E-Mails Celebrate Hairball Awareness Week, Other Odd Holidays

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Hairball Awareness Week and National Nude Day are just two of the wacky holidays in a monthly e-mail campaign pushing awareness of a stock photo agency.

When executives at Bigshot Media, Toronto, wanted to do something unique to raise brand awareness, they chose to capitalize on some real, strange holidays celebrated around the world.

"We don't have the advertising budgets that the Gettys of the world have," Bigshot president Pierre Guevremont said. "We have to saturate to the point that people know names other than the big guys."

Last year, Guevremont and the Bigshot staff were discussing how every Christmas, Bigshot's clients and prospective clients receive hundreds of holiday cards.

"It just seemed like, 'How in the hell do you stand out?' " he said. "We thought, 'Why not celebrate other things?' "

So began the search for the world's strangest holidays, such as the First Cow Milked While Flying Day and Wonderful Weirdos Day, which Bigshot turned into monthly e-mail marketing campaigns. The company developed short videos on each holiday (such as a flying cow video), along with text and audio, in some cases, and e-mailed current and prospective clients with links to the videos.

"Many of the pieces we do show off the quality of our graphics," Guevremont said. "Because our product is Web-based, we didn't want to advertise it any other way."

The campaign began in January with Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. E-mails go to 100,000 addresses monthly. Thirty percent of the addresses come from the company's internal lists of current clients and those who registered to receive the holiday e-mails on Bigshot's site. The rest are prospective stock image clients, provided by list firm ADBASE Inc., Toronto.

Instead of loading the e-mail with video, recipients are sent HTML e-mails with a link taking them to a separate "Wacky Holidays" page on Bigshot's site to view the video. In some cases, a corresponding sale is included in the e-mail, such as "20 percent off all stock images" one month.

The e-mails have a 20 percent pass-along rate, Guevremont said. Delivery success is in the "70 percent range," but Bigshot has not tracked sales generated via the e-mails. Instead, it's using the campaign to generate brand awareness.

"It's a fun campaign," he said. "It shows off our product. It gets our name in front of people without turning most people off."

Still, Guevremont noted that on the day the campaign e-mails each month, Bigshot's site gets an "enormous number of visitors, four or five times the number we usually get."

The campaign that generated the most interest was Hairball Awareness Week, a video that showed a cat spitting a hairball. The most controversy came from National Nude Day. Guevremont acknowledged that the cheeky campaign offended some people, and some ISPs blocked the e-mail because the word "nude" appeared in the subject line.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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