campaigns, creative, digital, how to

How To Use Surrogate Advertising As A Template For Digital Creativity

He’d wondered why, after several drinks,
he could still pronounce
“she sells sea shells…” correctly.

Apart from the fact that alcohol lubricates brain cells and leads to better ideas, there’s something else we digital worker bees can learn from booze manufacturers’ surrogate advertising campaigns.

If you think hard enough about it, surrogate advertising is the tried and tested foundation of digital engagement strategy.

Let’s break down what we do when briefed on a digital engagement campaign. (When I say ‘engagement’ I don’t mean product-led banner campaigns; though this Pringles banner will beg to differ.)

Typically, we will come up with one or more of the following: a microsite, a Facebook app, a Yahoo! content property, a theme for a YouTube channel, a mobile app, etc. In some way or another, these properties will revolve around the brand positioning and eventually link you to the product website. 

Then – and this is where you must pay attention, children – we encourage the client to spend media money driving traffic to the property you’ve built, rather than to the product website directly.

Isn’t that exactly how surrogate advertising works? Launch Kingfisher packaged water to eventually drive you to buy more Kingfisher beer through brand recall and imagery?

This isn’t a theory – this is how several cutting-edge campaigns have worked.

Take a look at Tourism Queensland’s Best Job In The World campaign. Instead of directly writing banner ads telling people about the various fish you could find in the seas off Queensland, they ran a surrogate campaign to build imagery and recall for Queensland.

Look at what we at Yahoo! are running for Dove. We’ve built a co-branded content property that brings conversations around Real Beauty online. Real Beauty, of course, is the philosophy of Dove worldwide. You will find very few mentions of Dove on this site – but you can’t miss the brand either.

Ben & Jerry’s used the theme of Fair Trade to create surrogate branding with They created a microsite, mobile site and Twitter plugin to promote their support of the Fair Trade movement, in turn building salience for their ice-cream.

Heineken’s Star Player is an excellent example of a brand giving users a fantastic experience. What the app has to do with beer, I have no clue. Once again, great surrogate work.

Approaching digital creativity this way might be a simple way to break down what people think is a very complicated field.

Of course, your job’s not done until you have a killer idea in your head…


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