Webbed feats: Flash spot drives Playdium Web response

In our new 'Webbed Feat' column, Strategy Direct+Interactive wants to bring to light stellar Canadian digital applications, formats or campaigns - ones that push the e-marketing envelope. If you have any, please contact bjohnson@brunico.com.

In our new ‘Webbed Feat’ column, Strategy Direct+Interactive wants to bring to light stellar Canadian digital applications, formats or campaigns – ones that push the e-marketing envelope. If you have any, please contact bjohnson@brunico.com.

Flash. It’s been credited with changing the face of Web marketing. Indeed, most rich media ads, campaigns and games today owe their very existence to it.

Able to make trucks drive off Web pages, and frilly little snowflakes dance across your browser – and allow viewers to play with those graphics that sing and dance on their screens – Macromedia’s authoring tool and player is reaching omnipotent proportions among marketers, agencies and surfers, alike.

Naturally, given the technology’s flexibility, most Internet creatives have attempted to put their own spin on the technology, creating unique Flash-based superstititials, and Vokens, and now the nextAD.

Developed by 4th Wall Media of Toronto, the nextAD is a neatly packaged Flash-based commercial designed, at least in part, to wow recipients into paying attention. And it’s highly trackable by 4thWall’s exclusive tracking software HATS (hyper ad tracking system).

The ‘convergent-based interactive commercial’ is created using rich media, or Flash, and subsequently built into a file format – a proprietary process – that can be seen by virtually anyone with a computer, says Mike Girgis, CEO of 4th Wall Media. Members of a client’s database are first sent an e-mail containing a link to a download of the executable file, and a certificate of authenticity to support the download.

‘The certification is meant to verify and address [file format reluctance]. Don’t forget here too that you are sending it only to people who are expecting it.’

As for the possibility of corporate servers blocking the message attachment, Girgis says there is no attachment at all. ‘Essentially you’re getting a certification message along with a button or link to a server that accesses the file.’

Once downloaded, the nextAD – which can appear in any shape or logo – starts with a 15- to 20-second audio and/or video-enabled introduction. The ‘spots,’ which serve as mini Web sites highlighting key nuggets of information important to the particular audience, appear to float on a viewer’s computer screen. Users can interact by printing a coupon directly from the application, forwarding it to a friend, or submitting their own e-mail for future marketing purposes.

While it won’t release specific results, Mississauga-based Playdium has used the nextAD for two recent campaigns, and it intends to use it for several more, according to Greg Obradovich, national promotions manager.

‘We’ve got an admirable database – but we didn’t know what to do with it. We aspire to be an entertainment facility, so previously, when we were sending out text documents or html e-mails, it didn’t make sense – and our response levels were very poor.’

Playdium needed something attention-grabbing and incentive-based to effectively market to the 12- to 24-year-old target, he says. In its first nextAD campaign, registered consumers were targeted and encouraged to print off a coupon from the nextAD to get a discount to visit a Playdium location mid-week, he says. The promo, which lasted two weeks and took place earlier this Spring, encouraged such a response that the entertainment company has already moved into a second phase – one that includes about eight nextADs to support, among other things, the upcoming Playdium Band Wars.

Girgis says the nextAD generates response rates on average of between 5% to 10% – the percentage who receive an e-mail and interact with the downloaded commercial.

‘With Playdium, the response rate for the second execution is three or four times higher already because they [database members] now know it’s coming. Once you start dealing with an active group, the response rates are much higher.’

But the bread and butter of the company comes from the tracking it’s able to do using HATS, which monitors overall behaviour patterns, including unique visitors, time spent, where users interacted, average viewing time, who it was forwarded to, and so on – broken down by month, day and hour says Girgis. Clients are provided with real-time online access to the results being generated by the campaign – allowing them to refine the ‘spot’ dynamically, and at any time during the campaign.

In addition to Playdium, 4th Wall Media’s client roster includes music group Big Wreck, W’s show My Messy Bedroom, and the 2001 Tara Time Warp, a Ryerson Radio and Television Arts awards event.

‘Our goal is to establish nextAD as another tool in the marketing toolbox – in addition to TV, radio, Web ads. The biggest challenge is educating people on the merits of online and interactive advertising,’ says Girgis.

‘And ultimately, we’re looking at how we can apply the product to interactive television, kiosks, wireless and even digital radio. We want it to be a cross-platform advertising tool – the interactive equivalent of the 30-second television spot.’