Brand: Budget (Car Rental Company owned by Cendant)
Link: Click Here
Target: Blog-savvy travelers
The “Up Your Budget” Campaign is a treasure hunt run from a blog that features video clues. A total of $160,000 is being put up as prize money with the money divided into four weekly prizes in four regions. Contestants must correctly find the location of the “magic sticker” from the video clues on the website and call the number on the sticker as well as videotape themselves doing so and upload the video in order to win each $10,000 prize. Awareness for this promotion is being driven entirely through viral efforts by weblogs.
This is an interesting and important test of the real viral effects of the blogsphere for marketing purposes. Can blogging alone build a brand or bring new interest to an established brand? Budget is determined to find out. They’ve chosen some fairly heavy hitters to get them started – Steve Hall at Adrants and B.L. Ochman (the designer of the promotion) at What’sNextOnline as well as sites like Boing Boing to create buzz for the promotion. This will take the form of an advertising campaign on 74 blog sites as well as blog posts on Adrants, Boing Boing and several other key properties. [Editor's note: The ThirdWay Advertising Blog was notified of this promotion by the creators but was not compensated in any way to cover this promotion nor does the ThirdWay blog accept compensation for editorial content.]
The game itself seems to offer a fair balance of skill and luck as well as enough prizes, variety and immediacy to keep participants interested. The theme fits well with Budget’s mission (getting people to rent cars) and rewards the frequent traveler.
This also seems like a very clean test of blog propagation (other than the questions noted below) because Budget does not include a link to this promotion on the Budget website and has not as of yet posted a press release for the promotion. So Budget will have the opportunity to see just how far the blog community can get them without any help from Budget’s existing online customer base.
The very obvious omission in this campaign is the link back to Budget. Of course, the name “Up Your Budget!” is a clear reference, but one that most consumers would probably miss without more reinforcement. In fact this is such an obvious omission that it must be intentional, for one of two reasons. The first reason would be to keep this as a pure test without the complication of the Budget name’s effect on the promotion. The second reason might be to see how well the sponsor’s name transmits virally through the blogsphere. If the Budget name is nowhere to be seen on the website, then any post-promotion increase in unaided awareness of the “Budget” brand name might be linked to the promotion (although unless this is a hugely successful promotion they will probably want to look at the brand effects on participants rather than the general population. )
This campaign does raise some potential ethical issues. The Adrants announcement shows that there are two phases to the publicity for this campaign: “Following the blog-based approach, the contest itself will be promoted almost entirely within the blogosphere with sites like Adrants, MarketingVOX and Boing Boing breaking the story and with advertising promotion on 74 weblogs, including Buzzmachine, Metafilter, Gothamist, Jossip and Busblog, through the BlogAds blog advertising network. There will also be some minimal search engine keyword and IM buys.”
The question is how Budget has guaranteed that Adrants, MarketingVOX and Boing Boing were going to decide to ‘break the story,’ or that this promotion itself would be newsworthy. Of course it is possible that by coordination with these blogs the story was pre-sold and embargoed until a certain moment. That would be a standard PR technique and not much of a problem. The stickier issue is whether any of these sites were compensated for breaking this news – either directly or indirectly (with a promised ad spend, for instance). If you keep an eye on the comments to this post I suspect we will hear the answer from one of the organizers very soon.
This is a particularly sticky issue for the blogsphere right now as consumers, organizations and government institutions try to determine whether bloggers are journalists – entitled to the same rights and protections as print or television journalists – or merely individuals expressing opinions online. In the end it is probably less important whether an individual blogger follows the ethics code of a journalist rather than a publicist and more important that people reading blogs have a clear idea whether they’re reading journalism or some mix of journalism and PR.
Branding Bottom Line:
This promotion won’t stick to the brand but may tell us the future.