'We had to pivot from a live event' – Behind the Campaign, Samsung SmartThings Halloween

Peter Mountstevens, chief creative officer and managing partner at Taylor Herring, discusses the agency's spooky campaign for Samsung.

'We had to pivot from a live event' – Behind the Campaign, Samsung SmartThings Halloween

What was the campaign, in a nutshell?

Taylor Herring worked with Samsung to transform an 18th century house during Halloween. The property was modernised using Samsung SmartThings technology, which was then used to create and trigger an interactive Halloween display featuring projection mapping, live action, animatronic props and lighting effects.

The campaign garnered more than 125 media articles and millions of video views.

How did the idea come into being?

Samsung SmartThings is a simple app that allows users to control the tech in their homes using a phone. We were briefed to create a campaign that would demonstrate the power of connected living via Samsung SmartThings technology to an audience of tech-savvy parents and younger Gen-Z creatives in the autumn of 2020.

We looked at seasonal celebrations, calendar events and consumer passion points, rejecting a range of seasonal hooks before eventually settling on Halloween as the perfect proof point for the product.

Our research pinpointed Halloween as the fastest-growing seasonal event in the UK and identified a tangible consumer thirst for tips and hacks that could help to elevate their celebrations.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process

The entire campaign was devised and executed to a three-month timeline.

We started with research and insight – we surveyed 3,000 people within our target demographic. The resulting data gave us invaluable insight into consumer behaviour around Halloween, including spend, core activities and attitudes towards technology.

Our next step involved working closely with the Samsung SmartThings in-house team to understand the capabilities of the technology and the different applications that would lend themselves to the creative.

The campaign revolved around a 90-second ‘hero’ film, which showcased the technology in action. This was supplemented with a suite of simple ‘how to’-style tutorial videos, which would show consumers how they could replicate some of the effects at home.

Our display had to take celebrations to the ‘next level’ to cut through. Thus we created a field of smart-lit pumpkins and a 13ft-tall animatronic skeleton to supplement the lighting and projection mapping effects.

Dancers from Empire Dance Crew brought a live action element to the show and we teamed up with Scottish make-up artist and Instagram star Ellie Hand-McCready to star in the projections and host a series of make-up tutorials.

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

The creative needed to appeal to a broad demographic. The content had to be thrilling without being too scary, to ensure it was suitable for parents with young children, without being too childlike (to make sure our Gen-Z audience was also engaged.)

Finding a suitable house was also a challenge; it had to be private enough to host a 100-crew shoot and have a blank façade suitable for the projection mapping. We were also keen to identify a house that had an interesting backstory that we could leverage for PR.

Our shoot landed in the middle of a week of storms, which meant the crew had to shoot late into the night, around the rain, to capture the content required. We were also unable to shoot when moonlight was at its brightest, because that meant the projection mapping wasn’t visible.

Due to changing COVID-related restrictions around the time of the shoot we had to pivot from a live event to working with selected family bubbles at the very last minute.

Finally, to counter difficulties with getting journalists on the phone in the current climate, the team carried out a lengthy 10 soft sell, teeing up multiple features before launch day.

How did you measure the results, and what were they?

The campaign is currently being fully evaluated. However, the work generated more than 100 pieces of coverage – 97 per cent of the coverage included our core Samsung SmartThings messaging and the vast majority of news and features included our 'hero' films, resulting in millions of views.

Brand tracking for SmartThings indicates that brand awareness rose by 82 per cent following the campaign.

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

Seasonal events such as Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day are extremely crowded. Thus advanced and strategic media planning is key to cutting through the noise. This means working multiple feature angles, tailoring news lines for certain media, having a range of assets for multiple platforms, and starting the sell-in as early as possible.

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