Blog : brands

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Last week in Cannes our work received a highly coveted Cannes Lions award in the entertainment category for our factual, feature-length documentary, Wildlands. A hugely competitive sector in which we were the only BTL agency to be represented.

Cannes is undoubtedly the creative pinnacle in global marketing comm’s. It sets the benchmark and showcases the most remarkable work from around the world. To not only appear but to win among them is a phenomenal achievement.

In 2017, we premiered Wildlands at BAFTA to a global media audience. The documentary assesses the war on drugs in Bolivia and South America as told through the eyes of those from both sides of the law who have helped shape and determine that war. Narrated by NY Times
Best selling author, Rusty Young (Marching Powder, Colombiano) the film has now been distributed globally through multiple digital platforms (Amazon Prime, iTunes, GooglePlay).

We created Wildlands to promote and support the launch of our client, Ubisoft’s, new video game; Ghost Recon: Wildlands. In fact it was the idea that won us the pitch. The game depicts Bolivia as a narco-state, gripped by a drug cartel which gamers must take on and defeat.

Wildlands served as a companion documentary to the game. It asked you to ask the question; is it conceivable that a fictitious video game portrayal of a drug war could be mirrored in a factual reality? Also in a western civilisation where cocaine use is prolific, what questions must society ask ourselves to stop this insidious and destructive drug?

In a world where the likes of Narcos, Sicario, etc. captivates global audiences, we knew we could bring new gamers to Ubisoft through non-gaming platforms, providing an entertainment experience with depth, substance and integrity. Digital VOD platforms then also leveraging algorithms to serve content to those people most predisposed to consume it.

What started life as a UK marketing asset for Ubisoft, was quickly adopted as the lead global marketing asset. Our client’s belief allowing Wildlands to grow to become what we wanted it to be.

All winning work in Cannes is embossed with these three tenets; courage, vision and emotion. They make you feel, make you care, make you think and make you do something. They make you pause, reflect and react.

Wildlands was complex, challenging, riddled with issues and at any one point, we could have said enough. But we didn’t. We didn’t because Stripe, Chief Productions (our production partners) and Ubisoft knew this work was special. This work would present a landmark in video game marketing communications and this work would make you feel, make you care and make you act.

Wildlands has now scooped a D&AD pencil a Clio award and now a bronze Cannes Lion. But it’s most important function is to prove to us all that courageous, visionary and work that moves you will always win. You just need to do it.

When Style transforms into a Story

When Style transforms into a Story

Today marks the start of London Fashion Week (LFW) which can only mean two things for the week ahead, stylish consumers will be glued to their phones and fashion brands will be working a lot of overtime.

LFW is the opportunity for journalists, consumers, buyers, celebrities and influencers to catch a glimpse of the next season’s collections six months before they hit the shelves – unless it’s Nicola Formichetti, then you can receive it within an hour from Amazon. But do not fret, if you are without an invite or ticket, this season, fashion brands and influencers alike will keep the FOMO at bay. And if you are within the 150,000 who are attending then well done, you’ve essentially made it.

Thanks to its audience of more than 500 million users, Instagram Stories has evolved to become the top choice for fashion brands to trial instant content. According to Instagram Advertiser statistics, 75% of Instagram users take action after viewing an Instagram sponsored post, and the number of brands using Instagram Stories is expected to rise to 70.7% by the end of 2017.

But how do Instagram Stories actually provide long-term value for a brand with content disappearing after 24 hours?

Fashion brands will benefit from this platform in a number of ways; whether it’s providing a countdown or showcasing their garments in action, it will create an impact. By inviting their followers to witness behind-the-scenes action of models getting fitted or practicing their walk pre show, this will provide an in for fans to what was previously an exclusive experience. This indoctrinates the viewer to become invested in the brand, becoming encouraged to view future posts and establishing longer term brand affinity.

You may have seen organic posts with ‘swipe up’ at the bottom that are reserved for users/brands with 10k+ followers. Most brands will have these verified accounts, enabling them to link out to their websites, landing pages or blog posts from within their stories – helping to provide a ROI for their short-lived stories.

A study from Rakueten Marketing has found that premium fashion marketers will pay up to £93,000 per post, showing just how powerful influencers and their stories are to an event like LFW. This year Topshop have invited actress Sophia Brown and Women in Fashion co-founder Lily More to take over their blog and to involve them both in a live streaming via Topshop.com.

For the social media spectators like myself, it’s a long term benefit to the brands to provide access into the behind the scenes of the event and are exposed to every aspect of this season’s collection, developing brand ambassadors and fans and fortunately Instagram Stories provide just that.

Fortunately London Fashion Week lasts a full 7 days, unlike Insta Stories – which can only be a good thing for fanatics like myself! So before you tap through those #LFW posts, take a second to think about the lasting power of Instagram Story.

Virtual reality: friend or foe?

Virtual reality: friend or foe?

Limitless experiences and fantasy becoming reality are two of the most exciting prospects for us all. Imagine being able to be anywhere, with anyone, at any time – it’s a dizzying prospect.

Well, we may just be in luck. Tell our ancestors 100 years ago that come 2017 we’d be able to make video calls in real time, track friends’ whereabouts on portable screens and that flying cars are actually going to be a thing? The would say flying pigs would be more likely.

At the moment Virtual Reality (VR) is a phenomenon that seems more talk than action – merely a tease, or a medium inhabited by the hardcore gamer. Devices such as the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and the HTC Vive provide a VR experience that is pretty much accessible by all. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has already pounced on its potential and has described it as a social technology in addition to a gaming one, which is probably a fairly good indication of its future impact.

It seems this is just the beginning of what will be an almost unbelievable human experience, and many brands and entertainment bodies are getting familiar with how it can intensify experiences in unbelievable ways.

Last year, Biffy Clyro fans could immerse themselves in the performance experience by being on stage with the band in a virtual music video, which toured festivals around the UK.


In tourism, VisitScotland recently utilised the technology by offering prospective visitors a ‘try before you buy’ approach.


Traditional media have also started to get on board – providing 360 imagery on their platforms, trying to keep up with what consumers are excited by and taking them closer to a story by giving it a completely different angle (literally).

It’s all very cool, but if you’re a fan of shows like Black Mirror, you might share my futuristic concerns; it’s not hard to see how there could be a more sinister, totally weird side to its development that could replace the beauty of real experiences. Can you really re-create or better the high of being on someone’s shoulders in a sea of people belting out your favourite band’s song, or bombing down a hill on a set of skis with the wind in your hair?! I can’t help but imagine this is the start of our devolution back to some prehistoric sea creature with no capacity for human interaction. Dramatic? Maybe.

Nevertheless, VR is just at the beginning of its journey. Experts are already exploring its scope for the treatment of conditions such as depression and phobias. It might also improve quality of life for the ill and immobile, giving them the chance to explore the world, or cycle from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. It’ll let people play or dance on stage alongside their idols at Glastonbury, and maybe inspire the next generation to pursue a particular education, career or lifestyle after giving them an ‘almost-real’ taste of what something is like.

VR is almost its own worst enemy as the technology enabling it is evolving so quickly that people don’t even know where to begin. A bit of scepticism is healthy, but for society, the media and brands in particular, the opportunities it presents are worth exploring.

Filling our feeds with food

Filling our feeds with food

Picture this: I’m meeting some friends for brunch on a typical Sunday morning. I order an acai smoothie bowl and a matcha latte.

What happens when the waitress brings across our order? My hand reaches for my iPhone, opens Instagram and I’m being absorbed into my online journal, also known as my Instagram Story. After a quick edit and a location tag – because no one has time to be elusive these days – I admire my perfectly filtered photograph starring the components of my brunch on an oh-so-edgy tarnished wooden table. A second later it is posted for the whole world to see.

What actually is the purpose of this post? Who knows and really, who cares. But who needs to care? It’ll be gone within 24 hours anyway.

Since 2010, 208 million posts have been shared on Instagram with the ‘food’ hashtag. The majority of these are nothing more than a fairly standard plate of food which has been greatly improved by some good lighting and careful editing.

The current mentality seems to be that if it’s not posted on Instagram, it didn’t happen.

On the other hand, the app that went live in 2010, provides a platform for restaurant brands to engage and adjust to the growth of social media and its consumers. With its 600 million active users, Instagram has become a drawing board for foodies, creating a bible for potential food and drink hotspots with the addition of the location sticker. If clicked on by the consumer, this could earn more revenue for the brand and provide the user with the ability to see live events from a chosen location.

What makes Instagram unique is that it has the ability to hold more worthy photographs in comparison to an average foodie website. This is because of you, the user and consumer. People love food photography because people simply love to look at food, and if there is a personality behind the visual, it immediately becomes more relatable. Due to increased popularity of international food culture, more users are willing to try different cuisines than ever before, as they have previously ‘seen it on Instagram’ and therefore, it is familiar.

Standing on your chair to capture the aerial view of your food and drinks is something I must admit is out with my boundaries. However, if you think that your meal is worthy of an Instagram upload, then surely that’s hats off to the chef! I’m not saying that my acai smoothie bowl was remotely average, I mean, it still made it to the gram. However, I am greatly aware of the danger of total addiction to an edited and, to an extent, false view of the world, which makes reality look boring in comparison.

Equally, the popularity of Instagram has certainly had some negative impacts. It has created a competitive marketplace for restaurants, as they now have to adapt to being ‘Instagrammable’ by featuring tables, chairs, cutlery, dishes and other interior that simply are photographs waiting to happen. The pressure behind the app can also force brands into creating new recipes for the sole purpose of becoming a strong Instagram trend, which means the app is costing restaurants extra money as they are giving into the 21st century #foodporn craze.

Whether you choose to believe it or not, Instagram is addictive. The aspiration to achieve some social gratification from a post that features last night’s dinner leaves you on a cliff hanger as you wait patiently for those likes and views to rake up. But what this vulnerability can also question is: does the food we photograph actually taste as good as it looks, or is it all just an irrelevant false illusion?

The answer comes down to a matter of opinion, but one thing is for certain – Instagram is fed by our love of food.

The Best of Burns Night 2017

The Best of Burns Night 2017

Yesterday evening saw all the MacDonald’s and MacDougall’s, Campbell’s and Cameron’s and all those with the slightest inkling of Scottish heritage celebrate one of the foremost aspects of Scots’ culture.

Every year, parties gather from Anchorage to Adelaide, Santiago to Seoul to boldly Address the Haggis. It’s also another perfect excuse to cross arms, join hands with your fellow Scots and revel in Auld Lang Syne once more, having most likely belted out the same tune just weeks ago at Hogmanay.

Burns and Scottish culture can, and has been celebrated, in a whole host of ways. Here are some of my favourite moments from brands and organisations marking #BurnsNight2017

Up first, the UK’s leading haggis producer, Macsween of Edinburgh, created Haggis Watch for their social media channels which saw gamekeeper Archie go on the hunt for the mythical creature that is haggis. Burns is a time for celebration in Scotland and Macsween wanted to have some fun with it and show the diversity of Haggis. A great series of video content.

The quintessential Scottish brand, IRN-BRU, celebrated Scotland’s bard in their own inimitable way with a poem dedicated to our national ginger drink.

But a spotlight on us Scots doing things differently goes to Universities Scotland, who held a Burns Night with a twist. The body that represents all nineteen higher education institutions in Scotland hosted students from over 180 countries to celebrate the richness, diversity and strength of Scottish culture. Guests were invited to attend the event at Edinburgh Corn Exchange in their home countries’ national dress. The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was there to welcome guests, stating that if Robert Burns were alive today, he would celebrate the diversity and culture of Scotland. The event was used to launch Universities Scotland’s latest campaign #ScotlandWelcomestheWorld. An evening to remember and a campaign to look out for!

imgID96504101.jpg.gallery

Finally, we spotted Scottish designer, Anna McManus, re-imagining Burns as a modern Trainspotter in the mould of Begbie, choosing tracksuits, choosing Buckfast, choosing life. Timely and quite simply, fantastic!

This year, us Scots continued to mark the 25th January with a bit of humour, a whole lot of celebration and a reminder of our inclusive and diverse culture. Now for next year!

 

Halloween stunt round-up 2016

Halloween stunt round-up 2016

Halloween is here and once again it brings the opportunity for brands to show off their fun side with spooky stunts and gory social media campaigns. It’s one topic you really can’t get wrong, whether it’s Burger King trolling its rival or the Vans horror party, many brands roll out a Halloween themed campaign every year. We’ve pulled together our favourite garish stunts for 2016.

 

Terror-ific tiger pumpkins go free at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo

To help celebrate the launch of its latest enclosure, Tiger Tracks, RZSS Edinburgh Zoo offered free entry to children under-15 in exchange for a carved pumpkin. The campaign, launched with Stripe, was such a success, over 1,000 youngsters were given free admission and got up close to some of the world’s most exotic animals including Jambi and Baginda, the zoo’s pair of critically-endangered Sumatran tigers.

tiger tracks pumpkins Edinburgh Zoo

 

Spend the night in Dracula’s castle with Airbnb

Airbnb launched an international competition to give two lucky guests the chance to spend the night in non-other than Mr Dracula’s very own castle tucked away in the mountains of Transylvania. The lucky pair will be hosted by the nephew of Bram Stoker, the author of 19th century gothic novel, Dracula. You can’t get more haunted house than that.

dracula's castle interior

 

House of Vans to host Halloween horror immersive experience

The Haunted House of Vans is a Halloween-themed event being held this weekend at an indoor skatepark in the heart of London. With all things spooky including gory performances and classic horror movies, Vans has pulled out all the stops to throw its loyal customers a truly terrifying Halloween party and of course, the best dressed guest will win an exclusive prize.

house of vans halloween

 

Burger King dressed up as the ghost of McDonalds

Always one for poking fun at its rivals, Burger King dressed up as McDonalds for a truly tongue and cheeky dig at its archenemy. The fast food chain covered a restaurant with a giant ‘bedsheet’ and pitched up a sign that read: “Booooooo! Just kidding, we still flame grill our burgers. Happy Halloween”. Your move McDonalds.

burger-king mcdonalds ghost Halloween stunt

National Days: a nation of appreciation

National Days: a nation of appreciation

What day is it today?

Whenever you’re reading this, you can pretty much bet it is a ‘day’. I’m talking about the endless national and international appreciation days, weeks, months even. Whether it’s a day dedicated to pizza, potatoes or puppies, carrots, cats or curry, the list is almost endless (notice the food and animal themes here). Somewhere, someone has stamped a date in the calendar to show their appreciation.

So why do brands make a fuss of these random moments in time?

It’s not always just to jump on the bandwagon. Sometimes brands join in because they know that consumers will enjoy the conversation, especially us Brits. We love a talking point, and if it’s not the weather, why can’t we chat about it being National Puppy Day for a change? This is a recent example, which took place on 23rd March, and saw plenty of us sharing the puppy love. #NationalPuppyDay trended, London’s Biscuiteers promoted dog biscuits alongside Dog’s Trust, ITV’s This Morning hosted cute, four-legged guests on the show and so on. This was a perfect moment for brands to capitalise on a nation of dog lovers.

More profoundly, March saw International Women’s Day. We at Stripe weren’t alone in joining in the conversation, and were amongst heaps of brands and influencers to do so.

Back in February, we witnessed a flurry of engagement around a very different occasion: National Yorkshire Pudding Day. When the much-loved British brand Aunt Bessie’s tasked us with spreading the word about this little-known day and leading the conversation around it, we thought… what about the first ever Yorkshire Pudding Wedding Cake? You batter believe it! Weird, wonderful and highly desirable in the eyes of some.

We can confidently say we owned National Yorkshire Pudding Day and got people talking (or chuckling) thanks to the widespread national and regional coverage that landed across print, broadcast and online.

Unlike National Yorkshire Pudding Day, which didn’t come about from a specific brand, there are also occasions when brands take it upon themselves to create a national day. If done well, this doesn’t feel forced or too brand centric. Inevitably other rivalling brands join the conversation and it then becomes a challenge for the creator of the occasion to lead the chat by celebrating it in the most engaging way. Take McVitie’s with National Biscuit Day. The biscuit maker led conversation on the day in 2014 by revealing that we’ve been eating Chocolate Digestives upside down, and followed this last year with a poll unveiling what your favourite biscuit says about you. Simple but winning recipes for great coverage.

Brands continue to face the challenge of initiating and participating in relevant conversation with consumers. Making a brand’s offering – be it product, service or interest – the topic of conversation through a day of national appreciation shouldn’t be overlooked, even if it may seem a little obvious. For now, these events can really work hard for brands, although that’s not to say consumers won’t tire of this approach altogether in time.

So back to the question, what day is it?

Well the day I write this, it’s National Garlic Day of course (19th April)! I thought I could smell something.

A few of our favourite Twitter moments

A few of our favourite Twitter moments

Today our favourite microblogging platform turns 10. It’s become part of our everyday and to celebrate the milestone birthday, here are a few of Stripe’s favourite Twitter moments.

When the power went out during the Super Bowl 2013, Oreo was super quick to respond and became the out-and-out winner of the annual advertising frenzy – impressive considering the mega budgets of the TV commercials during a Super Bowl.

 

When the news broke that Jeremy Clarkson had punched a producer because he was hungry and had subsequently been suspended by the BBC, Snickers sent him this care package. Well played Snickers, well played.

 

The 2014 Oscars. Ellen DeGeneres was hosting. Selfies were on the rise. Cue the most retweeted tweet by an absolute mile: The Oscar Selfie.

 

JK Rowling has no time for internet trolls and knows how to nail the perfect shutdown. For that we salute you.

Her tweets also feature the odd rap lyric.

 

28 April this year will mark the fifth anniversary of Ed Balls tweeting his own name. He has since become an internet phenomenon. 

 

A witty exchange between Tesco and a customer portraying the British sense of humour at its best.

 

Talking of the Great British sense of humour, we had to include James Blunt. He wins at Twitter.

 

When hashtags go bad. To launch Susan Boyle’s 2012 album, the team went for this… #susanalbumparty.  How did they not notice this?! Or did they realise and just let it slide, knowing the hilarity that would unfold?

#susanalbumparty tweet

 

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the long-suffering John Lewis who regularly gets mistaken for retailer John Lewis. Easily done I know, but his witty responses never fail to raise a smile.

 

Here’s to the next 10 years – we can’t wait to see what’s next…  #LoveTwitter

Planet 50-50: The greatest emerging economy the world has ever seen

Planet 50-50: The greatest emerging economy the world has ever seen

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. I hesitate over the word ‘celebrate,’ as while progress has been made, the statistics show women are falling woefully short. According to the World Economic Forum we are 117 years from global gender parity, meaning it will be 2133 before true equality.

While this gobsmacking statistic is depressing and hard to take, I do feel a slight sense of optimism. That optimism is based upon the sheer force of economics. The fact is women are not just good for business, they’re great. As you will see from the following graphic, women are arguably the largest emerging economy the world has ever seen. And, let’s face it what business would want to miss out on what could be the greatest competitive advantage ever?

So, today on International Women’s Day please take a moment to acknowledge the enormous potential of women in, and for, business.

#PledgeForParity

International Womens Day - the biggest emerging economy

Brands going for gold in sport

Brands going for gold in sport

Whether you gushed at the sight of sausage dogs gleefully running around in hot dog buns towards humans dressed as giant bottles of Heinz Ketchup, or winced at the unborn baby shooting out of its mother to snatch at a bag of Doritos, it was hard not to sit up and take notice of what brands were doing for Super Bowl 50.

My personal favourite brand involvement wasn’t an advert. It was a stunt (shockingly!). Airbnb OWNED it with theirs. They offered Super Bowl fans the chance to stay in the home of Carolina Panthers star Roman Harper – complete with pool table, sky lounge and yoga room – to watch the game while he battled for the big prize against the Denver Broncos. At a heavy cost of $5,000, Airbnb gifted the money to charity too, which was a really nice touch (down) from them.

The Super Bowl is a worldwide phenomenon and one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Reuters claimed this year’s game attracted over 111 million TV viewers in America alone. With these colossal off-the-scale viewing figures, it’s no wonder some of the world’s biggest brands are paying $5 million for a 30 second window to push their latest products to win the ‘brand battle.’

This is obviously a budget which can go a long way towards creating a fantastic campaign, but to global consumer brands such as Snickers, Budweiser and Pepsi, it’s a drop in the ocean.  Considering over 111 million people watched Super Bowl 50, the cost of $45 to reach one thousand people doesn’t seem that much for them. What would be the impact of NOT advertising or pulling off a stunt?

If we look at brands involving themselves at major sporting events closer to home, it’s worth noting the increase in sales Tunnocks Tea Cakes and IRN-BRU experienced on the back of the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. The giant tinfoil covered cakes and cans of Scotland’s favourite soft drink took to the stage as Glasgow welcomed nations from across the world to the city for Scotland’s biggest sporting event of the century, with over 9 million people in the UK tuning in to watch the show.

Whether we agree or disagree with the money spent by brands that are pushing product awareness during big sporting events, it’s hard to argue against the return on investment.

It remains to be seen what the best form of association is for brands looking to put themselves out there before, during or after big sporting event, whether it be advertising, sponsorship, joining the discussion on social media or turning round a cool and funny stunt to spread the word. What’s clear is that if a brand’s objectives fit well with a particular sport and they have the budget to be involved then it makes perfect sense to take advantage and increase their exposure. But, it does have to be done right and in line with their brand values.

With the Euro 2016 Championship in France just around the corner, I’m looking forward to seeing how far brands will go to get noticed. Watch this space.