Campaigns: Arts/technology - Shakespeare gets digital 'tweetment'

Campaign: Launch of 'Such Tweet Sorrow'
Client: Mudlark
PR team: Idea Generation
Date: March-May 2010
Budget: £20,000

Production company Mudlark, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Channel 4's digital investment initiative 4iP and Screen West Midlands teamed up to launch Such Tweet Sorrow, billed as the world's first real-time Twitter-based performance of Romeo & Juliet. Idea Generation was hired to promote the production.

Objectives

- To raise awareness of the production

- To drive the public, digerati and theatre fans to follow the characters on Twitter

- To gain coverage across national press, broadcast and social media.

Strategy and plan

The Idea Generation team understood it would take some time to explain the project to journalists and the public, and decided to use offline stunts to make the project tangible.

The Shakespeare's Head pub near London's Carnaby Street was made the offline hub for the production. Prior to the launch, the agency set up the 'World's First Tweeting Balcony' with a large screen outside The Shakespeare's Head. A branded 'Love Index' scrolled across the screen retweeting messages containing the words 'I love you' from Twitterers across the globe. The balcony served as a backdrop for news reports, photocalls and filming, and screened the production when it went live.

The 3 Mobile network was a sponsor, so Idea Generation negotiated to put the production url on Planet 3 and the 3 website. The agency, 3 and partners also sent mobile phones to key journalists who were known to use Twitter, to encourage them to follow the characters online. It also organised a Shakespeare themed pub quiz at The Shakespeare's Head for journalists. A bonus round asked them to put passages from the original play into tweets. The winning line was incorporated into the production later in the week.

The production aimed to make the characters as modern, and the production as interactive, as possible. The modern-day 16-year-old Romeo set up a profile on Xbox Live and challenged followers to play Call of Duty with him. Meanwhile, Juliet set up a YouTube channel and a Facebook page. She organised a virtual birthday party on the site that asked those attending to upload a picture of themselves wearing a mask.

Measurement and evaluation

To date, Such Tweet Sorrow has achieved 11 pieces of coverage in UK newspapers, was featured on four national BBC radio stations and gained over 500 pieces of online coverage. It also made Japanese TV, Indian national press and Sao Paulo radio.

Results

Within the first week, the project feeds gained more than 30,000 followers and became a Twitter trending topic. Midway through the production, SuchTweetSorrow.com had received nearly 100,000 visits and was averaging 4,519.52 visits a day. Juliet's YouTube channel had 22,344 upload views on 30 April. Week three saw followers spontaneously start their own campaign to save Mercutio ahead of his impending death. The project won Best Digital Innovation at this month's Royal Television Society Midlands Centre Awards.

SECOND OPINION

Olly Swanton, MD, Way to Blue

Shakespeare in 140 characters. The RSC getting down with the 'kids'. If Stephen Fry can ...

Was it LOL or WTF though?

Old Man Pearson, my English teacher, would not have approved - he rarely approved of much - but I think this was well executed. It had a nice balance of experimental and social to grab a wealth of offline hits to ensure a top notch ROI (in traditional metrics of column inches and airtime minutes).

The idea is brilliant, the site looks great, the pictures are spot on, the url inspired, the tweets are fantastic, the Google ranking doesn't get better, but why such emphasis on offline channels to drive awareness? This often fails to convert into tangible digital results such as traffic / 'likes' / followers, and having a strategy that relies so heavily on real world events, stunts or press calls is risky. Are fewer than 3,000 followers for each of the principal characters enough?

A more integrated approach with stronger commitment within the social media space could have built a grassroots movement that converted into more engagement with the Twitter performance throughout the five weeks after the newspapers became fish and chip paper.

The nature of social media and networking means results are explicit. Rightly or wrongly, campaigns are often judged on quantifiable numbers, online for all to see. The good news for Idea Generation is it effortlessly hopped on the zeitgeist and this cool project went everywhere.

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