Museum Tests Online Ads to Increase Visitors

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The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center aims to attract more visitors to this Native American institution in Connecticut with its first online advertising campaign.


Ads in the interactive Eyeblaster format have been placed to run daily on the Web sites of local area newspapers: Newsday's newsday.com, Greenwich Time's greenwichtime.com, Stamford Advocate's stamfordadvocate.com and Connecticut Now's CTNow.com. Advertising agency TBC, Baltimore, handled the account.


"A primary goal is attracting people within a 100-mile radius," said Lawrence E. Wilson, director of marketing and development at the Mashantucket, CT-based museum. "A 50-mile radius is considered a residential market, and the 100-mile radius is considered the day-trippers, and then beyond that you would have those coming in or traveling here for a specific purpose, vacation or work."


About a three-hour drive from New York, Mashantucket is in southeastern Connecticut. One of the closest towns is New London. The 650-person Mashantucket Pequot tribe runs the 4-year-old nonprofit museum as well as the Foxwoods casino.


The online campaign comprises two executions spun out of current exhibitions at the museum.


One is called Caribou. The actual exhibit shows the creation and growth of life in that part of the country, including the glacial crevasse and the arrival of caribou. A highlight is the 11,000-year-old caribou hunt, a 16th-century village and 17th-century fort that were typical of Native American tradition.


The Eyeblaster ad shows caribou running across the screen, a movement that culminates in a large tab on the site. Clicking on that link takes the consumer to a landing page asking details like first and last name, e-mail address and the option to opt out of receiving updates.


For volunteering such information, respondents are promised by e-mail a $2-off coupon for museum admission.


A second ad, called Meet the Neighbors, again plays off the exhibits. It shows two fishermen in a canoe watched over by a woman on the bank. The ad is based on a Pequot village exhibit that is central to the museum's 8,700 square feet of permanent exhibition space.


The ad is meant to reflect the life of the Pequot Indians, from the cooking to their daily rituals and tasks. An audio device helps relive the moment as visitors walk through the exhibit.


"Of course, what it does is demonstrate the interactive nature of the museum's exhibits," Wilson said.


The museum typically relies on mail and ads in magazines and newspapers to generate interest. The move to online ads reflects the shift in media consumption by its target audience -- individuals and families, educators, scholars, collectors and tourists.


About 225,000 to 250,000 people visit the museum yearly, of which 60,000 to 70,000 are schoolchildren.


Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for children older than 6. The respective rates will rise this fall to $15, $13 and $10. In another change, the museum's Web address will change this fall to www.pequotmuseum.org. It is currently at www.mashantucket.com.


"The objective for all of our advertising is to invite people to visit the museum," Wilson said. "So we want to reach people where they're at, and where they are, of course, is online."


A complement to the museum's traditional advertising tactics, the online campaign will run daily on the four newspaper sites through October. It may gain new legs if the objectives are met. DoubleClick's third-party ad-serving technology will track impressions and responses as well as post-click data.


"We'll look to see what sort of response it got and then continue based on that," Wilson said. "I'm prepared to run these things daily over the next year and just continue to build upon them."


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