Andy Hart - MSFT
Posted on 13/02/14

February 14. Valentine’s Day. A date that strikes anticipation into the hearts of millions around the world. Some will be searching for the way to create the ultimate romantic moment, others will be seeking peaceful escapism. For advertisers, it’s about seduction and cut-through across the spectrum.  

Globally, this annual celebration of love is worth over $13 billion to the world-wide economy. Apparently the average person spends up to $120 on the Valentine’s day experience including dinner, drinks and gifts. Every country has different traditions: in the UK, a single red rose is often enough to show that special person how you feel; in Japan, women traditionally give their male co-workers chocolates and men return the favour with candy on ‘Reply Day’. Inevitably, there are those who dismiss it as another ‘retailers’ holiday’, with the ancient tale of St Valentine commercialised beyond recognition in a flurry of love-hearts and teddy bears. Thank you Hallmark.

One thing’s for certain, Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for brands who can get cut-through at scale to touch the hearts of their customers and potential customers. Hitting the right tone with consumers is more important than ever. Along with making sure advertising is totally relevant to the individual. Brands must avoid coming across like a needy ex; popping up in unwelcome places, regurgitating the past and failing to see you’ve moved on. Instead, consumers want Mr or Mrs Right – sharp, witty, entertaining, knowledgeable and reassuring – someone who really knows you, relates to you and is a good fit. However, new brands should follow first-date etiquette – ask questions and be polite, respectful and charming.

So how can brands rise to the challenge? One big part of the puzzle is delivering campaigns that complement activities consumers are willingly participating in, on their chosen devices at a time that suits them. Advertising on their terms. What triggers thoughts of floral bouquets in the mind of a 20 year-old, strolling home from work through the park? How far ahead will someone buy the surprise gift of tickets to a Prince concert; while agenda planning at the office?  And the all-important unsigned card; where and how will he or she make their choice?

An Austrian Skype campaign filled with chocolate and romance is a key example of this. Skype and the nation’s favourite chocolate brand merci invited loved-up Austrians to design their own personalised chocolate box for Valentine’s Day, featuring a photo of their choosing to create a unique Valentine’s surprise for loved ones across Austria. This campaign ensured relevancy by offering a solution to one of the most feared questions of all time: what to get her/him for Valentine’s and not getting it wrong? By being helpful, timely, and offering a personalised gift created by the giver, merci achieved active brand engagement amongst its target audience, enabling them to have a stress-free, happy Valentine’s. Merci merci.

On Valentine’s Day in a cross-screen world, a loveable campaign can be and should be delivered in numerous ways. It’s about building up a story and engaging consumers with consistent and personalised brand messages. Reaching them at different stages and screens along the path of their online journey. We all know that our online and offline lives are merging. According to comScore, over one third of the world’s internet population buys goods online and this exponential growth of e-commerce will only continue. We can, and do, make purchase decisions at any time, place and on any device of our choosing. 

Microsoft’s technology can help brands connect with consumers in these different contexts. We see advertising as a service and a helper that makes consumers lives better and creates value. An example of this is the cross platform experience promoting the latest instalment of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’. By creating an interactive experience across Windows 8, Xbox 360 and MSN, using the various characters and storylines, the advertising became less of an advert and more of a renewed immersion in their love for The Lord of the Rings saga that could be enjoyed in various different digital contexts. The prize of a ‘3D-printed Key of Erebor’ also added an extra layer to the campaign, demonstrating real understanding of the audience wanting to have their own little piece of magic from Middle Earth.

These examples suggest that, for the increasingly cynical digital generation who may be going ‘ad blind’, advertisers need to get smart on Valentine’s Day and take the lead from lovers around the world. As individuals, we understand there’s a time and a place for the giant card, balloons and moonlight serenade; but more often than not it’s the small, simple gestures that can have more meaning and a greater impact. Advertising must follow suit and complement consumers experiences in the right context; offering relevant and meaningful solutions across devices to hit the sweet spot this Valentine’s Day. 

Andy

Tags: digital advertising, andy hart, cross-screen
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