Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group was the first credentials presentation I made after launching M&C Saatchi Hong Kong in 1995.
The account came up for review three years later and we won the business based on three insights. First, although there was no clear brand leader in the luxury hotel sector, Mandarin Oriental had the quality of customer experience to secure that positioning. Second, whereas advertising in the sector was bland and product-led ("look at the size of our lobby"), the customer should be at the heart of Mandarin Oriental's message. And third, to achieve a step-change for the brand, Mandarin Oriental should stop thinking of itself as a luxury hotel group and act like a luxury brand.
This required some radical steps: no shots of the hotel; no ads promoting individual hotels and no reservation details.
The truth about Mandarin Oriental is that the quality of its customers, and the affinity they have with the brand, is unsurpassed. These are people who have a reputation for discerning style and can afford to stay in any hotel in the world, yet they consistently choose to stay with Mandarin Oriental.
The challenge was to bring that thought alive without falling into the trap of making ads where consumers remember the celebrity and not the brand.
M&C Saatchi's solution was to leverage the group's iconic logo to make a link with the people featured in the ads using three simple words: "He's a fan."
The next challenge was to secure the personalities, because the agency and client were adamant that they would not be paid to participate. Securing the photographic talents and charms of the Queen's cousin Patrick Lichfield helped. He has now shot more than 30 "fans", including most of those presented in the original pitch (Jerry Hall, Jane Seymour). The personalities were thanked for their time with a $10,000 donation to a charity of their choice.
The team was also fortunate to gain the support of the group's new chief executive, Edouard Ettedgui, who had ambitious plans to expand the Asia-based hotel chain across Europe and the US and who immediately saw that the campaign matched his vision for the brand.
So how has it fared? Research conducted by the New Yorker magazine in the form of the Stark Readership Survey evaluated all the ads that ran in the publication last autumn.
The Mandarin Oriental ad featuring Whoopi Goldberg had just appeared, promoting the brand with a tiny media spend in the world's most competitive advertising market. Mandarin Oriental came top in recall against other long-standing and high-spending advertisers such as American Express, HP and Absolut. The ad also ranked first in terms of brand attribution.
Success in raising the brand's profile in the US was very timely as the new Mandarin Oriental in New York is opening in early November in the AOL Time Warner Centre in Central Park.
The campaign has now been integrated across all communications from DM to the internet and also demonstrates the unique way that M&C Saatchi is able to resource the account. Hong Kong handles the account day to day and has recently been appointed to handle all the below-the-line work. Overall, the campaign has redefined its category and created a truly sought-after global brand.
A CREATIVE ON SOLVING THE BNP PARIBAS BANKING BRIEF
With a distinctive European identity, BNP Paribas has an excellent reputation for its relationship-oriented approach to client services, especially compared with US banks. Therefore, we decided to centre the campaign on the message that BNP Paribas acts as a true long-term partner for its clients. Three creative executions aimed to draw a distinction between good and bad bankers by implying that bankers can be like insects:
- The locust Unlike the rapacious locust, BNP Paribas builds mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with its clients.
- The mayfly A mayfly cannot plan for tomorrow, because it only lives for one day. But BNP Paribas is a long-term partner, helping clients plan for today and tomorrow.
- The caterpillar A bank without capital is like a caterpillar: it has no spine and cannot stand alone. BNP Paribas can support the ongoing needs of its clients with the capital and assets of one of Europe's leading banks.
The strong headlines were softened by humour. The cartoon-like "insect bankers"were created by the renowned French model-maker Alain Roussel whose varnished foam characters, photographed against the surreal and diverse South African countryside, allowed for subtle, detailed expression.
The campaign gained extra coverage by making headlines in The Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. - Remi Babinet is the president and creative director of BETC Euro RSCG.