Messaging Tie-In Creates Sweepstakes Interest

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Instant messaging has proved to be an effective marketing tool for Keebler's Cheez-It brand, driving online entries for its football-themed sweepstakes.

More than 66,000 people entered the Feed the Fans sweepstakes online. Though Keebler did not know how many of them did so through SmarterChild instant messaging software from ActiveBuddy, a New York-based technology firm, a sweepstakes link provided with SmarterChild's football content resulted in a 6.5 percent click-through to the Cheez-It Web site.

"So far, the results via ActiveBuddy look promising. If the good results continue, we'll consider using IM for other promotions," said Art Wilde, senior brand manager at Cheez-It.

According to ActiveBuddy, more than 2 million users of instant messaging services at America Online, Yahoo and MSN have added SmarterChild. They use the technology to instant message SmarterChild with questions about news, weather, sports or other topics. The program searches for the answers and instant-messages them back to users.

Keebler is sponsoring the football content that SmarterChild delivers when consumers instant message questions such as "What was the score of last night's New York Giants game?" At the bottom of SmarterChild football-related content is a Cheez-It message, such as "For a Chance to Win $3,000, Click Here."

Those who registered provided their names, e-mail addresses and birth dates and could choose to receive other Keebler and Cheez-It offers. Cheez-It will use this database for future promotions.

Keebler's interactive agency, e*media inc., Ann Arbor, MI, arranged the partnership with ActiveBuddy.

The online component of the Feed the Fans sweepstakes ended Nov. 7 after a 12-week run. The grand prize was $3,000 good for the purchase of season tickets for any NFL team. Cheez-It also awarded tailgating kits, which included chairs, a cooler and a Sunbeam grill.

Wilde said instant messaging has helped Cheez-It reach its target demographic, parents 35 to 54 years old.

"Contrary to the expectation that IM is only used by teens and young adults ... usage of the IM application is very strong among these adults ages 35 to 54 and, therefore, is a good way to target them," Wilde said.

According to Jupiter Media Metrix, 49 percent of adults ages 35 to 44 and 51 percent ages 45 to 54 who are online use instant messaging.

"Instant messaging is almost rivaling e-mail these days," said Stacey Herron, associate analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix, New York.

The Smarter Child instant messaging also is less invasive and more effective than traditional online advertising because it is integrated into the content, Wilde said.

"People who are already in a conversation with the agent [Smarter Child] are more likely to pay attention," Wilde said.

In addition, Smarter Child users initiate the instant messaging session and advertisers such as Keebler cannot directly instant-message or e-mail users because the service is opt-in.

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