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Online Storytellers

Jonathan Josell and his staff at Wicked Smart Marketing are storytellers but their work won’t be found in a movie theater or be nominated for an Emmy. Instead, the stories they tell appear online with the purpose of getting viewers to interact with an advertising campaign and make an association with a specific brand and message. Take, for instance, the campaign they devised for appliance-maker Bosch. A viewer is met by a screen shot asking if it is possible to prevent the release of 2.6 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Clicking a link continues the story line of green initiatives by Bosch and how its Series 800 dishwasher saves on energy and cuts down on emissions. Other links take viewers to videos, a blog, editorial content, and information about the company’s approach to an eco-friendly manufacturing process. “Bosch believes in being green from beginning to end,” Josell said. “That makes them uniquely different from every appliance company out there right now.” Bosch is among the newer clients for the firm founded in 2001 by Josell after he left a career in the entertainment industry. Originally located in Santa Monica, Wicked Smart relocated to Calabasas and now operates out of Woodland Hills in a building behind Josell’s home. A client list of two companies grew over time to include major advertising and public relations firms, health care providers, government agencies (CalTrans) and media buyers. Toshiba Copiers has used Wicked Smart for three years. SureFire, maker of flashlights and tactical supplies used by police and the military, has been a client for two and a half years. New work comes by the way of referrals. Industry peers recommended Wicked Smart to Greg Jason, group media director with DGWB Advertising and Communications in Santa Ana and manager of the Toshiba Copier account. Jason sees Wicked Smart as an extension of what his agency does to promote Toshiba Copier products online. The two firms worked together on a campaign putting the Toshiba logo on news articles printed or e-mailed from the Wall Street Journal website. Another campaign targeted information technology executives to drive them to a Toshiba microsite where they could access white papers on the latest developments and trends in the copier industry. “We found that three quarters of IT people will download a white paper before making a decision,” Jason said. In having Wicked Smart redesign the flashlight microsite for SureFire, the company wants to make the best first impression possible. Interactivity Much of the site presents SureFire products in flat images but the new look for the flashlight section uses Flash images that a user can rotate 360 degrees and see individual features in high resolution, said Gabriel Steinmann, e-commerce specialist and website manager. Interactivity by a site visitor gives the best feel for a product without being able to physically touch the product, Steinmann said. “It’s critical, especially with e-commerce being so prevalent, to give that user as much info as possible, not only through words but also visually,” Steinmann said. In making a career change away from film financing, Josell wanted to do something that combined the creativity of film with the new opportunities in sales and technology made possible by the Internet. He worked in a sales position at one job in which he came up with advertising campaign concepts. Josell liked that type of work; the devising of different ways to come up with a message to get across to a customer and for them to interact with that message. Josell thought he could do a better job than his then-employer and so he founded Wicked Smart. For the first several years, the full-time staff was small Josell and one other person. In the past year, he added four full-time people and uses a large number of freelancers. Worldwide Josell said geographical boundaries pose no limits in hiring outside workers. For one campaign, the concept was conceived in Woodland Hills, the photo shoot was in Singapore and the digital imaging done in Thailand. Wherever the work takes place, it’s always the storytelling taking precedence. The creative elements used to tell the story work hand-in-hand with the placement of the content at a website and finding relevance to the product being sold, Josell said. It’s more than just a certain demographic, age range or household income. “It’s also about where they (the target audience) are finding the relevant data,” Josell said. To return to the Bosch example, the media buy was for kitchen-oriented sites affiliated with people who design, plan or review kitchens, Josell added. A recently negotiated deal with cable channel Home & Garden Television gives greater visibility for advertising than through standard banner ads. Wicked Smart’s content allows for interaction with viewers specifically in the kitchen areas of the website. “We wanted to be targeted with the buy,” Josell said. The new media created by Josell and his team complements the traditional advertising used by their clients. The firm’s approach is that all advertising needs to work together, incorporating similar color schemes and tag lines. If a consumer sees a newspaper ad and then an online ad and the creative elements are totally different there is no continuity and no increase in the brand uplift, Josell said. But if both are the same, a week later or a month later that same consumer will have more of a recollection of the product, he added. “That is what we try to get across to our clients we always want to keep everything the same,” Josell said. The mobile space is the next frontier to take online interactive advertising. With the high penetration rate of cell phones and improvements in technology and broadband access making for larger screens and faster connections, agencies such as Wicked Smart will be able to do more with mobile ads and text messaging. After all, Josell said, it’s already been proven that people will look at ads in connection with free content. But the company won’t develop mobile ads just because it can. For the Bosch campaign, the mobile component was not rushed; the Wicked Smart team searched through ideas until it came up with something compelling. That’s where the eco-tip of the week came from, with users receiving information on how not to waste water, how to buy organic, and how to use less soap in the dishwasher. “We believe in utilizing it when it makes sense,” Josell said. SPOTLIGHT: Wicked Smart Marketing Year Founded: 2001 Location: Woodland Hills Revenues in 2005: $2.5 million Revenue in 2007 (projected): $6 million Employees in 2006: 2 Employees in 2007: 6

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