Marketing New Thinking Awards 2016: the winners' gallery

Brands and agencies are working harder than ever to find creative solutions to challenges posed by today's fast-changing business environment. In partnership with Sky Media, the Marketing New Thinking Awards - which are now powered by Campaign - celebrate brands that are succeeding in this tough climate.

Marketing New Thinking Awards 2016: the winners' gallery

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Marketing in the Moment

‘Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank’ by Lucky Generals

Accommodation-booking platform Hostelworld challenged outdated perceptions of hostels by capitalising on an 18-year-old joke involving former world-champion boxer Chris Eubank.

Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank was one of a selection of TV show ideas desperately pitched by comedy character Alan Partridge in an episode of TV series I’m Alan Partridge. But, in 2015, when Twitter user Carl Packman prompted Eubank to admit that he wasn’t aware of this joke, it became topical again. 

Spotting an opportunity to promote Hostelworld’s properties, Lucky Generals made a "Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank" trailer in just four days. Filmed at YHA Brighton at Old Steine, it starred Eubank himself showcasing the hostel’s amenities. 

The video was released on Twitter and achieved total reach in excess of 33 million and was viewed more than 300,000 times.

Marketing for Good 

Amnesty International 

Amnesty International had evidence to suggest that torture equipment and other illegal weapons were being promoted and sold at an arms fair in London. This was possible due to UK government inaction and a loophole in European Union law. 

In 2015, the human-rights organisation resolved to galvanise public action and lobby the UK and EU governments to close this loophole.

Amnesty International focused not on those affected but rather on how it impacted the public. The idea of "torture on your doorstep" was born: highlighting what was happening where people lived.

The campaign spanned traditional and social media, publicising how people could find "illegal torture equipment" at the London event.

The UK government responded and promised to push for strengthening controls. One month later, the EU parliament voted to close the loophole.

Content Branding

Macmillan Cancer Support 
‘If nobody speaks of remarkable things’ by PHD

Macmillan Cancer Support created the first branded-content partnership with Dear Deidre, the beloved agony-aunt column in the UK’s biggest-selling newspaper, The Sun.

Across nine months, the charity created 439 different pieces of native content that were seen by one-third of the UK population. This included a cancer-related letter and an "Angel of the Week", which celebrated those who have helped or supported someone with cancer.

The campaign increased awareness and propensity to use Macmillan’s services. It drove 8,000 incremental calls to the support line – equivalent to one in every 34 people who were diagnosed with cancer during the campaign.

Cultural Shift 

‘The Coca-Cola Christmas card’ by MediaCom

Coca-Cola wanted to take its well-known "Holidays are coming" ad featuring branded red trucks to a new level.

With Christmas-card sales in decline and consumers moving away from sending greetings in any physical format, Coca-Cola invented a Christmas card for millennials.

Working with Snapchat, Coca-Cola created a nationwide filter that allowed users to share their Christmas love by overlaying a snowy scene of the Coca-Cola truck on their own Christmas selfies that they could share with friends. Pictures using the filter were shared 26 times a second. In total, 2.3 million Snapchats were shared, generating 70 million views. Nearly 100% of Snapchat users who saw the filter used and shared it. 

Double winner : Brand Evolution / the Big Idea

Pot noodle 
‘You can make it’ by Lucky Generals

Pot Noodle’s association with 1990s "slacker" culture had always made it the choice of the lazy and the indolent. But with a new generation of 16- to 24-year-olds buying pot snacks, the Unilever brand needed to reposition itself to increase its appeal. With research showing that this age group valued Pot Noodle’s speed and convenience because of their busy – rather than lazy – lifestyle, Lucky Generals relaunched the brand as the choice of "go-getters chasing their dreams".

The "You can make it" idea encapsulated Pot Noodle’s trademark humour with an irreverent and unexpected twist – this simple line was true of preparation of the product but also had a deeper meaning that was completely in tune with its repositioning. Ads on mobile and online encouraged people to keep on "smashing it", changing young people’s view of the brand to make it more relevant, contemporary and even aspirational.

One week after the TV ad broke, the actor who played the "ring boy" reprised his role ahead of a real fight between Anthony Joshua and Gary Cornish at The O2. Other activity included an invention (a time-saving noodle spoon) launching on Kickstarter, the release of the track used in the TV spot, sampling at universities and on-pack promotions. 

The campaign brought young people to – and many others back to – the Pot Noodle brand. In total, 364,000 additional households bought Pot Noodle compared with the previous year.

Social Storytelling

‘Boggles’ by Iris 

Domino’s set out to own "taste" in the market by asking its customers to describe the taste of its pizzas. The brand developed a bespoke piece of social research to unearth the language and emotions used by "social snackers", Domino’s young, mobile-first, internet-savvy target audience. After analysing more than a year’s worth of Domino’s (and its competitors’) data, the brand developed the "Lost for words" positioning, highlighting the "mouth-boggling" effect of its pizza through anything but words. Domino’s achieved record total net sales for its ten-week spring campaign window and, to date, there have been 33 million gif views.

Effective brand-building

Macmillan Cancer Support 
‘Making sure no-one faces cancer alone, today or tomorrow’ by VCCP

Macmillan Cancer Support was finding it harder to grow at the rate required to support itself and needed to inspire millions to get involved. Research revealed the following insight: despite the fact that cancer will directly or indirectly affect most of us, too often the experience can feel like you’re facing it alone, whether you are living with a diagnosis or caring for someone who is. By launching the simple, striking and irrefutable idea that "no-one should face cancer alone", Macmillan tapped into something that everyone could be a part of and was able to inspire millions to either help or seek help.

Targeting Excellence

Sky Sports 
‘Start of season’ by MediaCom

In the face of increasing competition from BT, Sky Sports wanted to grow purchase intent. Using the basis that one fan’s Premier League highlight is a lowlight for supporters of other teams, Sky Sports launched its ad for the new Premier League season by showing fans only the highlights of their club. 

Sky Sports created supporters’ own Premier League "moments" by using real-time data to offer them a tailored advertising experience. 

The more fans interacted with the content, the more intelligent the data Sky had to retarget them with the advertising that they loved. The campaign resulted in a 100% increase in purchase intent and also boosted customer perceptions that Sky was the home of the Premier League by 26%.

Content Creation: Long-Form

‘10th Month’ by J Walter Thompson London

The "10th month" campaign is an initiative from Bayer that focuses attention on mothers just after they have had their babies.

To generate a more empathetic response from people about new mothers, an online film invited viewers to be a "fly on the wall" in the homes of women navigating their "tenth month". Bayer also helped mothers change their behaviour and think about themselves by creating a new digital platform for motherhood, 10thMonth.com. 

The video was watched nearly three million times. On 10thMonth.com, thousands of new mothers shared their own "tenth month" feelings and experiences through posts, comments and photos.

Data Creativity

‘EasyJet 20th anniversary’ by Havas Helia

To celebrate its 20th birthday, easyJet turned to its data to uncover inspiring, personal nuggets of information about its customers’ journeys over the past two decades as part of its "How 20 years has flown" campaign. EasyJet used data to create personalised emails with dynamic copy, images and links to tell each customer’s story, from their first flight to future ones, and facts about their travel behaviour and recommendations for potential trips. Open rates were more than 100% higher than average easyJet email newsletters, with 25% higher click-through rates. EasyJet also established a link between emotion, engagement and transactions – across all markets, 7.5% of customers who received the fully personalised version of the email went on to make a booking in the next 30 days.

Double winner : Mobile Innovation / Pioneering Tech

OVO Energy 

Ovo Energy wanted to address challenges in the prepaid energy market. With a prepayment meter, no credit means no energy: whatever the weather conditions, if the meter ran out, the customer had to physically go to a shop to top up their credit. Plus, customers had to keep checking the meter. In addition, energy consumption was not cheaper, even though typically it was low-income groups using these meters.

In April 2015, Ovo Energy launched Smart PAYG+, which uses mobile technology to improve the pay-as-you-go customer experience. It combines a smart meter and an app on smartphones or tablets to help customers top up anywhere and check their balance. Since launch, Smart PAYG+ has attracted an impressive number of customers.

Made in Britain: Exporting New Thinking

Cambridge Analytica
‘From Mad Men to Math Men’

Founded in November 2012 as a US subsidiary of UK-based SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica specialises in behavioural micro-targeting – targeting individuals with ads based on psychographics and personality rather than just demographics.

SCL Group has been participating in elections around the world for more than 20 years but realised there was significant demand for cutting-edge data analytics in the US political market. 

Cambridge Analytica was launched as the US-focused spin-off of SCL Group. After initial success in the 2014 midterm elections, including its work supporting Thom Tillis, the company was retained by Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Cambridge Analytica was widely recognised as a key contributor to what became known as the most organised and technically advanced presidential nomination campaign in US history.

Success with the Cruz campaign created demand in the US commercial sector, allowing Cambridge Analytica to significantly expand its US operation.

Creative Excellence

Harvey Nichols 
‘Shoplifters’ by Adam & Eve/DDB

High-end department store Harvey Nichols wanted to launch its loyalty programme using a minimal budget to its target audience of luxury-fashion shoppers. 

CCTV footage of real-life shoplifters (with superimposed cartoon heads to obscure their identity) being caught in the act at Harvey Nichols stores was used to show that there is a better way to get freebies – the Rewards by Harvey Nichols app.

The campaign included a 60-second online film, with a teaser released on social media two days before the film launch. This was supported by print and prominent in-store activity.

Downloads of the app exceeded targets by 50% within six months of the campaign’s launch.

Triple Winner / Grand Prix / Brand Experience: Live / Best use of tech 

Channel 4
‘Persona Synthetics’ by 4Creative, AOL, Fuse Sport & Entertainment and OMD UK

In a competitive media landscape, TV shows can no longer rely on just a strong trailer to draw in viewers, particularly when they are potentially niche and don’t have many bankable stars. This was the challenge facing Channel 4 drama Humans, which focused on a parallel world in which lifelike synthetic humans, or synths, exist.

Persona Synthetics, the fictional manufacturer and retailer of synths featured in the show, was launched as a real brand complete with logo, website and social media channels. It also signed up eBay as a retail partner to promote the synths as available for purchase. The idea was to let consumers believe the fiction.

A flagship store front on London’s Regent Street showcased the company’s products, with Microsoft Windows 8 and Kinect creating an interactive brand experience to bring the synths to life. All the activity directed consumers to PersonaSynthetics.com, where it was revealed as a hoax to promote Humans, along with the show’s trailer and the first episode’s air date.

Persona Synthetics’ social channels amassed more than 14,000 fans and followers, eBay’s auctions were viewed 250,000 times and 7,000 people interacted with the Regent Street store front. Persona Synthetics trended on Google and Twitter on the opening weekend and, within three weeks, Persona Synthetics’ website had more than one million hits.

Most importantly, 6.1 million people tuned in to episode one – more than three times Channel 4’s target – and it became the broadcaster’s highest-rating original drama in more than 20 years.

Innovative Brand of the Year

Innovative Brand of the Year

Burberry has consistently demonstrated that the marriage of fashion and technology can be a happy one. It has successfully maintained control of its brand while understanding that digital can democratise access. For example, the luxury brand’s consumers in east Asia can’t all turn up at London Fashion Week, but they can feel part of the action through its activity on social apps Line and Sina Weibo.

The business has been particularly forward-thinking on messaging apps. Burberry shot its spring 2016 campaign "live" on Snapchat, with photographer Mario Testino’s images lasting only 24 hours. It also sponsored a lens to promote the new My Burberry Black scent. The brand has partnered WeChat since 2014 – when most brands still struggled with mobile. All of this has allowed Burberry to tailor its marketing – this year, it offered virtual gifts for Chinese New Year.

Leading, not following, typifies the Burberry way of marketing. The brand was one of the first to trial Facebook’s Canvas ad function and the first fashion label to create a personalised experience for customers on Pinterest. Burberry also pushed boundaries with its Google-powered "Burberry Booth" – which allowed customers to appear alongside some of the cast of its Christmas ad in a personalised edit – and an innovative "3D email" campaign for its monogrammed scarves.

This mix of collaborative working, underpinned by a pioneering mindset, makes Burberry a worthy winner of the award.

New Thinking Agency of the Year

Lucky Generals

Lucky Generals may be only three years old but it has made its presence felt on the creative scene.

The agency, launched by Danny Brooke-Taylor, Helen Calcraft and Andy Nairn, racked up the most New Thinking Awards this year and showed strength in depth, achieving highly commended and finalist status in several other categories.

Its standout activity, which had the panel of chief marketing officer judges almost purring in appreciation, was its repositioning of Pot Noodle. The brand that once revelled in the infamous positioning of "The slag of all snacks" has been transformed by Lucky Generals into the food for today’s "go-getters". This led to an impressive 364,000 extra households buying Pot Noodle compared with the year before and annual sales exceeding £100m for the first time.

Lucky Generals’ work for Hostelworld similarly demonstrated the agency’s ability to use irreverence and tap into cultural tropes. Picking up on comedy character Alan Partridge’s desperate pitching of a TV show called Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank in a 1997 episode of I’m Alan Partridge, Lucky Generals turned comedy gold into brand gold for the hostel-booking platform.

After the joke resurfaced on social media in 2015, the agency got Eubank to visit a hostel in a film that went viral, achieving total Twitter reach in excess of 33 million. 

In a cluttered world where only the best content cuts through, there’s nothing lucky about Lucky Generals’ success. The agency wins this award on the basis of its smart thinking and best-in-class execution.


Roisin Donnelly
Former brand director,
Northern Europe,
Procter & Gamble

Chief marketing officer,


Rachel Bristow
Director of partnerships,
Sky Media
Mark Earls
Herdmeister, Herd
Bobby Brittain
Marketing and partnerships director, Godolphin
Tracey Follows
Chief strategy and
innovation officer,
The Future Laboratory
Peter Duffy
Group commercial director, customer, marketing and product, easyJet
Craig Inglis
Customer director,
John Lewis
Fiona McAnena
Consultant, Clearhound
Sal Pajwani
Global chief client officer,
Toby Horry
Digital marketing director, Tesco
Rebecca Snell
Head of marketing, Lego
Rose Lewis
Co-founder, Collider
Lisa thomas
Global head of brand, managing director,
Virgin Enterprises
Martin Moll
General manager,
marketing communications, Europe, Nissan
Gav Thompson
Interim chief marketing
officer, C&C Group
Matthew Williams
Former marketing activation director, UK and Ireland, chocolate, Mondelez International
Suzi Williams
Non-executive director,
The AA; former chief brand and marketing officer, BT