Agencies ramp up social, video

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As marketers shift more of their spending to online media in a down economy, interactive and full-service agencies are ramping up their offerings in social media, online video and viral marketing, as well as more-established areas such as search and e-mail.

While still representing small pieces of the total online advertising pie, social media and online video are two of the fastest-growing areas for marketers and their agencies. "We have done a lot of social media work for clients," said Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction, a San Francisco online ad agency.

For Adobe Systems, Traction created an online game in a Facebook application called Real or Fake? in which users had to guess whether images were modified from their original form using Adobe software.

"The marketing funnel has evolved with the advent of conversational marketing," Kleinberg said. "Someone will try out a new marketing tactic from an RSS feed to social media to an iPhone app, but it has to have value in order for users to invite you [to engage with them]. We wanted to create an effective social engagement with Adobe users."

The campaign proved successful for Adobe. More than 18,000 users joined the Facebook group, and one-quarter of those users played the game. Of those who played, 20% clicked on a button to experience a tutorial on Adobe software and 6% clicked on a button to find out about a special offer.

Digitas, an interactive agency based in Boston, has ramped up its social media marketing for such clients as IBM Corp., Samsung and Shell.

"We saw a big leap on behalf of some of our clients to use digital as a social medium but also as a connector to community," said Seth Solomons, CMO of Digitas.

The agency created an online community for Shell called Dialogues aimed at government officials, customers, lobbyists and the media. It fosters conversation around energy policy and solutions using webcasts, podcasts, blogs, videos, forums and live chat.

"For Shell, it was a huge risk-openness barometer to allow their brand to be open to this type of conversation. Energy is such a hotbed of debate for lobbyists and journalists," Solomons said.

So far, the site has been successful in encouraging conversation and debate: More than 150 external sites now link to it.

"One thing that has emerged as incredibly important is the next-generation use of video as a way to build connections and create communities," said Laura Lang, CEO of Digitas. "In some ways, the development of community in b-to-b went faster than in b-to-c."

For example, the agency used short videos of IT professionals on a Web site for Samsung solid state drives in an effort to build community. It also used community building for IBM in an online effort called "Smart Market," which enables small and midsize businesses to compare information and manage different technologies to run their businesses.

BusinessOnLine, an online agency based in San Diego, established a social media practice last year to meet client demand and developed social media campaigns for clients including the American Red Cross, Caterpillar and Sony.

"Right now, from a digital marketing perspective, if you can provide an answer to the interactive marketing challenge, there is an opportunity to gain market share," said Thad Kahlow, CEO of BusinessOnLine. "First, people are asking to drive more targeted traffic into the funnel using integrated search marketing campaigns. Second is social media—a lot of marketers understand the value and power behind social media."

BusinessOnLine also expanded its work in Web site design, user experience and analytics, as marketers became more focused on results.

Full-service agencies are also expanding their interactive marketing capabilities, particularly in social media and online video.

"We've all moved into a YouTube kind of world," said Rick Segal, CEO of HSR Business to Business, Cincinnati. "It's an expanded area of work in which we continue to see growth."

HSR is now using social media, online video and viral campaigns for some of its most traditional b-to-b clients, such as John Deere & Co. HSR developed an integrated campaign for Deere called "The Ultimate Skid Steer Smackdown," which used a combination of live events, a microsite, viral videos and social media to engage the construction audience and promote a new front-loader.

Within the first five months of the campaign, the Web site attracted more than 90,000 unique visitors, more than 2,000 e-postcards were sent and videos attracted more than 50,000 hits on YouTube.

Ogilvy North America has also expanded its use of social media, viral marketing, e-mail and online communities for clients.

For IBM, Ogilvy developed a mini-documentary series called "The Business of Innovation," featuring IBM clients discussing how they are using technology to solve business problems.

The short films are being leveraged across more than a dozen different media platforms, including IBM's own Web site as well as a branded-content deal with CNBC and clips on YouTube.

"A big part of how the world is changing now is that when we start out with an idea for a campaign, we have to think through the production of the idea—not just for a 30- or 60-second TV spot or a two-minute video, but we have to think through all of the different places in which you might want to use the content," said Carla Hendra, CEO of Ogilvy North America, New York.

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