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Online Ads Churn Visits for Free Ice Cream

The lure of free ice cream has helped online advertising drive offline traffic in Boston.

A partnership between Boston.com and ice cream maker Brigham's Inc. led to the redemption of 5,000 coupons Sept. 15-21. Consumers who printed the coupon off the site at www.boston.com were given a free small cone or cup of ice cream of a limited-run flavor at 21 participating Brigham's shops.

“This is the first time we've done something this large in trying to use online advertising activity to drive offline activity,” said Stephanie Shore, director of marketing at Boston.com, a New York Times Co. property that is the online home of The Boston Globe newspaper.

Previous Boston.com promotions were of a similar nature. One was with Long's Jewelers for an in-store bridal event. An engagement ring was embedded in the Boston.com logo. Another was with Target Corp. for a children's book festival.

The interesting thing about “The Scoop” online coupon offer was the redemption rate: Almost 10 percent of the 56,719 page views of the coupon versus the typical 3 percent for Brigham's print coupon redemption.

Moreover, the online promotion's microsite generated 138,833 page views to see the three pages on www.boston.com. The site also recorded about 3,000 people e-mailing the coupon to a friend.

“We were trying to develop a case study for our retail advertisers about how effective online advertising can be in driving offline activity,” Shore said. “Brigham's was extremely pleased with the promotion, and they saw a lot of new faces.”

Founded in 1914, Brigham's ice cream and Elan frozen yogurt are sold in supermarkets and company shops in New England. Brigham's vanilla ice cream is claimed to be the top-selling ice cream in the region.

Money did not change hands in this promotion with Boston.com, but both companies used marketing muscle to publicize it. Brigham's had napkins as well as large posters hanging in the stores. They said, “Get your daily scoop at Boston.com.”

For its part, The Scoop was promoted in The Boston Globe with a full-page color ad Sept. 17, when coupon redemption peaked. Customized headers on Boston.com's home page — ice cream scoops around its nameplate — were created. The tagline: “Get the scoop from two local favorites.”

All creative was done in-house at Boston.com.

Boston.com, which has advertisers like Fleet Bank, British Airways, Dunkin' Donuts, ING and Comcast, had another motive, too. The 8-year-old site was relaunched last month. The Scoop promotion was a quick way to get the news out to multiple audiences, including the site's 2.5 million unique monthly visitors.

“We were celebrating the relaunch of our site, and we were looking to thank our users,” Shore said. “That was really our goal, to be able to provide our users with a small gift.”

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