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Crafting Stronger Connections with Coffee Drinkers

A coffee pioneer, illy has products available in 140 countries and more than 100,000 of the world’s finest restaurants and cafes.


illy faced challenges in identifying and reaching potential customers and engaging coffee lovers at the most relevant time and place. The company also needed to adapt its new global branding for the U.S. market. We designed and developed a digital media program that would heighten awareness and engagement and increase ROI from digital advertising. Our solutions included an integrated paid search advertising program, a social graph featuring real-time data, and the creation of a digital campaign that included online ads, rich media, online video, and mobile.

In recognizing the importance of niche markets, we were able to target a display ad program that was exponentially more effective than paid search alone.

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Eye-Opening Audience Research Drives Digital Campaigns

We knew that the first step in a measurably successful program would be to understand our target audience – and where to find them online. In the process of creating an integrated paid search advertising program to drive online sales, we uncovered the foodie blogs and coffee websites that attract coffee lovers. We targeted a display ad program to these niche markets that proved exponentially more effective than paid search alone. We teamed up with 33Across to address some of the challenges illy faced in identifying and reaching potential customers. 33Across created the illy Brand Graph™, a social graph and powerful real-time technology designed to predict a massive number of consumers and reveal their social attributions and interests. By tapping into the connections between a brand’s loyalists and their closest friends, the social graph heightened advertising effectiveness and empowered the illy team to create actionable value from the big data that surrounded the brand. In order to create a seamless adaptation of illy’s international brand for a more targeted American audience, we first sought to understand the pillars of the brand as a whole. Then, paying attention to the key differences in the core audience, we crafted a message that appropriately conveyed those fundamentals to U.S. consumers. Our team scripted and recut illy’s “live happ-illy” commercials to focus on concepts that would resonate with an American audience and placed the recut videos in targeted rich media ads.

No Small Sips Here: Campaigns Drive Substantial Results


The combined performance of the media campaigns delivered their promised value: paid search drove traffic to the site, and banner ad retargeting provided a “follow-up” impression. In turn, content and keyword targeted media increased brand awareness, which helped drive searches and consumers to illy’s site. Key results:

  • Cost-per-click averages were nearly half of what they were prior to our engagement

  • Display media earned upwards of $10 for every $1 spent

  • Revenue from affiliated marketing programs increased by 20% between 2007 and 2009

illy’s influential group of brand loyalists shares 27% more content than the average food and beverage consumer. Thus, the incorporation of additional share functionalities yielded positive word-of-mouth buzz for the illy brand. illy consumers view 20% more video content than the industry average, so the implementation of pre-roll and expandable video units proved an effective means to engage this audience.

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