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MARKETER: Cox Interactive Media


CRITIQUE: Outdoor boards, TV spots, sides of buses and T-shirts; URLs are everywhere. We've wondered how well an outdoor board with a big Web address plastered on it works. Do mobile 'net freaks plug their Palm Pilots into their digital cell phones and surf right on over while they're stuck in traffic?

Probably not. So Cox Interactive Media is stilting the odds for its cross-media promotion for its Web site by giving Internet users the Web's real killer app: a secret decoder ring.

OK, so it's not actually a ring; it's a piece of green, yellow and blue plastic, but you get the point. The decoder is distributed with 534,000 issues of The Sporting News during a monthlong giveaway of Free Stuff. Users hold the decoder up to a page, where a password is revealed. If it matches their game piece, they win. The grand prize is a trip for two to any baseball game in the continental U.S. In a test of known Internet users last fall, a direct mail promotion drove 46% to the site.

So far the response to the real contest has only been about 1.2%, which isn't great but isn't bad considering the nature of the promotion. And that's just in the first week.

Granted, it's a bit of a letdown for those without the decoder. 3D glasses don't work (we tried). Users can write Cox for a piece, but without it they've got an even worse chance of winning than the Cubs.

WHO CREATED IT: in-house

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