Client: PictureVision (Herndon, VA) and Brandmania.com (Philadelphia)
Client: PictureVision (Herndon, VA) and Brandmania.com
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
Brandmania.com 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,
Brandmania.com 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
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 Brandmania.com 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 Brandmania.com. 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