DOUGLAS McCALLUM

Doug McCallum is head of new media at Capital Radio

Does Levi-Strauss have its own television station? Of course not. Sensibly enough, it leaves the job of attracting an attentive audience to channel owners, whose expertise is creating TV. Levi-Strauss then places its commercials around TV shows that resonate with its brand.

Simple. That way, Levi’s can concentrate on creating killer advertising, leaving content providers to worry about supplying the audience.

The same principle applies across traditional media, from magazine inserts in Time Out, to Morgan Spice infomercials on radio.

Why is the Web any differ ent? Why should a brand manager pour money into a brand’s own Website that will be hopelessly tired in a couple of months, if not weeks?

Producing a Website good enough to attract, and to retain surfers, through the long term entails a continual creative and technical investment. Isn’t it traditional media owners, with well- established audiences who they understand, which possess the edge when it comes to producing popular, entertaining content, rather than advertisers?

To Levi’s great credit, it recently pulled the plug on its glitzy, expensive Website. From now on, the jeans brand will mostly concentrate on small, limited duration, tactical online campaigns.

Chief among these will be “microsites” (or “eye-candy” as they call them) which will be hosted on, and/or linked from, a raft of carefully selected content Websites – sites that already draw the audience they want to reach.

As an early entrant into new media marketing strategy, it is hardly surprising that Levi’s hip marketers have done the fast learning and are again leading the consumer goods marketing pack.

A microsite is three or four pages of tightly focused, time-dependent material, increasingly integrated into a coherent cross-platform campaign. The microsite is linked from an appropriate content site, supported by multiple access points from high-visibility icons and banners.

As a format it’s highly flexible, portable and measurable. And there are signs that UK advertisers are also starting to adopt the tactic on the Web.

As examples, both PG Tips and Nescafé have run time-limited content on the www.CapitalFM.co.uk site in recent weeks. PG Tips ran a “Prang a Pyramid and Win a Prize” competition to help promote its new teabag shape. Nescafé hosted a two-week microsite, in support of the Revision Line service promoted by Nescafé during exam time.

It offered downloadable revision notes and a 24-hour e-mail facility to seek advice from teachers, in addition to the campaign’s evening helpline phone service.

Move over expensive, unmanageable, dated Goliaths. The tactical microsite approach has a host of advantages. They’re fast and cheap to build – say 5,000, compared with the 100,000 it can cost to build a fully-fledged corporate site.

Microsites are focused, professionally timed, highly measurable and – more importantly for consumers – fun.

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