Marketing beyond the pop-up

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The hue and cry among marketers, agencies and online publishers alike has reached a fever pitch: Why isn't there more eye-popping creative on the Web?

While clutter caused by pop-ups, pop-unders, banner ads and a host of other online annoyances may deter the production of enticing creative, it hasn't stopped several online trailblazers such as Absolut, Nike and Gap. Each, in its own way, has pushed the envelope to develop unusually sophisticated and engaging Web offerings.

Nike's is a standout-the sneaker brand has a pervasive presence via dedicated sites within Nike.com, each tailored to different sport. The brand's NikeLab.com site is a showcase of its most innovative products-such as a jacket with built-in light, compass watch and MP3 player. At NikeLab, consumers can personalize a pair of shoes by color, accent and motto, play a virtual football game wearing Nike Air Max Q cross-trainers, run a race through different environments via a virtual speed simulator and create digital music mixes for workouts. Nike even includes an original soundtrack for its yoga shoe, the Nike Kyoto, echoing the Zen-like simplicity of an actual yoga studio.

The site was built with Flash MX and Shockwave, among other digital design tools as befits such a cutting-edge destination. NikeBasketball.com features the genealogy of Nike's 30 years as a marketer of basketball shoes, a bonus for footwear collectors and sports enthusiasts. On NikeRunning.com, runners can track their personal performance via a training log and pace calculator.

"We want to give consumers something unexpected," said Bryan Finke, Nike USA's director of digital brand marketing. "We've done that in creative ways through TV advertising and other kinds of vehicles; we look at digital as just another platform," he said, adding, "We realize that different consumers are going to connect with us in different ways. We want them to have a brand experience that's relevant to them."

holistic experience

Interpublic Group of Cos.' R/GA, New York, has worked with Nike for nearly two years, building from scratch several of the sneaker giant's flagship Web properties including the Nike.com global home page, Nike Basketball, Nike Goddess, NikeLab, Nike Running and Nike Soccer.

Mr. Finke says the goal is to give users reasons to come back. At NikeGoddess, women can tap into a holistic shopping experience buttressed by relevant content.

Absolut's launch last week of a completely overhauled Web site and a new flavor-Absolut Vanilia-represents another creative blockbuster. Designed by Springtime, a digital shop based in Stockholm, Sweden, the No. 3 vodka brand's site offers several unique features.The Absolut Display site includes a pick-up-line generator for randy singles, online parties, floating cocktail glasses and an e-vite function to create a party using images from the Absolut Vanilia site.

"We use the site to give a deeper experience and we wanted consumers to interact with the brand," said Michael Persson, director-communications, Absolut Co.

The site, using Flash 6.0, offers four different start pages, event listings, a comprehensive history of the company, a look at how Absolut vodkas are made, whimsical Swedish legends and short films featuring photography and designs of Stella McCartney, Jean Paul-Gaultier and 10 other designers.

"We don't want to just give away [drink] recipes, we want to spend some time with consumers," Mr. Persson said, though what would an Absolut Web destination be without a few cocktail preparations thrown in for party-planning purposes.

feelin' groovy

Gap's new "Fit to Feel Groovy" campaign comes alive on the Web by syncing images from the TV campaign by Laird & Partners, New York. New, however, are Gap's ideas for creating outfits. The site offers suggested outfits that can be ordered directly online. "We want to create enhanced, seamless shopping experiences for our customers," said Erica Archambault, Gap spokeswoman.

Last fall the retailer launched an interactive promotion to attract consumer models and highlight its wardrobe standards. Gap used Yahoo! for its Casting Call promotion by taking over the portal's front page, a major event considering how prime the real estate is. Ads from the offline campaign came alive online and invited consumers to participate in the contest. Six winners of the Casting Call will be announced this week. Gap's in-house Gap Direct unit handles online creative.

Yahoo!, New York Times Co.'s New York Times Digital and other online publishers are trying to facilitate breakthrough creative by accepting an array of interactive technologies including Eyeblaster, EyeWonder, PointRoll and Unicast.

"One of the reasons there has been such poor creative is because the industry hasn't been organized around the creative, but around the technology," said Nick Law, VP-visual design at R/GA, adding that the interactive industry continues to find itself because it's a "such a young medium."

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