Sun 'blitzes' Web with ads for live Webcast

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Getting click-through on a banner is challenging enough. Imagine how difficult it is to get someone to click through, sign up and attend a live, hour-long, online event.

At Sun Microsystems' latest Web event, the Network Computing 04Q3 Web Event, thousands of people in its target audience-system administrators, developers, executives and students-not only showed up but stayed and requested additional information.

"We offered free software, books, white papers, training and promotions for our product-50% off here or `buy 10 and get one free'," said Ingrid Van Den Hoogen, VP-brand experience and community marketing at Sun. "People always knew they were looking at a Sun ad because all of the ads were color coordinated. Even our landing pages were tailored to match each particular ad."

But the biggest difference between this campaign and Sun's past event marketing efforts was the choice of venue and reach. Before this quarter, the majority of Sun's advertising budget went to offline media, including print and television. This time, the company did a 180-degree turn, betting nearly all its advertising dollars on the Web.

"We'll still do offline, but online is where our audience resides," explained Van Den Hoogen. "They're hanging out on sites, involved in [online] discussion groups. We're targeting very specific publications such as Cnet and, OSCN (Open Source Community Network)," she said, adding,"that's where our audience is."

Regarding reach, Sun's most recent campaign featured a move that some might have considered risky: Its online ads peppered the Web during the entire hour the live event was broadcast.

"We owned every site we could imagine from 12 to one on that day. We blitzed the Web, basically," said Van Den Hoogen. "We owned the hour. If you were anywhere on the Web at that time you were going to see, `Join the chat.' This is the first time we did it and we put a lot into it."

The risk paid off. Sun's pre-event ads pushed 45,000 people to its site at a cost of less than 50 cents per landing page. To date, more than 39,000 unique visitors-about 30% more than Sun's previous quarter's event attendance-have viewed the launch program at a cost per visit of about $1.50. Even more important, 7,000 of those visitors opted in to Sun's community programs, "several thousand" signed up for free software and "several thousand" also said they wanted a sales rep to call them, said Van Den Hoogen.

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