*This article by Stuart Elliott, is featured in The New York Times.
One by One, Marketers Plan for a Singular Event
2011, November 9
By Stuart Elliott
MARKETERS are betting on a daily numbers game again, taking advantage of a calendar coincidence to drum up interest in their goods and services.
The date on Friday will be Nov. 11, 2011, and the triple play of elevens — being rendered as 11/11/11, 11-11-11 and 11.11.11 — is inspiring a commercialized celebration on Madison Avenue. There are advertisements, promotions, events and even a party to be hosted by an agency named, yes, Eleven.
The fact that Friday is also Veterans Day in the United States seems to be generating additional campaigns for 11/11/11 because it is the first time since 1/1/01 that a date with repeating numbers is a holiday, too.
For instance, the date of 11-11-11 is prominently displayed in ads for a Veterans Day initiative sponsored by the Papa John’s pizza chain to raise money for the U.S.O.
Ads that hinge on a special date are an example of a marketing tactic called borrowed interest, in which advertisers try to involve themselves in big, topical events that the proverbial “everyone” is talking about. It is the hucksters’ equivalent of candidates far down on the ballot attempting to win by riding the coattails of those at the top of the ticket.
Some marketers have become known for repeatedly running campaigns that seek to borrow interest from the news of the day, the foibles of celebrities or other goings-on that are being followed by millions of consumers. Among them are brands like Papa John’s, Kenneth Cole, Taco Bell, Manhattan Mini Storage and Spirit Airlines.
For example, Spirit struck again this week, offering on its Web site, spirit.com, a promotion inspired by a headline-making paternity suit against the singer Justin Bieber. The “Who’s Your Daddy?” online sale was accompanied by an image of a beaver and proclamations that Spirit was “fathering” low fares “Justin’ time for the holidays.”
The idea that 11/11/11 would be “a memorable date” was the genesis of a decision that the Energizer line of batteries would sponsor an event that evening in Houston, said Michelle Atkinson, vice president for North America marketing at the Energizer household products division of Energizer Holdings in St. Louis.
The event, called the Energizer Night Race for a Brighter World, will include an 11-kilometer race and a 1.1-mile fun run and is being promoted with slogans like “11/11/11: Race at night. Give the gift of light.”
Energizer, which is sponsoring the event with a nonprofit organization, One Million Lights, has announced a goal of donating 11 million hours of light to rural communities around the world as part of a new campaign that carries the theme “Now that’s positive energy.”
A reason for the interest among marketers in memorable dates, Ms. Atkinson said, is that “people have a lot going on in their lives, and this is something that cuts through the clutter.”
Marketers of several products being introduced on Friday are also playing up the date. They include Verizon Wireless, which will begin selling the Motorola Droid Razr smartphone (at 11:11 a.m., no less); the Warner Brothers unit of Time Warner, which will release on DVD and Blu-ray disc the movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2”; and the Hachette Book Group, which is publishing “Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook.”
Newspaper ads that promote the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., declare, “America’s next great museum opens 11-11-11.” (The opening day celebration is planned to start at 11 a.m.)
There is even a horror movie scheduled to open on Friday with the title “11-11-11.”
It is, then, hard to blame the executives at Eleven, which is based in San Francisco, for wanting to throw a shindig on the date that echoes its name thrice.
“The agency was founded in the spring of 1999, and from the very first year there was a party every Nov. 11,” said Courtney Buechert, chief executive at Eleven, which was named for the amplifier owned by the character Nigel Tufnel in the film “This Is Spinal Tap” that could be turned up beyond 10, to 11.
“So it was obvious that the mother of all parties was going to be on 11/11/11,” Mr. Buechert said. About 500 people have sent word that they plan to attend the party, he added, which is to be held in a gallery in the Potrero Hill neighborhood.
The theme of the party is “2011 = Love + Hell + the Odd Uprising,” which is being borrowed from a poster that Mr. Buechert said he saw at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The poster advertised the 2011 season of the Bell Shakespeare company, including plays like “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Faustus.”
Mr. Buechert estimated the cost of the Eleven party to be $150,000. “What are we going to do, wait for the next time 11/11/11 lines up?” he asked. “You have to pick your moments.”
The arrival of the palindrome date of 11/11/11 marks the 11th consecutive year with a day of repeating numbers; the most recent one before this was 10/10/10.
The 12th and final one for this century will come on Dec. 12, 2012. After that, marketers that love numerology will have to wait until Jan. 1, 2101 for the next triple-digit day.