Big Media Campaigns on Tiny Budgets

Agencies talk low-cost social media strategies

Agencies don’t necessarily need enormous media budgets to launch successful, cutting-edge campaigns, but they do need creative firepower and brave clients.

That is what a lineup of MDC Partners’ “top thought leaders” told the crowd at the “Smart. Money.” panel discussion on Monday afternoon as they each discussed media plans that exceeded expectations—all launched on shoestring budgets.

Ed Brojerdi, co-chief creative officer at KBSP Agency, outlined his shop’s approach to getting out the word on the first electric car offered by BMW, a recent win for KBSP. With a small media budget, KBSP decided to lean heavily on social media. It created a documentary film series targeted at a specific audience that Brojerdi described as “open-minded” about reevaluating a brand “in a modern light.” KBSP produced four separate films focusing on urban mobility and technology. With some help from (unpaid) on-camera talent considered influencers in the social media sphere—including Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai, and Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin—the films have already racked up almost a half-billion media impressions. The campaign spent next to nothing on media. 

Similarly, MDC’s 72andSunny tackled the problem of a fading brand on a limited budget by going after viral laughs. Footwear company K-Swiss approached the agency with a relevance problem among men 18-24 and lost confidence from retailers. “When you have a shoe brand in decline, go get an athlete,” said Matt Jarvis, the shop’s chief strategy officer. One problem: That requires a bloated budget. So 72andSunny moved away from the traditional playbook by hiring a fictitious athlete, washed-up baseball player Kenny Powers, actor/comedian Danny McBride’s character on HBO’s Eastbound & Down. The resulting video launched on comedy website Funny or Die and spread through the social networks of McBride and his comedian friends. K-Swiss has seen their business jump by 62 percent since the campaign launched last year.

Matthew Bull, chief creative officer for Bull-White House, did make one thing clear during the discussion: “We’re not advocating small budgets here.”