Category Archives: microsite

The 128 failures of George W. Bush?

As the pregnant U.S. election nears its delivery date this month there are plenty of cries rising from both sides of the political chamber. The left scores one with this microsite listing 128 executive branch “failures” since 2000. The site was built by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan news organization criticized in the past for favoring rightist political groups. This go-around, however, George W. Bush gets berated with hyperlinks to complaints spurred by emails from 4,800 government employees.

Left or right, right or wrong, the microsite is notable for how compelling it is as a form of political commentary. It’s branded under “broken government,” certain to grab attention. The 128 articles form a powerful argument, and in-depth analysis — based on government reports and wide sources of journalism — create a McKinsey-ish fact-based pyramid. Whatever your story, when you build it on detailed sources the argument is hard to topple.

(In the spirit of fair play we’ll note the conservatives’ complaints regarding the left soon.)

Via Guy Kawasaki.

Finally: PNC Bank reinvents the boring checkbook

Ah, to be 20something again and not know a damn thing about managing money. We’ve all been there, yet remarkably few banks have done anything to help teens and Gen Y learn how to control cash.

PNC Bank steps into the void by rebranding the basics of finance. Screw the bank statement — PNC’s Virtual Wallet recasts checking and savings accounts into a simple “money bar.” The service creates three types of accounts: scheduled out, money you have to set aside for bills; free, money you get to play with; and reserve, money you may want to save for a car or house someday.

The service is loaded with intuitive features that we wish we had at age 22. A calendar forecasts how much money you’ll have in the future when your next paycheck clears; reminders give you a nudge, like Mom, that it’s time to pay a bill. Why don’t other banks do this?

If you know anyone young and carefree who keeps their waitress tips in a ceramic jar, PNC’s rebranding of banking offers more than spin — it’s a clear, refreshing way to learn to get control of your finances.

Photo: Kuayvista

The artful suspense of Gillette’s kiss

Sure, it may look like sex in advertising when Gillette promotes razors by showing a curvaceous British woman in an unbuttoned blouse and exposed bra talking about how to kiss.

But look again. This is really a case study in suspense.

In an age of ADHD, where consumers quickly scan content before clicking away, Gillette’s new microsite uses tension to keep viewers aboard — and to make an enduring impression. Tension, or suspense, is the communicative act of making the reader want more. Tension is why Stephen King novels are so readable, and why those first Sony Bravia TV colored-balls ads worked (and why the new foam spots don’t). In your own advertising, ask yourself — what are we doing (beyond sex, of course) to make viewers stay tuned? What could we do to tease and entice and make our brand imprint sink in?

Young men in their 20s and 30s may hope for more to be revealed in Gillette’s web tease. Stick around, guys, but only if you shave.

Pull your web site out of the Briar Patch

This week we met with several executives to discuss how to acquire new customers online — the usually mix of offline media, Google, and ad networks pointing to the mission-critical web page. We were met with enthusiasm, plus the common barrier of, well, we already have a web site and the development team is working on it … meaning, nothing may happen for months. Their web site is caught in a Briar Patch.

The Briar Patch, you recall, is the maze of thorny bushes to which Br’er Rabbit escapes in classic Uncle Remus stories. The tale comes from the American South, but actually has its roots deep in Central Africa, from folklore trickster stories in which the rabbit represents someone faced with adversity who uses his wits to beat a snarly puzzle. And if that doesn’t sound familiar, well, you’ve never sat in a web design committee.

The fastest way out of a web tangle, we suggest, is to do what leading companies do — create a simple microsite, test advertising to drive traffic there, and see what you get. Great examples abound among automotive and oil companies, which are falling over themselves to reposition their cars or fuel as environmentally friendly. The benefits of a nimble microsite:

+ You don’t have to reposition the entire company to meet a specific need (“I’m concerned about the environment”)
+ You don’t have to change your entire site to go live (“Hey, look, a clean simple site that links back to the main one”)
+ You attract a self-selecting audience (only people searching for this topic will find the microsite)

Toyota, Chevy and Shell all have “green” microsites. Never mind that some of the claims are simple greenwashing; Chevy, for example, brags that its hybrid Tahoe SUV was named Green Car of the Year for getting 22 MPG highway; you can drop a Duramax diesel stock engine into a Hummer and get 22 MPG also.

Doesn’t matter. These sites attract only auto enthusiasts trying to appease guilt about their carbon-emitting ways. The ads driving traffic appear in online sites targeting affluent, educated, liberal readers (David Pogue’s column in NYT) or in glossy print targeting the same (Harper’s). Only those who really care will find out that Volkswagen offered to offset your carbon footprint.

It’s a good case study in tailoring the message to a subset of your audience. The web is one key to converting specific consumer interests into sales action. You don’t have only one brochure. Why in the world are you hinging your online hopes on only one web site?

Add ‘microsite’ to your 2008 to-do list

One of our goals in 2008 is to encourage clients to rethink their web landing pages. As media planners, we focus on the front end of advertising — reaching specific demographic groups most likely to want your product, for example, men age 35-44 who are weekend warriors likely to blow out a knee and need orthopedics, or the women in their lives who guide the majority of healthcare decisions.

We don’t build web pages and so have no vested interest in saying this: But let’s face it. Your web site probably needs work.

The challenge with advertising, especially advertising online, is that you can lead a prospective patient or customer to your web site — but what happens when they get there? Many web sites are ill-structured to convert a visitor to a qualified “lead.” And web sites are not always easy to modify. Smaller businesses don’t revamp web sites often, and large bureaucracies often find changes mired in Steering Committee or IT meetings.

The quickest solution is to build a microsite, such as the bariatrics site above. This concept is simple — build a small, nimble subset of your brand, focus it around a specific customer or patient need, and launch quickly. Microsites have several benefits:

+ You can typically complete the entire project within 6-8 weeks
+ You avoid nasty internal debates over how to improve the current vast main site
+ It extends your reach on the internet, creating more “points of entry” for customers
+ You can rapidly add a visible lead form — to collect the visitor’s name, email, phone and ZIP — to build a prospect database
+ You can show your boss, hey, look, we actually did something this year (Admit it. That would feel good.)

Some marketing executives shy away from this concept, certain that their master web site is enough. This isn’t the case. If you pull a report of the first pages visitors hit within your web site, you’ll find the majority are landing deep inside — because most web users start at Google, and Google’s search engine throws them past your home page into the innards.

A microsite replicates what people want when using the internet — finding information rapidly about what they are searching for. Worth considering in 2008. Plus, it makes internet and media planners like us much happier when the leads we deliver to your web site find a simple way to give you information, so you can turn them into customers.

The power of microsites (even for Mac-heads who hate Office)

Microsoft’s new funky microsite gets an A+ for animation and flair, as it touts Office apps to Mac design lovers. Points off though for second-grade English and film clips with no audio.

In your next meeting, try tabling your current site spaghetti discussion and ask the question: What could we do with a simple microsite to extend our brand to audiences that are hard to persuade? $30k and three weeks later, you might have a little gem driving new business. Try starting here.

Tx Advergirl.

The creatives got it right

Media planners hate to admit it, but sometimes creative shops get it right. A crazed funky-town agency we know recently launched an integrated media campaign for a regional hospital in Connecticut. SEM, radio, newsletters, and a brilliant new microsite all pulled together for a social mission. Heck, I got hit with three impressions pulling me to the web site and I live 35 miles away — someone was planning.

Nice work, Plaid.