Microsft's three-part commercial campaign for Windows Vista was deemed the most successful by SendTec, a direct-marketing firm based in St. Petersburg, Fla.
President Eric Obeck said he and his team of analysts conducted rudimentary keyword searches after each Oscar ad to see if more information on the campaign could easily be retrieved online. Vista's "Wow" campaign directed searchers immediately to a sponsored link on Google under the keywords "wow microsoft" and even more quickly on MSN under "wow."
Smart to be cryptic
Mr. Obeck said Microsoft was smart to be cryptic about the product being advertised, allowing consumers' curiosity for more details to play out through research at search engines. Such preplanned, paid search efforts are essential to building a strong multiplatform brand message, he said.
"It can't be an afterthought -- you have to plan for it," he said. "Consumer search is a marketing channel, and consumers are pulling you to them. The opportunity cost is huge if money is spent offline and they're going online."
Mr. Obeck said Microsoft had the edge on Apple, which took a similar three-spot, buzzword approach with its "Hello" campaign for iPhone. He said the one-second blink of the Apple logo at the end of each spot left consumers a bit confused about what was being advertised. Only web surfers who knew to log on to Apple.com could find out more about the iPhone.
Coming after its successful spots for the iPod during the Super Bowl, the Oscars were an especially crucial time for Apple to build awareness. "The iPod in general is so pervasive that for a new product like iPhone, we would've thought they'd have more integration with their TV spot," Mr. Obeck said.
Other big winners cited by SendTec for the year's second-most-watched live event (after the Super Bowl) included Dove, which rolled out a much-hyped user-generated campaign starring Sara Ramirez of "Grey's Anatomy" and featuring a call-to-action plug for its DoveCreamOil.com site. MasterCard's latest "Priceless" campaign also solicited consumer-generated content, while Cadillac took a BlackBerry approach by encouraging viewers to log on to share their Cadillac stories a la Andy Garcia, who stars in the spot.
Those who didn't take advantage of search marketing, according to SendTec, were Kodak, whose Kodak Kiosk did not turn up any helpful links if viewers plugged those words into a search; Discovery Channel, which pulled out every stop for its multiplatform "Planet Earth" campaign except for paid search; and Coldwater Creek, whose flowery campaign left viewers confused as to what was being advertised.
'Missing the point'
Overall, executives at SendTec would have liked to have seen more marketers consider search for their campaigns. "Some significant advertisers are still missing the point of multichannel marketing," said Tim Daly, senior VP-marketing strategy at SendTec. "More than half of the commercials that aired lacked a website URL within the spot that would have allowed the consumers to find out more if the 30 seconds or so provided didn't deliver the complete message. Some advertisers just aren't giving proper consideration to the negative perceptions of consumers when they cannot go online at their leisure and are unable to find out more."