Media: Strategy Analysis - Selling your soul for a Stella Artois

Brand: Stella Artois Client: InBev Brief: Improve the brand's status among consumers and make Stella their brand preference Target audience: 18- to 24-year-olds Budget: Undisclosed AGENCIES Media: Starcom Motive Interactive creative: Draft London Above-the-line creative: Lowe London

STRATEGY

Stella Artois is among the UK's most successful brands. However, research showed that younger consumers had begun to perceive it as less engaging than newer brands. Well-known among their fathers and older brothers for its successful and long-running "reassuringly expensive" ad campaign, Stella Artois sought a niche to win the respect of opinion-leading and highly influential 18- to 24-year-olds. The brand needed a new way to appeal to an audience that was "turning off" traditional advertising.

Draft London worked with Stella Artois to identify how best to tackle the problem and increase the brand's status among the target audience, leading to the identification of three audiences segments.

The segments were broken down as cultural creatives - influencers of opinion but not necessarily consumers; early adopters, who fall into consumer and influencer categories, and 18- to 24-year-old consumers, the broader consumer target.

Draft London conducted interviews with youth marketers and TV producers who had knowledge of the 18- to 24-year-old market, in order to identify the key attitudinal trends that guide influential youth today.

The interviews were supported with discussion groups that represented the target audience segments.

Research explored the most appealing aspects of the brand, tested ten creative routes and identified the media options that would best demonstrate Stella Artois' cult status.

Research showed that, while Stella Artois' advertising was held in high esteem, there was a need to push the boundaries of the target group's understanding of the brand.

The result was a brief to embrace a more enigmatic, mythological and mysterious side of Stella Artois. Draft London elected to allow the creative idea to dictate media selection.

EXECUTION

- Print: Lowe created three print executions to kick off the campaign.

- Online: Draft London created a campaign called Lost Soul, a vast and largely unbranded game set in a world where Stella Artois is so "reassuringly expensive", you'd sell your soul to drink it. Websites, e-mails and text messages worked both independently and together to tell an interactive story.

In addition, a number of websites for fictional organisations were set up. These included: Sable & Shuck, a company that provided luxuries in return for human souls; The Hornchurch Star, a fake newspaper; and He Walks Among Us, an anti-soul-selling-conspiracy site. The sites were interlinked by another seven unadvertised sites, and promoted with business cards.

This artificial world became the setting for an immersive game - www.helpmefindjon.com - in which players have to locate Jon, who had disappeared after selling his soul, leaving only www.thehidingroom.com behind him.

The first player to successfully track Jon's trail across these sites, solving all his puzzles, received a £10,946 cash prize.

RESULTS

The websites attracted more than 650,000 unique visitors. The total interaction time of these users adds up to more than five years. Web tracking recorded a high proportion of visitors from the media, design, journalism, fashion and music industries. Consumers embarked on a massive number of online discussions, on more than 50 forums and weblogs.

THE VERDICT - Russell Place head of strategy, Universal McCann

This must have been a labour of love for the interactive creative team who conceived the idea. The written word doesn't really do justice to the complexity and detail of this campaign, but having viewed the DVD, it's no great surprise it has been lauded and awarded as best-in-class creative.

What we have here is a pure-play digital idea designed to win the respect of opinion-forming groups of 18- to 24-year-olds. Print and ambient played a limited role and directed inquisitive elements of the target into the sites.

Digital has become a way of life for this target, in terms of receiving messages, creating content and building interaction. Therefore, it's no surprise that it sits at the heart of this strategy. A lot of time has been spent creating the online sites, and managing the momentum of messages.

However, is this approach too clever for its own good? We are told that this project delivered 650,000 unique visitors, but isn't a key indication of success determined by what proportion of these visitors remained involved from inception to conclusion? Some hard numbers here would justify the strategic aims of this campaign. Also, the project is very slow-burn - it passively meanders rather than compels, which feels at odds with the immediacy of the medium and the spontaneity of the audience.

Assuming Stella created a dedicated pool of influencers, there is no mention of how it intended to maintain a dialogue, let alone how advocacy had been translated into all-important preference and, ultimately, the bar call.

For the level of investment involved, it feels as if the amplification of the idea should have been much bigger. A "Lost Soul" event for those who solved the final puzzle and space in listings and entertainment guides could have helped maintain momentum. As an additional idea, the digital platform and in-bar communications could have been cross-pollinated in all areas to give "Lost Soul" a greater voice.

To really gain momentum and get "influencers" behind the idea, it needed breadth and greater fusion between online and offline. Whether this campaign turns out to be reassuringly expensive or gravitates towards indulgence remains a question.

SCORE: Two and a half out of five.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).