If your audience base is sick of traditional ads, what are you to do? Create a compelling engagement campaign. Easier said than done, right? Yes, but in our case, it wasn't hard, and it was done.
Fark recently launched an interactive game-style campaign, promoting the release of the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World DVD and Blu-Ray (which is today, November 9).
In five short days, we've had more than 300,000 gameplays, resulting in more than 4,000 signups for the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Sweepstakes. We've had more than 400 Re-tweets and 4,000 likes on Facebook, and the SPVTW Blu-Ray moved from #24 on Amazon in Movies to #6. And what makes this worth mentioning is that the campaign was actually hidden from the user until they requested it.
User PostNoBills sums the campaigns up nicely.
This wasn't a campaign based on CPM or impressions. It was an engagement campaign. We hinted to people that something awaited them if they entered a secret code (the Konami Code, a cheat code from the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, which became an internet meme about a year and a half ago).
And not only did more than 30% of our visitors the past 5 days (roughly 1.4 million) enter the code, they played through the entire campaign.
At Fark.com, we're taking what we feel is a new and different approach to spending our ad dollars. Instead of accepting a check for the same old media that appears on a bulk of sites and typically bores (and usually annoys) users, we're coming up with a more targeted, creative approach that appeals directly to our particular community. With four million unique audience members, all of whom share a need to be the first to know stuff, we are in a position to reach an incredibly sought-after audience directly. The problem is, they're jaded. They hate ads. They're sick of being hit over the head with "demographic-targeted" stuff that isn't really made for them.
So, we're going with a more interactive, passive approach. Partnerships. Games and content that doesn't bore or insult.
A comparison of the sales rank on Amazon.com for the Blu-Ray of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World from Oct 29 - November 7. The campaign bumped awareness and rank by 18 spots.
Most importantly, we're staying out of the way and not obscuring our content and our message with subsidized messages. We're spending our budgets on stuff that actually entertains and gives our audience something worth talking about. Rather than trying to control the conversation and hope they pass it on, we just ask them to participate in it and then work hard at making it worth passing on.
The Scott Pilgrim Vs The World DVD/Blu-Ray release campaign, which was 100% developed in-house, is a perfect example of this. First, the game is a callback to the glory days of the NES. Old-school 8-bit/retro feel and presentation, which ties in directly with the Scott Pilgrim look and feel. Our audience consists mostly of 24-35 year olds, and the NES is sacred to them. Knowing our audience made this play not only possible, but valid. And making the challenges a trivia game connects with the reference-laden graphic novels and movie, giving users a sense of what this property is all about.
The fact that we didn't use flash and instead made it truly cross-browser DHTML kept people from having to allow FlashBlock or those without the plugin to be able to play the game. It was only presented when the user asked for it -- they had to put in a code (the Konami Code, another 8-bit callback, and a popular internet meme). Each character gave hints which led to the next, and the user was always able to "escape" the game if it wasn't their thing. At the end, the player is given an opportunity to enter to win free DVD or Blu-Ray copies of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, or TotalFark for 3 months. Again - they don't have to, and it's not a condition to play the game. No barriers to entry, and no penalty if you don't sign up.
Even users on Reddit.com shared the sentiment of Fark's audience on the Scott Pilgrim campaign.
As stated earlier, It's the most highly-engaged ad we've ever run, and has an incredible ratio of conversion. We're very proud of all the campaigns we engage in, such as the Jose Cuervo "Cue moment of the week" campaign and the Todd Margaret series premiere we did for IFC. All of these campaigns express a simple concept which governs all of our campaigns: "Respect the user." Give them stuff they actually want, but don't give it to them unless they actually ask for it. Stay out of their way. And most importantly: know what it is they want and give it to them. Be true to the material, because they can spot a fake a mile away.
It's a fact of the world: Fark.com, like most 1m+ audience properties, is a business, and it takes money to run. A good bit of money, in fact. We don't believe in paywalls, so If we don't get money from sponsors, we close up shop, simple as that. But we also realize we have an incredible community of very smart, insightful and most importantly jaded users. They've been there; done that. They've been around the net for years. They're not recent Myspace converts who think the web is simply "liking" stuff. So hitting them over the head with ads is only going to annoy them (at best).
The thing is, eventually, all users become that. Just like television, and radio before it, we learn to tune out what doesn't matter. "Oh look, a commercial for Downy... But that's not part of the show I'm watching, so who cares?" Even the most clever ads these days get missed on the first show, it's only when someone links them up on YouTube or, if the ad company is lucky, accidentally stops fast-forwarding their DVR that they get any audience share.
The internet is that times a billion. Not only do you have the option of ignoring ads; if they upset you, you don't just ignore them -- you ignore the place that gave it to you. The sooner advertisers realize this, the better -- and not just for them, but for everyone, because the other option is to make stuff that's so great, you can't help but talk about it. And we all win when that happens.