Symantec's ‘Hal IT Admin' comes out of retirement

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Security software company Symantec Corp. has been seeing strong results from its online video campaigns for some time. In fact, one of the characters it created back in 2006—Hal IT Admin—garnered the company accolades, as well as customers, when it first debuted. This past January, Symantec relaunched the character in a bid to make prospects once again standup and take notice, said Michael Parker, VP-interactive marketing, Symantec.

Hal was first introduced in the third quarter of 2006. At the time, Symantec was rolling out a new product, and the Hal videos helped put a human face on some of the challenges customers were facing. “He was the embodiment of our customers' pain,” Parker said. “People identified with him. Plus, we had a limited budget and I knew that people will forward a link or video if something was entertaining, so the videos would solve both problems.”

The videos featuring Hal were created by Symantec and posted on YouTube as well as the company's own Web site. Almost instantly, Hal—an actor standing in a white room in front of a server—was embraced by the channel. People shared the videos with friends and commented on them, too. In addition to posting them online, Symantec used the videos, which compared recovering a server with an “IRS audit and a root canal,” in its e-mail campaigns. Those e-mails quickly went viral. Messages that contained links to the Hal videos had 25% to 30% open rates. All told, the videos racked up more than 50,000 views by the end of 2007. Symantec even started getting requests for personal appearances by Hal, Parker said.

This year, with the introduction of Symantec's Backup Exec 2010, Hal is making a comeback. In January, Symantec introduced two new videos focusing on virtualization and de-duplication featuring Hal—once again played by the actor who made the character famous four years earlier. Symantec again used e-mail to reach partners and customers.

But this time, instead of using YouTube, the videos were posted on SymantecTV, the company's Brightcove-enabled video platform.

“We're using Brightcove and tying it right into Omniture so we can see how many people are viewing the videos, how long they are watching and what action they are taking,” Parker said. “We know how much a lead costs—$60 per lead is an industry average—and we can already see that even though the videos have only been out since January they are getting a strong ROI on lead generation.”

Despite the soft launch and lack of a YouTube presence, more than 10,000 people have watched the videos to date. What's more, the conversion rate—specifically, getting customers and prospects to register for collateral downloads—is about 19%, Parker said.

In fact, Parker expects the cost-per-lead for the newest Hal videos should be well below the industry average by the end of the 9-to-12-month program. “Video is a medium that IT buyers are specifically looking for and using,” he said. “It's one of the reasons we recently finished a renovation of our [video production] studio in the corporate offices in Mountain View [, Calif.]. Video is a strategic part of our overall program.”

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