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Virtual Super 12 sets new standards

AIM Proximity's Virtual Super 12 sets new standards as Virtual NPC wins New Zealand's top direct marketing award

AIM Proximity dominates awards for second consecutive year, winning most Gold medals

AUCKLAND, 4 March, 2003 - AIM Proximity, New Zealand's largest direct marketing agency and the architect behind the hugely popular Virtual Super 12 and Virtual NPC Internet games, won the top prizes again at this year's New Zealand Direct Marketing Awards. In addition, eight of fifteen gold medals awarded on the night went to AIM Proximity.

The NZ DM Awards comprise two series of awards: the RSVP awards, for the best examples of DM campaigns, and the NEXUS awards, for the best products, services and processes that drive campaigns. AIM Proximity picked up both major prizes: the RSVP Grand Prix and the Supreme NEXUS.

AIM Proximity won the RSVP Grand Prix, as well as four of its eight gold medals, for its highly successful 2002 Virtual NPC campaign for clients Air New Zealand and the NZ Rugby Union. The Supreme NEXUS award, and two gold medals, went to AIM Proximity and Telecom New Zealand in recognition of the Telecom Small Business campaign.

Judged the pick of 200 entries from throughout New Zealand, the Virtual NPC proved to be a highly effective marketing campaign, delivering strategic benefits to AIM Proximity's clients, the NZ Rugby Union and Air New Zealand. The Virtual NPC fulfilled key objectives by significantly increasing public interest in the championship games themselves, and further strengthening Air New Zealand customer loyalty.

Virtual Super 12

The 2003 Virtual Super 12, also project managed by AIM Proximity, kicked off in February with a record 58,000 registered players in the first week. This has now climbed to 68,000, after the first three weeks of play, a new all time record. This year's campaign includes new innovations such as live SMS text updates, which allow players to check the scores of friends and family by texting the player names to VS12 or 8712. In addition, WAP-enabled phone users can make their picks and source results using the Telecom Mobile CDMA network.

About Virtual NPC

The Virtual NPC online game and website are designed and project managed by AIM Proximity on behalf of the NZ Rugby Union and Air New Zealand, the sponsor of the NPC. Air New Zealand leveraged the NPC sponsorship through the Internet game with a highly effective Air Points promotion. 31,000 or approximately 50% of the Virtual NPC players were Air New Zealand Air Points members. Points gained in the Virtual NPC converted to Air Points.

The game is simple to play, requiring players to log-on to the website each week, predicting the scores and margins for the following weekend games. In addition to the prize for the overall winner of $10,000 air travel and the prize for the best picks each week, there were 15 spot prices each weekend. The NPC games in each of the three national divisions were played over nine consecutive weeks, followed by the semi-finals and final.

67,000 players registered, record in NZ online game participation

The number of Virtual NPC participants in 2002 snowballed to a record 67,000, more than three times greater than 2001, and a record for online game participation in New Zealand. Virtual NPC became one of the most popular interactive games online involving a national sports competition anywhere in the world.

Players who participated in the 2001 Virtual NPC (24,000) as well as the 2002 Virtual Super 12 (36,000), were invited back to participate in the 2002 Virtual NPC.

"I attribute the huge nationwide interest in the 2002 Virtual NPC to the success of our viral marketing campaign," says Clint Bratton, e-Marketing consultant at AIM Proximity, the architect of the Virtual NPC. "We invited participants to recommend the online game to friends and family, allowing them to create a leader board to get one-up on mates and compete for status among friends."

Viral marketing highly effective, securing 16,000 new participants

The viral element of the online campaign was highly successful with registrants invited to recommend the game to their friends. As a result, 43,000 emails were sent from registered players to friends and family, converting into a staggering 16,000 new players, or a 37% conversion rate.

Twenty three years of cumulative time spent online

"The viral aspect of the campaign significantly heightened the sense of competition between friends and family, encouraging participants to interact more frequently and for longer with the website," says Clint Bratton. "The collective log on time of each individual on the Virtual NPC website during the period of the competition, adds up to twenty three years!"

Canterbury most popular provincial team in Virtual NPC

The largest single group of supporters in the 2002 Virtual NPC was the 14,500 Cantabrians, or 21.5% of the total; followed by Wellingtonians on 20.7%; Auckland: 13.9%; Otago: 11.6% and Waikato on 8%. Mid-Canterbury was the least popular of the 27 provincial teams in all three divisions, with only 0.3% of Virtual NPC players identifying with the union.

About AIM Proximity

Established in 1988, AIM Proximity is New Zealand's largest direct and interactive marketing agency, with 85 employees working from offices in Auckland and Wellington. The company also has four offices in Australia, located in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. AIM Proximity joined the worldwide Proximity group of companies in 2000.

Combining proven direct marketing leadership with award winning database and interactive media, AIM Proximity offers a complete range of solutions to bring brands closer to customers.

In addition to the 2002 AdMedia/Sunday Star Times Agency of the Year Award, AIM Proximity has won numerous accolades in the last decade. These include the ground breaking success at the 2001 New Zealand Direct Marketing Awards when it became the first agency to pick up both major prizes, the RSVP Grand Prix and the Supreme NEXUS. In addition, the company has achieved consistent success overseas, gaining recognition at the prestigious US-based International Echo Awards and the Marketing Direct Awards in Britain.

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