IN THE MIDDLE OF A RECESSION, WHEN MARKETING BUDGETS ARE BEING CUT and creative lags, PointRoll felt there was no excuse for all the lousy advertising it was seeing. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gannett Co. that powers rich-media online campaigns, believed it was time to reinvigorate and inspire the field again—even if it meant introducing a Darwinian, competitive spirit. “We felt it was important to communicate to marketers and enable them to make ads as engaging as the medium itself,” said Catherine Spurway, VP-strategy and marketing at PointRoll. “We wanted to come up with something irreverent, full of humor and, well, cheeky.” So they created a multilayered marketing strategy, complete with rich media, for a fictional organization called CRAPADS—the Council of Responsible Advertisers Promoting Accepted Digital Solutions. The CRAPADS site featured traditional click-through ads that took users away from the site (unlike PointRoll technology, which keeps a visitor on the brand's page). Next, in an effort to prove rich media was superior, PointRoll rolled out a microsite that was clearly superior to the static original. Cue the familiar slogan—Just say, “no!” On SayNoToCRAPADS.com, users can watch the videos, quickly tweet their comments about advertisements and have a rounded experience—all without moving away from their primary content. “It's all about user, user, user,” said Lisa Kaneff, brand marketing manager at PointRoll. “Give them what they need, where they want it. If they click through, that's a plus; but that's not so important. Give them the opportunity to see killer creative with great content that inspires [the user] all without the click of a button.” Kaneff added that b-to-b companies that give viewers what they want—beautiful ads that don't disrupt their consumption of the content they were originally seeking (through using rich media)—will see rewards. It seems PointRoll has a point. When rich-media elements were added through the second element of the campaign, SayNoToCRAPADS.com click-throughs increased from 0.15% to 0.5% interaction rate. Kaneff said the test of good advertising is whether the quality and value of the messaging is high and if the ads spark conversation. In this case, there's no doubt the campaign got people talking and interacting. —Kaitlyn Thompson
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING. ACCORDING TO AN NFI RESEARCH SURVEY OF 142 global senior executives and managers, half the respondents in large companies cited office politics as their most desired improvement from more than 20 potential categories. Only 20% of respondents in small businesses put this category first. The top three items in which business leaders across all organizations wanted to see improvement were efficiency (48%), communication (45%) and balance between work and personal life (40%). “Office politics clearly can get in the way at large com-panies to the point that more people would like to see that improved more than any other category,” said Chuck Martin, CEO of NFI Research and author of several business books, including “Smarts: Are We Hardwired for Success?” (AMACOM, January, 2007). NFI Research, headquar-tered in Madbury, N.H., has documented the evolution of business and workplace issues for more than nine years. Martin, who also lectures at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire, has a new book, “Work Your Strengths” (AMACOM) coming out next month. —Tanya Meyer
FOLLOWING OTHER INNOVATIVE COMPANIES' ADDING POSITIONS LIKE CHIEF blogger to the payroll, Eastman Kodak Co has hired its first CLO, or chief listening officer. Beth LaPierre will listen to both b-to-b and b-to-c customers. “The focus is no longer uniquely on a company's Web site,” said Thomas Hoehn, director of interactive marketing and convergence media at Kodak. “Sure, you need to have information there, but you are missing a huge opportunity by not paying attention to the trends.” He said the explosion of social media means people talk about you and your products all over the place, whether you want those conversations to be happening or not. Already known as a company that uses social media as a channel to distribute stories about its products, Kodak believes its new CLO will be better able to anticipate what its customers need. “Whether we're helping commercial printers grow their business or a new mom share photos of her family, it's about solving our customers' problems with innovative products and solutions,” LaPierre said. “A big part of that is listening to what they need and identifying areas where we, Kodak, can help.” —K.T.