CAMPAIGNS: Brand Marketing - Tech firms make use of ugly trend

Client: PictureVision (Herndon, VA) and (Philadelphia)

Client: PictureVision (Herndon, VA) and (Philadelphia)

Client: PictureVision (Herndon, VA) and


PR Team: Gregory Communications (Ardmore, PA)

Campaign: Online Fashion Disaster Contest

Time Frame: September 1999 - January 2000

Budget: dollars 75,000

What do digital photography company PictureVision and online retailer have in common? Not much, except that they rely on the

Internet for their bread and butter, and they were both hungry for more

visibility in late 1999.

PictureVision, a Kodak subsidiary, makes software that allows pictures

to be put online. The software is used by high-profile services like

Sony’s ImageStations and Microsoft’s PictureIt. In October 1999, entered the highly competitive retail apparel online


The challenge for Gregory Communications was to create a compelling

story that involved its seemingly unrelated clients.


Realizing that more consumers were staying indoors to shop online, the

agency hit upon the idea: with people’s social skills suffering as a

result of being online all day, would their fashion sense undergo a

similar fate?

That question became the basis for the ’online fashion disaster’


Gregory Communications approached AOL. ’AOL is not our client,’ says

Gregory EVP Tony DeFazio. ’But we realized they could be valuable,

because they have 18 million subscribers. That would be the equivalent

of 20 magazine placements.’ The benefits were reciprocal. AOL was

interested in using the contest to obtain maximum exposure for its new

’You’ve Got Pictures’ online photo-sharing service, which uses

PictureVision (and is an AOL shopping tenant).

Gregory Communications devised strategies to promote its clients by

directing contestants to their Web sites. Contestants were asked to

capture candid shots of themselves, friends or family members behind a

computer. Entries had to be submitted online by accessing Kodak PhotoNET

through one of 38,000 Wolf Camera stores nationwide.

After the contest ended on December 28, judges from Brandmania reviewed

the more than 600 submissions to select the most fashion-challenged


The grand prize was a new wardrobe worth dollars 2,500 from

The ultimate goal was to unveil the contest winner on a national TV



The first press release was sent November 3, a day before the start of

the contest. The release was targeted to all traditional and online

media as well as to individual Web site writers. But the clients

especially wanted national media. ’We were working with Kodak and AOL.

They were going after the holy grail - shows like Good Morning America

and the Today show,’ says DeFazio.

DeFazio and his team cold-called all the segment producers of talk shows

and morning shows the day the contest started. They also pitched their

story by fax and e-mail. After a month of going back and forth with

various shows, DeFazio and his team received confirmation from ABC’s The

View that it would unveil the contest winner on the show.


On January 13, contest winner Lisa Hawkins appeared on The View, vamping

down a catwalk with both her ’before’ and ’after’ duds. Although her new

wardrobe was actually purchased from Saks Fifth Avenue - as a concession

to The View’s producers - a mention was made on air about purchasing

similar clothes from AOL and Kodak also got on-air


Another on-air placement occurred on January 10 on KIFI NEWS 8. Several

magazines and newspapers also picked up the contest story, including

marketing magazine Promo, the Chicago Daily Herald, The Idaho Falls Post

Register, and The Fairfax Journal. Gregory Communications says it also

succeeded in increasing traffic to its clients’ sites.


The agency will continue to do online promotions for PictureVision’s

PhotoNET. It is planning quarterly-themed promotions - including one to

uncover celebrity lookalikes and one to find people who resemble their


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