Tip to marketing geniuses: K.I.S.S.
That is, Keep Internets Serving, Stupid. During the Superbowl VIZIO used an ad to encourage everyone to immediately visit their website and register to win a TV. Guess how that ended? Yeah, for several hours their Flash-laden site wasn't available. Anyone remember the ill-fated Dr. Pepper campaign?
Today, Denny's is giving away free breakfasts. Of course, dennys.com is dead as a hammer. Something tells me cutting IT staff isn't helping. I'm not saying Denny's has cut staff, but IT has increasingly been tasked with "do more with less" even before the recession hit the fan.
So what do you do, as a marketer? We all made lots of fun of Twitter for a while when the service would fail, didn't we? But the Fail Whale has made increasingly shorter appearances (sources say the robot wanted less money anyway and the whale got a gig on "Flapjack" for Cartoon Network). I met one of the engineers of Twitter recently, and I learned that they learned some very important lessons in scaling the past year or so...
Marketers need to learn to anticipate promotional effects on servers, end of story. Don't write a check your host can't cash, basically. Does it mean spending money on infrastructure? Not necessarily. It will, however, likely mean some code and server jockeying to ensure your site is lean and distributed and capable of a temporary spike in traffic. Digg, Twitter, Flickr and plenty of other sites have learned this the hard way. Now it's Madison Avenue's turn, I guess.