'We were way out of our PR comfort zone' - Behind the Campaign with Samsung #TVBlackout by Taylor Herring

PRWeek looks behind the scenes at a successful campaign. This week we speak to Peter Mountstevens, managing partner and CCO at Taylor Herring, who discusses the recent PRWeek Award-winning #TVBlackout - the Launch of Samsung QLED TV.

'PR can compete against ad-land and win' - one of the campaign lessons
'PR can compete against ad-land and win' - one of the campaign lessons

What was the campaign in a nutshell?

We were briefed to create a campaign to launch Samsung new range of QLED TVs, which boasted a unique ‘ambient mode’ that enables the screen to blend into the background of the home by displaying pictures or mimicking the colour schemes of the wall on which it is mounted.

Our campaign was rooted in a series of disruptive TV, digital and cinema ads which purported to ‘turn off’ millions of the nation’s screens. The creative aimed to shift the premium TV debate from screen quality to the design and culture of the modern home.

Samsung - No More Blank Screens Case Study from St Marks Studios on Vimeo.

How did the idea come into being?

We knew that in order to stand out in a crowded market we needed to take a disruptive approach

Our campaign was rooted in two simple insights: to most people TV sets look pretty much the same. Moreover, while our TV sets often take pride of place in our homes, they are an unstylish eyesore when turned off – an ugly black screen.

Thus we decided to drive home why the new Samsung QLED was different to all the rest – by simply ‘going black’.

The creative was calibrated to remind consumers that their televisions are usually little more than an ugly black eyesore by appearing to ‘switch off’ their TV sets during a series of ad breaks.

The strategy was designed to identify the problem (the dark void in the room), before pointing consumers to the solution: Samsung QLED’s ambient mode.

Our intention was to create a major news event by doing something that had never been done before: paying for dead space during the ad break in order to communicate our key USP.

Moreover, our strategy was calibrated to ensure that editorial channels had little choice but to include the rationale for the ‘blackout’ and explain the ambient mode functionality within their copy.

What ideas were rejected?

We presented a fairly singular vision for this campaign so it wasn’t really a case that lots of ideas were rejected – we were confident the idea would scale via earned/shared coverage and we had to be. We won the work following a competitive pitch with three advertising agencies; Taylor Herring was the only ‘earned’ agency pitching for this work.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process

The creative was designed to play out over a four-week period. The first burst of PR-led coverage was followed with our two TV spots and a blitz of integrated content featuring everything from cinema ads to a takeover of the giant screens dominating Piccadilly Circus

Taylor Herring acted as the lead creative agency for the campaign, as such, the core campaign assets were produced by Taylor Herring in tandem with our production company St Marks Studios. We worked closely with Samsung’s associated agencies including Starcom (media) and Wearesocial (social) to maximise our content across multiple channels.

What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Creating the TV spots was our biggest challenge – we spent a long time perfecting the timing and messaging. The core idea sounded simple, however there is a fine line between a clever series of adverts and trolling/upsetting the audience by ‘switching off their TV sets’ during prime time ad breaks.

Moreover, whilst this was our second TV spot following on from our Washing Machine ‘spin cycle’ work (also for Samsung) we were way out of our PR comfort zone here and found ourselves upskilling at speed throughout the entire creative process.

How did you measure the results?

We measured the results using Cision, social metrics and Samsung sales data combined.

The campaign delivered worldwide media coverage, millions of product views and a huge +10 per cent uplift in sales. The integrated campaign was so successful in driving sales that it was replicated across 12 separate international territories across the spring and summer of 2018.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

I think there were two key lessons we took from this campaign.

Firstly, you are only ever as good as your client. We were incredibly fortunate to have an internal team at Samsung who were willing to take a risk by doing things differently and running with a highly disruptive integrated idea.

The second lesson is that in an ad blocked, ad skipped world, PR can compete against ad-land and win. In this case, we pitched against a number of established advertising agencies and won via a news-led, earned-first creative idea which went on to lead the entire UK and European marketing strategy for a flagship product launch.


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