Online contest woos investors

If anything proves that human beings are a curious lot, it's the latest direct marketing gimmick from Toronto's Globe Interactive - and its agency Proximity Canada - to promote online stock analysis Web site

If anything proves that human beings are a curious lot, it’s the latest direct marketing gimmick from Toronto’s Globe Interactive – and its agency Proximity Canada – to promote online stock analysis Web site

In what is being touted as the site’s biggest campaign since its May 1999 launch, Globe Interactive has set out to lure potential Canadian investors to with unique ‘encoded’ game pieces – delivered offline via flyers – and the chance to win weekly prizes and a $25,000 portfolio.

The direct response initiative and eight-week online contest are extensions of parent company’s pervasive Red Dot branding campaign, created by BBDO Canada, and are designed to tap into the RRSP season, where investors’ interest in their portfolios are arguably at an all-time high.

The gimmick? Small acetate ‘decoder cards’ featuring a jumble of nonsensical characters that only reveal themselves when placed against a colour field found on a particular URL were included with FSIs in several Canadian business magazines, as well as the Globe & Mail newspaper.

The pieces are designed to let prospects know whether they are eligible to enter an online draw for a $25,000 portfolio. Business publications like Canadian Business, IE Money and Profit, among others, served as ideal vehicles to reach the site’s target – Internet-savvy, active investors with household incomes of more than $60K, says Jennifer Howe, marketing manager for Globe Interactive. While the effort was nationwide, with one million pieces sent out, emphasis was put on Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton, she says. Everyone, naturally, is eligible.

‘We wanted to give it a twist for online use,’ says Howe of the decoder card element to the FSI.

The idea of marrying the offline and online media came from Mike McGovern, vice-president creative director at Proximity, the interactive division of BBDO Canada. McGovern, who hails from San Francisco, is not ashamed to admit that the idea isn’t exactly unique. In fact, he says the jumbled acetate cards were used previously as game pieces for several dot-coms in his old city. And while he knows of an in-store retail program that featured the device in Canada, he isn’t aware of it being used anywhere else.

‘We think we’re the first ones to do it,’ he says.

Whether or not it was the first acetate-game-piece-wielding FSI in the country, it seems to have struck a chord with the target audience.

‘We’re really pleased with the results so far,’ says Howe, adding that Globe Interactive projects 50,000 entries as the final tally of the initiative, which ran from January 22 to March 19.

‘We knew we could let the site speak for itself,’ says Mary Ruf, vice-president, account manager for Proximity, adding the objective was simply to drive traffic to the site. Using data gleaned from other similar clients, the agency decided that inserts were the most efficient method to generate leads. Working with online contest supplier Toronto-based, the agency came up with the $25,000 portfolio prize.

The online contest had several additional enticements: users could earn extra ballots by referring friends, taking a tour of the online portfolio tracker tool and/or registering a portfolio with the site.

Users could also access the online contest using several different Internet entry points (URLs), allowing the companies to track prospects – the agency and N5R created several tiers for that purpose. First, Globe Interactive could track the source of a prospect through 14 individual links (13 were publications and one was from a URL used in online newsletters and several rented e-mail lists). The company could also determine the number of unique visitors to the site, the number who registered for the contest and the number who actually took the final step and registered their portfolio online in the site’s portfolio tracker area. (In doing so, contestants received five more ballots.)

‘We also have some behavioural information on them,’ says Ruf. For example, one of the questions on the contest entry form asked how often entrants tracked their portfolios. Results at press time indicated that 45% of entrants check their registered portfolios daily, 27% weekly and 16% monthly.

The wealth of information gleaned from the contest may be used for future marketing efforts, says Howe. While she is quick to point out that the site’s privacy policy is strict – no email addresses or information will be sold – the information can be used for highly targeted future communications between and its audience. Sending out information of interest to investors becomes even more effective if a company can target specific communications to specific groups, she says. For example, the same communication might not be relevant to investors who take a more active daily approach to investing over those who sit back and let the market run its course.

Currently, the site boasts several hundred thousand portfolio users across the country, according to Howe. Communication on a monthly basis with this audience is essential for building the brand and, hopefully, encouraging more use of the site. So far, 60% of contest registrants have opted in to receive the newsletter, she says.