“Here’s $2 and a chance to win a vacation” – The most effective marketing you’ll see all day.

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This is what greeted me today as I left Back Bay Station on my way to work. A guy was handing out these envelopes to anyone who passed by announcing “Two free dollars and a chance to win a vacation.” I’m usually in the camp of people who would prefer to pepper spray anyone who attempts to talk to me, or hand me anything, on the street, but I figured, two bucks is two bucks.

And as you can see, it was a real two dollar bill. and a real chance to win a vacation (I didn’t win).

But ask me about the last banner ad I saw? NOTHING. The last banner ad (or “OLA” as us in the advertising world like to call them) that I can remember was a home page takeover of the NY Times, where the “I’m a Mac” and “I’m a PC” guy pulled a lever in a unit on the right-hand side, and it changed the headlines on the leader board banner at the top. And that was probably 2008.

Not only did I tweet and Facebook about this promotion, now I’m blogging about it. Well done TNT Vacations.

In order to find out if you won the vacation you need to enter your email address. How many address will they collect today? The guy handing out the envelopes had a big stack. And he had probably been there for a while already. Multiple that across a few cities and you have a nice email recruitment effort. A nice, CHEAP, recruitment effort. Even if only 1 in 10 people check to see if they have one, it’s still only a cost-per-acquisition of $20.

Compare that with average click through rates of .05% for display ads and it seems to me that you need to run A LOT of banners to get that same person to take action. Granted, there is no opportunity for storytelling here, no brand-building creative, they didn’t change my perception of TNT Vacations (although they did make me aware of it, so that’s pretty good).

I often wonder, when my clients tell me that want to spend millions of dollars on banner ads, whether or not it would be more effective to simply pass out money on a street corner.

If anyone from TNT Vacations (or their parent company Funjet Vacations) is reading this and want to get in touch and share some data, I’d love to see it.

Just so you know, banner ads used to be A LOT more effective:

BEHOLD: The First Banner Ad Ever – From 1994

About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

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