Nina Bibby, chief marketing officer at O2 UK, on the strategic considerations of bringing Christmas cheer in the year of Covid-19
Telecoms brand O2 has long embraced big brand advertising, working with its partner agency VCCP to build creative campaigns. But, until now, there’s one aspect of British advertising that they’ve always avoided until now. The Christmas ad. But with a new brand platform launched a few months ago and a nation in need of some cheer, they decided to embrace the festive season full-heartedly.
The new campaign, which launched at the weekend, takes an escapist turn, inspired by frosty Disney favourite, Frozen. It sees a little girl, Darcy, skate on an ice-covered lake with O2’s new mascot Bubl – and serves to illustrate O2’s new Disney+ deal.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with O2 CMO Nina Bibby to find out more.
LBB> It's the first year that O2 has ever done a Christmas campaign - why was this year the year to do it?
Nina> Earlier this year we launched our new brand platform with the introduction of Bubl. The embodiment of the O2 brand, Bubl takes the form of a loyal and reliable blue robot helping ensure customers have the best possible experiences with O2. Therefore we wanted to create a Christmas campaign that continued to build upon that brand strategy, positioning O2 as the UK’s No1.network for Christmas and highlighting the value of connectivity at a time when we may be apart from friends and loved ones.
LBB> Did it have to do with specific business goals (new products etc) or was there something bigger about the role the brand can play in people's lives during a really difficult time?
Nina> As a customer-led brand we wanted to build upon our brand strategy of ‘O2 is there for you whenever you need us’, and to recognise the important role of technology in helping us all stay connected with our loved ones during this difficult period.
In terms of business goals, our aim is to make O2 a go to destination this Christmas, driving brand awareness and consideration through highlighting our great offers and deals including Disney+.
LBB> There's a real sense of escapism and freedom with the idea - why was that the right direction to go strategically? What sort of conversations did you have internally?
Nina> We all know that Christmas is going to be very different this year and so we wanted our ad to be relatable. At the time of conception, we didn’t know what stage we would be at in this pandemic but we did know that classic Christmas events such as office parties, Christmas markets and pop up ice rinks were unlikely to happen this year. Whilst we can’t make up for those occasions being missed, we felt that we could help to spread some festive cheer.
The campaign was also inspired by our long standing partnership with the NSPCC, which focuses on helping to keep children safe online. This is more important than ever as we continue to use technology to help us stay in touch with friends and family.
Therefore our story is simple, relatable and tech enabled. Our young star, Darcy, is watching a scene from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure via Disney+ on her tablet and her imagination takes over as she enters the icy landscape. Tentative at first, Bubl reassures her, and with Bubl’s help she performs the most magical of routines.
LBB> When you first saw the idea from the agency what was your initial reaction?
Nina> We loved the story because it centres in on imagination and magic - two of the core elements of Christmas, whilst also showcasing the benefits of technology. This year in particular, a little bit of positivity and escapism felt like the tonic everyone needs.
LBB> What a coup getting to tie in with Frozen - how did that come about?
Nina> We are the exclusive UK mobile network distributor for Disney+, offering customers up to 12 months access to the streaming service. With its snowy setting and magical story that is loved by children and parents alike, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was the perfect Disney moment to feature in our ad.
LBB> What were the most interesting parts of creating this campaign from your point of view?
Nina> It was interesting to think about Bubl’s role in this campaign, focusing on how they could showcase the benefits of being with O2, whilst also thinking about how we could create a magical Christmas scene to inspire our customers. And it was certainly fun to create the ice skating routine and watch it come to life with Darcy and Bubl.
LBB> I notice that the cast are related - I guess that is a good way to ensure Covid safety while still getting the sense of warmth and togetherness a Christmas ad needs. How early did this come up and what did it bring to the ad?
Nina> Yes, Darcy and Lexi are real life sisters which is something that we discovered during casting. Christmas is a family occasion and we felt that it was a great way to reinforce the family message with the ad, showing everyone together in a home environment.