Campaign Drives National Geographic Readers to Site

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The National Geographic Society next month will debut the first advertising campaign touting nationalgeographic.com since the site's launch four years ago.


The effort, bolstered by an undisclosed marketing budget, mainly targets magazine readers of National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler and National Geographic Adventure; international viewers of the National Geographic cable channel; and Internet users interested in nationalgeographic.com's thematic guide areas.


"It's to close the gap of awareness between readers, viewers and members of National Geographic and usage of the Web site," said Mitch Praver, president of nationalgeographic.com, Washington. "It's important for them to understand how the Web site is different and take full advantage of the Web to add value to watching our TV programs or reading our magazines."


The campaign breaks as National Geographic rolls out local-language city portal sites of nationalgeographic.com. These local sites are launching in key global markets where National Geographic properties are read, viewed or seen.


A yearlong effort, the media plan initially calls for full-page ads in the December issue of National Geographic, and similar real estate in the November/December issues of National Geographic Traveler and National Geographic Adventure.


Television will weigh in with a 30-second spot on National Geographic's overseas cable channels. So will online efforts such as newsletters and banner ads across related sites that share the same profile as National Geographic's consumer base.


"The goal of the TV spot is to connect the international audience and make them aware of the local-language editions of our Web site," Praver said. "Currently one-third of our traffic [to nationalgeographic.com] comes from outside the U.S."


Workhorse Creative, Bethesda, MD, created the print ads, and a freelancer worked on the TV spot.


Nationalgeographic.com attracts a little less than 3 million visitors a month, who account for 20 million page views.


Circulation for the magazine properties varies. National Geographic has a circulation base of 7.8 million, National Geographic Traveler has 715,000, and National Geographic Adventure has 300,000.


The cable channel -- the only National Geographic media property not available yet in the United States -- reaches 83 million households in 111 countries. The channel rolls out in January in parts of the United States as an interactive TV service that links on-air content to pertinent sections on nationalgeographic.com.


A core focus of this ad campaign -- which comes only a month after the site's online store was revamped -- is the cross-referencing between National Geographic's print, cable and online properties.


"The strategy is to create awareness of the complementary existence of the site and creating sampling opportunities of some of the tools, applications and functions that we've created, like the Destinations Trip Planner, the interactive map machine, the live wild animal cams and live dispatches through National Geographic news [bureaus]," Praver said.


Thus, one print ad is headlined "Wired World" and explains the interactive nature of nationalgeographic.com that can help readers plan their next travel adventure, investigate remote locations and watch live events.


Accompanied by visuals of a Web page and a Kashmiri Indian rowing a boat laden with fresh flowers across a lake, this particular ad runs in National Geographic magazine. It seeks to drive traffic to various sections of the site.


The remaining two ads are tailored to the audiences of the other National Geographic titles.


So, the National Geographic Adventure ad headlined "Joyride" and with a visual of a crew white-water rafting in the Zambezi River, Zambia, urges the reader to visit nationalgeographic.com/explore.


Another ad for National Geographic Traveler, headlined "take off," shows a historic monument in Seville, Spain, and displays a link to nationalgeographic.com/travel.


"Tag lines are designed to connect the readers of those specific magazines with the corresponding areas of the Web site that would be of most interest to the readers," Praver said.


"The TV spot is designed to convey the essence and scope of the Web site and specifically to call attention to the local-language community portal sites that will roll out in those countries where we have the National Geographic Channel and the local editions of National Geographic magazines."


Common to all print ads is a sweepstakes that requires registration for a chance to win an adventure for two led by a National Geographic expert.


"The challenge," Praver said, "is conveying to readers of the magazines and viewers of the TV channel the complementary nature of the Web site and the ability to access these services and tools to extend the adventure."
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