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In 2008, Taubman, an owner and manager of 20 upscale shopping
malls across the United States, asked Colle+McVoy to help create a
back-to-school campaign with an emphasis on trends and value. So we
turned to that famous (or infamous) item that comes to mind when
you think of school and fashion: the yearbook. YearbookYourself.com let teens
and their parents travel back through the decades while learning
about today's trends and back-to-school sales and offers. The site
became so popular that we brought it back for the 2009 season.
Here's a look at the campaign's sophomore year.
Back-to-school season is a well-worn path in retail. Beyond
creating a fresh, fun experience to break through the morass of
traditional back-to-school promotional messaging (“Look cool for
school! For less!”), we needed to convince teens and their
parents-the ones who are usually footing the bill, after all-that
Taubman malls not only have the hottest stores and fashions, but
there are great deals to be had. Specific objectives were:
Throughout the creation of the site, we always came back to one
strategy: keep it simple and focus on the output. The more
realistic the photo, the more likely a user would share it with
their friends and family.
Site design became an exercise in restraint-we embraced the
yearbook/high school look, but worked to avoid the clichés. Users
were guided down a simple path that easily allowed them to make it
look like they were the star of an era, be it the '70s with an afro
or the '80s with a feathered hairdo.
On the front end, one of our biggest challenges was finding
yearbook photos that not only represented the quintessential looks
of a particular era, but also worked well with all sorts of users'
faces. We scoured through thousands of photos. And yes, we laughed
a lot-especially at the '80s ones.
Several technical challenges presented themselves around image
quality and loading. In order to make photographs work for multiple
skin tones, we couldn't just take a “head in the hole” approach. So
we created a multi-layered composite with each image by blending a
desaturated photo import with a skin tone value that closely
matched the tone of the original yearbook portrait.
Flash CS4 relieved a lot of bandwidth issues. Its new
FileReference function made it extremely fast for users to upload a
photo into a Flash app while saving it directly to desktops.
Previously, we would have relied on uploading and downloading to
and from the server, costing time and bandwidth.
Yearbook Yourself surpassed all objectives by triple-digit
margins. The site produced a 282-percent increase in
season-over-season traffic to Taubman mall sites. Of the millions
of visitors to YearbookYourself.com, a practically unheard of 49
percent clicked through to the mall websites and retailers'
back-to-school sales and offer pages.
The site became an overnight sensation with PR and media
coverage on 45,000 websites and blogs, including USA Today,
Tech Crunch, ESPN, VH1's Best Week Ever, The Early
Show on CBS and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Ev, the founder of Twitter, changed his
profile picture to a Yearbook Yourself photo. So did Lance
Armstrong and Pee Wee Herman. Overall, 11.8 million Yearbook
Yourself photos were shared via email or posted to Facebook. And
the Yearbook Yourself Facebook
fan page garnered 70,000 fans.
Finally, we took the experience mobile with an iPhone app that
was released shortly after the site launch. It featured new and
exclusive photos that weren't online and made the much-coveted list
of Apple staff favorite apps.
For us, Yearbook Yourself is a strong example of how we're doing
our best work. Involving the entire team-creatives to strategists
to developers-right from the get-go. Looking at walls and walls of
ideas before landing on one. And once we do, creating an open,
collaborative working style that encourages everyone to poke and
prod an idea to make it great. Is there a cooler, tastier way to
depict a yearbook? How can we integrate conversion points into the
content? How are we going to seed this site in the blogosphere and
to the media? These were the types questions we continually asked
ourselves as a team. Maybe the best part of all this was that our
client really was a part of the team. We showed them ideas earlier
and more often than usual. They, too, really pushed the site to be
better and looked at everything with an open mind. Thanks,
Editor's note: The case study above was submitted by
Colle+McVoy at AIGA's request. To contribute your own case study,
please contact the
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