The Mango team was beyond chuffed to be recognised at Cannes Lions recently, picking up THREE PR awards at the annual festival of creativity for our work, alongside DDB Aotearoa and digital agency Tribal, for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Positive Women Inc. and Body Positive on ‘Sperm Positive: The World’s First HIV-Positive Sperm Bank’. It is testament to our belief in just how powerful and brave an insightful PR creative campaign can be.
The campaign was built on the insight that people living with HIV, who are on effective treatment, cannot pass the virus on to sexual partners or through conception. The HIV-positive sperm bank was created to enable donors and would-be parents to realise their dreams of having a family safely, something many had not thought possible. And it’s been a huge success already, with two babies born so far, and a further two due later this year!
Most importantly, the campaign was designed to combat the stigma surrounding HIV. Consumer research in New Zealand in 2018 revealed that many were still incredibly ignorant when it came to the HIV transmission risk for those receiving treatment, and so an education piece was badly needed. News of the HIV-positive sperm bank resulted in earned coverage in 94 countries, driving awareness among the 1.8 billion people reached by the story around the world.
Integral to the success of this bold creative activation was PR. There wasn’t a huge media budget to buy our way into the public consciousness, so the idea had to be audacious, prompting people to have conversations and educate themselves about HIV transmission to really challenge those outdated and erroneous beliefs. This campaign was successful because it was based on a surprising insight, which led to a brave idea that captured the attention of earned media.
We’ve seen a rise in earned-first thinking in recent years. In a world where people are bombarded with branded messages every day and across all platforms, marketers are faced with greater than ever levels of consumer apathy. The rise in skipping and blocking adverts means potential customers are increasingly choosing to opt out of traditional marketing, so we have to find other ways to reach them in the media outlets they are choosing to consume.
People want brands to offer solutions rather than overtly selling their products and services. This is even more true now when, thanks to the ongoing effects of the Covid pandemic, consumers are looking for sincerity, compassion and humanity. Big expensive ATL campaigns without storytelling at their heart can feel unwieldy and out of touch. By contrast, great creative PR engages consumers on an organic level, telling stories that cut through. Brands need to be entertaining rather than interrupting their consumers.
As natural born storytellers, and professional attention-seekers, PRs are perfectly placed to create work that appeals to consumers who are increasingly savvy when it comes to paid content. We are adept at capturing the public mood and responding, and we know instinctively what makes a good story and how to tell it. Plus, we are well-versed in moving at pace and ideating on the fly to devise low cost and authentic campaigns that drive action.
For challenger brands and those that don’t have a significant media budget, earned creative that is rooted in pop culture offers a potent tool to deliver volume reach via media coverage and social media posts. By tapping into the cultural zeitgeist, a well-crafted PR story helps a brand to stand out from competitors by garnering placement further up the paper or on the home page, as well as driving chatter on social platforms.
It pays to remember that earned creative favours the brave. You can’t dip your toe in with a slightly creative activation or some moderately entertaining content. A successful publicity stunt will stop people in their tracks, and it won’t need to be plastered with your brand name and logo. If it is interesting enough, have faith that consumers will be curious to find out who did this and why. This isn’t a test and learn, you have to be all in.
At Mango, we believe that the lines between the traditional marketing disciplines will continue to blur as the wider industry shifts towards true integration. The demand for earned creative will only grow as marketers value and prioritise PR within the marketing mix, knowing that this is the way to win hearts and minds. Now is the time for PR to be part of the brief from the start, rather than brought in later to add shine to the ATL creative. And we’re here for it!