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How Microsites Focus Better on the Customer

As the media landscape becomes increasingly cluttered, large advertisers are turning to small, highly targeted vehicles to rise above the noise. They're creating 'microsites' devoted to a single product, service or promotion that otherwise would get lost as a small element on the cluttered home pages of its corporate parent.

Microsites are small yet multi-page websites, sometimes with their own URL addresses and typically accessed via a click-through. JupiterResearch finds that 45 percent of advertisers surveyed with ad budgets exceeding $500 million annually plan to deploy microsites next year, up from just 30 percent this year.

American Express applied a microsite model for the singular purpose of promoting its sponsorship of the U.S. Open tennis tournament using player Andy Roddick (andysmojo.com), and Carnival Cruises applied the model for its customers to exchange vacation experiences (cruise-addicts.com). "Getting consumers to create user generated content (UGC) is often an objective," notes JupiterResearch advertising analyst Emily Riley.

"While it works in the case of Carnival since cruise participants seem to like to share experiences, not all microsites really lend themselves to UGC. Consumers are also getting tired of all the marketer requests for their text commentaries and homegrown videos. So advertisers need to be realistic."

New products/services or relaunched offerings are ideal for microsite treatment because numerous information elements can be presented across the entire home page that is devoted to a single theme. Sweepstakes hosting is another popular use, particularly since the microsites can be shuttered after prizes are awarded.

Analgesics marketer Motrin used a microsite for a sweepstakes incorporating homemaking diva Martha Stewart. The winner received a trip to New York City to see taping of a Stewart TV show. Television drama series 'Lost' seeded the Internet with microsites that fans of the ABC Television drama hunted in a search for clues to solve a mystery.

"It can be expensive to drive this audience traffic," says Riley, who will be a presenter at the 18th Annual EPM Marketing Conference. Based upon my own experience, however, I would have to disagree with her assessment. Frankly, it's nearly always harder to drive visitor traffic to a typical product- or service-oriented corporate website.

Unlike a cause-centric microsite that must focus on meaningful content that will appeal to and engage consumers, many corporate websites are often populated with content that appears to be targeted more at internal constituents, business partners -- and even competitors. Granted, that's not the original intent for creating the website, but corporate content just seems to drift in that general direction as the focus broadens and digresses over time.

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