Beer.com’s Virtual Bartender

How do you lure 9.3 million unique visitors to your Web site in three weeks? Take the premise of Burger King's widely popular 'Subservient Chicken,' then substitute the chicken for Tammy, a 'Virtual Bartender' who's willing to please.

How do you lure 9.3 million unique visitors to your Web site in three weeks? Take the premise of Burger King’s widely popular ‘Subservient Chicken,’ then substitute the chicken for Tammy, a ‘Virtual Bartender’ who’s willing to please.

That’s the winning formula behind Beer.com‘s viral campaign. The effort began with 10 e-mail invites sent to pals of Beer.com staff in November. Web traffic increased 800%; the site regained its number one status under a Google search for ‘beer’ and

advertisers from the U.K., Spain and Italy bought ad space.

More than 10,000 visitors joined the pub club, a section (where membership is free) that grants visitors full access to the site and over 2,500 signed up for Beer.com e-mail addresses. The campaign was such a success that Beer.com created a fan club that sells Tammy souvenirs and increased the commands she can perform.

Peers Tom Short, VP creative services at Calgary’s Rare Method, and Tony Chapman, president at Toronto’s Capital C, step up to the virtual bar, place their orders and rate the campaign.

Concept

TS: Sex sells – or does it? The virtual bartender at Beer.com is a voyeuristic, fun campaign that is perfectly suited for the audience [19- to 25-year-old males] and the Web site.

TC: The advertisers that Beer.com attracts are online casino operators, dating services, beer fridges, plus the merchandise that they sell through their online store. Their strategy of dramatically increasing the number of sticky male eyeballs, through their virtual bartender, is brilliant. An outstanding example of viral marketing.

Interactive

TS: This was more fun than bossing a man in a chicken suit around. Strangely, chick fight was the best command – try it.

The Internet is a social animal and it did as [well as] any provocative, well-done product would do through a small initial e-mail. Still it did not make it easy to forward the site to a friend – so it missed even greater results. The core audience will come back but it is a novelty that will lose its appeal. You can easily search for all the cheats on line to get the commands – so you can blow through the tricks fast.

TC: Because of the simplicity of the controls, users stick around. The bravado attached with viral marketing is how few seeded e-mails are required to create an online phenomenon. I have to believe that the investment they made justified more than 10 e-mails to launch it. At the very least the initial 10 were most likely targeted to friends, and included a strong call to action to forward it on to as many people as possible. The numbers they realized were sensational.

The results

TS: As a brand campaign serving the target audience it achieves high marks. [But] often the hype of a campaign like this overshadows the primary goal unless the call to action is clear to the user. I had fun, the execution was great, and then I left. Hmmmm.

[It got] lots of visitors but are they the right visitors? Old guys like me are not the market, yet I did visit the site and tell other old guys like me about it. The impressions [beer.com is] getting may not be what it’s targeting, resulting in zero value to advertisers. Going on a road tour for poster signing events and/or hosting exclusive events with the VB would be the next best thing, and then you would get the high-value audience to sign up.

TC: I was surprised they didn’t ask viewers to register, even as an incentive to unlock new commands. This would have given them a rich database to mine – in terms of releasing the next version of VB, supporting their advertising base, and their online store.

The creds:

Agency: D3

Client: Beer.com

Copywriters: Rick Brown, Paul MacLaren, Jason McCann, Andrew MacDonald

Creative director: Rick Brown

Interactive/Web development: Shaun Larkin

Video production: three60 Communications

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