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Direct Response Marketing

Wix’s Winning Game Plan

1 Apr, 2015 By: Thomas Haire Response

Omer Shai says the company’s Super Bowl campaign is just the latest success built from a powerful combination of offline, online and brand marketing.


“We are doing brand performance marketing. I don’t understand why more people don’t use this term,” says Omer Shai, chief marketing officer (CMO) of Wix.com, a cloud-based Web development platform based in Tel Aviv, Israel. “Traditional DR commercials do much more hard selling than what we are doing. For us, it’s more about the decisions we are making in creative and how we buy media according to performance. While we want to drive response, we also want to have a commercial we are proud of.”

Publicly traded since 2013, Wix was founded in 2008 by Avishai Abrahami, Giora (Gig) Kaplan and Nadav Abrahami. Avishai Abrahami serves today as chief executive officer (CEO), Kaplan as chief technology officer (CTO), and Nadav Abrahami as vice president of client development. The company was founded with the belief that the Internet should be accessible to everyone to develop, create and contribute. Today, Wix empowers more than 62 million registered users — businesses, organizations, professionals and individuals — to take their businesses, brands and workflow online.

Shai joined the company in its earliest stages — February 2008 — after working for, and co-founding, other start-ups in the online space. During his time with Wix, he’s helped grow the brand and the business across multiple international markets, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada and Australia, as well as releasing the product in nine different languages.

Much of the company’s growth can be attributed to its direct response television efforts — or, brand performance, to use Shai’s terminology. Using offline technology to drive consumers online to access its products and services — and to build its brand — has been so successful, in fact, that on Feb. 1, Wix became the first TV advertiser borne out of the direct response space to air a spot during the Super Bowl in a number of years.

And, boy, what timing Wix had — its spot aired on NBC during the two-minute warning timeout in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX, measured as the moment of the largest spike in total viewership (in U.S. television’s most-watched event ever) thanks to the thrilling finish of the New England Patriots’ 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. But the spot itself was only a part of a much larger campaign oriented around the Super Bowl that earned high praise from analysts, including a top ranking from Merkle RKG’s 2015 Digital Bowl Report, an analysis of digital Super Bowl campaigns.

Start-Up Expertise

Shai’s background includes serving in the Israeli military, as well as earning a degree in economics and management from Tel Aviv University.

“That military service is part of our country,” Shai says. “It helps us learn to be able to move as well and as fast we can in our businesses and in life. We work really hard, but really smart, with a lot of ambition.”

In 2002, he worked with Wix co-founder Nadav Abrahami at another start-up, Hackersoftware, before co-founding and leading the marketing activities for Hyperactive, a digital design corporation. He’s also served as an online marketing consultant for a number of brands.

“We developed an educational app for mobile — in the pre-smartphone era,” says Shai, who boasts more than 11 years of expertise in search optimization, online advertising and social media. “Hyperactive was premature for the market, especially after smartphones hit. When I closed that operation after three-and-a-half years, Wix asked me to join the team.”

Joining Wix at age 30, Shai became responsible for — and still leads —the company’s global online and offline marketing activity, which boasts growth of more than 1.4 million new users every month. But it wasn’t always so rosy.

When he joined the company, there were fewer than two-dozen on the staff (Wix now boasts more than 900 employees worldwide). “I remember contacting almost every blogger, many small business owners, musicians and more,” he says of his initial push to get Wix’s name and concept into the marketplace. “If they wrote about anything similar to us, we asked them to write about our product. If you remember, back then, the biggest social network was MySpace.”

But, he credits the leadership team — most of whom are still with the company — with the knowledge and desire to stick with the business through those early days. “For the whole management team, it wasn’t our first start-up,” he says. “Most of us had been a part of three or four start-ups each before that — and all of us had failed at least once. This is part of the DNA of the company — and of our marketing team: we are willing to try a lot of different things and not afraid to fail. We educate ourselves and always move forward with a lot of passion and spark.”

That passion and spark, Shai says, is what he focuses on most in his leadership role today. “I love to mentor, to start new campaigns and keep the spark alive for the team,” he says. “The DNA of our marketing team is that passion mixed with a powerful combination of branding and direct. We believe in performance marketing, while keeping the brand powerful and respectable in all outlets.”

Start Small but Ramp up Quickly

“Online is the bread and butter — we’re an online company first,” Shai says. “And though we operate in nine different languages and a number of countries (Wix also has offices in New York, San Francisco, Vilnius, Lithuania, and Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine), all of our online marketing activity is directed from Israel. We have staff speaking all nine languages here and we educated them how to do online marketing from our Tel Aviv base that promotes our brand and product.”

One of the Wix marketing team’s best learning experiences, Shai says, came from a strictly online campaign with Facebook in 2012. “In June 2012, Facebook began offering a new ad option that’s now well known and widely used,” he says. “We decided to test it and, after some early success, we moved from a $50,000 monthly advertising budget for the outlet to a $500,000 monthly budget in two days time.”

Shai says that quickly recognizing the campaign’s potential taught the Wix team the speed with which it needed to attack possible successes. “We moved fast to use all of the inventory and opportunities that came up,” he adds. “We learned to analyze and move quickly. This speaks to the DNA of our team and of the company.”

After almost five years of online marketing success, Shai and his marketing team decided to try to build more return on investment via offline campaigns designed to drive users to Wix.com. The company first dipped its toe in the water in February 2013.

“We started with a radio commercial,” Shai says. “The ROI was very positive, so four months later — in mid-June 2013 — we debuted our first TV spot.”

Shai says the Wix marketing team took a page from its online efforts, using a measured approach to enter the offline space by starting out slowly before ramping up the successes quickly.

“That first TV campaign started with a low budget — it was a $60,000-80,000 campaign,” he says. “We measured it quickly, and once we found that it was ROI-positive, we increased the budget according to the campaign.”

Wix has now run close to a half-dozen different brand response TV campaigns. “With all of them, we’ve seen increased ROI by buying media that fits our audiences and performs,” Shai says.

The company’s most recent brand response TV campaign included three different spots. “Each of those spots had a 15-second and a 30-second version,” Shai says. “It’s about creating the right mix creatively and with the media buy in order to optimize the brand and maximize ROI.”

From the beginning of its offline efforts, Wix has worked closely with TwoNil, an agency with offices in Los Angeles and New York. Shai has nothing but praise for the agency and its founder and CEO, Mark Zamuner.

“He understands performance brands in terms of TV and radio,” Shai contends. “TwoNil also understands the growth goals of our online business. We’ve worked with Mark and his team from our first radio campaign. The goal is to increase budget and ROI, and he understands this perfectly.”

A ‘Super’ Success

The success Wix has had on television in the U.S. — which Shai calls the company’s No. 1 market — led it to begin considering a Super Bowl ad last year. “We believe this is our year,” Shai says. “This is the year that we are comfortable with our brand and our product to take on a campaign as big as the Super Bowl.”

Shai says that the company’s successful move to go public in November 2013, along with its continuing growth, gave it the confidence to make the move to become a part of what he calls — with plenty of statistical backing — “the biggest TV event in the United States.”

“Even with our user growth and a great product, many consumers in the United States are not familiar with Wix yet,” Shai says. “This is the right year for everyone in the U.S. to know us.”

But true to Wix’s history, its Super Bowl ad would only be a part of a much larger campaign to support it. The wide-scale, cross-platform branding campaign tied directly to the company’s mission. A number of additional spots and content were developed and tailored for various online platforms.

“The Super Bowl campaign started on Jan. 7, more than three weeks before the game,” Shai says. “We created 26 short videos, five social channels on Facebook, five Twitter accounts, Vine campaigns, and e-mails to users.”

The campaign, which included a special social media hashtag — #ItsThatEasy — also featured five former NFL stars: Brett Favre, Terrell Owens, Emmitt Smith, Larry Allen and Franco Harris. The campaign rolled out with a YouTube video featuring Owens in early January and expanded in the weeks leading up to the big game.

This included the Jan. 27 YouTube debut of an extended 70-second version of the company’s 30-second Super Bowl spot. The spot was created by Frank Samuel, Jeff Reed and Lauren Bayer of CommitteeLA, working in collaboration with San Francisco creative team Jeff Huggins and Andrea Janetos.

“We are estimating more than 300 million people interacted with the campaign during those three weeks,” Shai says, adding that the company’s push gained it massive free media coverage, as well. “Just in broadcast, we measured a $7 million value in media coverage of the campaign, part of $9 million in total coverage. These are opportunities we haven’t been involved with in the past.”

Wix’s unbelievably great placement during one of the Super Bowl’s most thrilling recent finishes didn’t hurt. According to Rentrak’s second-by-second viewership measurement of the Super Bowl broadcast, the spot aired at the perfect moment — when 120.8 million households were tuned into the game.

“In such a close game, we were the first spot during the two-minute warning break,” Shai says. “We reached nearly 121 million households — it was amazing, but again, the 30-second commercial was just part of our campaign.”

That overall effort also earned Wix recognition as the top all-around digital Super Bowl campaign from Merkle RKG, which measured companies’ social, search optimization, display, paid search and e-mail efforts.

Such success is even more than what Shai and his team could have envisioned. But Wix’s marketing efforts, combining offline and online response mechanisms with a powerful branding facet, are what puts it in position to succeed — not only on a big stage like the Super Bowl, but also in its continuing day-to-day work.

“It’s much tougher to manage both branding and response in the same campaign at the same time,” Shai says. “But we think ‘brand’ and we think ‘performance’ all the time. When I lecture, I talk about keeping two balls in the air at the same time. With performance-based marketing, we still need to create something that fits the level of our brand. That’s our constant goal, and so we work hard to achieve it.” ■


About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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