Targeting the pros: WTN viral campaign enlists buyers to reach buyers

Agency/media company

Agency/media company

Taylor George Design


Women’s Television Network


WTN (trade campaign)

Media budget

$20,000 (included $9,000 for prizing)

Media used



June 11 to September 30, 2001

Media team

Magda Zachara, media director, Taylor George

The background

The WTN trade campaign was developed to target media planners, buyers and client marketers. We needed to keep WTN top-of-mind during the key up-front media planning and buying period and communicate the benefits of advertising on WTN when targeting women.

The key objectives were:

* Extending the WTN fall launch event in May and supporting WTN sales throughout the summer buying period.

* Reaching primary contacts at agency media departments with a high-impact WTN programming message, raising awareness of new and returning key promotables.

* Keeping WTN top-of-mind for agencies and clients targeting women.

* Developing a database of media planners and buyers for future DM or e-mail communication opportunities.

The key challenges we faced were:

* No existing list or database of media planners and buyers was available and no professional registry is maintained indicating the number of media professionals in Canada.

* There was no budget for hiring a company to develop a list.

* There are no trade publications exclusively targeting media planners and buyers.

* A high turnover rate in large media departments results in a short database shelf life.

The plan

Due to the tight budget and the hard-to-reach target we had to be very creative in our approach, so we developed a Web-based viral campaign. With this campaign we not only met all of our objectives but had the media planners and buyers do most of the work for us. This proved to be a very cost-effective way to promote awareness of WTN programming among this target group.

The WTN Media Challenge

A five-phase Web-based contest was created. Each of the first four phases had a $1,000 shopping spree prize, with the final phase dangling a $5,000 spree (the $9,000 total for prizing came out of the media plan).

New phases were introduced every other week, but we allowed new players to go back to previous phases as well. This ensured that participants were exposed to the WTN programming highlighted in all five phases. The length of this contest also ensured WTN messaging was being disseminated to the media planners throughout key planning and buying months of May through August.

In each of the first four phases, up to five different WTN programs were highlighted. Each participant was challenged to select the show that he or she felt would deliver the highest ratings in fall 2001. Specific target demographics and timing were provided. The winner of each phase was selected randomly from all correct entries for that phase.

The last phase listed all of the programs highlighted to date and challenged participants to rank the top five by predicted rating.

The campaign

Once the Web-based Media Challenge competition was developed, we had to make sure our key demographic knew about it. First, we sent an e-mail with a Media Challenge link to the WTN sales department’s existing agency contacts. This infiltrated a few agencies, but we wanted to further increase the reach and flesh out the database.

Since we did not have a complete list of e-mail addresses for Canada’s media planners, buyers and marketers, we placed small ads in the online newsletters Marketing Online Daily, Adnews and Strategy Preview Online. The teaser ads invited media professionals to play the WTN Media Challenge and win up to $9,000 in prizes. Running these ads every two weeks served two purposes: first to remind players a new phase had started, and secondly to attract new participants, resulting in increased opportunity for opt-ins.

Once a participant entered the contest, he or she was given the opportunity to provide up to five e-mail addresses for media friends and colleagues. For every address provided, the participant received another entry, increasing the odds of winning. Each of the contacts provided received a link to the Media Challenge and an opportunity to enter.

The results

The success of this campaign is demonstrated by the impressive response levels and open rates. Through discussions with various associations and media councils, we were able to estimate the total number of media personnel in Canada. The database of media contacts we developed, which included the unique entrants as well as the contacts provided by them, was equivalent to 68% of all media personnel in the country.

Furthermore, 65% of all the e-mail recipients clicked through to our Web page and 75% of those entered the Media Challenge. Overall the Media Challenge campaign enjoyed a click-through rate of 74% and an entry rate of 67%. This includes the click-throughs on the small ads that initiated the Challenge as well as the e-mailed links.

From a WTN ad sales perspective, the campaign was a winner: WTN was able to post a significant increase in sales in the third quarter of 2001, as compared to 2000, and also saw a rise in inquiries about WTN programming.

Judges’ verdict

‘Media planners and buyers are inundated with information, so using a viral e-mail approach (not to mention giving away shopping sprees!) was a great way to connect. The execution thoughtfully addressed the long-term objective of building a database for future initiatives, while delivering on the immediate need to keep WTN top-of-mind during a key planning and buying period.’

‘The care taken to appropriately analyze the results was impressive, and the success of the program was readily evident.’