This article originally appeared on the Simpleweb blog in February 2010. Since then we have run dozens more successful online campaigns (both internal and external) for Fat Face, Go Ape, the Forestry Commission and EMC. After all this time, we’re sticking by our four pillars, which are more relevant now than ever. Here’s the original post from 2010… 

In the Autumn of 2009 Simpleweb executed a very successful online campaign for Fat Face (the high street retailer). It was their most successful campaign ever, increasing their list by 1000% and the amount of “eyeballs” involved rivaled a TV ad. The concept was very simple – there’s a case study elsewhere on our site that will give you plenty more details.

When analysing the results it was the first time that I could truly see what was happening in real-time, allowing an insight that has eluded me from the previous campaigns that I’ve done.

The Four Pillars

Being the simple kind of person that I am, I distilled the results down into four basic building blocks:

If a campaign is deficient in one of these key areas then at least one of the other pillars must compensate for it. We’ll discuss this in a later post.

I’ll attempt to briefly examine each pillar with an example from the Fat Face competition and another (mobile) campaign I did in 2003 for Dizzee Rascal while at the now defunct YRmedia.

Emotional content

You need to understand your audience. Who are you communicating with and why? Once you know this you can create an emotional hook…

Fat Face: Winning a VW Campervan. Who doesn’t want a sparkling campervan? A hugely desirable item for many different generations of people. Astutely Fat Face knew who they wanted to attract and what would pull their strings. By offering up a campervan as a prize they tuned into their target demographic with a one off uber prize.

Dizzee Rascal: We gave away ringtones. Beggars knew their demographic were teenagers with little or no money so they needed something tangible and easily attainable. The ringtone was free and offered in all formats, no matter how good or bad your phone was it would work – to some degree.

Other examples to discuss include: Burger King’s Facebook friend culling, beext’s Haiti help.

The Fan Base

Some campaigns begin well. There’s already a large number of “fans” that support the centre of the campaign, whether it be a product, artist or brand. Fans can be created via traditional advertising but we have to decide if this is necessary based on the other pillars…

Fat Face: Fat Face already had a good sized mailing list and a lot of loyal customers. Their customers are quite amazing in their dedication to the brand.

Dizzee Rascal: Dizzee Rascal was up for the Mercury Music prize and was getting a lot of music press. With Beggars excellent team already creating awareness, the fan base while small, was vocal and loyal.

The Mechanic

How does the actual online system work? Is it a microsite, Facebook app, Twitter retweet campaign? Do they sign up, sign in, share their address, share with their mates? What is it that we are trying to achieve?

We need to know the primary business objective and then carefully craft a way to make that happen. If we plan it right we will see the benefits of secondary and tertiary objectives being met.

Fat Face: We built a very simple prize draw for Fat Face. A user enters the draw. They then get their own page that they’re encouraged to share with their friends through Facebook, Twitter and Email. Every one of their friends entering the draw gives the entrant three more entries into the competition. The entrant feels like they were “getting somewhere” the more they shared, the more they shared, the more they exposed the brand to new people (a secondary objective) and the more data was captured when new people entered the draw (primary objective).

Dizzee Rascal: For Dizzee’s campaign it was even simpler. We developed a way for users to enter their details into a website in exchange for a free ringtone (Fix up look sharp) sent directly to their mobile. Users were only allowed to get one ringtone to restrict abuse. We used to call this the “viral bribe” where both parties were happy with the result of their transaction and then told others. The primary objective of building a highly targeted database of fans was achieved as well as creating a feeling of giving back to the community, brand awareness (I can’t tell you how many times I heard that ringtone in public) and website traffic.


This is the least tangible of the pillars. You could argue that the other pillars combined constitute the “engagement rating”. Personally I think it can have a pillar of its own…

How does a customer/user/reader/client engage with the campaign? The mechanic facilitates the engagement. We’ve somehow got somebody to “engage” with us, now what? We know what we want them to do, but how do we actually get them to do that? This is where your psychologists and old school advertisers come into their own. Imagery, copy, branding, usability, anything that appears to be subjective can all be put at the engagement pillar.

Fat Face: A campervan, cool people, desirability and the use of personal recommendation combined to create a compelling engagement that even got people to re-word the messages that were Facebooked or Tweeted by the “mechanic”.

The buy-in by the user was so high that they began to modify the message to target their friends. We would never have known this if we were not monitoring Twitter and Friendfeed. A more powerful engagement process I am yet to see and we will definitely explore it further.

Dizzee Rascal: Dizzee’s was a whole different story. Kids were getting something for free AND cool. Most truetones at the time were £4.50 when the actual cost was very low. Fans felt like they were getting something of true value for nothing… All they had to do was give their mobile number, email address, musical taste, etc… Why would they share it “illegally” when they could go and get it easily and for free from the website?

Round things roll off uneven tables…

As you can see in the Fat Face and Dizzee Rascal examples given, these two campaigns have roughly an equal share of the pillars. If just one of the pillars is disproportionately deficient then the others need to make up the “height”.

For example if you have a small initial fan base you will need a stronger mechanism, higher emotional content and a deeper engagement level. Or, one super boost in one area, such as a really strong emotional pull such as and the Haiti people matching service.

Thanks for reading this far, I’m not sure how this post ended up being this long. I’ll find a couple of imbalanced campaigns to run through for another post.

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