Here’s a classic example of brilliant advertising creative executed horribly online. According to MediaPost:
Priceline.com has changed the way it uses spokesman William Shatner in its ads; rather than playing himself, he has morphed into the character of chief negotiating officer.
Here’s a memo to the Priceline folks:
- First, ingenious idea to have Shatner in character. Your creative agency is doing its job. It made MediaPost “Out to Launch” Editor Amy Corr laugh outloud. Me too.
- The ads are funny, retro and reinforce the value proposition of Priceline. It’s your negotiator. It wants you to save money even more than you do.
Now the problem… this whole thing manifests itself horribly online.
- The videos are all buried on Priceline with some ridiculous URL. Very memorable: http://tickets.priceline.com/promo/shatner_pcln_negotiator.asp?irefid=HPFEATURE&irefclickid=NEGOTIATOR2
- More importantly, the videos are all available via Quicktime and Windows. I couldn’t get either to stream, and had to resort to going to YouTube to find rogue copies (they’re already up).
- None of this is seach-engine optimized. My guess is this blog entry ends up getting more organic traffic than the campaign.
Ugh. This doesn’t need to be so complicated. When the agency finishes the shoot, they hire an online specialist. Here are a few things a good interactive agency of record might have done:
- Forget paying the agency $500K (a guess) to over-engineer a campaign micro site that is user hostile. There’s a reason YouTube’s hot. It’s quite easy to find and play videos.
- Upload the videos on all of the video sites. Don’t wait until people do that for you. Otherwise you’ll find spoofs that get more traffic than your videos. They’ll be there whether you like it or not, but don’t rely on them. Use a cool username like “PricelineNegotiator” not something stupid where you’re pretending to be a regular consumer.
- Create a simple web page with a unique URL (PricelineNegotiator.com) and embed the videos on that site. That will take about 10 minutes and $50. Park a few more domains like ShatnerNegotiator, PricelineShatnerNegotiator, etc., and have them redirect to the main site. This will help ensure that Google searches take people to a site Priceline controls instead of to the video some guy uploaded to YouTube. Too late for this because as I type I can feel someone parking those URLs.
- Link to this campaign page with a callout on Priceline’s homepage. But with text not an image. If you must use an image because the designers are too vogue for text, at least“image-tag” it so the first words are Shatner, Priceline, Negotiator, Television, Advertisement. That will help secure high organic listings on Google & Yahoo. Remember that Google places much more emphasis on those first words of an image tag.
- Improve that paid search campaign. You may be wasting money buying text ads against “Shatner” (at least the text ads are customized to the campaign). Even if those have a low CPC, you’re neglecting to buy terms like “Priceline advertisement” or “Shatner commercial.”
- Develop the campaign more online. Give the Negotiator a MySpace account. Shoot some extra video for online only. Build some buzz. Put some online media dollars against it. Do some online outreach to blogs, discussion boards, etc.
- Create a YouTube identity and have someone respond to the community as Shatner’s character might. Don’t pretend you’re really Shatner. We know better. But give the persona an online presence.
What makes this so unforgivable is that Priceline is an online entity and this whole thing is missing a lot of new media basics. By the way- my criticism here is totally from the sidelines. I don’t know any of the agencies involved, and I have a day job so I’m not trying to get work.
MediaPost reports that Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners created the campaign, and Ocean Media handled the media buy. I’d never heard of either of these, so I Googled the former- it’s BSSP.com. They have a division that does web stuff called SFInteractive. I’d be willing to bet that someone at SFI knows all this stuff, but the two divisions didn’t collaborate effectively. Or that everyone decided the online stuff would be “phase 2,” which you can’t do anymore. In fairness, this is complete speculation.
Why am I burnt about this? Because many companies are consolidating and making offline agencies do online work. But the traditional agencies are still woefully behind on a medium that’s almost a decade old. And even if they have the online talent in another division, it’s often untapped.