In March 2015 the Australian video streaming market was flooded with new entrants. We needed to find a way to ensure Optus’ introduction of Netflix cut-through the clutter.
A unique challenge requires a creative solution. We had an ambition to deliver something Australian consumers had never seen before.
As an antidote to the way most advertising is created within the telecommunications sector we decided it was time to break the mold.
Our solution was to allow Ricky Gervais to create the content, in his own style, with minimum script parameters. From this the anti-ad was born – we paid Ricky Gervais to not make an ad.
By trusting in our digital audience’s ability to get the joke, we were able to take a bold, ironic and intelligent approach.
The results were as unique as the idea.
The anti-ad broke the record for the fastest branded video to hit 4 Million views in Australian Facebook history.
It was the most successful piece of branded content Google has ever seen, it was the most watched ad on YouTube for Q2 in Australia and the 2nd most watched ad of 2015 on YouTube in Australia and New Zealand.
Interest level in the anti-ad was 6x higher than any previous TV campaign Optus had run, resulting in 165% lift in searches for ‘Optus’
Even Ellen DeGeneres loved it!
The anti-ad lay the foundation for the series to follow, with each piece to follow showcasing a ‘lazier’ version of Ricky Gervais.
Our key insights were led by a deep understanding of the target audience.
Firstly, we knew that the target audience had a propensity to engage and interact with social media above any other media environment.
And secondly, we knew that producing an emotional response via the content would be key to success in social. We identified hilarity as the ultimate emotional trigger that would help the Optus message cut through.
The challenge was finding the right talent. Supported by Emotive’s data tool, Tubular Labs, we identified Ricky Gervais – who’s online popularity in Australia nearly matches that of the UK.
Our creative approach was to let one of the world’s great comedians interpret the message in his own distinct way. By setting minimum script parameters, we essentially gave creative control to the talent – a tactic that would be unthinkable in most agency creative departments.
This initial strategy set the foundation for the entire series – with each campaign launching within the series, taking the concept to new heights.
Part 1: March 2015 – Anti-Ad
The Ricky series launched in March 2015 with the ‘anti-ad’.
The creative idea was simple yet daring. Netflix is synonymous with entertainment. We wanted to use Ricky (a Netflix star) to deliver content that was as entertaining as Netflix itself – whilst being on brand for Optus.
The anti-advert features Ricky in globally renowned ‘deadpan’ mode as he delivers brazenly lazy brand messaging, conveying no pricing or product information, with full irony designed to entertain the audience and drive social actions and conversation.
The piece works in three acts and has the perfect theatrical narrative (Aristotle’s Arc) where Ricky manages to deliver the Exposition, the Climax and the Denouncement in sixty seconds, while still conveying the Optus/Netflix message.
Part 2: September 2015 – Artistic Integrity
Next in the series, was the launch of “Artistic Integrity” which followed the anti-ad format of the first campaign.
This saw Ricky delivering deadpan honesty direct to camera revealing that Optus called again asking him to do another advert, adding “what about people thinking I’ve undermined my artistic integrity? They said ‘it’s for Australia’, I said, ‘Yeah, alright’”. In the second he says he is getting “even more money for less effort”, relying on the voiceover at the end to sell the new iPhone offer.
Part 3: November 2015 – Little Bath
Due to the success of the Anti-Ad and Artistic Integrity, Optus tweeted Ricky Gervais and asked whether he would be able to do another advert for them?
He tweeted straight back at Optus saying how busy he was but see what he can do.
Two days later… Little Bath launched where he addressed ‘the marketing nerds at Optus’ from his very own bath, and from his phone.
The ad is shot from the neck up, in vertical, in the bath tub saying his agent called asking him to do another ad, but saying he’s a “bit busy” and “couldn’t really plan anything or come into a studio”. He ends it with “you’re welcome to use this if you want and put something at the end with what you’re advertising, and if you use it let me know – same money”.
Part 4: November 2015 – Big Bath
Two weeks later, saw the launch of Big Bath where Ricky Gervais utters just one word spruiking Optus’ entertainment offering.
The ad opens on Gervais reading a newspaper in an opulent bathroom, while he is sat in the bathtub reading a newspaper. Then he puts the paper down, looks at the camera and says “Optus”.
The final in the series.
The series launched as digital only and evolved over time into new channels (TV, outdoor, cinema).
Google tools were utilised to measure the success of the campaign whilst it was in-market.
Brand Lift and Brand Interest surveys allowed Optus to measure brand metrics in real time, giving the marketing team a good understanding of awareness, consideration, ad recall, and search behaviours.
Along with YouTube’s standard watch time, views, and search volume metrics we were able to identify immediately which videos were resonating with the audience and where to optimize the campaign.
1.0 The anti-ad
A digital only strategy.
There were five pieces of content that were to be rolled out over a five-week period. Instead of simply publishing one video per week, the campaign was designed to use remarketing to target viewers of the launch videos with the next round of creative messaging. A fifth video was saved to target the hottest leads to encourage them through the response funnel.
2.0 Artistic Integrity
Following on from the success of the anti-ad, Artistic Integrity launched across digital channels initially and followed through with a TV and out of home (OOH) marketing strategy.
3.0 Little Bath
Launched across digital channels initially and followed through with a TV marketing strategy to broaden reach.
4.0 Big Bath
Launched across digital channels initially and followed through with a TV and Cinema marketing strategy.
Online stats only. Does not include Broadcast numbers.
• Video Views: 7,593,501
• Minutes Watched: 2,088,213
• Engagements: 140,692
• Engagement Rate: 1.85%
2.0 Artistic Integrity
• Video Views: 3,030,011
• Minutes Watched: 732,253
• Engagements: 120,779
• Engagement Rate: 3.99%
3.0 Little Bath
• Video Views: 1,461,012
• Minutes Watched: 438,304
• Engagements: 17,997
• Engagement Rate: 1.23%
4.0 Big Bath
• Video Views: 3,207,919
• Minutes Watched: 695,049
• Engagements: 92,715
• Engagement Rate: 2.89%
OVERALL SERIES RESULTS SUMMARY
• Video Views: 15,292,443
• Minutes Watched: 3,953,818
• Engagements: 372,183
• Engagement Rate: 2.4%
The industry recognised…
Over 15 local and global award nominations in 2015 and winning 5 local industry awards and 2 global.
- 1 x Gold – LIA Awards – TV/Cinema/Online Film – Humour
- 1 x Bronze Cannes Lion – Cyber – 2015
- 1 x Highly Commended – ADMA AC&E Awards – Branded Content
- 1 x Highly Commended – ADMA AC&E Awards – Social Media
- 1 x Gold – BEFest – Best Branded Content Campaign
- 1 x Silver – BEFest – Best Branded Entertainment (Fiction)
- 1 x BEFest Grand Prix winner
- The anti-ad broke the record for the fastest branded video to hit 4 Million (Australian) views in Australian Facebook history (from a population of 23 Million) – the most successful brand piece in Australian Facebook history
- The anti-ad was the most successful piece of branded content Google have ever seen in Australia – the most watched ad on YouTube for Q2 in Australia and the 2nd most watched ad on YouTube in 2015
- The Ricky Gervais series won the coveted ‘Best ads of 2015’ – Today Show and Sunrise
- Interest level in the anti-ad was 6x higher than any TV campaign Optus had previously run, it resulted in 165% lift in searches for Optus
- The anti-ad had a full playout & discussion on The Ellen Show globally and locally on The Gruen Transfer (over 1 million viewers a week) and Sunrise (over 1 million viewers daily)
- The anti-ad featured in the top 5 global ads on Adweek and Faster CoCreate
- 2015 Google ‘Think’ Global Digital Case Study
- An average of 97% positive sentiment across social platforms for the series
- Over 150 pieces of PR were generated in Australia
Quality of Craft
Even though the essence of each of the scripts seems simple, the production values were not spared.
All of the pieces except ‘Little Bath’ were shot using Arri Alexa cameras, in various high-end film studios in London.
The “Little Bath’ piece however was actually shot on a phone to keep the authenticity (this is perhaps the World’s first ever advert, featuring a global celebrity naked in a bath, shot on a telephone and released both online and on TV in portrait aspect).
Each of the sets were designed with teams working in Australia, London and LA feeding in. For the ‘Big Bath’ piece we had a 30ft high wall built around the bath and a huge green screen behind the window to give the appearance of a New York skyline – a huge undertaking for a piece that essentially had just one line of script.
From a performance point of view, we worked with Ricky to produce ‘script guides’ and then improvised around the core script on the day. We find this method of improvisation around a core message is where the gold really lies. We took risks not to be restricted by a solid script – something that goes against most of the rules of advertising and is not that easy to do when you are working with partners such as Apple.
The Apple iPhone piece was another world first – being the first ever Apple product launch video not to feature the product. This wasn’t a simple feat to pull off, but became massively successful both for Optus and Apple in Australia.
Post production was carried out in both London (at Big Buoy studios) and in Sydney by Emotive using a mixture of Avid and Premiere.
In summary, we used a mixture of traditional high-end and basic filming techniques alongside a loosely scripted, improvisational approach to produce a series of pieces that have been hailed as a trend-setting style in the world of advertising.
A final thought…
Technology and connectivity has made communications much more competitive and complex. Whilst audiences move rapidly into new channels, new experiences and new ways of doing things many corporate brands proceed at a more careful and conservative pace. The challenge for today’s marketeers is to balance the values and needs of their customer audiences with those of their internal corporate stakeholders. Marketing requires fearlessness in order to create the unique and pioneering stories that take audiences along with them on a brand’s journey. What our campaign managed to do was to bridge the gap between these two, sometimes opposing, sensibilities. Together Optus, Emotive and Ricky Gervais were able to deliver a story that both worked within the parameters of the brand, and at the same time resonated with its audience, to create enormous and enduring impact.