Cannes Lions

The Hug Project

FCB CHICAGO, Chicago / COX COMMUNICATIONS / 2022

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Overview

Background

The world is more reliant on technology than ever, and yet, we’re more disconnected from each other than we’ve ever been. 60% of America feels lonely, up 13% since 2018. While the telecommunications category often emphasizes technology over people, connectivity over connection, Cox stands for something different: a brand built on bringing people together.

Cox believes life is better when it’s full of moments of real, human connection. But how do we fulfill that purpose for our customers who can’t be together in person?

Idea

For people separated by distance or circumstance, a simple hug seems impossible, especially during the past two years of lockdown. Studies show the importance of hugs for our health, but when we can’t physically be together, how can we embrace the people we love?

To unite loved ones across the globe, Cox launched The Hug Project, an initiative bringing virtual hugs to those who can’t be together in person—all by creating the first haptic Hug Vest. Using this new technology, Cox enabled people to feel the real hugs of loved ones who were impossible to visit in person, starting with the immunocompromised and, after overwhelming success, continuing with family members abroad.

Cox shared these stories through its national campaign, and the initiative continues today. Hug Vests are presently undergoing clinical trials to prove that connection assists in patient recovery and healing.

Strategy

Cox wanted to ensure their stories resonated with everyone in their market, so they searched for a spectrum of unique situations and locations that spanned the globe, always involving a customer in a Cox market. By using specialized technology and inclusive design, Cox made the Hug Vests accessible to anyone, widening the pool of potential stories.

Cox ensured the types of stories were relatable, starting by uniting people with immunocompromised loved ones, and followed by tackling another relevant topic: immigrants connecting with unreachable family abroad.

To resonate during a time crowded with Covid messaging, Cox chose stories of loved ones who hadn’t seen each other in years and had no way of coming together, something only the Hug Vest could help to overcome, even as lockdown restrictions shifted.

By sharing relevant stories and showcasing its first-of-its-kind technology, Cox captured the attention of both its nationwide audience and the press.

Execution

Partnering with wearable tech brand CuteCircuit, Cox developed the Hug Vest, the first-of-its-kind haptic suit allowing people to hug from anywhere. Embedded with haptic micro-actuators, the WiFi-enabled vest recreates the sensation of an embrace, instantly sending the pressure from one wearer’s hug to their loved one’s vest. Designed to be accessible, the Hug Vest fits people of all sizes and abilities — thanks to the easy-access drawstrings and germ-resistant fabric.

Hug Vests were sent around the world to families of the immunocompromised, immigrants who haven’t seen their family members in years, and more, helping them to recreate the hugs they’ve missed for so long.

The first work launched on 6/1/2021, with subsequent work launching throughout 2021 and into 2022. New stories launched in February 2022 and are still running today. The work ran across broadcast television, connected and streaming TV, and on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.

Outcome

The Hug Project proved to be an extraordinary platform for building the brand and driving the business.

Research showed the work generated a strong impact on brand perception, drastically increasing brand appeal. Performance in digital channels reinforced these findings: the campaign garnered overwhelmingly positive social sentiment (89%) and over 15 million video views. Local news affiliates picked up the story and carried it further, receiving over 1,000 airings in our regions, performing exceptionally well in our some of our biggest markets.

This strong performance contributed to a phenomenal year for Cox, where the brand drove a 10% increase in Internet subscriptions YOY, growing to its largest customer base ever and most importantly, achieving its mission of bringing us closer.

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2023, COX COMMUNICATIONS

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