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  • Greats, the direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand acquired by Steve Madden last month, brings new meaning to marketing transparency in a campaign launching this week with ad inserts saying, “This is an ad.” The concept is to be as simple and straightforward as the minimalist sneaker brand while meeting consumer demands for authenticity, the brand shared with Mobile Marketer.
  • On Facebook, the campaign uses the social network’s augmented reality (AR) technology ­­­to create an immersive mobile experience. The ads will also run on Facebook-owned Instagram and over-the-top media channels.
  • Greats worked with Agency Within, a digital marketing firm whose clients include Nike, Hugo Boss, Budweiser, Spanx and Shake Shack, on the campaign.


Greats’ “This is an Ad” campaign aims to reach younger adults who are more likely to demand authenticity and originality from the brands they buy from. The fashion industry is vulnerable to a “rising trust deficit” as consumers seek more information about how products are designed and made, per a report by consulting firm McKinsey. Consumer demand for authenticity among fashion brands has fueled the popularity of Instagram accounts like Diet Prada, a self-styled industry watchdog that calls out copycat brands and currently has 1.5 million followers.

To reach millennials, Greats’ campaign relies on OTT channels and social networks like Facebook, which last year introduced AR ads in its news feed. The ad format aims to give consumers a more immersive, 3D look at products than standard formats. Fashion designer Michael Kors was the first brand to test out the AR ads, followed by Sephora and Pottery Barn.

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DTC marketers like Greats tend to see better engagement on mobile platforms than on desktop. The advertising click-through rate for DTC brands was three times higher on mobile than on desktop computers, while the conversion rate was 50% greater, per an August study by email marketing platform LiveIntent. DTC marketing also works well on social media platforms due to overlapping audiences. More than 60% of DTC brands said social media provided the best way to acquire customers, ahead of search engine optimization (51%), direct traffic (50%) and search engine marketing (26%), a Yotpo survey found in May.

Greats’ campaign comes several weeks after the startup founded by Ryan Babenzein was acquired by designer Steve Madden as part of its push into the growing streetwear category. Steve Madden didn’t disclose the purchase price, but said Greats had net sales about of $13 million for the year ended June 30.

“Ryan’s shoes are the talk among all the millennial men I encounter,” Steve Madden, founder of the titular company, said in a statement last month. “He reminds me so much of myself. We can’t wait to explode this thing.”

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