The best creative work loses all its power if it isn’t seen or experienced in the right setting or context. That’s why we at Adweek honor the media plan, arguably the most important part of the marketing process.
For more than 20 years, Adweek has run the Media Plan of the Year competition (though for many of its first years it ran in former sibling publication Mediaweek), which celebrates the best executions and communications plans created by media departments big and small for their clients.
The plans celebrated in this year’s section bristle with tech innovations, from our inaugural Programmatic, Data and Insights plans to the first International plans from across the world. From the personalization of TV spots to “magic mirrors” that transform your ordinary wheels into the car of your dreams, the variety is staggering. (One quick aside: there are 32 winners but the eagle-eyed will only count 29 stories—that's because three agencies won in two categories.)
But, coming full circle, it’s the creativity and originality of these plans that make them deliver the goods for the client—and tie them together to this section. Congratulations to all the winners below, grouped by category and budget.
We wouldn’t be able to evaluate and select the winners without help from you. The Media Plan of the Year competition earns its credibility from the panel of industry peers who judge the work. Adweek offers a hearty thanks to:
• Baba Shetty (jury chair), DigitasLBi
• Theodor Arhio, TBWA\Helsinki
• Justine Bloome, Carat USA
• Jeff Brooks, Assembly
• Pele Cortizo-Burgess, MEC
• Greg James, Havas Media N.A.
• Rob Jayson, ZenithOptimedia
• Eva Kantrowitz, Horizon Media
• Krista Lang, 22Squared
• Joshua Lowcock, UM
• Barry Lowenthal, The Media Kitchen
• Anush Prabhu, Deutsch N.Y.
• Juha Matti-Raunio, TBWA\Helsinki
• Shelby Saville, Spark
• Ian Schafer, Deep Focus
• Will Wiseman, PHD
• Julian Zilberbrand, ZenithOptimedia
Always | SMG, “#LikeAGirl”
Categories: Campaign ($5 million - $10 million); Best Use of Social ($4 million +)
Equipped with the insight that a girl's confidence plummets during puberty, hits a low after her first period and sometimes never bounces back, P&G's Always, working with media agency Starcom MediaVest Group, created a campaign to inspire. It aimed to take the phrase "like a girl" and turn it into a symbol of power for young women.
SMG targeted its key audience—millennials—on mobile, where its members constantly consume and share content. Cristina Torres, SMG's vp, communications planning director, says the agency designed the campaign to be sharable across social channels, and to "live seamlessly in the video environment." To date, the video has racked up 90 million views and counting, with 65 percent coming from social sharing in the first week.
During the Super Bowl, SMG ran the #LikeAGirl spot after Katy Perry's halftime performance, when viewers were most engaged, but continued the conversation on social and "targeted contextual spaces that were more aligned to the Always brand, like confidence and women's empowerment," Torres adds.
The overall push sparked a worldwide movement, changing how 59 percent of men and 76 percent of women ages 16-24 perceive the phrase "like a girl," and for the Always brand, it initially increased purchase intent by 92 percent. It also cleaned up at the awards shows, including two gold, three silvers and a bronze Clio for sister agency Leo Burnett. —Katie Richards
Nike | W+K/Mindshare/Razorfish, “Risk Everything”
Categories: Campaign ($15 million +); Best International Campaign ($5 million +)
As the world's most popular footwear brand, Nike wanted to dominate the conversation surrounding the 2014 World Cup, the most-watched, most-connected event in media history. The client chose to differentiate itself from competitors by daring athletes around the globe to think differently, take risks and resist playing a "formulaic" game.
The brand's team of agency partners at Wieden + Kennedy, Mindshare and Razorfish targeted the key "football-obsessed teens" demographic, working to ensure that Nike appeared at every touchstone of these connected millennials' media worlds. The key insight driving the campaign was the fact that young people didn't just want to watch, play and talk about football—they also wanted to experience the World Cup as a mobile-first combination of digital games and social content.
One day before the World Cup started, Nike launched the five-minute Last Game film, delivering more than 210 million views across social, digital, TV and Xbox and turning "Risk Everything" into an international theme, meme and rallying cry during the tournament.
The client and its agencies then followed with a series of custom-animated films distributed in real time via assorted media partnerships during all 26 days of the tournament. Original content connected to the client's subsequent TV ads also ran in real time.
Nike achieved its goal of guiding the media conversation around the World Cup, earning 410 million online views for its "Risk Everything" films, along with 23 million engagements, 6.2 million new social media followers and a 21 percent increase in brand revenue.
"We wanted to operate differently as a media team and thought of ourselves as a programming team that was telling a unique story for the 26 days of the tournament across the globe," says W+K global communications planning director Daniel Sheniak. "The superhero power of the campaign was the ability to make real-time creative and media decisions that followed the drama on the pitch." —Patrick Coffee
Media Markt | UM, “The Rabbit Race”
Category: Campaign ($10 million - $15 million)
When buying consumer goods, Germans tend to go for the cheapest price without considering the brand behind the sale—so the country's biggest entertainment electronics retailer Media Markt has worked to heighten public awareness by running loud, often ridiculous campaigns.
In order to encourage price-focused consumers to interact directly with the brand, Media Markt's agency partners at UM and Ogilvy Frankfurt turned a simple series of rabbit races into a branded-content sporting event nearly as popular among Germans as the 2014 World Cup.
Three such races were broadcast simultaneously on YouTube, Germany's nine largest private TV stations and the homepage of its biggest newspaper as bloggers and traditional print/digital journalists covered the event from every possible angle. The race itself was hosted by one of Germany's best-known sports pundits and filmed at an "arena" built specifically for the event. And the full Rabbit Race content package included additional press conference/behind-the-scenes footage and "exclusive background stories" on each competing bunny. In the campaign's largest promotional element, customers who shopped Media Markt on the day of the race could win 50 percent of their money back if the number on their receipt matched that of the winning rabbit.
UM Germany CEO Sven Weisbrich calls the campaign "a very efficient initiative due to the strong effect on content spread across the social Web," noting his agency's decision to use "the commercial break simultaneously on various channels and also connect this event to the purchase in the store."
The project eventually generated 250 million impressions, with 21 million live viewers and social media followers creating 250 percent more interactions than usual, a 40 percent Facebook follower boost and an 18.2 percent increase in overall customers. More people watched these running rabbits than the World Cup semifinal between the Netherlands and Argentina—the game that determined which team would play Germany for the title. —Patrick Coffee
Newcastle Brown Ale | SMG, “Band of Brands”
Category: Campaign ($1 million - $5 million)
Newcastle Brown Ale decided blowing its entire marketing budget on a $4.5 million 2014 Super Bowl spot wasn't worthwhile. But pooling together 38 budgets and collectively plowing them into 30 seconds of airtime, while also gaining some Super Bowl-level visibility? Well, that sounded much more promising.
For the "Band of Brands" campaign, Newcastle and media agency Starcom MediaVest Group initially put out a call to local and national brands with an online spot featuring actress Aubrey Plaza. A total of 400 applicants duked it out on social media for one of the 38 coveted spots. The winning brands—including Boost Mobile, Quilted Northern and Brawny—were ones that "could drive scale in video and social media," says Heineken USA digital media manager Betsy Paynter.
Leading up to the Big Game, SMG partnered with Facebook and Twitter, running campaign teasers to build anticipation for the 60-second spot. The campaign commandeered pre-Super Bowl conversations online, racking up over 22 billion media impressions overall. On game day, the final spot broke online and aired on TV in Palm Springs, Calif. While "Band of Brands" generated exposure for 37 smaller brands, it rocketed Newcastle's profile with 33 million plus views and $20 million in earned media. —Katie Richards
Oreo | PHD, “The Oreo Eclipse”
Category: Campaign ($500,000 - $1 million)
Oreo may be an iconic brand around the world, but to British consumers a cookie is just a cookie, with Oreo commanding a mere 10 percent of the market leader's unprompted awareness. In order to place the product closer to public hearts and minds, PHD London relied on two unavoidable components of British life: tabloids and bad weather.
Centering the campaign on the appearance of the first solar eclipse in more than 16 years, the agency used astronomical data and real-time outdoor digital screens to recreate the eclipse as it happened at locations across the U.K.—with a floating digital Oreo.
The brand then shared 10-second time-lapse videos of the event on each of its digital channels less than an hour after the eclipse. This campaign was more than a simple social media stunt as it utilized both the sun and The Sun, Britain's largest newspaper (5.5 million readers) that ran a first-ever "translucent cover wrap" promotion the morning of the event.
Since weather made the eclipse itself unviewable in much of the country, more consumers experienced the Oreo version. The campaign was seen by 20 million people, and sales the following week rose 59 percent, making March 2015 the brand's biggest-ever month in Britain. —Patrick Coffee
Taco Bell | DigitasLBi, “Blackout”
Categories: Campaign (less than $500,000); Best Use of Social (less than $500,000)
After spending two years developing a mobile ordering app, Taco Bell wanted to spur rapid adoption among its loyal fans. With a goal of 2 million new app users, Taco Bell hired DigitasLBi to find a way to reach fans on their mobile phones and activate easy download. Instead of adding to Taco Bell's already active social strategy, it took everything away, blacking out each channel and directing visitors to the new app.
For 72 hours, Taco Bell's digital presence went dark, leaving only one message on Twitter: "The new way to Taco Bell isn't on Twitter, it's #OnlyInTheApp." Similar messages were placed on Facebook, Instagram and various online sites.
"I think the first part of this was a lot of measuring twice, cutting once, and going to great lengths to make sure we protected the fans [and] get them back when we turn things back on," says Dave Marsey, evp and managing director at DigitasLBi San Francisco. "But we also wanted to make sure that there were no hiccups when we pulled the trigger. We wanted everything black and no exceptions."
In two days, 300,000 people downloaded the app, and by the end of the campaign that number had grown to 2.5 million. —Marty Swant
Neutrogena | UM, “2X Derm Perfect Pairings”
Category: Best Use of Programmatic
UM's inventive use of programmatic tactics for Neutrogena proved to be far from skin deep. In fact, the data drill-down sliced through multiple layers to finely target an especially effective campaign. Working from the insight that 75 percent of Neutrogena customers are loyal to only one product segment, the brand partnered with UM's J3 unit to convince loyalists to buy one additional Neutrogena product.
The brand also worked with digital media firm Catalina to mine shopper loyalty-card data to identify brand consumers who also bought competing beauty products. To drive incremental purchases, creative units showcased two different Neutrogena offerings side by side. These "perfect pairings" were established based on items consumers had shown an affinity for or already purchased. For example, makeup-removal wipes were paired with the brand's cosmetics and served up to customers who already purchased Neutrogena cosmetics. Banner and video ads allowed users to interact with the pairings and get more information.
Grapeshot's contextual targeting was also used to engage consumers while they surfed beauty sites. UM svps and managing partners Dean Jayson and Josh Bock drove the plan, along with vp, group partner Lee Fisher. Partner Cadreon stewarded implementation and ensured the campaign delivered against intended key performance indicators. Results included a return on ad spend of $5.84, blowing past benchmarks by 289 percent. Ad awareness rose 5.4 percent, exceeding benchmarks by 182 percent. —David Gianatasio
Lexus NX | Team One, “Beyond Utility”
Category: Best Use of Data
It's quite a feat to create a unique spot that stands out on a venue as noisy as Facebook. And yet, Team One found a way to really stand out, creating more than 1,000 unique videos to promote the new Lexus NX.
"There's a media theory that the smaller and smaller your target gets, the more expensive it is to achieve engagement," says Amanda Taft, associate media director, digital, at Team One. "What was really unique about this execution was when we went to market, we knew we were going to engage users, but we didn't know the cost. When we actually executed, we were shocked how efficient we came in."
With the goals to promote awareness (from 0 percent to 40 percent of the general public) and deliver sales of 40,000 units, Team One, with an assist from Facebook and Unified Social, made videos that targeted consumers not only by demographic but also by interests, geographic location and vehicle affinity. The campaign turned out to be Lexus' most efficient effort; at a cost of just 4 cents per view, it was 300 percent more efficient than other campaigns from the automaker. All told, Team One generated 1,076 videos, targeting 2,742 different segments that reached 11.2 million unique Facebook users and more than 11 million video views.
With a 26.6 percent engagement rate, the campaign beat the auto industry benchmark. Over the first three months of the year, Lexus hit its year-end awareness goal. Significantly, the Lexus NX achieved its objective to move cars, besting monthly sales objectives through March and achieving 112 percent of its sales goal in those three months. —Kristina Monllos
American Express | DigitasLBi, “EveryDay Genius”
Category: Best Use of Insights
DigitasLBi focused on the little things to drive big results in its 24-episode "EveryDay Genius" campaign developed last year to introduce the American Express EveryDay credit card. The product was aimed at a new target for the company: multitasking suburban moms not as caught up in fine dining or pricey travel as the typical AmEx cardholder.
Data revealed the target audience wanted practical tips and household shortcuts—in modern parlance, life hacks—but felt overwhelmed by the amount of information available. The key to gaining their attention and trust, the agency determined, was to put popular hacks to the test and find the best ones.
Kari Byron, longtime costar of Mythbusters, hosted a series of Web videos with subjects ranging from how to safely carve a jack-o-lantern to the proper procedures for folding fitted sheets and removing wrinkles from clothes without an iron. Topics were based on moms' search data gleaned from AOL and YouTube. The hacks were rigorously tested until clear winners had been revealed.
"At its core, this was a very simple idea: Give consumers thoughtful tips for stuff that they are actively looking for," says DigitasLBi svp of media Scott Marsden. "We did that, plus we found a natural way to connect American Express."
Ultimately, the series proved to be an impressive hack for the client, with video views across all platforms topping 15 million. Brand consideration rose 33 percent, double the benchmark for the category. —David Gianatasio
John Hancock | Hill Holliday (Trilia), “Vitality”
Category: Best Use of Mobile ($4 million +)
Life insurance advertising frequently focuses on risk, but Hill Holiday chose to emphasize rewards in a recent initiative introducing Vitality from John Hancock. Vitality customers receive a Fitbit that lets them track their behavior and earn incentives ranging from Whole Foods discounts and movie passes to reductions on their premiums.
That may sound like a readily salable proposition. Yet, the agency's media operations (recently rebranded as Trilia) faced a significant challenge, according to Alicia Petersen, vp, group media director, who developed the plan with staffers Monica Eremita and Rebecca Lehman. The team needed to build buzz for a complex product among a target audience of presumably fit and healthy 30- and 40-somethings that wouldn't normally have life insurance on their minds. "We liked the idea of using mobile because, when you think of someone who is into physical fitness—going all around, taking their phone to the gym—it just made sense," says Petersen.
The shop ran mobile ads and used tools such as Twitter TV Targeting to encourage viewers to visit Vitality mobile landing pages. It also served banner and video ads to users through a partnership with loyalty platform SessionM, thus reaching consumers who would be accustomed to earning rewards points. Consumers were even geo-targeted via their handsets and tablets to boost attendance for a spring kickoff event that took place in New York's Grand Central Terminal.
The campaign, which launched in the spring and ran through June, ultimately generated more than 473,000 site visits, at a cost per visit 36 percent below goal. —David Gianatasio
Taco Bell | DigitasLBi, “Mobile Ordering App”
Category: Best Use of Mobile ($1 million - $2 million)
Taco Bell spent two years developing its mobile app, working with DigitasLBi to create an experience aimed at adults ages 18-34 who were most likely to order from their phone. While conducting consumer research, Digitas discovered that around 70 percent of Taco Bell customers wanted to create custom orders, but fewer than half actually did out of a fear of taking too long in line.
"People wanted to start customizing their orders, but they had what we call line anxiety," explains DigitasLBi associate creative director Jessie Harte. "When you have people standing in line behind you, you don't want to be sounding like Sally Albright" of When Harry Met Sally fame.
Digitas decided to create an experience focused on the ability to customize any order. The final product was an enhanced menu with iPhone photos of ingredients that let users touch and move ingredients around the screen. Along with in-app payment and pick-up preferences, Digitas also developed a patented "rotate to reorder" feature which allows users to select from past orders.
The app quickly found traction, gaining more than 300,000 app installs over the first two days post launch and currently totaling more than 2.5 million. Even better, the average customer spend from those who downloaded the app went up 33 percent. Check, please. —Marty Swant
Google Search App | Essence, “Perfect Pinpoint Personalization”
Category: Best Use of Mobile ($500,000 - $1 million)
Google has always been the pioneer and leader in search, but one nagging business challenge the Internet giant faced was persuading traditional Web-based Google users to migrate from its browser to a mobile app. Even though the app had more offerings, Google found that Web habits are indeed hard to break. In an effort to face the issue, media agency Essence helped to create a campaign that boosted awareness of the app's ability to personalize Google's search experience.
Instead of using mass media to spread the message, Essence set out to find a way of showing how the app's personalization capabilities function. The company built technology that collected real-time, targeted information from Google directly into rich media mobile ads (designed by 72andSunny). Each impression pulled in 23 different pieces of real-time, contextual content and what Essence calls dynamic customization. The ads then showed users useful information based on their surroundings—much like they would in Google's app, only in mobile ads (most of which are little more than old-fashioned pop-ups).
According to Essence, the campaign recorded an engagement rate of 53 percent, and a recent consumer study showed awareness of the Google Search App increased by 9 percent, exceeding the client's targets. "It's not just interesting and cool to play around with this kind of technology, but it can really be used to achieve business results," says Alastair Boyle, Essence's head of strategy. —Marty Swant
Fox | Media Storm, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Category: Best Use of Mobile (less than $500,000)
As Fox geared up for a second season of its cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the network wanted to build excitement around its return. And who better to deliver that excitement than cast member Terry Crews—he of the oddly entrancing jumping pectoral muscles. The series was also about to switch from Tuesday to Sunday nights, so Media Storm set out to update Brooklyn Nine-Nine's existing fan base while also growing it organically before the premiere.
To do this, Media Storm decided to send one character into rush-hour traffic, not literally, but by partnering with navigation app Waze to turn Crews' character, Sergeant Terry Jeffords, into a voice-guidance option for drivers. "There's always sort of a negative connotation with traffic, but with Crews involved with the voice navigation, we were able to make driving fun and make traffic a little more bearable," notes Lisa Moriwaki, head of the Fox digital team at Media Storm.
Through paid media and organic response, 12,000 Waze users switched over to the Jeffords voice within the first 48 hours. Over the course of the month, Moriwaki said organic voice changes increased to 240,000. The idea—then only the second time a celebrity voice had been used on Waze—also generated press that resulted in 40 million editorial impressions (and won a Bronze in 2014 Key Art Awards). Finally, Season 2 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, debuted to 5.58 million viewers, and was renewed for a third season. —Marty Swant
Dove | Mindshare, “#SpeakBeautiful”
Category: Best Use of Social ($2 million - $4 million)
Few marketers, especially beauty brands, have made it their mission to improve their consumers' self-esteem. That's what Unilever brand Dove has done, making inroads since 2004 with its "Campaign for Real Beauty." But a lot can change in a decade. "In 2004 women were fundamentally benchmarking themselves against the images in a magazine," says Cindy Gustafson, managing director of the invention studio at Mindshare. "And in 10 years there's been an incredible seismic shift because of the advent of social media and technology. The fact is this is where women are now taking their self-esteem cues from."
Mindshare analyzed 18 million tweets and found that a third of them contained negative beauty or body image content, and women were 50 percent more likely to tweet negatively about themselves. Dove decided to change the conversation and partnered with Twitter for the #SpeakBeautiful campaign, which encouraged women to use social media as a tool for body and beauty in a positive way. Given the image-conscious nature of awards shows, Dove launched #SpeakBeautiful during the Oscars' Red Carpet and published tweets every 30 minutes. It also sent 800 personalized messages to women during the event, hoping to inspire them to send positive messages.
The results were impressive: The campaign scored almost 6 million tweets, over 800 million social impressions and reached a unique audience of 13 million. Compared to the Oscars in 2014 there were 30 percent fewer negative tweets and 69 percent more positive tweets about self-beauty. It helped Dove's brand perception, too. Among people who engaged with the campaign, 27 percent had a higher intent to purchase Dove products, according to Nielsen; brand sentiment also increased 17 percent, according to Twitter. —Kristina Monllos
Burger King | Horizon Media, “The Revival of Chicken Fries”
Category: Best Use of Social ($1 million - $2 million)
In 2012 Burger King pulled Chicken Fries from its menu. Devastated Chicken Fries loyalists lamented the loss on social media for two years. The burger chain, with help from Horizon Media and Code & Theory, determined that to increase brand favorability among millennials—a demographic the burger chain was looking to win over—it needed to give teens what they longed for. Initially, Burger King sent Chicken Fries materials to a few of its locations and patiently waited for employees to leak the news. With social buzz building, partly thanks to a BuzzFeed listicle on now-extinct foods from your childhood, Burger King broke the news on Snapchat. When the #ChickenFriesAreBack campaign kicked off, fans received a "Snacktivist Party" care package filled with videos and snackable content to share across social media.
On day one, the hashtag averaged 380 tweets a minute and generated 1.63 billion social media impressions overall. Some fans even sent Burger King photos of themselves crying tears of joy because their precious Chicken Fries were back.
Two weeks into the campaign, Burger King's brand perception shot up 44 percent, while traffic among teens jumped 19 percent. The return of Chicken Fries even drove BK to its highest sales month in over five years. —Katie Richards
FX | Zenith, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”
Category: Best Use of Social ($500,000 - $1 million)
Zenith had a tough assignment for its first campaign with FX: How do you promote a TV series that has already featured haunted houses, insane asylums and magic-conjuring witches—the last of which stood as FX's most-watched season to date? To create buzz for the fourth installment of FX's American Horror Story franchise, Zenith created two unique audiences: "Miss American Horror" and "Offbeat Freakster," which targeted socially influential millennial fans and young, unconventional hipsters. The "Take a Second Look" strategy asked viewers to go beyond what they thought they initially saw and implored fans to join its "Embrace Your Inner Freak" movement, which was designed for viewers to celebrate their own individuality.
The campaign used the hashtag #WirSindAlleFreaks (German for We Are All Freaks) and included a full-screen mobile interstitial on Wikia, placement on Tumblr's Trending Blog (which added over 11,000 new followers) and ads on Tumblr's Mobile InStream, which received over 100,000 notes, the highest total in Tumblr history.
The result? Freak Show posted the highest premiere ratings in FX history with 10 million viewers. Moreso, C3 ratings soared in key demos over the premiere of AHS: Coven, improving 26 percent with women 18-34; 16 percent with women 18-49; and 16 percent with adults 18-49. That's scary good. —Tim Baysinger
GE | The Grid, “Fallonventions”
Category: Best Use of Branded Content/Entertainment ($4 million +)
When Jimmy Fallon took over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno last year, GE knew that the hosting change was “a huge cultural moment” the company wanted to be a part of, notes Laura Correnti, group account director, The Grid. And when the company, which has been looking to move away from traditional advertising and into brand programming, discovered that Fallon was also a patented inventor and science nut, “it was the ultimate perfect storm,” says Correnti.
So GE and The Grid (OMD’s GE-dedicated agency, which is a joint venture between OMD and innovation agency Giant Spoon) teamed with The Tonight Show to create Fallonventions, a seven- to eight-minute live segment in which kid inventors demonstrated their new products for Fallon, who countered with some wacky creations of his own. (Among the highlights: an 8-year-old boy’s paper airplane launcher; a 14-year-old girl’s wildfire warning system.) The three on-air segments, and additional Web-only material, “were the highest-rated in terms of brand integration throughout Jimmy’s first season,” says Correnti.
They also delivered more than 700 million social and PR impressions for GE, making good on the program’s intent to connect with the inventor in everyone. But Fallonvention’s biggest impact was on Fallon himself, who became such a fan that he is continuing the GE partnership with three additional upcoming segments. —Jason Lynch
Old Spice | Wieden + Kennedy, “Nature Adventure”
Category: Best Use of Branded Content/Entertainment ($1 million - $2 million)
In its latest campaign for Old Spice, Wieden + Kennedy targeted the 12- to 34-year-old male video gamer demographic by connecting players to the one thing they never thought they'd experience from behind a controller: the great outdoors. To promote its new, nature-inspired Fresher Collection scents, Old Spice created the world's first "live-action, real-time video game" by placing a live man in a wooded area and allowing players to control his actions over a three-day period via livestreaming platform Twitch.
Gaming influencers reached out to users in real time, with Old Spice's media partners raising awareness of the event and enhancing engagement via ownership of Twitch's "front-page real estate" and tools like a series of custom emoticons that gamers collectively used more than 100,000 times over three days. Beyond Twitch, campaign content streamed across top gaming outlets such as Facebook, Xbox and BuzzFeed.
"When the creatives shared their idea about a live-action video game, we proposed Twitch as having all the pieces needed to make the idea come to life in a big way—the ability to host the livestream, great social functionality and a super-engaged audience," says W+K group media director Kelly Muller. "Ultimately, we immersed the gamer community in the Old Spice brand and Fresher Collection in an engaging way that didn't feel like advertising, and they loved us for it."
Over 72 hours, 2.5 million users averaged 11 minutes of game play, spending the equivalent of 29 years in the real-time experience. Total earned and paid media impressions reached 267 million. —Patrick Coffee
Subaru | Carmichael Lynch, “The Legacy Takes on Roadkill”
Category: Best Use of Branded Content/Entertainment ($500,000 - $1 million)
Subaru's claim to fame are its top-selling crossover models: the compact Forester and the midsize Outback. So, when it was time to roll out its new midsize model, the 2015 Legacy, Subaru had a challenge on its hands. To prove the Legacy shared DNA with its popular cousins, agency Carmichael Lynch enlisted the auto experts from Roadkill, the most popular show on Motor Trend's YouTube channel, to kick the tires.
The Roadkill crew tested the Legacy's symmetrical all-wheel drive against three of the auto enthusiasts' most famous project cars: the 1968 Ford Ranchero, the 1968 Dodge Charger "General Mayhem," and the turbo Chevy-powered '71 "Rotsun" 240Z. The Legacy challenged these cars at a figure-8 obstacle course, the DirtFish Rally School and through a post-apocalyptic neighborhood.
The 47-minute video (Roadkill's longest) generated more than 2.2 million views, which topped its expected episode viewership by 69 percent. It has received 16,000 YouTube thumbs-ups, a 96 percent positive sentiment rate and over 35,000 likes on Facebook alone—and even a brand-friendly thread on Reddit. The video contributed to a 72 percent increase in monthly sales of the Legacy from prelaunch levels. —Tim Baysinger
Canadian Safe School Network | John St., “Kids Read Mean Tweets”
Category: Best Use of Branded Content/Entertainment (less than $500,000)
John St. wasn't joking around when it adapted Jimmy Kimmel's popular "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" shtick to create this powerful campaign to combat cyberbullying. In a 70-second video, the Toronto agency replaced celebrities with regular kids, who then read mean things people had actually posted about them online. Really mean things—like insults about their looks, weight, race and sexual orientation. A laugh track, boisterous at first, was silent by the end, and viewers were directed to the Canadian Safe School Network. "With only $250 worth of paid digital media, we used targeted Facebook posts and tweets to reach our core audience of parents, teachers and students," explains Adam Ferraro, digital strategist at John St. "During the first 48 hours of the campaign, we optimized in order to gain those crucial initial views. Once it began to gain traction, the press began talking about the work and it took on a life of its own." The March launch coincided with President Obama's appearance in a "Mean Tweets" sketch. Toss in some blogger outreach, and the clip catapulted into the realm of cultural relevance and viral success. Within a few days, it had generated 2.5 million YouTube views, and it has racked up nearly a quarter-billion earned-media impressions. —David Gianatasio
Shell | MediaCom, “Power of Sport”
Category: Best Use of Alternative Media ($4 million +)
Few oil companies enjoy a warm, fuzzy reputation among the general public, even with a recent respite from high gas prices. It's a reality Shell has been trying to distance itself from for years. With the help of media agency MediaCom, the Dutch oil giant saw an opportunity to create a positive image as a problem-solving energy company during last year's World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil—the poster child for countries facing future energy challenges as its population and economy expand.
In an energy-challenged favela of Rio de Janeiro, Shell built a soccer pitch that harnessed the energy of the players on the field to illuminate the field at night. So who better to publicize the move than Pelé, the person who most epitomizes soccer and Brazil—and is a positive role model. Shell and MediaCom also partnered with Condé Nast to help tell the story through video content on its Wired, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Architectural Digest channels.
It all moved the needle in appropriate ways, with significant increases in brand familiarity (+12.8 points) as well as those describing Shell as "a leader in providing innovative energy solutions" (+8.1 points). Explains Dean Aragon, CEO of Shell Brands International and global vp of brand: "Our work with MediaCom is about humanizing the brand, because that's the only way we can really begin to have genuine conversations in the community and society at large." In other words, Gooooooal! —Michael Bürgi
Kohl’s | Zenith, “Kohl’s and The Voice”
Category: Best Use of Alternative Media ($2 million - $4 million)
After a harmonious partnership with The Voice in fall 2013, Kohl's upped its game when it reteamed with NBC's music competition powerhouse for Season 7 last fall.
The retailer and agency Zenith created weekly branded content that appeared on-air and on both NBC.com and Kohls.com. The show's first five weeks featured a Kohl's Glam Cam where current contestants were outfitted in custom Kohl's pieces. That was followed by two weeks of Style Battles and six weeks of Styling Sessions, spotlighting the Voice's stylists, who created looks from Kohl's and modeled by Voice alums. On the social side, Kohl's leveraged The Voice's Twitter handle while targeting millennials with original Vine content, featuring top Vine talent like Rudy Mancuso.
With additional branding, including on-air lower thirds during its branded segments, Kohl's directed viewers to a designated Voice landing page on the Kohl's website where they could shop the looks featured on the show. "We built a direct consumer path from the broadcast and the content we created to Kohls.com," says Susan Smith, evp, managing director, Zenith's Newcast.
It paid off. Kohl's 360 sponsorship, with more than 32 content pieces featured on-air, online and through social promotion, resulted in nearly 20 million Vine loops and more than 450 million impressions. —Jason Lynch
Hendrick’s Gin | Van Wagner Group, “Flying Cucumber Airship”
Category: Best Use of Alternative Media ($1 million - $2 million)
Imagine this: You're having dinner one night on a friend's terrace in New York when a giant, glowing green blimp drifts overhead. That's what happened to this writer and innumerable unsuspecting urban dwellers in 12 other cities this past summer. Over the course of 16 weeks, the Van Wagner Group's campaign for Hendrick's Gin put a 133-foot cucumber-shaped dirigible in the sky over major markets across the U.S. The goal was to introduce the peculiar, cucumber-infused gin to potential consumers and to also appeal to Hendrick's loyalists' quirky sensibilities.
The Hendrick's team hoped that the airship's visibility would spark PR and social media buzz. Using the hashtag #FlyingCucumber (not a euphemism), established fans and consumers alike were encouraged to post photos of the blimp on their social accounts for a chance to win a ride in the ship. Two winners were chosen from each market. Overall, the social campaign reached over 2 million users and garnered almost 38,000 likes.
Not surprisingly, the showy airship was noticed everywhere it went. But the Hendrick's team wanted to ensure that the press took notice, so they invited over 750 journalists to various viewing parties to get the full brand experience, which included bespoke Hendrick's cocktails for the occasion.
Ultimately Hendrick's and Van Wagner proved that keeping your head in the clouds can pay off. —Carrie Cummings
Delta Faucet | Spark, “Mud Run Shower Station”
Category: Best Use of Alternative Media ($500,000 - $1 million)
Delta Faucet's H2Okinetic showerhead uses 40 percent less water and works just as well as the rest, but to convince the brand's target audience—fitness, family-oriented types—Spark needed to get consumers under the showerheads to experience them firsthand.
The insight—that some of the happiest moments for Delta's target audience came from making big messes—propelled the brand to partner with Warrior Dash, a 5k mud run, for its "HappiMess" campaign.
At the event, Spark and partner Revolution built a custom shower booth, complete with 164 low-flow showerheads. Here, 331 dirt-stained competitors gathered to wash off post-race—they even set a Guinness World Record for most people showering simultaneously. The showers included a selfie station, which drove an 85 percent increase in social buzz. Plus, 75 percent of runners surveyed at the race said they would consider buying a Delta product after testing it out.
"When we put the Delta product in the course of an event, naturally, it really helped them understand our product name and experience it," Spark vp, media director Steve Carlson says. The stunt increased social activity around the #HappiMess campaign by 85 percent and boasted an initial sales lift of 50 percent for the brand. —Katie Richards
Porsche | Ignition Factory, “Macan Magic Mirror”
Category: Best Use of Alternative Media (less than $500,000)
Porsche's latest addition to its stable of luxury sport cars is the Macan—an SUV that also comes with the lowest sticker price of any Porsche to date. With a more affordable price tag, the brand could now appeal to young professionals, a demographic that traditionally viewed Porsche as inaccessible. Drawing inspiration from the campaign tagline that "Every car should be a sports car," Omnicom's Ignition Factory set to make that a reality by creating an augmented valet experience that brought the brand to life for shoppers at a Beverly Hills mall.
The idea was simple: put a new generation of affluent shoppers into the Macan. When drivers entered the parking garage to have their cars valeted, a life-size rendering of the new Porsche appeared. Using software that identified and tracked cars as they approached the valet, the magic mirror gave the illusion that each car, no matter the make, year or size, was a Macan. After shoppers left the valet, a Macan appeared on screen with the sticker price, showing how comparably affordable it is.
The limited campaign reached almost 1,000 Beverly Hills shoppers over 10 days. More importantly, it reached its new target demo—the average price of the car that drove through was nearly equal to the cost of the Macan, and over half of the cars that were transformed were the Macan's direct competitors. And beyond seeing a lift in social buzz among young professionals, Porsche sold out its first run of the Macan. —Carrie Cummings
Coca-Cola | MediaCom, “Personalized TV Ads”
Category: Best International Campaign ($1 million - $5 million)
No one can dispute the success or ubiquity of Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign, which substituted the iconic Coke logo with people's names in a bid to personalize their carbonated experience. But how to keep it bubbly?
Coke and MediaCom U.K. planted the flag for Year 2 of the campaign in England, giving viewers of Channel 4's 4oD digital catch-up TV platform (now called All 4) a chance to see their own names on bottles—a potential reach of 11 million. Led by Chris Binns, managing partner and head of engineering, MediaCom U.K. latched onto 4oD subscribers' sign-in names to create personalized ads for each viewer, ending the messages with the tagline "Share a Coke With …" followed by the viewer's name on the bottle. In total, the effort generated 4 million dynamically generated, highly personalized TV ads. And 4oD subscribers carried the effort one step further, with many taking to Twitter to register their happiness at seeing their names on the small screen. ("How did the 4oD Coke advert know my name and put in on a can? I'm so confused and happy!" tweeted @remzitomlin.)
The effort, says Binns, "delivered that moment to millions of consumers in their own homes, in a natural way while they were doing something they loved [watching TV], rather than … hoping that they would find their bottles on store shelves."
Furthermore, campaign awareness in the U.K. rose 17 percent, while ad recall jumped 71 percent and purchase intent gained 24 percent. —Michael Bürgi
H&M | UM, “The Box of Wang”
Category: Best International Campaign (less than $1 million)
To give fashion fans a sneak peek at the Alexander Wang x clothing collection at the department store H&M, media agency UM turned to Twitter as "the key to unlock the mysterious box of Wang." The IPG shop aimed to show fashionistas around the world that its client had the most exclusive apparel from a leading designer, and it built buzz (while downplaying competitors' campaigns) by focusing on bloggers and social media influencers in the high-fashion vertical.
First, the client created a literal box that appeared in London's St. Christopher's Place. Curious fans could only view the fashion-forward contents of the box by tweeting the campaign's hashtag, and H&M followed by sending both personalized tweets and images/videos of the Wang items in question to these aficionados. Using this strategy, UM was able to create significant hype around the collection's release, despite having a smaller budget than previous campaigns. UM creative director Marcia Siebers says the campaign was "a direct consequence of our unique relationship with H&M," adding that the live personalization "built anticipation for everyone who got involved" and delivered a unique experience to both those who visited the physical site and those who watched online with "the speed that our fashionista customers demand."
The campaign led to a 32 percent increase in positive mentions among influencers when compared to the client's preceding launch. It also facilitated a 179 percent monthly bump in Twitter mentions, with 80 percent of users tweeting about the collection more than once. Most significantly, all six London H&M stores sold out of the collection within 24 hours. —Patrick Coffee
Shell | MediaCom, “Cities Energized”
Category: Best Use of Native Advertising ($1 million - $2 million)
No one said it would be easy to talk The New York Times into covering the daily paper with native content. But Shell, in partnership with media agency MediaCom, is on a mission to get consumers to see it as a progressive energy-solutions company rather than an oil giant, and leaned on the reputation and credibility of the venerable newspaper to help sway minds.
Led by Larry Swyer, managing partner and group account director (Shell) and Geoff Campbell, partner and senior director of content, MediaCom worked hand-in-hand with the paper's in-house production unit, T Brand Studio, leveraging its storytelling expertise to create "Cities Energized: The Urban Transition," a print and online experience incorporating features such as augmented reality, documentary-style video and interactive data elements.
The print component included an eight-page section made of translucent vellum wrapped around the paper. Video content could be accessed by users holding a smartphone over native pages and using the Blippar app. Online elements bristled with multimedia bells and whistles that included infographics, parallax scrolling, data visualizations and documentary videos, including one that used a drone to tell the story of Detroit's efforts to get greener. That is ultimately Shell's message, too, as it strives to become a leader in sustainability.
All told, the effort generated 82 million impressions. Brand favorability, according to Millward Brown, surged from a negative score to a healthy positive (from -9.1 in the prior year to +23.5 during the campaign). Trustworthiness also improved (from -0.5 to +28.3). Meanwhile, a YouGov ranking of oil and gas brands found Shell atop the competition, specifically citing the Times effort as an influence. "There are real problems associated with the future of energy and urban mobility, and we want to talk about those problems," notes Dean Aragon, CEO of Shell Brands International and global vp of brand. —Michael Bürgi
Lexus | Team One, “Through the Eyes of the Lexus LS”
Category: Best Use of Native Advertising (less than $500,000)
People share photo galleries and GIFs all over the Internet—but ones that highlight the camera and sensor technologies of a luxury car? That's something you don't often see.
For the Lexus LS, Team One partnered with Condé Nast's Wired to create shareable art and content that would capture the attention of affluent consumers.
Recruiting photographer Daniel Thomas Smith for a series that showed the world through the "eyes" of the Lexus LS—think infrared sensors, millimeter-wave radar and stereoscopic cameras—the campaign reached tech-savvy tastemakers via Wired and Lexus' Tumblr page, which is branded The Signal.
"We found a lot of success with the Tumblr audience," explains Elaine Evangelista, associate media director for Team One. Within 18 days of launching the campaign, the agency increased Lexus' Tumblr following by 33 percent and received more than 46,000 likes and reblogs.
Sponsored posts via Wired and Yahoo exceeded engagement benchmarks by 400 percent. In addition, the campaign helped boost the Lexus LS share of purchase intentions within the midprestige luxury segment, ousting Audi from the top position.
"We're always looking to find ways to mirror what we're doing on the product side with very unique opportunities with partners that can go beyond our traditional buy and reaching our younger consumer," notes Teri Hill, media director at Lexus. —Kristina Monllos
This story first appeared in the Sept. 7 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.