NEC division engages target audience with online contests

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NEC Corp. of America's Visual Systems division sells presentation projectors to IT and IS professionals, an audience that isn't always easy to reach, said Ashley Flaska, NEC's senior marketing manager.

"The IT market is often difficult to impress and connect with via online communications," she said. "However, to capture more leads, we tried to engage this audience in a way that enhanced our brand and created a relationship."

In April 2005, NEC launched a new ad campaign, designed by Cooper Simmons Media Architects, San Francisco, featuring four interactive games.

"We didn't know if IS/IT guys would think the creative was too kooky," said Ginny Cooper, CEO of Cooper Simmons, which partnered with online ad network Undertone Networks on the campaign. "We decided to make it work, we'd need to test and learn, and then test and learn again."

Before starting the campaign, which depicted a traditional-looking cartoon IT guy competing in several "contests," Cooper and Flaska researched potential placements using Nielsen//NetRatings.

"We wanted to know about not just the average audience size but also what their profiles were, the average time each person spent on the site," Cooper said.

Once it chose the sites that best fit its prospect profile, NEC purchased placement on four of the strongest matches. Even with that level of research, Cooper realized early on that they had selected two "turkeys," so they swapped out those sites with the next two on their list. By the end of the campaign, the ads had appeared on a total of 10 sites, including traditional trade publishers such as, and, as well as, and, the official site of the Open Source Technology Group.

It wasn't just location that Cooper and Flaska tested. They also examined ad size and technology units, looking at the differences in performance when the creative morphed from an Eyeblaster unit to a rectangle to a leaderboard to a skyscraper.

"Our knowledge and understanding of our target, coupled with innovative creative, delivered results that speak for themselves," Flaska said.

Because NEC adjusted its media placements as it went along, key metrics improved over the course of the five-month campaign. Cost-per-click went from $5.13 during the first two weeks to 52 cents. Cost-per-referral plummeted from $25 to 82 cents. Overall, NEC Visual Systems received nearly 185,000 referrals.

Cooper attributed the campaign's good results to consistent testing. Also, because NEC and its agency didn't make long-term commitments to any Web site, if a placement wasn't performing as desired?which happened about half the time?they were able to move on to another site. "That was the main reason we kept each of the flights to only two weeks," she said.

The first campaign worked so well, NEC Visual Systems will launch another Oct. 16 that borrows elements from the original. Still, Cooper said, the company is prepared to do just as much testing and adjustment as it did the first go-around. "Sites change. What works today may not work tomorrow," she said. "This is a fluid and exciting medium."

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