Campaigns for a Holiday That Marketers Love

By TANZINA VEGA
Published: February 13, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/business/media/14adco.html?_r=1&ref=business

IF you listen carefully this Valentine’s Day, you may hear men shouting love declarations from a mountaintop in California. But before you start looking at the man by your side and wondering why he’s not doing the same thing, know that the screaming men are were hired by AT&T for the company’s Valentine’s Day promotion.

Mars Chocolate hopes romantics will pay for custom messages on M&M’s to make heartfelt declarations.

AT&T hired “mountain men” to make proclamations of love from a mountaintop.

The campaign, called “Shout your love from the mountaintop,” began Thursday and encouraged users to post declarations of love to an AT&T Facebook page. The mountain men, a group of actors equipped with HTC Inspire 4G phones, are to shout the declarations from the top of Mount Baldy in Southern California from morning to evening on Monday.

“It’s just a fun Valentine’s experience that takes communication to a new level,” said Valerie Vargas, the vice president for advertising at AT&T.

The mountaintop campaign is just one example of how marketers are taking new approaches to the most romantic holiday of the year. AT&T worked with BBDO New York, part of the Omnicom Group and the company’s creative agency of record, on the campaign.

“You do get so tired of clichéd Valentine’s promotions,” said Ralph Watson, the co-executive creative director for AT&T business at BBDO. “We took great pains to make sure we didn’t just have heart stuff.”

Users whose messages were chosen for the campaign will receive a link to a video of the shout that they can send to their friends or post on their Facebook page. The shouts are also being streamed live on the AT&T Facebook page at facebook.com/ATT for the duration of the event.

Last Friday, the company encouraged users to post Twitter messages using the tag “#LoveShout,” which AT&T paid Twitter to promote as a trend. The campaign included digital banner ads and video ads that ran on sites like AOL, CNET, Fox News, MSN and Yahoo.

Several Web videos showing the mountain men in different settings were also posted on the Facebook page in the days before Valentine’s Day. AT&T will also have video messages from the mountain men for participants whose messages did not get shouted.

Those seeking a more subtle approach to declaring their love may take a cue from the M&M character Red, who is being featured in the Valentine’s Day campaign for My M&M’s, the personalized version of the chocolate candies.

The brand, part of the Mars family of food products, promoted the candies through a variety of digital and traditional media, including 15- and 30-second television commercials featuring Red sitting on a bench with an attractive companion who says she loves him, but he can’t say it in return.

“Red has trouble showing his emotional side,” said Jason Lucas, the senior creative director for BBDO New York, the agency of record for My M&M’s. “The only way he can say it is with the candies.”

The full-color ads that ran in print media, including Us Weekly and People magazine and as inserts in Sunday newspapers, featured Red lying in a come-hither pose on a elegant candlelit dining table decorated with scattered rose petals. The words “Be my valentine” were etched on his back.

Other elements of the campaign included radio spots offering discounts on My M&M’s, Facebook ads, banner ads, e-mail promotions and a Twitter handle, MyMMscom, with which followers could share gift ideas and get discount codes for the candies. Users can customize the candies by choosing from 25 colors and adding images or text.

“What better way to celebrate love than to customize it?” said Lauren Nodzak, a spokeswoman for Mars Chocolate North America. The most popular messages are “Be mine,” “You make me melt” and, of course, “I Love You,” Ms. Nodzak said.

Valentine’s Day also prompts people to look for love. Paul Breton, the director of corporate communications at the Web site eHarmony.com, said many dating sites tended to have an uptick in visitors this time of year. The company is offering users a free sampling of its service through the month of February. It also is working with the artist Hugh MacLeod on a Facebook application featuring the artist’s love-themed drawings.

“As a company, as a brand, we’re all about creating more love in the world and people finding fun ways to do that,” Mr. Breton said. The Facebook app allows users to post selected drawings by Mr. MacLeod on other Facebook users’ pages or send the art as an e-mail.

Users who “like” the Facebook page also receive a discount on Mr. MacLeod’s artwork. The app will function through the month on the eHarmony pages for the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as on the Facebook page for CompatiblePartners.net, eHarmony’s dating service for same-sex couples.

But the artwork is not limited to being shared with potential lovers. Mr. Breton said the company tried to include pieces that could be sent to friends and family by including cards with messages like “Thank you for … you.”

Mr. MacLeod, who is single, said he considered himself a hopeless romantic.

“Its hard to be a cartoonist if you’re not fundamentally interested in what drives people,” Mr. MacLeod said. “Love is a big driver.”

Advertisements