Tuesday, May 15, 2007

American Eagle Goes Prime Time

Prime-time television advertising may never be the same thanks to American Eagle Outfitters. In an ambitious marketing gambit, the teen apparel chain is creating a 12-episode series of short films—each one three minutes in length—that will serve as the first commercial break during the upcoming run of MTV’s most popular show, “The Real World” (the show changes its locale year to year, with the upcoming season set in Sydney, Australia).

The American Eagle (AE) effort will be called “It’s a Mall World,” and will feature a cast of rising young film and TV actors and a comedic, boy-meets-girl story line. The action will be set in a mall, and the cast will all be outfitted in AE threads. One of the actors will even portray an AE sales assistant.

In a clever bit of media integration, five-minute versions of each AE episode will run the next day on the retailer’s Web site, with a special feature that makes it easy for consumers to buy the apparel featured on the episode.

AE’s choice of MTV for its new marketing campaign is a no-brainer: The network can deliver the young viewers that are the chain’s bread and butter. Tying the films into the chain’s Web site is another no-brainer, allowing kids to watch the films on their own time, where and when they want.

As for filling a full commercial break with a short film vs. scattering traditional short ads throughout a show, well, it sounds a lot more fun—and more likely to capture the attention of teens, who have become increasingly selective about what they watch. Media fragmentation is definitely challenging marketers, but it has also opened the floodgates to all sorts of marketing innovation. Traditional advertising may never be the same.

— Marianne Wilson

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