up more than 400 million Web and TV impressions. That’s not bad skin to be in. –Anthony Crupi
Illustration: Kyle T. Webster; Graphic: Carlos Monteiro; Previous spread: Protest Illustration: Jo