Viral Marketing Makes Good Fit for Levi's

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By offering an incentive to consumers who share ads they've created online at www.us.levi.com, Levi's has added a twist to one of the latest crazes in advertising, viral marketing.

In the past few years, more companies have asked consumers to create their own ads and submit them online, with the best ones often appearing later in a national ad campaign. Personiva has reversed this idea by adapting the creative from a brand's national advertising to a Web-based campaign that consumers can insert themselves into.

"This is another way for brands to get their message out," said Art Schram, product manager for Personiva, San Francisco. It also "allows for a much deeper level of user engagement, which advertisers appreciate with consumers TiVo-ing out commercials."

Personiva's first campaign began in July with Hewlett-Packard. That program, still on HP's Web site, lets users create their own ad from multiple components, including images they upload themselves, for a result that is along the same lines as HP's national TV ad campaign. Though there is no incentive for sharing the ads, site traffic continues to rise, Mr. Schram said.

The Levi's campaign is Personiva's first to offer an incentive for sharing consumers' creations. After creating an ad, the user is invited to e-mail it to others and informed that once three people have viewed the ad, he or she will receive free shipping on any purchase of $75 or more at Levi's e-commerce site, www.levisstore.com.

"Not only are you rewarding the user for visiting the site, but you're incentivizing the user for sharing," Mr. Schram said.

This is important because not everyone who receives an ad will create their own, he said.

"If you share it with three, the virality is much greater than if you share it with one," he said, as the ad is exposed to more people who otherwise might not see it on TV, which is the whole idea behind viral marketing.

Personiva's campaign for Levi's uses the current TV ad created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty/New York. Users navigate to the commercial by clicking on a link on Levi's home page, www.us.levi.com. After uploading one or more pictures, they can replay the ad with the photos inserted as the characters. They also can add on-screen text to tell their own version of the story.

A second commercial will be added soon, Mr. Schram said, and both will run on Levi's site at least through November.

Levi's, San Francisco, aimed to ensure that while consumers could project themselves onto the experience of the brand, the Levi's brand message wasn't diluted in any way, he said.

"We just didn't create a forum for expression," he said. "It is much more controlled than that, and the essence of what Levi's is trying to communicate remains intact."

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