Five questions for Ryan Holiday, Marketing and Web Strategist, American Apparel

Monday, December 21, 2009 | 11:01 AM


In the past few months, American Apparel has run several campaigns on YouTube to promote some of the company's lesser-known lines, from swimwear to kids clothing. Our personal favorite is a campaign they recently ran targeted to pet content on YouTube -- including the famous (or maybe infamous) "Skateboarding Dog" video.

In this interview, Ryan Holiday, Marketing and Web Strategist at American Apparel, talked to us about the company's overall marketing goals, the importance of being playful, and, of course, dogs on skateboards.

1. Why did you want to target American Apparel ads to videos of dogs on skateboards?

It started when we were looking for dance websites and it turned out that there weren't that many -- at least ones that fit our audience. But there are a lot of great dance videos. Awesome ones, actually. So we started designing ads for the American Apparel DANCE line and targeted them to our favorite ballet, aerobics and dance videos. At the same time, we realized that a lot of people don't know that you can buy American Apparel for your pet because it's a hard thing to advertise for, so we started looking for pet videos. "Skateboarding Dog" is obviously an iconic YouTube video, but there are so many other really cute pet ones out there. The same goes for videos like "Charlie Bit My Finger," which felt like a great place to introduce the American Apparel Kids line. Fun parents are the reason it got popular and that's what our line is about. Our Sesame Street shirts will hopefully go next to Sesame Street videos and so on.

2. How do you measure the success of this campaign?

AdWords lets you track view-through orders, so that's one metric. Considering that the alternatives are tactics like site retargeting or large network buys, or in this case children's or pet-owners' magazines, just being able to do advertising that is playful and appreciated by the people seeing it sort of makes it successful regardless.

3. What did you learn and how has it informed other campaigns you've run on YouTube?

You should be on the sites your employees and fans are on. The second we started picking YouTube videos, employees from all over the world began sending in links of videos they thought we should be on. Striking a nerve like that lets you know that you might have something special.

4. How does your YouTube campaign fit within your larger marketing strategy?

It fits into its own little pocket. You have marketing that is about a message or the brand, and you have marketing that pushes new products or events. This is something that's a combination of that. People on YouTube are looking to discover things and hopefully our ads help them do that.

5. What's your favorite YouTube video?

We're partial to the Larry Flynt deposition from the Falwell lawsuit.