'It drove home the desire for some much-needed fun' - Behind the Campaign with Hail-a-Panto

Scott Dimbleby, creative director at W Communications, gives the lowdown on the festive campaign for ride-hailing app Free Now.

'It drove home the desire for some much-needed fun' - Behind the Campaign with Hail-a-Panto

What was the campaign in a nutshell?

On behalf of ride-hailing app Free Now, we launched the world’s first 'Hail-a-Panto', connecting out of work theatre actors to the British public who were looking for some festive cheer from the safety and comfort of their own homes. The campaign invited people to apply for a 15-minute bespoke panto - Puss in Boot - to appear doorsteps, arriving in a fleet of Free Now black cabs and private hire vehicles.

How did the idea come into being?

On the back of our earlier world first, the Drive-in Wedding, delivered in September as a way to celebrate the merger of Kapten and Free Now, we wanted to keep up momentum and brand visibility over the Christmas period, while bringing some joy to our communities at a time when it’s never been more needed.

What ideas were rejected?

We had so many ideas that could have delivered Christmas joy and brand fame, including lighting up Christmas light displays using electric vehicles and even a national Christmas tree collection service, but in the end we felt that Puss in Boot was the perfect antidote to 2020 to showcase the community spirit of Free Now via the app itself.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process

W Communications collaborated with Gideon Reeling, a theatre company whose members have been largely out of work throughout 2020, to bring the Hail-a-Panto idea to life.

The campaign was signed off at the end of November, giving the agency just under one month to turn the idea around.

The project moved at speed with the creation of an entire script, full cast with costumes and moving set.

It was an agency-wide effort, with W Communications' art department creating the posters and the brand newsroom team delivering on the rest of the project working with PA to capture still imagery to be used as one of their main assets.

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

As COVID-19 continues to have a damaging impact on the mobility industry, putting the Free Now vehicles front and centre of the activation while also being cautious about current restrictions meant there was a fine line throughout the entire project as to what could be executed creatively, in a safe and secure way.

Between the national lockdown and London going into Tier 3, the organisation and logistics of carrying out a big activation was an even greater challenge than normal.

W Communications ensured that the cast rehearsed in their work bubble and travelled to and from each performance in individual black cabs and private hire vehicles to stick to regulations.

How did you measure the results and what were they?

One of the primary business objectives was to exceed PR coverage for the previous creative campaign, which W Communications delivered on by having it picked up widely across regional and national media, including in The Observer, The Telegraph and The Week.

Positive sentiment within secured coverage was used as a marker of a successful campaign along with a desire to achieve broadcast coverage, with interest from both French and German networks, demonstrating the far reach of campaign.

Delivering an impactful, and meaningful campaign was important from the get-go, and the outcome of Puss in Boot was a success, with feedback flooding in on the day of the event from people who had won the competition to deliver their thanks and gratitude for bringing the arts to their front doors. This linked to business goals and the desire to keep cities moving, connecting people and connecting communities.

A key measurement was around the number of competition entrants. We tripled engagement figures with the competition element of the campaign, which was all driven organically through earned media.

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

To not underestimate the time required for a day of back-to-back productions, whilst factoring in enough time for content capturing.

Due to the incredible feedback and genuine interest from competition winners, lots of time was spent on the day of the event connecting with the winners and their neighbours.

Spectators were wrapped up and sat in each of their front gardens for the performances, watching the entertainment as a community. It really drove home to us how much people need and want to watch theatre now more than ever, plus the desire for some much-needed fun in what has been an incredibly challenging year for all.

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