Interactive campaign

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American Express

Agency: Digitas, New York

Small-business owner, renowned LA hair stylist and reality TV star Jonathan Antin was the big draw, but visitors weren't clicking through to a special Web site for American Express Open to get hair-care tips.

They were looking for ways to better run their business, regardless of whether it was in the cattle industry, language translation or construction. The handsomely designed site offered a wealth of interactive information for small-business owners on such critical subjects as real estate, staffing, cash flow and equipment purchases.

"We borrowed from Jonathan Antin's equity because he is better known than the average small-business owner. He brought a lot of credibility to the site," said American Express spokesman Tom Sclafani. "The site served as a launching pad for our products and services."

The site also engendered a strong sense of community among small-business owners, who eagerly posted comments, suggestions and lessons learned the hard way on the site.

The unscripted TV program on Bravo called "Blow Out" chronicled Antin's quest to open a second salon, this one in Beverly Hills. The show ran throughout the summer in conjunction with the site, which American Express described as a "sitelet," or a site within a site.

Readers of online business publications who clicked on the American Express Open banner next found themselves on the sitelet where they could select from one of five small-business people. Antin, naturally, was most popular, especially right after the show would air on Tuesday night, Sclafani said. American Express was one of the sponsors of the TV show.

"It was an example of how we try to create a 360-degree experience for our customers and prospects based on the sponsorship of the show," Sclafani said. The summer before, American Express Open was one of the sponsors of the reality TV show "The Restaurant," starring well-known New York chef Rocco DiSpirito.

The site featuring Antin saw a significant increase in total visits compared with the previous summer's site. The number of return visitors was nearly double. Sclafani attributed the increased traffic to the fact that a broad cross section of industries was represented on this year's site as well as richer multimedia content. "It was a very sticky site," he said. M

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