SITE DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO UPSTAGING MARKETING GOALS

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MARKETER: Riffage.com

WHERE TO FIND IT: MTV.com, others

CRITIQUE: "Careless Whisper" drove us away from radio. The George Michael tune saturated both AM and FM radio. It was impossible to flee.

Custom-CD site Riffage.com addresses omni-present pop music in its online ads. The banners are timely, clever and really funny.

The ads feature a Mad-lib-like pulldown menu where surfers can choose all the things they'd rather do than live "La Vida Loca," like "snort Drano" or "sleep with Newt Gingrich." Riffage presents an alternative to over-played songs by promoting music from bands that will likely never be heard on radio.

Yet the part of the banner that matters most -- the offer of a free CD compilation of 150 mp3 songs -- fades dangerously into the background of an otherwise solid ad.

A common criticism among marketers and agencies alike is that banners don't offer enough room in which to work. True enough, which should only emphasize the need to drive the message home quickly and clearly. And if Riffage.com chart-topping artists like Mark Ferguson's Marmalade Trio want to get their music heard, the site had better start shouting its message a lot more loudly.

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