MarketingMonitor: BBC Case Study

CASE STUDY: BBC Essentials

iJack score strong response and maximum exposure.

London based PR agency, iJack, were given the task of devising and executing the launch of a new BBC site aimed at 15-24 year olds. The Essentials site, backed by BBC Radio One, aimed to provide young people with impartial, independent advice and information on key issues such as careers, pensions, mortgages and travelling. All valuable stuff, but how do you communicate this to the 'yoof' without sounding like a parent?

The client, BBC Education had a limited budget with which to firmly plant the Essentials brand in the minds of the target audience as well as driving traffic to the site and the topic areas within the website.

Costs were restricted due to the limitations imposed by the BBC's public service remit, no £1m lotto prizes, here. The whole campaign was all non-paid for activity negotiated by iJack. The cost to the BBC was only the agency fees and prize costs.

Janet Hare, Associate Director at iJack, explained how the agency developed a two phase strategy to tackle the challenge. "This is a difficult audience to reach, with a huge amount of media targeted towards them. To cut through this, we needed to make sure our tone was just right and that we engaged the audience."

Phase 1
The launch promotion was a competition with a "money can't buy" prize. The winners would get the opportunity to regularly write for the website, effectively working with the BBC, whilst runners-up could win prizes of Palm Pilots.

The competition, 'The Write Stuff' ran over a four week period. Entrants were asked to respond to a set question (e.g. "What is the worse vice you can have?") relating to one of the sub-brand topic areas, Work, Money, Life, Student, Travel. Entrants were set a 500-word limit and submissions were taken online.

"The Write Stuff" competition was promoted across five key high-traffic, youth-orientated ISP sites - AOL, Netscape, WHSmithonline, Hot Toast and madasafish. Banners could not be used to promote the competition due to the BBC's advertising restrictions as a public body. Instead home page positioning across all portals was negotiated without cost. Further activity included mentions in the ISPs house newsletter and editorial space on the relevant channels.

ISP promotion was combined with offline PR and radio coverage to reinforce brand awareness and drive traffic directly to the website.

"Getting the target audience to interact with the brand was an important aspect of the campaign. The unique prize encouraged entrants, whilst giving the website a credibility once the winners were regular contributors." says Hare.

Phase 2
The initial month long promotion was followed by a second phase using a much more broad-ranging competition with multiple choice answers. This was incentivised by prizes, bought at standard cost and included a second set of PalmPilots, crates of beer and flights to Amsterdam. The second phase ran throughout October and was designed to continue increasing the exposure of the site and encouraging straightforward interaction between audience and site.

Over the following months, iJack went on to run another 5 promotional competitions. Each competition ran for 4-6 weeks across youth and student sites such as Studentuk and Push.

Hare says, "To enter the competition, entrants would need to click through to the Essentials website, the idea was to get people exposed to the website and start to build an association with the site, its brand and its content."

Despite the onerous entry criteria, 'The Write Stuff' received several hundred entries. The total number of entries for the second phase of competitions totalled over 4,500. The campaign period saw a significant rise in traffic on the site - through the ISP promotion, the Essentials site was exposed to over 40 million page impressions.

Entries for 'The Write Stuff' competition were judged on writing skills, coherency and the ability to engage the audience. The response came from a broad cross section of the 15-24 target audience (the youngest writer was 15 and the oldest 24). The quality of entries was high, boosted by the credibility of the BBC brand which provided a motivating force for young, aspiring writers.

Through the promotion, the Essentials site automatically became a prize winner itself - the competition provided free content with an authentically young tone and the provision of content on an on-going basis for editorial each of the Essentials topic sections.

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