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Aug 23, 2005
Case Study

How to Turn Your Print Ads Into a Truly Cool Microsite -- Keds' Mischa Barton Revamp

SUMMARY: Repurposing offline creative for online campaigns is harder than it seems. Many mainstream marketers try to get away with slapping up some creative online from their traditional ad campaigns and calling it multichannel integration. While campaign integration may sound impressive in your boardroom (or AdAge interview), online consumers are underwhelmed by typical ad creative shovel-ware. Want to turn your offline ads into online stars? Check out our new Case Study on Keds. Includes before-and-after plus developmental screenshots showing you how the brand's Web team battled to turn print ads into a seriously cool microsite.
With great fanfare last fall Keds signed OC star Mischa Barton to be the face of its new brand image. Director of Marketing Pete Kim explains, "We wanted to reposition the franchise to target 19-25-year-olds, and Mischa's the perfect vehicle to speak to them."

The marketing team quickly launched a series of print ads in media, such as Teen Vogue. And, because they were targeting the new Internet generation, they also launched a matching campaign microsite.

(Note: Why not just add a section to the regular ecommerce site? The team didn't want to confuse their regular older shopper demographic or distract shoppers' attention from the conversion task at hand. Plus, it's bad to inflict existing site structure and navigation on a campaign microsite.)

The new campaign's tagline -- Be Cool. Only problem -- while Mischa Barton and the print ads were undeniably cool, the microsite wasn't.

Everyone on the offline team tried hard to repurpose the content for online, but the resulting site was a mishmash of print-style copywriting and unfathomable navigation icons.

This spring the marketing team signed Mischa for another season. Their 2005 agenda, keep the offline ads rolling, only this time, launch an equally cool microsite. They had less than 90 days to do it in.

Kim notes you rarely get much time with celebrity spokesmodels -- a few days a year may be it. So you need to pre-plan to get all your anticipated rich media needs into one fell swoop of activity.

Luckily, the offline agency handling the photo shoots were more than happy to gather loads of Web-possible content at the same time. In one jam-packed weekend, Mischa Barton did everything from posing in her favorite Keds to recording audio messages such as personal replies to actual fan mail.

(The B-to-B team also stepped in to request recorded audio video of Mischa chatting about the coolness of Keds for use with sales rep functions and top retailer meetings.)

Next the Web team brainstormed two very different new concepts to consider for the microsite. (Link to samples of both below.)

Concept #1. Print ad transitioned online

This used all the classic print ad best practices such as lots of white space, compelling branding copy (in large easy-to-skim type) and vivid four-color pictures to catch the eye. If you viewed the print ads and then came online, you'd be in no doubt you were at the right place.

Plus, the team dumped the old navigation icons in favor of hotlinked words.

Concept #2. Interactive online diary

Although this version used images from the print ads, it was clearly a very different Web-only design, making the most of interactivity. Instead of static-feeling print layout, the pages looked like Mischa's own daily diary. You could click on various scribbled notes, post-its, and tabs to get around. Which concept was coolest? Kim couldn't afford a focus group (and Kim himself is not a 19-year-old female) so he showed the mock-ups to everyone at Keds he hoped would have some insight into the demographic. That included sales, customer service, marketing and product development.

The team also visited sites 19-year-olds are known to love, especially iTunes. (We suspect iTunes has become a Web designer inspiration site for 2005 the way Amazon was in 1995.)

The result? A merging of both mock-ups into one best-of-both-worlds site. The new site, launched July 2005, features images and white space similar to the print ads, but everything's presented as physical-looking images such as Polaroid snapshots and printed postcards to inspire mouse touches.

Notably, the design does *not* feature much copy. The team decided if a site is truly cool in and of itself, you don't need brand statements that explain what cool is. (In fact, the copy becomes not only extraneous but even annoying.... talking at the audience instead of engaging them.)

The site experience is itself the most powerful brand statement of "coolness."

The only copy the new site features is that which is critical for navigation and interaction, such as short names for each section of the site. Whenever possible, copy is handwritten to be more intimate than typeface.

Since the new print ads hit, microsite traffic rose by 300% for a couple of weeks and then declined to a 200% increase over previous traffic.

Keds is measuring growth in target market brand perception and purchase intent in three ways:

#1. Ecommerce sales: Although the site is not designed primarily to feed sales (it takes several clicks to get from the microsite home to a Keds shopping cart), an average of 2.5% of monthly visitors convert to purchasing online at

Interestingly, the team's suspicions that adding Mischa Barton content directly to the ecommerce site could hurt conversions proved true. Only about 1% of visitors who click on the main site's small image of Mischa wind up returning from the microsite to purchase during that user session.

#2. Visitor comments: Here are some sample comments Kim has received from the feedback button on the site:

Sarah N.: "To be quite honest your site is probably the most visually appealing interesting original site I have discovered in a very long time. It caters to each and every girl's individual style taste and unique personality."

Danielle B.: " guys I love this site sooo much; it's completely my style. The music, the design, even the way the photography and film clips are shot is TOTALLY my style. I love Keds soooo much, think you have really grasped their spirit ...if that's possible and I think Mischa is the best spokesperson for the campaign. I guess all I can say is ..COOL."

Chrissy C.: "I think that this website is...fantastic. It really is. All the videos and pictures featuring Mischa Barton are just really...*cool*. I think all the stuff on this website really does just nail your goal cool."

#3. Blogger comments: Kim also surfs the Web to spot comments in typical teen blogs about the site and Mischa. (See samples below.) Often the teens talk about how they must buy Keds and then link to the Mischa microsite.

Interestingly, the blogger notes prove many in the target audience were previously unaware of the brand. As one teenaged blogger explained to her readers, "Keds are shoes... I love it.. lalal.. I mean the ballerina ones anyways. I'm three months overdue to buy some, so when I spotted them in GP two days ago.. I was like omg I need to buy them. teehe.. GAHHH.. they're so cute.. i want all the colors. I really need to pace myself."

One more sidenote: Although the print ads ran in the US alone, 45% of microsite traffic is from outside the US. Naturally Keds' international distributors are delighted with this news. If you're considering using a global celebrity spokesperson, international Web traffic is guaranteed in this day and age of blogs and buzz-outreach.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples showing the evolution of the site from hand-drawings to mock-ups:

Typical bloggers talking about site and desire to buy Keds:

- An American teen:

- An Aussie teen:

mediumbold -- the Web design firm that created the cool new microsite (in less than 90 days):

Toth Brand Imaging -- the offline agency who handled the traditional campaigns and coordinated with mediumbold:

Keds' Mischa Barton microsite:" >

Keds' main US ecommerce site:

See Also:

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