Family education Network's Marketing Gets Political

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The Family Education will dedicate a section of its site during the first week of March to the November elections and how the candidates' platforms relate to family issues.


Through a series of online media buys as well as an integrated offline campaign, the site will promote the section to increase its target audience - parents.


Fen.com, a community dedicated to children's learning, is made up of four sites: Myschoolonline.com, Infoplease.com, Familyeducation.com and Teachervision.com. These sites provide content for teachers, parents, school administrators and students.


The network expects features related to the upcoming elections to help add to its core base of two to three million parents as well as its other target audiences, according to Charlie Wade, vice president of marketing for the Family Education Network, Boston.


"This campaign in particular [is important because] most of the candidates do have a position about family issues and they have indicated that education is something that will be a core element of their platforms," he said.


The site will include online voting about a number of educational concerns and content related to the issues. Wade expects new users drawn to these features to sample the rest of the site.


"Once you get here to participate in voting features, you'll quickly see all of our other tools, channels and subchannels," said Wade. "Hopefully, our [end-users] who are time-starved and busy will come away with idea that this site can help me simplify my life, be a better parent and better help my kids."


To make the banner buys to support Fen.com's new features, the site has hired Hook Media, an interactive services firm based in Boston. Hook tested ads for the site from Jan. 3 to the end of this month and has narrowed down the placements to key areas that have drawn superior click-throughs.


New ads will roll out the first week of March at sites that parents typically go to with their kids. The sites that tested well include Nickjr.com, Ask Jeeves for Kids and NationalGeographic.com.


Placing banners based on short, targeted tests is the key to making successful online ad buys, according to Evan Grossman, vice president at Hook Media.


"It's different than traditional media. With interactive, the goal is not to build a plan that's perfect, that focuses on a few specific areas that you're sure will work," he said. "Instead, the first few plans are to try to explore a wide variety of areas by picking the top one or two sites within those categories. Then as you find a category working, you go deeper into the category by picking similar sites to the category leader."


This strategy is also being applied to the search portals. The site is testing the Lycos home and family channels and may expand to Yahoo and Excite. Longer-term deals will be struck with sites and portals that continue to test well.


The testing plan for these ads calls for the running of at least five pieces of creative and the use of the most popular banner as the control for the next round of tests.


The site has also found success advertising on Internet radio stations and at Weather.com. Whenever the forecast called for snow a banner boasting winter activities for kids was posted on Weather.com.


Media has ruled out a number of ad buys, labeling the popular pay-per-view ad toolbars, specifically, as not being effective.


Offline ad support will follow as the elections near, according to Wade. "We've got a long runway to work with for our series of offline tactics," he said. "We're still developing many of the components that will be integrated into lots of different offerings."
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