Cannes Lions

"Be Cyber Smart" Social Ads


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Presentation Image
Case Film






The United States is the number one target for cyberattacks, making the need for cybersecurity education an increasingly important issue facing our country. Tasked with combating these attacks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wanted to foster a better understanding of cyber threats—and their impact—in a way that actively engaged the public to take personal responsibility for their own online security. Millennials often act as gatekeepers of cybersecurity knowledge at home and in the workplace and are more willing to accept responsibility for their digital safety. But because of their high-risk online behavior, 44% of them were victims of online crime in the last year alone. For these reasons, our strategy was shaped to target this audience to help them understand the consequences of risky online behavior and empower them with actionable strategies for taking proactive precautions online.


Facts and figures alone weren’t going to be enough to cut through the noise that bombards millennial audiences on a daily basis. To get our point across, we had to connect with them in an authentic way that would hold their attention and compel them to take action. We used highly shareable, humorous videos that pack rich storytelling into 15-second bites. We cast a young woman as an enigmatic but credible scientist in a futuristic lab to create an offbeat visualization of the impact the cyber world can have on the physical one. Our scientist posed questions related to cybersecurity topics as “experiments” disrupted by a seemingly incongruous user-generated video followed by a quick but actionable cybersecurity tip. Carousel ads expanded the stories with related photos and copy to play on themes in the videos.


There is a disconnect between what people should do to protect themselves from cyber attacks and what we can reasonably expect the general public to accept and adapt into their daily behavior. To appeal to millennials, we built a campaign around engagement, authenticity, and purpose, and helped refine DHS’ general cybersecurity language into realistic, tactical steps for improving personal online security. Because millennials can have shorter attention spans and are likely to resist behavioral messaging from official sources, we made sure to infuse our messaging with humor to deliver stories that matter. To prevent the content from aging prematurely, we shot nine different videos, thousands of campaign photos, and created multiple carousels to continuously stimulate audience interest, keep messages relevant and consistent, and extend the campaign’s reach.


Our ads specifically targeted millennials born from 1980 to 1996 who have a desire to be connected, want to set trends and be relevant, are willing to try new technology, and enjoy connecting with brands through social media. This audience comprises heavy social media engagers who are continuously adding people to their networks and like to share their daily adventures through check-ins. We took advantage of the smartphone’s native format, using vertical video to target millennials where they are most likely to consume content. Six carousel ads appeared on Facebook and Instagram in twenty high-impact U.S. markets through August and September 2018. By using hyper-focused targeting and thoughtful, relevant content, we were able to break through the clutter and encourage engagement.


Performance on Facebook and Instagram flew past industry benchmarks, earning more than 932,000 engagements, 887,000 video views, and reaching more than 6.4 million people in the key markets across both platforms. The Facebook campaign saw a click-through rate (CTR) of 1.28% compared to the standard CTR of 0.70%. Carousel ads on Facebook experienced an engagement rate of 21.57% compared to the 0.17% average for government clients—126x the standard engagement rate. On Instagram, we observed the remarkably high engagement rate of 34% with 0.27% CTR and a successful $0.08 cost per engagement.

The use of carousels was a new tactic for DHS and provided an out-of-the-box platform to fulfill the mission of educating with fun instead of fear.

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