Best use of interactive media: Winner

Agency/media operation

Agency/media operation

Starcom IP


Diageo Canada


Smirnoff Ice Triple Black

Media used



Less than $100,000


April to June 2003

Media team

Michael DiGiovanni, IP manager, Starcom IP

Emma Herlihy, brand manager RTD’s, Diageo

Theresa McVean, account executive,

The background

In a highly competitive, high-interest category the need to differentiate is imperative. To help increase the brand commitment of its elusive target, Smirnoff launched Smirnoff Ice Triple Black in April.

The objectives were to create purchase intent and trial for Triple Black while continuing to leverage the original Smirnoff Ice brand.

Triple Black targets the non-loyal beer consumer segment: men, legal drinking age to 24. The use of the Internet was a must based upon extensive proprietary, qualitative and quantitative analysis of the target’s media habits and passions.

The brand benefit is: young men crave peer acceptance and do so by using their instincts to earn kudos by seeing and seizing opportunities in unexpected ways. From that we developed the brand-centric consumer insight: beer drinkers have memorable social experiences via sports. Online, Triple Black needed to exemplify masculine social behaviour in order to increase the perception that it is a credible beer alternative.

The strategy was to target consumers while they were engaged in a passion – in this case, the NHL Playoffs – and do so ‘through the back door,’ because the NHL is owned by competitors.

The plan

To achieve our goals, we developed the Smirnoff Ice Triple Black Hockey Game, a highly interactive and rewarding advergame and promotion that would link Triple Black to the NHL Playoffs.

The online hockey trivia game tested users on their hockey knowledge, giving them a chance to win a trip to the NHL Conference Finals.

To help communicate the brand benefit, players who answered three questions in a row correctly received a Triple Black bonus question (worth extra points) that challenged them to select the most appropriate and quick-witted solution to a social dilemma. The game included three rounds of trivia play, with a 10-second Triple Black flash ad run between each round. A challenge-a-friend feature was included to help increase game plays and provide a viral ‘buzz’ element.

The game was featured across and and ran during the hockey playoffs period (April to June). A combination of large, high-impact ad units including skyscrapers, big boxes, and super banners were placed strategically across hockey playoff content to drive users to the game.

To help understand the effect on brand awareness, loyalty and purchase intent, the contest entry field included two mandatory brand research questions.

The results

The promotion was extremely successful with participation well exceeding projections. The game was played by 42,253 unique users an average of 4.7 times. Brand exposure and involvement was very high – the average time spent with the game was over 11 minutes. More than 370,000 Triple Black flash ads played an average of 8.8 times per user and more than 3,000 challenge-a-friend e-mails were sent out.

By the end of the playoffs, a total of 27,982 unique users had entered the contest: the largest volume of entrants for any promotion, in fact, 41% higher then any promo. Not only that, but Smirnoff collected more then 13,000 unique user names wishing to be contacted for future events/promotions.

And the research results? Over 50% of entrants felt that Triple Black was one of their favourite brands, and 6.5% indicated intent for trial.

The judges rave…

‘This plan was very strong and it’s not surprising that it out-delivered expectations. There were two terrific components that thoroughly impressed me: Putting 10-second flash ads between rounds of trivia play, and including mandatory brand research questions in the contest entry field. Well done!’

‘Good use of the budget, creative backdoor marketing, strong viral component, and the results were well documented.’