NEW YORK — If you haven't embraced it yourself, chances are, within the past two months, you have, communicated with a friend online who's been toting a string of pearls, martini glass, or bow tie in his or her profile photo. Don Draper and Peggy Olsen look-alikes have taken social networks by storm thanks to a viral marketing hit by the folks at the Emmy award-winning AMC television series Mad Men. The "Mad Men Yourself" application, which went live in late-July (about a month before the Season 3 premiere episode) has been a viral hit, with more than 600,000 people jumping onto AMC's micrososite to create their own character representations. Ian Schafer, the chief executive officer of interactive marketing agency Deep Focus -- the agency involved with the campaign -- explained the strategy behind the success at the recent Social Ad Summit.
A lot happened in between the show's first and second seasons, Schafer said. Not only did the show pick up a couple of Emmys, but the success led to a bubbling-up of fans who'd grown mad for "Mad Men." Highly passionate fans surfaced on the Web, voicing their thoughts and love for the show on social networks and blogs. One particular fan, for instance, an Upright Citizen's Brigade performer and illustrator who goes under the nickname Dyna Moe began sketching out illustrations based on episodes of the show. Deep Focus began working with AMC's Mad Men before the conclusion of Season 2. With second season, the agency began pumping up campaign efforts surrounding the 60s office iconography. The iconography seemed to bode well with fan fiction pieces on the Web.
"Fan fiction happens all the time- from Harry Potter and now through to Mad Men," Schafer said. "We noticed this going on and had frequent conversations with [AMC] regarding how the fans took content and made it their own." Schafer said, at one point, AMC turned to the Deep Focus team and said, "What if the fans of the show were illustrated by Dyna Moe, too?" From there, the "Mad Men Yourself" campaign was born.
Before diving in, Schafer said they thought seriously about the question: "What kinds of engagements online make people better customers?" And more specifically, "What makes people more loyal to a TV program?" The speaker referenced a Yahoo! study that showed that out of the people who searched for or actively sought after engagements with a TV show online, 70 percent of them watched the show regularly as a result. Additionally, people who engaged with a show's content were likely to influence about five people before the show aired. "This taught us that we had to engage people before the season," Schafer said.
So, over the summer, the Mad Men Yourself application was built from scratch and illustrated by Dyna Moe. "When [visitors] see that an actual fan was commissioned [to create the application], it communicates how passionate people are about the series," Schafer said. Developers sought to make the application highly engaging and avoided the "Mr. Potato Head" effect of simply adding and removing features. The avatars needed to be personalized and be made to actually resemble people.
The most important component of the consumer application is the "Download Yourself" page, Schafer said. "Of course you can create an avatar, but it doesn't mean anything if it's only seen by the person on the screen," he said. So, the application is connected directly with social platforms to broadcast a user's results. "We define ourselves as human beings by the content we consume and the content we tell people we consume," Schafer said.
Word of the application traveled fast and was lauded by pop culture magazines and blogs within days of its creation. Central to the viral nature of the application is the Mad Men audience, Schafer said, many of whom work in the advertising industry themselves. People in advertising love talking to each other about advertising, which worked in the favor of the Mad Men campaign. The application soon moved beyond the realm of advertising professionals, into a circle of journalists, and then soon into the mainstream. "We had a plan in case this thing never spread," Schafer said, "But that never kicked in."
According to Schafer, the campaign has seen the following results:
- 1 million unique visits to the site; ("That is a big fricken deal for a microsite," Schafer added.)
- 600,000 avatars created;
- 60 percent visit-to-avatar conversion rate;
- 3.3 million viewers tuned into the Season 3 premiere; (There were 2 million viewers last year. "A couple of Emmy awards don't hurt, but this effort didn't either," Schafer said.)
Although he said the metrics are great, Schafer stressed the human elements that worked to make the campaign a success:
- We understood who our audience was and how influential they were;
- We maximized our opportunity for true personalization;
- Our fans finally had a badge to wear on their sleeves -- They didn't just have to talk Mad Men talk;
- Curiosity and appeal drove adoption and created a reason for even non-fans to promote the experience and, in turn, the series;
- We created a platform that plugged directly into platforms that are all about sharing content.
Schafer again emphasized the concept of leveraging connections. "The idea is to make sure to make sure we are reaching the right people, and that they can, in turn, reach the right people," he told attendees.
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