How BBDO created a social hit for the Ontario government

In early March the Government of Ontario released one of the funniest government-approved ads in recent memory. Created by BBDO and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, “Social Farting” was an instant hit on the social web.

One of three Quit The Denial spots, the ad compared social smoking to farting and was quickly picked up by both social news aggregators and mainstream news sites including the Huffington Post, Jezebel, the Daily Mail, Laughing Squid and Viral Viral Videos. To date, the spot has over one million views on YouTube and an unofficial account hosting the video has garnered an additional 500,000 views.

Much of that traffic was driven not by PR or an ad buy, but consumers themselves, including the more than 4,000 people who have liked the campaign’s Facebook page. Designed to be “social by nature” from conception, BBDO senior vice-president and executive creative director Peter Ignazi said the key to the campaign’s success is that all the creative was designed to be shared.

To complement the spots, the agency created a series of ads for the Quit The Denial Facebook page styled like memes, using the white impact font favoured by the users of sites like QuickMeme, Reddit and 4Chan. It also created several infographics comparing social smoking to social farting, nibbling and earwax picking.

BBDO then replicated the meme style for OOH materials, including coasters and posters for resto-bars across Ontario (ZenithOptimedia handled the media buy, which also included online banner ads, Facebook display ads and cinema spots). The idea, Ignazi said, was to make the viewer feel like a friend have sent them a meme in real life.

“Virality was an important part of this campaign,” Ignazi said. “We wanted people to [use them to] call bullshit on their friends.”

As the video spots circulated around the web, people flooded to Facebook to talk about social smoking on the campaign’s brand page. Within two weeks of launching the campaign, Quit The Denial earned 117 million million impressions, 2 million Youtube views and over 141,000 engagements.

More importantly, Ignazi said, it started a conversation about social smoking; the first step in accomplishing the client’s goal of ending the unhealthy practice. BBDO used Sysomos to track online conversations about this topic before and after the campaign – it found that, after two weeks, conversations had increased 8,600%.

“It angered the social smokers a lot. They were going on the Facebook page and saying, ‘Just because I social smoke doesn’t mean I’ll become addicted.’ Then people would write back and respond, ‘No, I started social smoking, now I smoke a pack a day.’”

Throughout the campaign, the number of people talking about Quit The Denial on Facebook has been nearly double the number of “likes” on the campaign’s Facebook page. (Usually, consumers will passively like a page then ignore it; Ignazi said he saw a level of engagement with this work he’s never seen on a Facebook campaign).

Though one spot appeared in cinemas, there was no TV buy for the campaign. TV ads would have been regulated to include “A message from the Government of Ontario,” which Ignazi said may have disrupted the social feel. On the web, though, the agency could create ads that look just like user-generated content – increasing the likelihood they would be shared.

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