Category: Case Studies

Olly Harnett – BBC Creative Director – Our key notes

His Dark Materials

Last month BBC CREATIVE Director Olly Harnett, Creative Director (BBC ONE, Radio 2) came in to our Members’ Meeting to talk about some of his recent campaign work.

BBC Creative is the in-house creative team at the BBC, run on an agency model. It was brought in house in 2016 and is made up of around 150 people split between London and Salford.

Here are some of our notes:

HIS DARK MATERIALS marketing campaign case study

Positioning line: tricky title if the consumer hasn’t read the books (or Milton!). Therefore it was important to find the cornerstone of the campaign: ‘one girl will change worlds”. Promises adventure, destiny and excitement.

Marketing challenge: 16 -24 year olds are not watching terrestrial TV. TV trails don’t work anymore. How do we reach them? More OOH activity to reach that audience. Special build OOH for social media pick up. Although shouldn’t seem just like a kids drama.

Campaign activity:

TV TRAIL – very filmic and exciting


His Dark Materials

– Story board artist helped create the layout for creative that was used across OOH. No stills ready so went for an illustrative approach for sign off of concept

-Westfield White City – Billboard featuring an armoured bear bursting out of a billboard, breathing out icy breath. Major social media and marketing industry pick-up

-Ad lifts – important not to be too London-centric. Birmingham and Manchester shopping centre vinyl wraps in lifts with selfie spots, audio featuring actors and added peppermint scent

-Cinema spot. Guaranteed audiences of millennials. Shown 1 week ahead of tx date

Results on launch:

10 million viewers of episode 1 across tv and iplayer

Most successful UK drama launch in 5 years


-Snapchat lens where user can turn themselves into the armoured bear

-Continuity idents – adding motifs from the show into regular BBC idents

-Daemon bot – for superfans. What is your daemon? 40 options. Inspired by illustrations in the novels. INCLUDE LINK.

In summary:

Traditional marketing still has its place but we have to find new, exciting and creative ways to reach audiences, particularly our youth audience, who are key to the future of the BBC

Audience questions:

What are your timelines? Very tight, due to special effects and schedule changes. Ideally 4 months notice to get a team in place. Clips arrived very late so clip-based assets were very close-to-the-wire

What’s the mix of skills within the team? All in-house, but we bring in freelancers into the team when we need them.

What didn’t come off? Had to drop our idea to fly a real-life zeppelin over key UK locations because the only available zeppelin was already booked for an Oktoberfest event.

Other work referenced:

Peaky Blinders fan-art campaign

Dracula shadow billboard

  • Inspired by a Japanese artist who makes shadow art
  • By day – stakes hammered into billboard
  • By night – transforms and the shadow left by the stakes forms the shape of Dracula’s face
  • Front page of Reddit twice, picked up by global media

This is a love story: Key takeaways from the Fleabag campaign

In January, Helen Flood of Hodder won the October-December 2019 Best Non-Fiction Marketing Campaign award for her wonderful work on the campaign for Fleabag: The Scriptures. Here, she shares her three key lessons from that campaign:

Keep the faith.

For a really long time in this campaign I worked without any visuals or any knowledge of what the extra material would be. There were no proofs, no audio clips, no meetings with author or agent. All I knew was that a lot of people loved Fleabag and if we presented a campaign pitched to what they loved about the show, that they’d get it.

You can do a lot without an author.

Our three ‘Fleabag parties’ (authorless events) sold out, because people really wanted to come and talk about Fleabag. They loved getting goody bags and taking part in the confessions. And brands loved the show as much as we did – Marks and Spencer gave us 450 free gins and in tins, Becca and Elizabeth Arden sent lipsticks and Philip Kingsley provided the hair masks (because hair is everything). Fans loved visiting the café because they adore the series and wanted to take photos – it didn’t matter that Phoebe wouldn’t be there. We found lots of fans to tweet and share our messaging, and after some convincing even the BBC got on board and tweeted about the book.

Give something back.

Soho Theatre is so important to the Fleabag story, and they do great work with young writers, helping them to bring their work to the stage. I really wanted to work with them as their fans and followers are people who love the craft of theatre and are more likely than anyone else to buy scripts to study the way the show is put together. By sponsoring a bursary for a writer who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford to attend a theatre writing course it felt like Fleabag could come full circle and was a great finishing touch to the campaign.

Three takeaways from the award-winning Start Your Voyage campaign

Congratulations to Fleur Clarke, Emma Pickard & Rachel Quin of HarperCollins, who picked up the Best Multi-Title Campaign award at our recent BMS Members’ Meeting with their HarperVoyager campaign: Start Your Voyage. The judges said: “This was a well thought-out campaign, bringing traditional branding into the 21st Century to excited existing audiences and incite new one. Through the design of a great suite of assets, and making use of a number of list authors in the UK at the same time, the publisher was able to give this list the brand reboot it deserved with a distinct look and feel.” Here, Fleur shares some of the top learnings from that campaign:

1. Go beyond the logo

We knew that to stand out at events and online we needed to create an engaging visual identity that we could use on anything – from Twitter cards to tote bags. The logo alone was not going to cut it.

We’re one imprint, but the Voyager galaxy contains multitudes from epic fantasy to boundary pushing science fiction. Our amazing cover designer Micaela Alcaino created a series of illustrations inspired by some of our most popular works past and present:

For our event stand dressing itself we pushed this one step further, bringing the Voyager galaxy to life in a night-time seascape with a boat travelling through the Voyager world.

2. Create merchandise not POS

The SFF and YA audiences are massive collectors and the merchandise you create can be just as covetable as a special edition hardback.

So, we wanted every piece of POS to be the kind of thing these readers would keep in their collection – posters they’d want to frame, standees that would take pride of place on their shelves. This meant reducing the sales messaging to the bare minimum (or relegating it to the reverse), and investing heavily in design.

3. Get your money (and time’s) worth

Anyone in marketing or publicity knows that events are a massive time and budget investment. So we always need to make them work as hard as possible.

Ahead of the campaign we set three clear KPIS: newsletter sign ups, Twitter followers and book sales. The latter is what funded the events, the signs ups and followers are what delivered the real return.

We made sure every piece of activity delivered on at least one of the metrics, ideally all three. We used our auto-response email to promote ebook deals and audiobook giveaways, announced flash price drops on Twitter, and ran a convention treasure hunt that people had to follow us on Twitter to hear about.

Thank you Fleur, and congratulations again!

4 key learnings from Three Women

Three Women

Three Women

Congratulations to Hannah Paget of Bloomsbury, who picked up a BMS Award for her outstanding work on the Three Women campaign. The judges said she “delivered a highly impactful and beautiful campaign for an unknown US author by building advocacy from both key influencers and booksellers.”

Here are the key learnings Hannah wanted to share about the campaign:

1. Important books are for everyone

While it is often crucial to have a target market in mind, with Three Women we wanted an approach that wouldn’t limit the potential audience. Mindful of the special high/low nature of the book, our aim was to position it as a ground-breaking piece of non-fiction but also a thrilling read. We deliberately kept the messaging around it as broad and open as possible. I carefully planned the first proof, keeping the design pared back and using that amazing Dave Eggers quote, to confidently assert that this was important book to be taken seriously. Settling on the cover image was also long process (our amazing designer Greg Heinimann tried over 100 covers!) as we wanted to make sure we were doing something original and universal that wouldn’t narrow the audience.

2. Booksellers are your friends and key champions

Getting retailers on side was crucial. We knew the author was a huge asset, so we brought her over to the UK four months before publication. Allowing booksellers to meet her, to hear her speak about the book and the eight years she spent researching it, led to a huge increase in booksellers reading and loving it. Through working closely with those key buyers and booksellers we were able to secure strong in-store support. Foyles in particular were incredible supporters. They chose it as their book of the month, had a special edition including gift with purchase, a sold out event before publication and multiple window displays. They’ve gone on to name it their Non-Fiction Book of the Year. Waterstones Gower Street were also amazing at hand selling and created the most beautiful window display!

3. Helpful to determine creative clarity as soon as possible

In order to straddle a serious non-fiction treatment with a highly original and thrilling read, I wanted to ensure visuals around the campaign were pared back and not suggestive or leading. This was established early on and adhered to throughout. I also wanted the marketing materials to feel high-quality and tactile, so I chose a soft touch laminate finish for the postcards and the second proof, which influenced the decision for the finished book. An initial style guide for internal use and for international offices was also incredibly useful for keeping this consistent.

4. Have regular meetings with a core group to keep yourself on track

Working so closely as a team was incredibly important. I would meet regularly with Alexis, the editor, and Emma, the publicist, to go over every detail of the campaign. We drafted and redrafted the initial copy and closely thought through the positioning and messaging. We were all busy working on it separately, but meeting regularly kept our messaging and visuals aligned.

What made the Lowborn campaign such a success?

Lowborn - Kerry Hudson

Lowborn - Kerry Hudson

Earlier this year, Sophie Painter of VINTAGE won the Best Guerrilla Marketing Award (April-June 2019) for her campaign for Kerry Hudson’s Lowdown. The judges said this was:

A stellar example of a campaign delivering on some clear objectives with a small budget and within a very short timeline. They not only conceived and delivered a campaign to support an important social justice campaign, but also made use of high profile partnerships with relevant charities to deliver a wide range of events and reach new audiences for this book.

But what did Sophie think the key elements of the campaign were? Here are her key takeaways:

  • The best campaigns are created when the author, agent, editorial, sales, publicity and marketing all agree and work towards the same goals from the outset. This was a hugely collaborative campaign based on the plans we set out to author and agent nine months ahead of publication. It’s especially important to have built this trust early on when a book is so personal to and difficult for the author.
  • In order to draw non-traditional book-buying audiences to events the key things to consider are the accessibility of the location, price and format.
  • You don’t need a huge advertising budget if you can work with large charity partners in a meaningful way, but your activity has to be led by their campaigns.
  • The personal recommendation of booksellers is central to this kind of narrative non-fiction in hardback, it can be time consuming to reach out to individual bookshops but their passion will sustain the sales once all of the publicity and marketing has run.

3 takeaways from The Secret Barrister

BMS case study

Earlier this year, Paul Martinovic of Macmillan’s campaign for The Secret Barrister won the BMS Award for Best Non-Fiction Campaign, April-June 2019. Here, he shares three key takeaways from that campaign…

  • Combining a large social media platform with traditional marketing (ie featuring traditional ads on social media) can massively amplify reach. Authors tweeting about ads can double your value!
  • For the right audience, cinema ads can be an excellent option – they are very impressive (i.e. author pleasing and give the impression of a large spend, while the reality is much more reasonable) and good at reaching regular book buyers
  • For paperback non-fiction, the lack of rotation among the big sellers mean that a big launch is imperative – if you can get it in the top ten you will be much more likely to keep it there. Due to word of mouth and a low price point, the big books just get bigger and will take care of themselves if you have given them the right launch platform

3 things that helped make the Queenie campaign a success

At our last Members’ Meeting, Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams won the Best Debut Campaign award. The judges called it ‘A truly integrated campaign that created multiple opportunities to showcase not just the book, but also the author. Highly coordinated planning plus imaginative touchpoints meant that Queenie launched with an army of advocates.’

Here, Cait Davies of Orion shares some of the areas she focused on in creating this fantastic campaign.

  1. RETAILERS: Identify and then relentlessly target your key retailers as early as possible. Devise bespoke promotional strategies for each and ensure they feed into the wider campaign strategy – every element should work together and feel cohesive.
  2. BIGGER PICTURE: Plan your key campaign milestones in close partnership with PR and sales to drive maximum impact – and vice versa
  3. VISUAL APPROACH: On a long tail campaign, it pays off to work hard on creating a visual story from scratch proof to final book. Carry that branding across every platform, whether trade or consumer facing, to build recognition.


3 key lessons from The Binding

It recently won the BMS Award for Best Adult Fiction campaign and is currently the bestselling hardback novel published in 2019. Here Katy Blott and Sarah Shea of HarperCollins, the masterminds behind the campaign, share their insights into the campaign.

From the moment we acquired The Binding in June 2017 we fell in love with it. The campaign has been a huge team effort and constant work for the past two years! But now with over 80,000 copies sold and having achieved a number 2 Sunday Times bestseller, we’re hugely proud that the hard work paid off. So here are our 3 key takeaways from this magical campaign…

  • Finding that one perfect copy line

Right from the start we knew that getting the pitch right would be key – and The Binding was a tricky book to pitch! Testing out different copy lines to find out which messages were favoured by different target audiences was a crucial part of our campaign. We were pleased to discover that one overarching line resonated with all our audiences, and we were then able to use this across everything throughout our campaign: Lose yourself in the most extraordinary debut of 2019.

  • Getting the trade to fall in love, and giving something back

The other thing that was incredibly important to the success of The Binding was working closely with Waterstones and independent booksellers. The Binding is a book about books and so we were confident we could find some mega fans amongst the booksellers! We provided them with everything from exclusive proofs, to window kits, to competitions, and it paid off in the form of phenomenal support. When it became clear that readers were really falling in love with The Binding – from influencers, to booksellers, to our colleagues, we made sure to say ‘thank you’ to everyone. From ‘thank you’ cards and gifts to exclusive merchandise, we’ve been able to keep The Binding at the front of readers’ minds for months – and found plenty of reasons to consistently shout about this book on social.

  • Making the most of a truly beautiful book

And finally, our design team came up with the most beautiful package for The Binding and knew we had to make the most of this throughout the campaign. We made sure every element of our marketing campaign reflected our unique and unforgettable look, including having brand guidelines, several beautiful editions, and multiple different creatives – all with the same central aesthetic.

5 key takeaways from King of Scars

King of Scars

King of Scars

King of Scars recently won a BMS Award for Best Young Adult campaign. Here, winners Natasha Whearity and Naomi Berwin share their learnings:

  1. Start building anticipation early

We announced King of Scars 15 months pre-publication and consistently seeded information, exclusives, giveaways, sneak peeks, etc from then until publication. With a brand with a) an existing fanbase but b) the potential to grow significantly, this gave us the opportunity to build maximum excitement amongst fans both old and new.

  1. Collaborate with your global partners

We worked incredibly closely with our publishing partners in the US – as well as Australia & New Zealand and other export territories – on everything from messaging and design to major announcement and detailed campaign elements such as social media readalongs. Particularly for a brand with a young, digital-focused readership, that alignment was invaluable in providing clarity of message, driving conversation, and maximising overall impact.

  1. Work your backlist

As King of Scars is set in a complex fantasy world previously introduced in Leigh’s earlier novels, it was vital that we use our long lead-time to familiarise new readers with the story so far – as well as driving excitement among existing fans by re-immersing them in the Grishaverse. We did this in a strategic, carefully timed, multi-layered way, using a combination of ebook price promotions, event activity, NetGalley coverage, digital advertising and global readalong campaign. Not only did this contribute to the success of the King of Scars campaign and expand Leigh’s overall fanbase, but it also generated significant backlist sales revenue.

  1. Consistency of message

Early on in the campaign planning process, we agreed on the messaging and visual approach that would be used consistently across territories and all campaign assets. The arresting ‘FACE YOUR DEMONS … OR FEED THEM’ and striking black and gold aesthetic became quickly recognisable and really added to the readers’ sense that they were seeing the book everywhere.

  1. Know your superfans

Going into this campaign, we knew that Leigh – whilst not yet at the same sales level here as in the UK – had a dedicated and extremely passionate core fanbase, and that these people were our most valuable advocates. We made sure to identify and engage these superfans early on, finding bespoke ways – from exclusive original artwork to personalised chocolate to licenced merchandise and more – to leverage their influence and drive maximum word of mouth.

3 key takeaways from How to Clean Your House

How to Clean Your House

How to Clean Your House

Earlier this year, Janet Aspey won the BMS Award for Best Guerrilla Campaign, along with her colleague Hannah Sawyer. Here Janet shares three of the key takeaways from that campaign:

  1. Partnerships were really key for us in this campaign in order to get as big a reach as we could with a small budget,  and as much visibility for the book as we could in a short time frame. We knew partnerships were going to be a crucial element for the campaign and that any we secured would need to work very hard for us.This was a late edition to the publishing schedule, which meant we had to be very agile and proactive from the start of the campaign to secure them. This was a mixture of reaching out to brands that Lynsey works with, as well as other cleaning brands to secure as broad a reach as possible.We secured a great range of partnerships – from high end partnerships like AirCraft Home to lower cost partnerships like Marigold and Scrub Daddy. Inclusion in their newsletters, great prizes and promotion on their channels played a huge part in the books success. Working with so many partners has been so useful to me as a marketer; particularly working with them in different ways to get the most out of them.
  2. Agile marketing was key here and it showed what can be possible in a short time – in just seven weeks before publication. It was a massive team effort for everyone. The campaign is still going for the book, as more and more brands are keen to work with us, which goes to show just how useful brand partnerships can be.
  3. One thing that didn’t work as hard for us as we’d hoped was our pre-order competition to win a cleaning consultation with Lynsey; had we had more lead time and been able to place this with a media partner this could have worked much harder for us in terms of driving sales. It did however provide a great springboard for the campaign along with the cover reveal, and Lynsey was an asset. Having her lead on elements, and add value to her existing fanbase, was key at the start to make quick impact.

Thank you for sharing Lynsey!