Lucy Aitken, WARC’s Managing Editor – Case Studies, shares insights and observations from this year’s judging panel on the best performing papers from the Effective Social Strategy category of the 2018 WARC Awards. 

“There are no boring categories, only boring strategies,” said Effective Social Strategy juror Will Lion, Head of Strategy at BBH London, during a judging session for these awards that are designed to recognize the role of strategy in business success. This year’s winners substantiated Lion’s statement, with case studies from Hépar, a French mineral water brand designed to help those who are, ahem, a touch constipated, the Geological Survey of Canada History Committee and US gas relief brand Gas-X. All three had impressive results and artfully demonstrated the power of social to connect with specific audiences.

Social in the ‘old’ sense

First up, though, the Grand Prix was a phenomenal effort from BBDO China for McDonald’s called Full-heart support for Gaokao. The academic pressures faced by Chinese children in the run-up to the national exam, the Gaokao, have been well-documented. So McDonald’s approached it differently, inviting older people, for whom achieving a disappointing Gaokao score has not held them back in life, to share their experience. This helped the golden arches achieve a 428% increase in sales in its hero Gaokao product. When was the last time you heard about a 428% increase in anything? Judges were understandably impressed. But it was how the campaign connected across different generations that impressed one judge. Gijs de Beus, Strategy Director at Lemon Scented Tea, said: “It is social in the old sense of the world: it made something relatable across generations.” All too often ‘social’ is interpreted literally, as work which run across social platforms. Here, McDonald’s pulled off something that had wider cultural resonance too.

A sobering social message

Addict’Aide’s Like My Addiction, through BETC in Paris, hoodwinked many people into believing that Louise Delage led a charmed life. This beautiful – often scantily clad – young Parisan girl quickly amassed a ton of followers on Instagram who witnessed her jetting off to exotic locations, lounging on a beach, posing on a boat or enjoying drinks with colleagues. Trouble is, on closer inspection, we started to realise that Louise was actually enjoying quite a lot of drinks. In each Instagram post was a glass. Or a bottle. Or a straw.

 The sobering message from The Action Addictions Fund was that alcoholism was easy to miss among loved ones. It pushed traffic towards its platform so people could take a test to see if they or a friend or family member could be hurtling – however glamorously – towards addiction. The use of Instagram captivated judges. “It’s incredible how they highlighted the problem, I can’t tell you how much I would have loved to have done it,” enthused Candace Kuss, Interactive Strategist, Director of Social Media, Technology Speculator, H+K Strategies.

The lure of the live

OMO’s Least Active Kids in History campaign, through FP7 in Dubai, is no stranger to our awards, having picked up a Gold in both the WARC Prize for MENA Strategy and the WARC Media Awards in 2017. However, in this category, it was one of the few that used Facebook Live to dramatic effect, showing a kid doing nothing but watching TV, playing on devices and lounging about on a sofa for 23 hours to show how sedentary life has become way of life for today’s kids.

 Judge Iuren Ramiro, Design thinking consultant at Casa del Otro, appreciated the risk-taking: “It faced the odds and come out a winner.”

Tackling taboo

“Using social behaviour insight to attack a taboo is an ambitious thing to do,” according to AMV BBDO’s Head of Cultural Strategy, Gerard Crichlow. He was responding to French mineral water brand Hépar’s attempt to tackle the taboo of constipation with gentle humour with Chez moi, on dit (In My Family We Say). The brand sourced the funniest euphemisms for going to the toilet (my personal favourite? Dropping the kids off at the pool) and then produced short films of the more bizarre, user-generated examples, sharing them on social. While France enjoyed a good giggle and started knocking back the Hépar so it could ‘melt bronzes’ and enjoy ‘big commissions’, Hépar’s sales and market share shot up. Nice work, Marcel!

Geological gold

The final gold went to the Geological Survey of Canada History Committee which used Instagram to raise awareness of geology. @GeoStories used Instagram to connect the History Committee with a new audience of Canadians, sharing stories about the country’s history and geology. Whenever someone tagged a location in their Instagram post, they were served an interesting geological or historical fact about it, adding to their experience and their appreciation of the GSC's history. Elizabeth Windram, VP, Marketing, JetBlue and chair of the jury, commented: “They had no media budget, so they organically used Instagram for what it’s great for. They had a really spectacular asset – Canada and its natural beauty – they leveraged it and that made up for what they didn’t have in budget.”

So boring product + no budget = effective social campaign. No one has an excuse any more.

WARC will soon be recruiting judges for the 2019 Effective Social Strategy category. Please email if you’d like to be considered.