2019 SIA Awards: How to be direct

Cineplex, Snickers, VW and Scotts picked up awards for connecting directly with consumers.


This story originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of

These days, direct-to-consumer has many definitions. It’s a retail channel and catch-all term for a hotbed of born-on-the-internet brands. It’s also the literal act of going to consumers with merchandise via marketing (a.k.a. the pop-up). The demarcation is blurring, but in each case, direct is the watchword and consumer response is the goal.

Several shopper programs succeeded in bringing the “activation” in SIA to the fore, including Cineplex, which used direct marketing to drive concession sales in its Bronze ROI-winning campaign.

In recent years, theatre attendance has been threatened by the rise of movie-streaming services like Netflix. So, as part of a larger business diversification strategy, Cineplex has been focusing on the pre-, during, and post-show experience.
Concession sales have, for the most part, been driven by trailers in theatre. But the idea was to get customers thinking about concessions earlier, before they even sit down in their seats. Targeting those who had already purchased a ticket, the brand and Conversion emailed movie-goers one to two hours before each show. No special deals were offered, just a reminder to grab food or swag when they arrive, while VIP purchasers were invited to visit the lounge.

With a budget of $30,000, the program tracked a 6.2% increase in concessions spend versus the target of 3% – which meant the program paid for itself within two weeks and confirmed the brand’s hunch that customers don’t always need special offers to convert.

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Snickers also went straight to consumers, this time via social, for a program that went head-to-head with Raptors’ “Haters.” Working with BBDO, and as part of Snickers’ partnership with the basketball team, the brand used its “You’re not you when you’re hungry” platform to call out fans who were questioning the Raptors when it made the playoffs.

With Twitter as the epicentre for basketball commentary, the brand used the platform to find Raptor fans who were doubting the team’s ability to win in the post-season. It then responded to the “hate” by turning naysayers’ tweets into personalized Snickers “Hater” bars and attaching pictures of them to the negative tweets. Those same bars were then sent to the haters so they could literally eat their words.

In one week, the Silver Targeting campaign tracked 3.9 million impressions. And not only did it rally support for the Raptors, it also reminded Canadians to eat Snickers (and not be a bunch of haters when they’re hungry).

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Power to the people
It takes a mighty brave marketer to take their hands off the wheel and let customers do the driving. Volkswagen learned to do exactly that following an emissions scandal that led to trust issues, with shoppers seeing the brand with a skeptical eye.

Consumers simply didn’t feel they could rely on the brand for honest answers. What’s more, people tend to plug their ears to brand communications, and instead rely on forums and ask friends about a car they’re researching.
So to get back in customers’ good books, VW and TrackDDB created the “Just Ask a Golf Driver” platform, which worked to provide shoppers with unbiased answers directly from real, and impassioned, drivers. Targeted ads caught the eye of Golf owners, and encouraged them to converse with prospective buyers on the site.

In one month alone, the hub (which nabbed a Gold CRM & Loyalty) saw more than 90,000 visits, with 30,000 questions and answers, which helped drive a 148% increase in requests for test drives.

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While battling a less dire dilemma, Scotts and Rethink also collaborated with real customers to inject life back into the brand.

The lawn care company had just developed a product using natural herbicides, which killed weeds without harming grass or other plants around them. Consumers who had already used the product saw great success. Unfortunately real peoples’ real testimonials are really awful, so the brand embraced the awkwardness and recruited those happy customers for a TV campaign that had them give (comically awkward) testimonials.

The brand took people’s exact words from real reviews and turned them into official taglines for .. The testimonials were odd and the subjects rambled on, often not knowing what to say. But none of that mattered, because the takeaway was that the product worked.

As a result, during the campaign, Weed B Gon saw its strongest-selling month ever, with a 64% lift in sales. At the SIA awards, the campaign picked up a Silver Small Budget, Big Impact, as well as a Bronze Original Idea.