Online marketing makes a comeback

Skywards and Hewlett-Packard are amongst a growing number of companies benefitting from online marketing initiatives.

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By  David Ingham Published  April 4, 2002

Blasting your eyes|~||~||~|So you think online marketing doesn’t work? The results of a recent campaign by Skywards, the frequent flyer programme of Emirates and Sri Lankan, might just change your mind.

Any of you that have recently visited itp.net, ameinfo.com or ajeeb.com can’t fail to have missed the campaign, which is unlike pretty much anything seen online before. Instead of putting a few banners on the selected sites, Skywards has run what are known as ‘eyeblasters’, adverts that take over the majority of the screen for a few seconds and then invite the user to click through to join the frequent flyer programme.

One advert uses the image of a zipper opening up the page to show a person relaxing on a beautiful secluded beach. The advert culminates in the words “this brief escape from reality is brought to you by Skywards,” after which you are invited to click through to the Skywards Web site. Anyone that clicks through and registers can win 15,000 Skywards bonus miles.

The adverts are certainly ‘in your face’, some might say intrusive, and make it impossible to use the site for a few seconds, but that doesn’t seem to have bothered users too much. The first set of results from the campaign is now in and is “unbelievable,” according to Andy Patton, manager of product development & marketing at Emirates.

He says that the historical average click-through rate for banner adverts is 0.3-0.4%. Compared to that figure, the click-through rates for the Skywards campaign seem surprisingly good.

For example, the click-through on Ajeeb.com, a general news and information portal catering to the mass market, was 25%. ITP.net, a site focused on a very specific, high value audience of senior technology professionals, achieved a click-through rate of 11%. (ITP.net is owned by ITP, publisher of Arabian Business.)

Internationally, the rate at times.co.uk was 31.5% for an advert that made the home page look like it was underwater. Telegraph.co.uk, which ran the zipper advert described above, achieved a 28% click-through rate.

“All of these set against industry norms for online responses are amazingly high and reflect the innovation of media used and the quality of message delivered,” says Patton. As of February 27, Skywards had received a total of 1,400 new enrolments online.

The online campaign was developed by DIC-based startup company, North55. Eyeblaster technology overlays an advertising message on top of the Web page being viewed, and offers the ability to include animation and sound effects in the advert. The adverts have run all over the world, on web sites such as yahoo.com, economist.com and sports.com.
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It seems, therefore, that online advertising is far from dead and may even be making a comeback as the methods used online become more attractive and more engaging for the user. A number of voices in the interactive industry have been trying to get this message across for some time. Skywards may be proof that they are right.

For example, Impact Proximity (formerly Impact Traffic) has been trying to teach its clients that online marketing works if the creative and message are right (see Arabian Business April, page 66.) The company cites several online campaigns that it says were an overwhelming hit.

A Pepsi-branded Amr Diab video released online attracted 250,000 downloads in just a few days. A joint campaign between Emirates and Porsche that offered a trip of a lifetime as a prize yielded the names and personal information of 24,000 individuals. An online Adidas campaign that offered trainers as competition prizes yielded 60,000 young people’s names and information on their sporting preferences.

One contented Impact Proximity customer is Hewlett-Packard, which recently ran a Unix survey on ITP.net. Visitors to ITP.net were invited to take part in the survey, which was presented as a pop-up box on the home page, and have a chance to win a Harley-Davidson motorbike. HP received 497 ‘high-quality’ responses to the survey, which was not just a case of filling in a few tick boxes but was lengthy and required detailed answers to technical questions.

Graham Porter, marketing manager for HP Middle East, is now a fan of online marketing and particularly likes the potential it offers to generate names and customer data. “With online you can see the results, compare the sites you use and measure the cost and click through rate against the quality of respondents,” says Porter. “We specifically want to build our database and obtain e-mail ‘permissions’ so that we can communicate with our target audience via e-mail and the web, which is both cost effective and almost instantaneous, plus it can be easily personalised.”

John Goodman, the president of OgilvyOne in Asia-Pacific, a massive territory running from India to Japan, told Arabian Business that he has seen online advertising make a comeback recently. He describes the development of online marketing so far as a ‘V-shape’: very popular one minute, out of fashion the next and now back in favour.

He believes that clients have realised enormous value from online campaigns when they have run concurrently with programmes that use other media, such as TV. It’s a case of 1+1 equaling more than one. “What you’re now seeing is a more sophisticated approach that is not just based on click-through as a measurement, but that looks at the relative impact of combining two or three media,” says Goodman. Skywards, for example, has recently been running adverts on BBC World and CNN to coincide with its online campaign.

Of course, not everything works online. Static banner adverts are certainly not as popular as they were and you have to make sure that you use the right site to reach your audience. What campaigns like Skywards do reflect, however, is that online marketing can work very effectively if it is targeted, innovative and there’s something in it for the user.||**||

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