Posted by on March 9, 2015.

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There is no question that advancements in Internet and communication technologies have changed the way people consume media. Information and entertainment have evolved beyond television and print, and are now available on request, at any time, nearly anywhere in the developed world. While this has greatly expanded advertising opportunities, it has also increased the need for more creative marketing approaches in order to distinguish a company’s products or services from a vast sea of competitors. A sound marketing strategy is no longer as simple as targeting particular demographic segments; thinking outside of the box has become more important than ever in the world of advertising.

Getting your message across to prospective clients is often as much about entertaining them as it is informing them. Social media has created an entirely new level of referral marketing, facilitating quick, easy communications between friends and colleagues seeking to share the things that interest them, from news articles to viral videos. Brand recognition can be built solely on the basis of truly creative marketing strategies, the best of which enhance consumer confidence by relating to the audience through humor or artistic expression.

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While certainly not a new technique, cross promotion has also benefitted greatly from the rise of digital media. The basic premise is still the same: the name recognition of each brand enhances that of the other, while simultaneously introducing one or both to a whole new audience. As an example, Twentieth Century Fox has recently collaborated with Getty Images to co-promote Fox’s new movie Unfinished Business alongside Getty’s iStock image service.

On the surface, one might not assume much overlap between the natural audiences for slapstick comedy and stock photography. However, the creative marketing partnership allows a well-established (but sometimes inconspicuous) brand such as Getty to generate new awareness for their existing service, which is geared more toward professionals, while Fox is able to draw on Getty’s strong reputation with the goal of drumming up more widespread interest heading into opening weekend.

The campaign features typical stock photos of successful-looking corporate types doing the things that corporate types do—except that each picture has been doctored to replace one or two of the original models with stars from the upcoming Fox picture. The subtle changes create a sense of humorous self-awareness for Getty Images, and of the sterile nature of stock photography. It also accentuates the film’s skewering of corporate culture, speaking to those in the professional segment who may not have otherwise had the chance to develop an interest ahead of the release date. After all, who wouldn’t be intrigued by Vince Vaughn occupying the life of a budding entrepreneur?

At the end of the day, any good creative marketing campaign is about capturing people’s attention—and maintaining it even after the initial exposure. Some of the best ideas are those that turn consumers into active promoters themselves, sharing content with like-minded friends and family. Much like cross promotion, this type of referral marketing strategy relies on gaining the confidence of consumers via familiarity—in this case, personal connections rather than trusted brand names. While offering a quality product is always crucial, in the world of advertising, sometimes how the seed is planted is even more important than the seed itself.