Cross-Media Case Study: Minding Our Manners

by , Aug 24, 2006, 3:45 PM
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Tennis anyone? Etiquette tips, travel info, and more in British Airways' cheeky vignettes

What do American sports fans appreciate? Sweat, grunts, hard hits, chili dogs, air horns, the wave, sporadic fistfights, and wild cheering.

Well, that's what it seems like to the British, anyway, who like their tennis fans a little more refined. This summer, Agency.com and British Airways politely set us right, producing a cheeky and informative online campaign that included animated vignettes illustrating preferred etiquette for fans of the Wimbledon Championship.

Consumers seemed to like it, indicating that we Americans maintain a good sense of humor about ourselves. This year's Wimbledon campaign for British Airways had a 32 percent better conversion rate than last year's, Agency reports.

About 30,000 viewers of the vignettes clicked to see a second one, says Douglas Kunreuther, Agency's account director for British Airways. The landing page itself scored 50,000 video views. Users who forwarded vignettes to their friends sent an average of three videos.

But it wasn't just the humor that got users clicking. The vignettes encouraged deeper interaction with consistent, cheerful invitations to see more videos, send the vignettes to friends, register to win a trip to Wimbledon, and explore more London content on British Airways' ticketing site. A heavy presence on sports sites and some strategic search buys helped put the airline squarely in front of sports fans considering a jaunt across the pond.

Backhanded Tips

The etiquette campaign reflects British Airways' brand position that the airline knows London better than any other carrier. Visitors who clicked through the tips to the British Airways site found an interactive Insider's Guide to London and the BritSpeak Dictionary, popular facets of standing campaigns.

The campaign set out to meet two goals: drive brand association between the British Airways and Wimbledon, of which it is the airline sponsor, and get site visitors to opt into British Airways' marketing database for future promotions.

"Overall, I think it's so tough to be in the position that BA's in, trying to leverage the U.S. market to go to Wimbledon and trying to make that

interesting," says Keith Pape, senior partner, vice president of FrontGate Creative, a branding agency. The campaign "kept you engaged by having just enough of the quirky, funny things going on, but the call to action was always present."

To draw users to the site, Agency suffused relevant sports sites with etiquette ads, sometimes claiming one of every two ads. British Airways sponsored all the Wimbledon content on qualifying sites.

This strategy not only takes advantage of self-qualifying audiences at the sites, but also implicitly links British Airways to Wimbledon, says Adam Gitlin, the campaign's media manager.

The vignettes appeared on the British Airways landing page, where visitors were invited to enter the sweepstakes. Top prizes were a trip to Wimbledon and a later trip to London; that prize extended the registration and the campaign past the close of the tennis tournament.

Online ads appeared in channels where Wimbledon visitors were likely to be reading about matches or watching highlights, such as Yahoo News, CBS Sportsline, and ESPN.com. Agency created banner ads that showed a new etiquette tip each time the page loaded, in effect buying British Airways seven ads in one.

This year's campaign used much less offline support than last year's, mostly because British Airways wanted to save that budget for future campaigns, says Agency's Kunreuther. There were a few outdoor billboards and print ads, but most of the action happened online.

"BA made the evolution into digital supporting everything, and in a lot of ways, it became the backbone of the entire strategy," Kunreuther says. "You could have spent the money on a 30-second TV spot, or have [site visitors] spend three to six minutes with the BA brand."

That makes sense, says Emily Riley, an online advertising analyst with JupiterResearch. "I think within BA's industry category, it's probably not a bad idea, just because it's so easy to buy tickets online," she says. "The target audience is online a lot. You're talking about upper-middle-class travelers."

Agency expanded the campaign's reach to include video search, something Riley says doesn't necessarily reinforce a brand message but does align British Airways with emerging technology.

Users "don't only use traditional search, as on Google," Gitlin says. "They're starting to use video search more and more, especially for an event that's televised."

Agency placed the vignettes on YouTube and Google Video later in the promotion. After two weeks, the most popular vignette, "Quiet Please," had about 200 views  not a huge number, but significant, Agency says.

"These channels don't necessarily guarantee a mass reach, but it's the most qualified audience you can reach. And it's all for free," Gitlin says.

Wry Vignettes

So, what did the vignettes show, anyway? Chunky animated characters, slightly reminiscent of "South Park," committing offenses such as eating a stinky chili dog or performing the wave.

As a couple of fans stand up and flail their arms, a distinctly British voiceover chimes in with wry humor and resignation: "Wimbledon. A rich history dating back to 1877. Obliterated in seconds."

"I think BA's latest campaign is brill," says Martin Lindstrom, author of the book BRAND sense, employing a popular (and entirely polite) bit of British slang. Lindstrom has criticized British Airways in the past for its unfriendly branding. "It contains the humor which makes it stand out and adds the necessary personality to the brand."

The carrier should incorporate that cheeky personality in the rest of its branding, including in the "stiff and formal" attitude of its airport staff, he says.

"The campaign doesn't promise anything particular that BA doesn't deliver," Lindstrom says. "However, the power of the campaign would have been 10 times stronger if the synergy was there."

David Jones, senior vice president, executive creative director, emerging platforms, FCB, recently spent a frustrating week on the phone with British Airways trying to retrieve a piece of lost luggage. He found himself enjoying the etiquette tips anyway. The campaign sets up British Airways as an authority on British culture without being too snobby about it, Jones says.

"Some of the examples were a little too obvious, while others actually taught me something," Jones says. "I already knew they ate strawberries and cream, but did not know what a 'debenture' ticket was."

(A wry British voice intones: "No tickets, eh? Ask a departing guest for their debenture tickets. Then enjoy the match.")

"If the luggage department were as charming as the campaign, I'd be feeling a lot better," says Jones. He got his bag back the day after he reviewed the campaign for iMedia Connection.

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