Advertising agency Bradley and Montgomery launched an unorthodox campaign for cable television station MTV last month that is gaining the local firm-and its client-national acclaim.
A friend of a friend led BAM officials to the New York-based music television channel, which was looking to promote the release of its show "The Hills" on DVD.
BAM officials pulled video snippets from the show, enhanced them graphically, then uploaded the snippets to Web sites such as YouTube.comand Veoh.com. The resulting vignettes can be used-most often by teens-as a type of virtual greeting card.
The messages aren't your typical Get Well Soon or Happy Birthday fare. Instead, they might allow one girl to tell another, in a creative way, that her boyfriend is a loser. Among the most popular messages BAM has made available from the show: "Sorry for the assault," "He's tainted," and "Don't be the girl who didn't go to Paris."
Presumably, the slogans mean more to fans of "The Hills," BAM officials said, but they can also be used to pique the curiosity of people who don't follow the series.
"We found through our research that viewers use language from the show as a way to communicate," Montgomery said.
BAM made the rounds among social network Web sites to find hard-core fans of the show, and enlisted their help in spreading the word of the campaign. The agency reports that well over 300,000 clips from the campaign were viewed and/or downloaded in the first month.
"The 300,000 are just the ones we can track," said Mark Bradley, who in 2000 founded BAM with fellow Young & Laramore alum Scott Montgomery. "Now that this has taken off, there are lots of clips on sites that we may not know about and can't track. That's the power of this campaign."
The video clips called Emoticlips by Bradley and Montgomery can be sent embedded in an email or posted on a person's page or social networking site, such as MySpace or Facebook.
Naturally, at the end of each clip is a short promo for the release of season two of "The Hills" on DVD.
Word of the campaign is spreading far beyond teen circles. BAM's efforts merited mentions in AdWeek, The New York Times, US Weekly and E!Online.
The campaign's budget is relatively small. There is no charge to put videos on sites such as YouTube and the series' fans do most of the work.
While "efforts by ad agencies to whip up online-video trends are almost heartbreakingly dumb," said Virginia Heffernan, who writes a TV and media column for The New York Times, she likes BAM's MTV campaign "a lot right now."
"Bradley and Montgomery has found a way to promote the DVD season two of 'The Hills' with sweet, sendable video clips from the season," Heffernan said.
It's quite a coup for a local agency to get such national attention, said Bob Gustafson, Ball State University advertising professor.
"Historically, it's been very difficult to get even a small part of a national account," Gustafson said. "It takes exceptionally talented people, and oftentimes a track record. The competition for these jobs is extremely intense."
BAM's deftness at using a variety of marketing tools has been key to its success, said Paul Knapp, CEO of local agency heavyweight Young & Laramore.
"This is a significant evolution for them," Knapp said. "We're seeing a shift toward a much more complex mix of communication tools and [BAM] is on top of that shift."
Since 2004, BAM has pursued niche projects for large companies. That strategy, BAM officials said, has led to strong double-digit annual growth.
Montgomery has a clear vision of the firm's target market, and said his staff of 23 could grow by 10 in 2008.
"The Fortune 500," Montgomery said. "That's our [client] universe."