Cannes Lions

My first steps

LA CHOSE, Paris / VIRGIN / 2019

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For many years now, Virgin Radio's audience share has been in decline: -0.4 points in 2017, -0.4 points in 2018, etc. This trend had to be stopped. But that's easier said than done, as the battle for attention is based almost entirely on the notoriety of radio presenters. And that's not the best way to seduce music lovers. So for Virgin, it would be difficult to try to align itself with the generalists! Moreover, most music lovers - who've grown up discovering and listening to new artists on the radio - have since renounced the airwaves. In a short space of time, YouTube has become the go-to music platform. In light of all this, it was essential to create an innovative radio campaign, free of traditional conventions. With limited resources, we had to find a quick way to gain visibility, boost our audience share and, most importantly, generate lasting attractiveness.


For many decades, radio was at the very heart of the music scene. And then YouTube arrived, and soon imposed itself as the new reference. To all those who thought that radio was dead, we wanted to prove them wrong. We wanted to remind them that several of their favorite artists took their first steps on a radio station that everyone knows well, without always giving it fair consideration: Virgin Radio. To deliver this message, we went looking for fans where one finds them today (YouTube) and hacked their searches: we replaced the traditional pre-rolls for 4 "nouvelle scène" artists - Jain, Ofenbach, The Pirouettes, Angèle - with reinterpreted versions of their music videos. Same décor, same staging … but here the songs are interpreted by "kiddie" versions of each artist. The message is simple: "These artists took their first steps on Virgin Radio".


More than just an image or awareness campaign, we wanted to return Virgin Radio to the spot it truly deserves: not just a music radio like any other, but a curator, a guide - as illustrated by its red star logo (no politics here, promised). Rather than take on the other radio stations (generalists or specialists), we chose to target the dominant player who single-handedly rallies all music lovers, regardless of musical taste: YouTube. To maximize the impact on our target audience, we used the conventions it's familiar with, and the artists it enjoys listening to. By recreating the music videos of 4 emerging stars of the new generation, we guaranteed ourselves a huge audience share from this community thanks to this ultra-targeted strategy. Result: approximately half the people exposed to our pre-rolls did not skip them.


For this campaign we had to contend with two major constraints: a narrow time window and limited budget resources. Thus, during production, we had to focus our attention on every detail, and tried to turn the budgetary constraint to our advantage. The childlike world proved to be a tremendous asset. The set, the styling and the choreography were all recreated in the simplest way possible. But to remain true to the original music videos, we took care to reproduce each shot type, camera movement and lighting angle. And we casted real young fans to play the role of each artist. Given the limited time and resources, we knew that to effectively orchestrate our campaign, both our concept and its execution had to be spot on. There too, we managed to turn these difficulties to our advantage, by looking for music enthusiasts where one finds them today: on YouTube. And because music fans are not only to be found on the internet, but also in the street, we kicked off the campaign with a wave of poster ads, soon followed by the launch of the music videos together with a 3 week digital campaign. The artists played along by reposting the "kiddie" versions of their music videos on social media. And only a week after the launch of the campaign, Angèle won a "Victoire de la Musique" plus a "Trophée de l’Année" for the very music video we'd reinterpreted, which further boosted the volume of our campaign. Finally, to ensure that our "first steps" campaign generated as much buzz as possible, we launched an online competition on Twitter with the #mespremierspas (#myfirststeps) hashtag, riding on the Ten Year Challenge phenomenon. In a few hours and without sponsoring, we were already a trending topic.


Our campaign was a resounding success: over 6 million views, more than 15 million impressions, a significant positive evolution on the global brand image, and a well above average completion rate (approximately 50% of people watched the pre-roll without skipping it). Plus of course a trending topic for our online competition, without sponsorship, only 6 days after the launch of the campaign. The #mespremierspas (#myfirststeps) campaign instigated a true brand transformation, restoring it to its original DNA: musical programming. The gamble seems to have paid off: more than 3 in 4 respondents (from a panel of 300 listeners aged 18 to 34) stated that this campaign motivated them to tune into Virgin Radio to discover new up and coming artists.

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