Humor's a Hit With E-Meeting Campaign

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Some offbeat creative featuring an idiot with pencils in his nose is reportedly pulling leads like gangbusters in an e-mail campaign for virtual meeting software.


Moreover, inside sales department reps reportedly are saying the leads are qualified.


The campaign for Lexington, MA-based Centra Software Inc.'s eMeeting product has taken increasingly risky humorous creative approaches in the past year and has shown a boost in leads generated every time.


Executed entirely via html e-mail by Passaic Parc, a small Maynard, MA, agency, the campaign's most recent creative approach shows an obviously disgusted salesman leaving a conference room, having just completed a pitch to two idiots, one of whom has pencils in his nose.


"Y'know those sales presentations that are a complete waste of time? Centra eMeeting Users Don't," the headline reads.


"In sales, there are really just two types of meetings: ones that should be face-to-face, and all others. When an opportunity is qualified, you certainly want in-person interaction. But when it isn't, you want to know -- before you make that trip. That's why Centra eMeeting is so essential," begins the body copy.


The ad offers a free demo CD and, as an incentive to act quickly, also offers the first 50 respondents a Sharper Image Foot Station Massager.


The campaign is aimed at sales managers at major corporations. An eMeeting sale can result in a relationship worth anywhere from $1,000 to more than $1 million.


"There isn't a typical sale," said Alison Murphy, marketing programs manager, Centra Software. The sales cycle is generally from six months to a year, she said.


Creative for the campaign has rotated quarterly for three quarters. The pencils-in-the-nose creative hit in May. Passaic Parc has boosted lead volume by 312 percent since the campaign began.


Since the campaign is going to only 25,000 sales executives per quarter, some multiple times over the life of the campaign, Passaic Parc is not A-B split testing.


"The value of testing has to far exceed the cost of the test ,"said Robert Rosenthal, president of Passaic Parc. "We're targeting salespeople at major corporations, so it's not an unlimited audience. ... Here, you don't have much of a rollout universe, and you've got a story with multiple facets, so we're borrowing a bit from the book of general advertising."


However, they are list testing. "That's been immensely valuable," Rosenthal said. Neither he nor Murphy would say from where they are renting lists for this campaign.


So far, 1.7 percent of the recipients of the pencils-in-the-nose ad on average have clicked through and filled out Centra's lead-qualification form. Also, Passaic Parc has boosted the percentage of completed forms versus people who click through and don't complete the form by 180 percent, Rosenthal said.


The previous ad was a cartoon illustrating the complications that can arise from trying to have a face-to-face meeting, and offered a back massager as a click-through incentive. An average of 1.09 percent of recipients clicked through and completed the form on that ad.


"Anyone who's ever sold is intimately familiar with these instances where they go out and blow the day, or worse -- they get on an airplane and go somewhere, and walk into a room, start presenting and immediately conclude it's going to be a waste of time," Rosenthal said. "It's an awful feeling."


In the pencils-in-the-nose ad, "this guy's just left a meeting where he's met with a couple of morons," Rosenthal said. "Apparently, salespeople are relating to it."


Murphy said that e-mail has performed astronomically better than offline marketing for this product.


"Whether it's the audience for this particular product ... I don't know, but we've had overwhelmingly better results from e-mail," she said.


Murphy said the pencils-in-the-nose creative was out of character for Centra, as it would be for most business-to-business direct marketers, and not everybody was sold on it.


"It made sense to all of us on the marketing team, but we had to do a little convincing," she said. "But it's paying off so I think we're going to keep going with stuff like this."


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