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Under the Microscope: How did Gap, WaPo do?

Last week two internationally-recognized brands - the Gap and the Washington Post - tried out two internationally-recognized advertising vehicles: Facebook and Twitter, respectively. They were the first users of new ad formats these two companies were introducing.

In the case of Gap, it was among the first retailers to try out Facebook’s mobile local deals. It gave away jeans to the first 10,000 customers that visited one of its U.S. retail stores, checking in using Facebook's mobile application.

For its part, @WashingtonPost was the first news organization to sponsor a Promoted Trend on election day. Users were able to click on #Election among the list of Trends to see a Tweet written by the Post.

So how did they do? Some caveats first: it is the rare campaign in which the advertiser will admit it made a mistake trying out new technology. Early adopters of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets all deemed the program a success, for instance, but such claims must be taken with a grain of salt, eConsultancy wrote at the time.

"It's worth considering that no marketer taking a leap of faith on a new advertising platform is going to come out two months later slamming it. After all, few marketers want to look dumb and most media buyers, like most of us, prefer to remain employed. Given this, I think it's wise to take anything marketers say about a new advertising platform they're using with a grain of salt."

With that in mind, it does appear that the initial campaigns by Washington Post and Gap went according to plan. According to the Post's executive producer and head of digital news products Katharine Zaleski, the campaign was a success, even though it didn't drive huge amounts of traffic to the paper's site. (via the Atlantic).

That is because it is defining success differently - it didn’t necessarily expect to drive traffic. Rather, Zaleski said, it wanted to be front and center in the conversation. Of all the people who clicked on the Election link from the Twitter.com homepage, 9% of them engaged with the Washington Post, according to Twitter's head of media partnerships Chloe Sladden, who added that the 9% engagement was on the "high-average" for other types of promoted trends.

Gap’s use of Facebook Deals was also deemed a success by the company, although as one poster on Gap’s Facebook page noted, how hard is it to give away Gap jeans? Fast Company reported that Gap stores in high-traffic New York City areas, such as Soho, the Financial District, Midtown, ran out of give-away jeans within hours. Even more impressive was the lack of advertising for the promotion, Fast Company said.

The big question is whether the customers who miss the deal will still continue to shop at Gap, perhaps taking advantage of the 40%-off deal for late-arrivals, it concluded. Also, will customers return or step up their visits to the Gap because of the promotion? This is indeed a problem that advertisers on other platforms - such as Groupon - have had. That will likely be the more telling test.

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