Sector analysis: Creative media

With the rise of digital platforms some of the best media campaigns are taking on a new creative bent. Mike Fletcher discovers the work behind this new pioneering spirit.

Mercedes-Benz: Twitter users decide outcome of X Factor ad
Mercedes-Benz: Twitter users decide outcome of X Factor ad

The X Factor’s opening weekend of live shows were notable for more than Gary Barlow’s walk-out and Louis Walsh’s inability to answer the same simple "Who are you sending home?" question he’s been asked for the past nine years. It also marked the first time in the UK that Twitter has driven the storyline for a TV ad.

The campaign for Mercedes, by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and planned and bought by Maxus, was designed to promote the car marque’s new A-Class vehicle to a younger, second-screen savvy audience.

Following an online teaser and press advertising, two 60-second spots were aired during The X Factor’s first two commercial breaks on 6 October. Featuring the rapper Kano and his driver, who are chased on their way to a secret gig, viewers were asked to choose what the characters did next.

Viewers could vote on Twitter by posting one of two hashtags, which directed the characters to either ‘hide’ or ‘evade’ and then either ‘switch’ or ‘lift’. The final ad in the sequence ran during Sunday’s vote-off show. The 90-second spot recapped the first two episodes before revealing the concluding chapter.

The campaign, which runs until 2 December, is also supported by a YouTube channel showing the full ad sequence so viewers can create their own story.

Expanding creative horizons

According to David George, Mercedes-Benz UK marketing director, the campaign wasn’t just about creating a media first. By expanding its creative horizons, Mercedes has set out to appeal to a younger, more dynamic car buyer by tapping into the second-screen behavioral trend of "getting involved".

"In doing so, we hope to really cut through, and create a positive, lasting impression on their view of the brand," George says.

Mercedes isn’t the only brand adopting creativity as the heartbeat of campaign planning. As brands battle for cut-through in a world where consumers edit out the messaging that fails to resonate with them, creative campaigns are on the increase and having the word 'creative’ in a media job title has increased expectations.

"It’s the most exciting of times to work in media currently," says Steve Parker, managing director of MediaVest. "There’s so many examples of agencies pushing the boundaries with traditional media whilst the relationship between brand and consumer is so different now. Content has grown in importance. As a result, so have collaborative relationships between agencies and media owners, which once may have been considered more adversarial."

Channel 4’s recently launched video ad formats, which feature Ad Extend, Ad Link, Ad Mix and Ad Pause, have opened the door for deeper collaboration by giving advertisers the creative tools to better engage with online television audiences.

Tetley, Tata Global Beverages’ iconic tea brand, was the first to advertise on 4OD when programmes are paused, in a campaign created by MediaVest. The three-month partnership, which kicked off on 13 August, sees an advert for Tetley appear on-screen with the animated brand message ‘Make Time, Make Tetley’ whenever a 4OD programme is paused.

Parker believes the ad will play more than three million times before its tenure ends later this month. He says: "The digital age pulls us apart as much as it brings us together so Tetley, MediaVest and Channel 4 have partnered to create the first ever live pause advertising campaign that makes light of the natural synergy between pausing and having a tea break."

"Great creativity is being driven by technology, talent and trust and the media landscape is becoming more open as a result," he continues.

"It doesn’t happen with every brief and it’s not required with every campaign but the necessity for greater creativity is driving agencies to consult more closely with media owners and work with clients to match up new technologies with innovative executions."

Opening the way

Arena Media recently produced a campaign for Eurostar to promote Amsterdam as part of its ‘Opening The Way’ initiative. A Eurostar Live digital channel pulled in user-generated and paid-for blogger content and displayed it on multiple outdoor formats.

Arena's creative director Justin Gibbons says: "It was the first properly live digital campaign to manage multiple live feeds in numerous environments at any one time but importantly, it also signaled the start of Eurostar’s drive to embrace social content.

Justin Gibbons 

"There is now a necessity for greater creativity. It’s a counter reaction to the rise of the machines and our industry's more automated way of planning and buying media," he continues.

Independent media agency the7stars worked with Atlantic Records to also use fan-generated content in a fusion between social and outdoor media. Fans of the band, ‘Fun’ were invited to tweet a photo of their idea of fun for the chance to have their images incorporated onto a digital billboard.

The billboard, which could be seen at Westfield shopping centre from 25 to 27 May, integrated both Twitter and Instagram and updated at intervals to include new photos at random that carried the hashtag ‘isfun.’

'Fun' billboard

Jack Melhuish, marketing director at Atlantic Records, says: "It’s important that we continue to find new and engaging ways to use outdoor advertising. Audiences have become more demanding in the level of interactivity they expect to have, with all forms of media."

Media is about achieving creative capital

Lee Ramsay, strategy director at Carat, agrees: "In the age of interactive-owned media, the notion of ‘media’ is a lot more than what you buy from a media owner. It’s also about achieving creative capital," he says.

Earlier this year, Carat partnered with Disney’s 'The Muppets' movie on behalf of Cravendale, a milk brand which, despite evidence that consumers like the product and its advertising, was not converting these positive attributes into sales.

"We wanted to create a ‘family connection moment’ with Cravendale at the heart. Our insight was that mums want to feel closer to their children by sharing the things they love from their own childhoods with their children. To put it another way, we wanted to flip pester power on its head," says Ramsay.

Online fans of Cravendale engaged with 'The Muppets' movie pre-launch through social media. An on-pack promotion offered a Kermit backpack whilst an online redemption hub, where codes that appeared on special packs could be entered, was packed with engaging content. The Muppets also took over Cravendale labels on two-litre bottles, livening up the milk aisle and achieving cut-through in an otherwise dull retail space. In-store activation was also accompanied by competitions.

The Muppets and Cravendale

Above-the-line amplification included TV, cinema, digital and social activity on the Disney channels. As a result, Cravendale’s Facebook page scored more than 50,000 likes and 4,739 interactions thanks to the partnership. In two weeks, more than 30,000 people registered online. There were 154,000 promotional online codes entered, with 50,000 of these coming within a week of the on-pack promotion launching.

"Collaboration is now at the heart of creativity, whether that’s with other agencies, media owners or opportunities that don’t currently exist," says Ramsay.

Driving creative collaborations

Another media owner working hard to provide advertisers with more creative building blocks is Bauer Media. In February last year, Bauer appointed former ZenithOptimedia creative director, Lucy Banks, as its first executive creative director. With a portfolio of magazine brands such as Grazia, FHM and Q, plus Magic and Kiss radio stations at her disposal, Banks’ role is to enhance the opportunities offered to advertisers interested in collaborating with programming and editorial.

She says: "At Zenith, the 'creative' in my job title was more about strategy, but at Bauer it’s about driving creative collaborations that are either product led, advertiser led or insights led.

Lucy Banks

"The Bauer Access model is to provide closer connections to the talent we have working on our brands, which in turn generates the best, most effective ideas," she continues.

"The best way to get truly disproportionate return on investment in marketing has always been to have the best ideas. But, getting great ideas is a more difficult and less straightforward model than simply buying a media campaign cheaply.

"Brands that are brave and clever enough to invest in great ideas and creative longer-term strategies need to be prepared to work in a new more collaborative dynamic," Banks concludes.

Dave Sibley, head of Be Viacom agrees. A year ago, Sibley formalised Viacom’s 15 years of experience working with advertisers interested in aligning themselves to its 14 youth brands including MTV and Nickelodeon.

Since then, brands such as ck one, Corona and Persil have all benefited from Be Viacom’s ability to engage a youth audience creatively across formats including TV, social media and events.

As part of the launch of the new ck one jeans, fragrance and underwear range, six global parties featuring MTV Push artists were promoted through MTV's online channels and in-store.

Adding an event element

The six events touched 7,000 people whilst MTV On air News Hits in the US, UK, China and Brazil, along with MTV social media support, produced 72 million touch points.

"Branded TV entertainment and creativity across social media helps if you already have a mass audience. SpongeBob SquarePants for example has over 37 million fans on Facebook. Our brands can give advertisers huge cut-through and by adding an event element into the mix, we can create real brand engagement at a personal level," says Sibley.

Dave Sibley

Creativity therefore is being driven by media owner collaboration, greater insights, social media and new available technologies and will continue to push the boundaries of advertising across all formats.

However, the most creative ideas should also be the smartest. As Enyi Nwosu, managing director of M&C Saatchi’s Central Strategy Unit points out: "Sticking a QR code on a poster on the London Underground is useless if there’s no wifi to access it. Similarly, if a brand has a creatively brilliant idea for gaining a television audience’s attention, they now need a further brilliant idea to keep ahold of that attention by enabling the audience to access content on second screen.

Enyi Nwosu

"There's an undeniable need for more creative content but it needs to be coupled with a better understanding of success."

Only then will creativity across the media landscape really achieve the X Factor.

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