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Marketing: Converting Web Surfers To Buyers: ONLINE PROMOTION

2 minute read
Leslie Whitaker

Men not only love watching it; they love to chat about it: the Super Bowl. That insight enabled Internet marketer Rishad Tobaccowala, 42, to put some fizz back into the sales of struggling Miller beer and devise a new approach to online advertising–a sales medium that has otherwise proved spectacularly disappointing so far.

As executive vice president of Chicago-based Starcom Mediavest, Tobaccowala develops “passion marketing” campaigns to engage consumer enthusiasms. His approach moves beyond “relevance,” the current industry buzzword for tapping into a sense of utility, to “resonance,” which aims for multimedia harmonies. Marketers have to combine online with traditional advertising, he says: “Online-only is a one-trick pony. And one-trick ponies are dead horses.”

A math major from India with an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, Tobaccowala loves numbers. His discovery that more than 8 million men ages 21 to 34 search the Net for Super Bowl-related information gave Tobaccowala his cue for a campaign to drive Miller’s brand awareness via the Net.

Closed out of TV ad space on the game by rival Anheuser-Busch, Miller instead sponsored the NFL website superbowl.com and ran ads on two other sites where the Super Bowl was being discussed. Tobaccowala’s team also designed an online poll for superbowl.com and promoted it in newspapers and on billboards. In each ad, the dot in each dotcom was replaced with a Miller can. Final score: recognition of Miller as an official sponsor jumped more than 50%, and sales increased by double digits.

To help promote Nintendo’s Perfect Dark game, released last year, he again looked to the numbers. High school and college-age males, the game enthusiasts Nintendo sought, had three top priorities: sex, entertainment and finding a job. Tobaccowala tapped into No. 3 by creating a tantalizing want ad for a job at Datadyne, a fictitious company, and then placing the ad on monster.com and other job sites. Because the ad was done in a tongue-in-cheek manner, no one objected, says Tobaccowala. Job seekers were led to a website dedicated to the game. The ploy, he says, created early “buzz and heat” for Perfect Dark. By wiring the Web into traditional media, Tobaccowala has found a way to redeem a faltering newcomer.

–By Leslie Whitaker

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