Ford and Lexus Experiment with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition

For this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, two car companies created unique ad campaigns specifically for the issue, but also extended those print campaign into the online and mobile world through unique added content: Ford, and Lexus.

Ford Dalena Henriques

Ford’s ad for the new 2013 Mustang featured a tease of a model named Dalena Henriques. She only appears once in the magazine, in Ford’s ad, which is odd since most models make repeat appearances throughout the issue. However, there’s a good reason for this oddity: Dalena Henriques is a made-up model that Ford created for their swimsuit spread.

Ford was counting on readers to search for more of Dalena by firing up Google and searching for her name, since that search would more than likely end at DalenaHenriques.com, the only site that existed for this made-up model.

Dalena Henriques

On the site is a collection of additional photos of the car, each with additional, partial glimpses of ‘Dalena’. The photos show off everything from the taillights, wheels and hood vents to the interior, navigation system and door handles, and each includes a pun-filled caption from Dalena as she talks about how excited she was to be featured in the ad.

By guaranteeing that all searches for Dalena Henriques would end up on a site that Ford controlled (at least for a little while until posts like this flooded Google with her name), they were able to direct and control all search results without spending a single dollar on Search Engine Marketing.

Tori Praver Lexus Ad

Lexus decided to go with Tori Praver, an actual swimsuit model, for their ad. For the print version, Tori’s photo was turned into a race track, with ‘curves’ that only the new 2013 Lexus GS F Sport could handle.

While the concept is novel, it’s the extensions of the ad that caught my eye.

As many bikini-filled ads often do, the Lexus campaign included a ‘making of’ video that showed off a few additional views of the car, along with extended views of Tori Praver. (To be fair, this is to be expected, given the intended audience of the issue, and the ad.)

Taking things a step further though, they also released a game for iOS devices called TORI 500, where players were challenged to “see what it’s like to race the all-new Lexus GS around Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Tori Praver”.

Tori 500

Unlike a print ad, which will be viewed briefly while flipping from one page to the next, a mobile game is something that guarantees extended interaction between the user and the brand, and helps to increase the exposure time of the campaign.

Finally, in addition to the game, Lexus also created an app called Super Modeled that lets you take Tori Praver and/or the Lexus GS F Sport and “place these two famous models in virtually any photo on your iPhone”.

Given the recent explosion in popularity of photo editing on the iPhone, this was a smart move by Lexus to take advantage of this trend with a simple app that’s still likely to see heavy use.

Both Ford and Lexus were smart to test out experimental extensions on a large and highly targeted placement like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Regardless of how these extensions perform, the print ads still serve their main purpose in the magazine, and any additional interaction with the campaign through these digital and mobile experiences can be viewed as icing on the cake.

A Shift To Curation

Content Curation

No that long ago, blog writers were the primary curators of content online, and we’d all tune in to see what they’d recommend next. Ads would try to place themselves next to premium content on premium channels, but the connection was loose at best, and readers knew the ads were paying for the placement, so they would still get ignored.

However, as companies realized there was value in being the source of new, interesting and unique content, curation became a viable marketing tactic. Through Twitter, Facebook, and other curation channels, companies would find and share content related to their own products in hopes of attracting the sustained interest of their target market.

Over time, as trust shifted and consumers were more willing to look outside of the traditional sources for new content, additional verticals started to adapt to this trend, including ad networks and daily deal sites.

In the last post I talked about ad networks that have taken on the role of content curator, so this time I’ll give a few examples of daily deals sites that have harnessed the power of content curation.

Fab

The first example of this trend is Fab.com. As Sarah Lacy noted recently on PandoDaily, “Fab Isn’t an Ecommerce Company; It’s a Content Company with Sales“.

Part of what makes Fab so successful as a daily deals site is that their users trust Fab to source the best and most unique products, and share those products on a consistent basis. The prices are great, but it’s the great content that keeps the users coming back for more.

Gilt Taste

The Gilt Groupe believes so strongly in this mix of content and commerce that for the launch of their food site, Gilt Taste, they hired the former Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine, Ruth Reichl, to serve as the editorial advisor. According to Ruth,

I believe that Gilt Taste is the next generation of food media, giving you everything you love about food in one place: ideas, inspiration, recipes, stories, and the ability to buy the best. It’s going to be the food magazine of your dreams. With this site, we’ll be able to create a community where people who love food can come together and share their experiences.

Pinterest

Looking beyond daily deals sites, we see networks like Pinterest tapping into this new trend, and growing substantially as a result. Pinterest allows anyone to curate their own content around specific topics, and others can then subscribe to topics that match their own interests for the latest updates. Brands looking for an easy way to curate content and share it with their audience have quickly adopted the platform, and I’d expect that trend to continue as the Pinterest audience continues to expand. For a look at what some of the first brands to make the jump into content curation through Pinterest are up to, check out Whole Foods Market, Etsy and West Elm.

By becoming the source of curated content, brands can shift some of their energy from push to pull marketing. Instead of constantly pushing out messages through banners spread far and wide, they can pull in their desired audience by sharing content those customers will enjoy, and then retain those customers for long-term interaction with the brand. This gives the brand additional opportunities to develop a deeper relationship with their customers without additional media spend, and puts the focus on a channel that they have much more control over.

Curating content that customers will enjoy does take time, and you can’t be everywhere at once, so brands need to choose channels wisely, but for those that have the personality and the resources it takes, content curation can be a great way to attract and retain an audience that will trust the brand for more than just a one time sale.

The Network Matters

A few posts ago, I talked about ‘Acceptable Ads‘ from networks like The DECK, Fusion Ads, Carbon Ads, InfluAds, Yoggrt, and Ad Packs by BuySellAds. I argued that these networks are working to become curators of content, not just broadcasters of the highest bidder, and as a result, the products they advertise get additional value out of just being picked to be featured in the ads.

Field Notes is another brand owned by Coudal Partners, the company behind The DECK, and they recently created a banner ad that caught my eye:

Red Field Notes

As you can see, there’s no call to action, no product shot and no sales pitch. Instead, there’s just a colored box, a product name and the fact that they ‘made a red one’.

If you aren’t already familiar with Field Notes, or aren’t the world’s biggest fan of the color red, you might look right past this ad without a second thought. And if you were to compare it to the Anatomy of the Perfect Banner Ad from BuySellAds, this banner would fail every test.

However, because Field Notes has such a long standing presence on The DECK, and because readers of sites that feature ads from The DECK trust the network to only highlight products they might be interested in, Field Notes is free to focus on a single point they’re trying to get across; that their notebooks, which specialize in creative colors and seasonal varieties, are now available in red.

It’s a simple message, but perhaps the most effective given the audience’s existing familiarity with the product, and trust in the network.

If you click on the ad (because how are you NOT going to click on an ad like that?) you’re presented with a fantastic video that explains the new red color, and tells an inspiring tale of love and adventure:

As Coudal Partners says on their site:

When you’re your own client, and there’s no one to step all over your ideas, what happens? Well for us anyhow, we wind up with a series of promotional films that hardly ever mention the product, or only mention it tangentially.

Apparently that philosophy extends to their banner ads as well.

Coudal also goes on to point out videos for their Fire Spotter, Northerly and Monona County Fair editions of Field Notes, which each featured new colors and a new story to tell, but didn’t feature a lot of the product being pushed down your throat.

While this doesn’t work for everyone, it’s important to keep in mind that there are other factors to an ad’s success besides just the image and the copy. Something as simple as the network that it runs on can have a huge effect on the response the ad receives.

In my next post, I’ll dive deeper into this trend of brands and networks as curators of content.