A Yahoo promotion for department store chain Macy's to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York was almost stalled until a new home on the portal was found for it.
Targeting online consumers to nominate a teen-ager to cut the ribbon at the parade, the promotion garnered only 30 entries through Sept. 24 — almost 20 days after it went up on Yahoo and halfway through its Oct. 10 deadline.
A search on Yahoo requiring keywords Macy's Parade was required to participate, but the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks diverted consumer attention elsewhere.
Then, on Sept. 25, the promotion was moved to Yahoo's most precious real estate, its home page, which receives millions of impressions daily. Within 24 hours, there were a total of 1,700 entries.
“It's amazing what one little ad will do on our front page,” said Linda Bennett, New York-based senior marketing manager at Yahoo Inc.
Called “Go to the Head of the Parade,” the promotion seeks entries of 150 words or less about why the nominated teen should be part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“Actually, we're looking for three kids who will then be the semifinalists, and then the public will vote on which child they feel has done the most for the community, and that child will be cutting the ribbon with our executives and Al Roker from NBC-TV at the beginning of the parade,” said Ronnie Taffet, vice president of public relations at Macy's East, New York.
The three finalists, to be chosen by Macy's, will be profiled starting Oct. 23 on Yahoo. Online visitors will be asked to vote on the winner. Yahoo will announce the winner Nov. 2.
Started 75 years ago, the parade marches to Herald Square, where Macy's flagship store is located.
The online promotion for the parade's 75th anniversary was crafted by Yahoo's marketing promotions in New York and Sunnyvale, CA. Marketing support comes from keyword searches and run-of-network banners on Yahoo as well as home page positions – Marketplace ads, as Yahoo calls them.
Macy's was tempted to halt the promotion after the terrorist attacks in New York and Virginia.
“Well, we considered changing this program, but we felt, especially in light of the tragedy, there were so many wonderful stories that were coming out and what kids were doing to try to help,” Taffet said. “There may, in fact, be more children that could be nominated, so we decided to continue the program, and at this point the parade is definitely going to take place, [which] could be more meaningful than ever.”
Even Yahoo despaired in the aftermath of the attacks and the havoc it wreaked for marketing promotions that lost all consumer attention.
“It's had a tremendous effect on everybody's business,” Bennett said. “Everybody was so uncertain about what to do after what happened. Last week [week of Sept. 17], it was, 'Do we continue standard operations or do we start closing shop and head for the hills?'”
It helped that people hit sites like Yahoo in droves for news and information related to the Sept. 11 tragedy. A timely placement on the Yahoo home page was all it took for the Macy's Parade promotion to stimulate renewed interest.
“There was always this wonder, 'Will people respond or have they gone to the hills?'” Bennett said. “In a way, the spike in traffic helped the Macy's promotion.”