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Outrider wins Yahoo Searchlight Award for Smirnoff campaign

In the midst of uncertain times, Yahoo hosted its fourth annual Searchlight award show in New York City on Tuesday with Outrider leaving the event with the coveted Yahoo Searchlight award.

Following presentations by four agencies, the audience voted to award Outrider for its Smirnoff Ice and Smirnoff Raw Tea campaign, which took place last summer.

At the start of the event, David Karnstedt, SVP of North American sales for Yahoo alluded to these “interesting times,” before introducing the key note speaker, Rob Norman, CEO of Group M Interaction Worldwide. “I very much hope this is not the last Yahoo Searchlight award,” Norman said, referring to Microsoft’s recent bid for the company. Yahoo should not be thought of as a “stricken ship to be lifted off the rocks” but as a significant player in the development of online marketing industry, Norman added.

Of the 40 agencies that applied for the award, Yahoo selected four to present at the event. In addition to Outrider, presentations were made by Carat for its work on the Reebok Run Easy campaign, Resolution Media for the 2007 FedEx Super Bowl campaign and Digitas for American Express’ charity-based Members Project.

This was the first time Smirnoff had added Search to the media mix, said Ronnie Bromberg of Beyond Interaction, who worked on the campaign with Outrider. The campaign featured an online video entitled “Tea Partay,” which featured East Coast “prepstas” rapping about playing croquet and eating finger sandwiches. Within days of being posted on YouTube, it had taken on a life of its own, Bromberg said. A second West Coast themed video was also produced.

In addition to YouTube, both videos were also posted to the Smirnoff site www.teapartay.com. Search was used to reach an untapped audience and to create awareness. “The goal was to get as much exposure as possible,” Bromberg said.

Because Smirnoff is an alcoholic beverage, online advertsising could not be purchased on Google due to its company policies, said Chris Copeland of Outrider. To add to the challenge, advertising that ran on third-party sites had to have 70% of their audience be over the age of 21.

To drive people to watch the videos, Outrider purchased keywords on Yahoo and MSN like “preppy,” “trendy drink” and “tea party,” as well as “finger sandwiches,” which had one of the highest click-through rates, said Kaylyn Slaughter of Outrider. As of this week, the Tea Partay video has been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube.

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