Leaping Into the Non-Paid Advertising Ring

Why Small Agencies Must Embrace Non-Traditional Media

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There's a proverb in the Bible that says that there is nothing new under the sun. That's something to remember when you think you've struck upon
Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
a completely original idea. To be fresh today depends not just upon the idea but how it's delivered. For example, non-paid media is an opportunity that small agencies should be well versed in by now. Like it or not, communicating outside traditional media is no longer a guerilla tactic. The past two years our agency has had a revolutionary change in the way we approach this opportunity. I don't feel we're ahead of the curve, but we're trying. We have no choice but to be ahead if we want to compete on national level. Any agency that is not clearly comfortable utilizing non-traditional media is going to pay a stiff penalty in the near future. That's the dark prediction. The silver lined one is that we small agencies that do utilize it are going to do better work and be more competitive for clients who feel that this expertise is only found at larger agencies.

We just completed a major brand campaign launch for Taos Ski Valley. It was initially launched with only a
A mysterious website with a countdown clock: ThePurification.org.
A mysterious website with a countdown clock: ThePurification.org.
mysterious website with a countdown clock: ThePurification.org. Technically this site was an ARG (alternative reality game) designed to give clues that would reveal who was sponsoring the site. Dozens of guerilla tactics were used in key U.S. cities to seed visitation to the site and the results were quick. Though the site was up for only six weeks it generated a half dozen blogs by people determined to solve the mystery. It became the first listing on Google within two weeks of its launch and was in the top 60,000 visited worldwide with hundreds of thousands of hits. The site is now a listing on Wikipedia. It is a part of an experience, not an ad. The effort was to communicate a sincere message of Taos' brand. We wanted people to respond to the emotion of our message, not who was the source of the message. This message was true to the skiing experience that is unique to Taos. It is a mantra for those who are loyal to what Taos stands for in spite of the masses embracing the Disneyfication of ski resorts. Obviously non-paid media was the perfect place to deliver this message first. Traditional advertising began at the apex of this non-paid media effort.

It's too soon to evaluate the results of this campaign but one thing is certain: It was an invigorating effort for the client. Seeing their passion voiced in this way has their entire company filled with pride and renewed enthusiasm. Using this genre we were able to voice something sincere about Taos that paid media couldn't do. I believe that's one of the biggest opportunities non-paid media ideas offer.

Agencies that aren't looking into non-paid media opportunities for their clients are limiting the bang for their buck. It is a proven opportunity for small agencies to move the needle farther for a client with limited budgets. I'm sure many small agencies are taking advantage of the new world of communication with programs of their own, but I also know that we can perceive this as virgin territory. I know of some of our peer agencies that are well versed in this area and I'm sure there are others. I'd love to hear from you.
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