Colgate-Palmolive’s Bea Atienza explains how omni-activation – the deployment of tech-enabled ideas in any environment – can enable brands to reach post-pandemic consumers traversing multiple platforms and immersed in virtual worlds. She provides insights based on the shortlisted work from this year's WARC Awards for Asian Strategy. View a sample report of the case study analysis report here.
The continued proliferation of available media channels that grew in popularity during the pandemic has pushed brands to create and maximise new spaces where they can activate meaningful brand experiences. This has given rise to a new way of thinking of and planning IMCs.
Several of the winning cases for this year's WARC Asia Strategy prize underscored this refreshing shift in through-the-line thinking. Campaign strategy had to cater to a post-pandemic consumer with increased digital dependence, access to more channels and greater propensity to act. These consumers traverse multiple platforms, still participating in shared public spaces and multimedia but are also immersed online and open to virtual worlds. They readily access technology, seamlessly using QR codes, augmented reality layers and metaverses. They are ready to jump into events, social conversations and online gatherings, and continue to seek value-driven promotions. Most importantly, they are ready to shop at any moment through a proliferation of commerce destinations.
We could call this trend omni-activation – deploying ideas that can live in any environment, whether online, offline or virtual, often enabled by technology. Omni-activation allows deeper participation and immediate action, whether in digital worlds or on commerce platforms. Cases from The National Gallery, Ikea, Cadbury and Close-up underscore the need to bring this type of thinking into advertising today.
The National Gallery Singapore: Creating new brand spaces to drive meaningful engagement
The National Gallery Singapore's "The People's Gallery" brought art into unexpected spaces. While Singaporeans had some interest in art, they did not frequent museums. The National Gallery spotted an opportunity to turn the empty void decks below every public housing building into a museum experience.
The brand used AR technology to create installations that locals could access through QR codes. The creation of a new brand space became the venue for an immersive experience that opened a conversation with Singaporeans, several of whom even signed up for membership. The campaign was so successful that a second phase is already being planned.
Ikea Taiwan: Anchoring multiple media installations on a core creative device
Ikea in Taiwan had to pivot during the pandemic. Like many others during lockdown periods, Taiwanese citizens became more interested in home improvement. While the brand was seen as one that provided good value, it was known more as a retailer of larger furniture which Taiwanese had started to cut down on purchasing. To remain relevant, the brand needed to make consumers aware of the well-priced smaller items in its portfolio.
Their core campaign idea was the Dollar Catalogue, with each page showing an item of that same value from $1 to $100. The brand went beyond simply offering a virtual catalogue and launched creative media intrusions playing on the $1 to $100 scale.
Both online and offline, the idea was expressed in different spaces from pre-roll countdowns, turning steps into out-of-home and interactive placements in train stations and parking slot numbers. Omni-activation thinking captured consumer interest through creative takeovers customised to each touchpoint but still anchored to a core idea. Combined with a strong call-to-action, the case resulted in the growth of the brand’s online business at 4x faster than the market.
Cadbury India: Leveraging AI to drive social commerce-at-scale
This year’s Grand Prix winner, Cadbury India's "SRK – My Ad" was able to leverage technology to drive significant consumer activity. During Diwali, one of the country’s biggest religious festivals and most active shopping periods, the brand used AI to generate personalised videos of the country’s biggest star promoting Cadbury at specific local retailers.
Giving Indians and local retailers access to a platform to create their own bespoke version to promote their own store resulted in 130,000 ads created by users and an overwhelming amount of earned media. The omni-activation strategy allowed the brand to deliver massive scale by turning retailers into media channels themselves and led to breakthrough sales performance.
Closeup: Activating new brand worlds
This year, we also saw several brands leverage omni-activation thinking as they entered a newer channel for consumer engagement – the metaverse. One of the most successful cases was Close-up Singapore’s “City Hall of Love”.
The brand created a space where LGBTQIA+ couples could overcome legal and social obstacles and, following the brand’s values of romance and togetherness, celebrate their union – if not in the real world, at least in the virtual world. Couples were invited to get married and receive an NFT marriage certificate from the brand.
The value of omni-activation is evident in these winning cases. Yet moving to this type of planning will require a shift from both marketers and agencies.
Brand marketers may ask if this trend is pushing them to embrace more complex campaigns instead of favouring a single-minded, focused strategy. While IMCs today are undoubtedly moving toward more intricate planning and execution, going “omni” should not mean a broadening of insight or concept. Instead, it should force both brand and agency teams to ensure that ideas are strong enough to extend into a multitude of spaces, experiences and scenarios, and are captivating enough to push consumers to meaningful action.
Omni-activation is also sure to challenge planning and creative teams that will now need to deliver on these “scalable” ideas that can stretch and flex into different environments, while still delivering on brand equity and key messaging. In addition, agencies will be compelled to curate and deploy relevant solutions from the breadth of digital solutions and technology that are now available to enhance brand experience.