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The international diamond merchant’s online effort sparkled on the Web.
While dozens of advertisers, hoping to play on consumers’ sentimentality or senility, jumped on the millennium bandwagon during the second half of 1999, international diamond merchant De Beers boarded gracefully. Using the turn of the millennium to spark renewed interest in the diamond market, the London-based company launched a classy, black-and-white offline campaign, followed by a complementary online effort that connected the lasting quality and value of diamonds to the once-in-a-lifetime event. “Diamonds fit the millennium better than any other product could,” says Ann Ritchie, account director and partner at J. Walter Thompson, New York, the ad agency that created the promotional push. “It represents forever.” The campaign served a two-fold purpose: to reverse the five-year decline in diamond acquisition rates and increase diamond spending.
Central to both the on- and offline effort was De Beers’ “design your own engagement ring” program, which resides on JWT’s Diamond Information Center Web site. The program, developed by JWT’s interactive division Digital@JWT, allows visitors to design an engagement ring online by selecting a preferred stone, band and sidestone. Sponsored by De Beers, the Web site, located at adiamondisforever.com, was originally developed in 1996 by New York-based shop Interactive 8 (now Luminant Worldwide).
Seeking to illustrate the appeal of the online program, JWT created the “Click” TV spot, which ran for three weeks in late November 1999. Targeted at 18- to 34-year-old single women, the commercial featured a woman’s hand clicking a mouse. With each click, the diamond ring on the woman’s hand transformed into a different style. The overwhelming response to the spot translated online with a 62 percent jump in site visits the first week the spot aired. In the week preceding the spot, the site recorded 63,000 visits. During the spot’s third week on air, visits soared to 131,000.
As traffic to the site climbed, so too did the De Beers’ viral marketing effort. When a person designed a ring on the DIC site, they were invited to send that ring design to a friend via e-mail. The recipient was prompted to click on a link housed within the e-mail, which sent them to the site to view the ring. In addition, the site obtained demographic information by requesting would-be ring designers to fill out an application.
Riding on the successes of the TV spots, outdoor ads and print executions, JWT took to the Web to create an online campaign that captured the same aura. In doing so, JWT didn’t look to replicate the offline effort. Instead, it sought to maintain a consistent brand image that transferred seamlessly across mediums. “While the [online] execution is individual and particular to the Web, its look and feel is very similar to the outdoor and print advertising campaign, so there is real synergy off- and online,” Richard Lennox, director in charge of De Beers at JWT, said of the online campaign back in December.
From the start, Digital@JWT shied away from static banners, citing the ad unit’s failure to convey the allure and romance of the unflappable gem. Instead, they opted to use rich media advertising, employing Unicast’s Superstitial, a pre-loading “super” pop-up window and Comet Systems’ cometized banners to prompt people to buy diamonds and drive visitors to the DIC site. (The cometized banner ads transform cursors into sparkling diamond icons when users have the Comet Systems plug-in installed on their computers. See page 48 for more on Comet.)
Some rich media ads promoted a sweepstakes running on the DIC site that gave users the chance to win a trip to London to see the De Beers Millennium Star diamond. According to JWT, 35,000 people entered the contest. Other rich media ads, targeted at men in their 20s and 30s, linked to the DIC site from male-centric sites, such as Maximmag.com, Bloomberg Online, Golf Online, E! Online and TheStreet. To appeal to this segment, JWT dropped attention-grabbing items, near and dear to many men, in the ads. One Superstitial, for instance, focused on a football, claiming “She’ll let you watch football for the next thousand years.” JWT reports that this ad scored a 5-percent clickthrough.
Unique to the online campaign, JWT could tweak unsuccessful elements on the fly. For instance, the first time a Superstitial ran, it received a less-than-favorable result–only a .19 clickthrough rate. The JWT group reacted quickly, adding the word “win” to the ad. The slight change proved a significant one, producing a .85 clickthrough rate.
In addition to the rich media ads, Digital@JWT created a micro-site at Maxim magazine online in Q4 1999. Targeted at young men, the micro-site featured tips on buying a diamond engagement ring, including information on the four Cs: clarity, cut, color and carat. JWT reports that the micro-site over-delivered its impressions by 744 percent. While initially planning for 1.5 million impressions, the micro-site actually received 11.1 million in a two-month time period, capturing 19 percent of Maximmag.com’s users.
According to Web tracking data provided by Luminant Worldwide, the DIC site has posted tremendous numbers since the De Beers endeavor began. The June 1999 launch of the design-your-own-ring program spurred a 270 percent increase in site visits, rising from a monthly average of 68,000 to 350,000. Page views have jumped from a monthly average of 500,000 to 6 million, with the highest month-to-date boasting 9.7 million. Time spent on the site has lengthened from a 4:37 monthly average to 7:51. “When you look at response rates, they just blow people away,” says Kevin Wassong, senior partner and director of Digital@JWT.
In addition to driving site traffic, the campaign also achieved its main goals of boosting diamond acquisition rates and dollars spent on diamonds. Before the campaign, 70 percent of brides-to-be acquired a diamond engagement ring. After the campaign began, acquisition rates reversed, returning to 74 percent, the 1994 level before the decline. The amount spent on diamonds also grew 12 percent, from $2,000 to $2,263.
While most millennium-themed campaigns fizzled after the clock struck midnight on January 1, the De Beers campaign still shines today. Currently, the diamond company is marketing a three-stone anniversary ring in conjunction with the millennial year. When users log onto adiamondisforever.com, they can link to an anniversary page that showcases designs and explains the past-present-future concept behind the ring. In addition, Digital@JWT is redesigning the DIC site to increase usability, add new functionality and create an interactive design gallery for De Beers that will feature an extensive collection of diamond jewelry designs online. Thus, the celebration continues.–Ann M. Mack
Photography by Henry Leutwyler