An interactive digital ad pushed Callaway Golf to a new engagement frontier
The U.S. Golf Association permits players to carry as many as 14 clubs in their bags, and for manufacturers vying to make the cut for America’s 25 million golfers, the competition is intense. Billion-dollar enterprise Callaway Golf has long ranked among the victors, due in no small part to its touted signature craftsmanship. Last fall, Callaway added to its top-of-the-line offerings by rolling out the JAWS MD5 wedge.
All of Callaway’s routine channels were activated to promote this latest endeavor. A press release sent in September trumpeted “the most aggressive grooves in golf for maximum spin and control.” The big-box sporting retailers blasted shoppers with marketing emails that boasted inclusion of the JAWS MD5 in their new stock. But when it was time for Callaway to develop its own digital campaign, the strategy doglegged from the usual.
“We’re always looking for ways to present our content in new and engaging ways,” says Tyler Shean, a Callaway marketing specialist. “With the way golfers are consuming golf content in today’s media landscape, it’s no longer enough to rely on static digital media.”
Callaway linked up with a small, Austin-based company called KERV Interactive to develop web videos that allowed viewers to customize their own ad experience. The strategy already had a successful track record promoting similar high-end brands.
“We find our tech does really well in the luxury category,” says KERV COO Marika Roque. “Luxury items have a longer sales cycle, and users are more interested in understanding their attributes than something that they’ll just buy on a whim.”
Beyond that, a new school of digital ad artists believe interactive videos hold the key to standing out within the sea of sameness.
“The question I would ask brands is, ‘Do you want audiences engaging with your content?’” asks Andrew Klein, director of content innovation at Spark Foundry, where he advised KERV. “Do you want them to buy your product, learn more, watch more, listen or play? Interactive ads open the door to all these possibilities. I would also ask brands if their static rich media banner units are moving the needle on their KPIs. If not, consider putting your ads on steroids.”
Callaway enlisted KERV to develop an interactive campaign focusing on brand awareness as the primary KPI and with product consideration as a secondary goal.
“With the JAWS MD5 wedge campaign, we had a number of stories to tell in a limited amount of time,” Shean says. “In addition to communicating the performance benefits and variety of options in the JAWS MD5 wedge line, we were also excited to celebrate the career and accomplishments of Callaway’s legendary wedge designer, Roger Cleveland.”
One version of the final ad opens with Cleveland deep in the JAWS MD5 creation process in a state-of-the-art lab. Seconds later, a graphic appears center screen that invites viewers to explore the ad, followed immediately by a menu icon arriving on the right border. Clicking the icon brings up a toolbar with a still of the video’s opening scene. As the video continues to play, a second still lines up beneath the first at the seven-second mark. The rest of the 30-second ad plays as a standard video. The action shifts away from the workshop to the range where a trim golfer takes a few swings with the prized club. A final still is created the moment the screen goes dark and flashes the stylized JAWS typeface.
KERV’s value proposition begins the moment a viewer clicks on any of those stills. The screen returns to the captured moment, at which time highlighted explore points reveal themselves when a cursor hovers over top. Lingering on the head of the golf club or the JAWS logo calls up an additional text box providing more club specs and linking to Callaway’s online store to learn more.
Viewers are invited to play with different explore points in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Because of the added detail, engagement numbers can surpass the total runtime of the video ad, prompting Spark Foundry to develop a new metric called “earned time spent,” or ETS, to measure the resonance of interactive ads.
“ETS meant a brand would pay for a 15-second or 30-second spot, and due to the interactive element of the ad, the user actually opts in to engage with the unit for longer … than if it had been a traditional digital ad,” Klein says.
Callaway’s interactive ad was timed to run near the height of the holiday shopping season in early- to mid-December. “People are usually in that headspace of … buying [themselves] some things as well as searching around for gifts for others,” Roque says.
Various cuts of the ad were made to appeal to different generations. Taking these cuts as a single asset, the entire spot contained 15 explore points that each linked to a unique exit destination.
The separate cuts also lent themselves to targeted data collection by generation and allowed Callaway to gauge club interest by age. Baby boomers engaged the most with Apex irons, while millennials and Gen Z viewers interacted the most with the JAWS wedge. The interactive extras were easy to edit on the fly if data points demonstrated that any tweaks needed to be made.
“We have a couple of different creative levers we can pull,” Roque says. “For example, automatically putting scenes into the carousel so we can adjust the creative without adjusting the copy. If we saw that baby boomers were spending the most time with the iron and we saw that millennials are spending the most time with the wedges, we’re actually able to optimize the same asset for each of the audiences in a unique way.”
The video delivered a click-through rate more than five times what Callaway anticipated. The ad manages to capture attention for 38 seconds, exceeding the runtime by eight seconds, and doubling data analytics company Moat’s industry benchmark of 19 seconds.
“The benchmark-exceeding engagement numbers speak for themselves, but what was particularly impressive was KERV’s in-house production team,” Shean says “They turned our 30-second TV spot into an incredible interactive experience with 15 unique areas to explore throughout the spot.”
Along with the attention garnered for Callaway, the ad’s success gives KERV another winning case study to promote the promise of interactive web ads.
“People need to really maximize the pixels in these creatives that they’re investing in,” Roque says.
Photos courtesy of Callaway Golf.