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Double Play

Combining print with streaming video could be the hook you need to make your online ads more effective.

Next to e-mail spam and fliers under the windshield wiper, no advertising infuriates prospects more than unwanted pop-ups (and pop-unders) on the Web. It's like a salesperson appearing out of nowhere to hop in their lap while they're reading the newspaper.

You might ask "Isn't all in-your-face advertising on the Internet 'unwanted'?"

The answer is no. If an advertiser is discreet in identifying and zeroing in on the target's specific interests, online advertising can be powerful indeed--particularly if it employs technology that makes the message compelling enough to keep a potential customer hooked.

One of the best examples of that kind of ad is shown here. It's a hybrid: partly a straight-on box promoting a cleverly positioned new product and partly an instant streaming video demonstrating the product's benefits.

The goop is called Try-Out (great name!), a temporary hair dye from Just For Men that gives a graying guy the chance to try out a hair color without, and before, committing to it. If he likes the color, then he can buy and apply Just For Men's permanent version of the color. If he thinks it doesn't suit him, the dye washes right out. It's a terrific idea that surely overcomes a major obstacle--the permanency of regular hair dye for those only at the "maybe" stage.

What earns an A+ in my book is the dynamic duo of the ad and the instant video to demo the product. Of course, Internet video is nothing new; we've been able to view promos and sneak previews since the mid-90s, using downloadable players like Apple's QuickTime, RealPlayer and Windows Media Player. But what makes this ad's brand of video unique is that no downloaded player is necessary. This type of "instant-on" promo, developed and offered by EyeWonder Inc. of Atlanta, is actually sent with its own tiny, onboard player. So there's none of the typical finger-drumming as you wait for the video to load and buffer-precious moments when the prospect can, and often does, get impatient and leave.

The limits of print on paper make the screen capture at left look pretty ordinary. But in action, the combo print-and-video presentation is pretty riveting. The video is no more than 30 seconds, and the language and imagery are spare. As mentioned, it shows a gray-haired spokesman temporarily changing his hair color. And it offers a toll-free number for a free sample.

Intrusive? Nah. But then again, I'm in the target market.


Jerry Fisher (www.jerry-fisher.com) is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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This article was originally published in the May 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Double Play.

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