The campaign won Gold in the Financial Services category at PRISMS, which was held on Saturday, 6 May in Johannesburg. Atmosphere Communications and the King James Group teamed up to land the message of saving in the minds of South Africans during 2016’s National Savings Month.

The campaign featured two influencers; actress Pearl Thusi and multi-platinum rapper Cassper Nyovest, who helped spread the message of #ConspicuousSaving through social and traditional media – and even a music video.

Lauren Volmink, director at Atmosphere Communications, and Cameron Watson, creative director at the King James Group, tell media update’s Nikita Geldenhuys how the campaign unfolded and what they learnt about influencer marketing.

In your opinion, what made this campaign ‘award winning’?

It was informed by strong human insight, had a single-minded idea at its core, and broke category-marketing conventions.

It caught people completely off guard. The world of social media has a certain schadenfreude, where people are very quick to call out people’s misfortune – especially if that person is a celebrity.

Through this understanding, and the ability to guide the conversation, Sanlam was able to surprise its audiences and get the kudos for doing so.

The campaign was called a social experiment. Why do you think this campaign can be seen as such?

In essence, a social experiment sets up a real-world experience for people to react to, with a view to using those truly authentic reactions to help audiences gain deeper insight into the drivers behind their behaviour. And that is exactly what this campaign did.

We wanted to demonstrate how obsessive followership of celebrities’ lifestyles can impact behaviour – without saying it in so many words. Well, at least not at first. So we used the very celebrities, which people were spending recklessly to resemble, to setup the experiment and then waited for audiences to fuel the conversation.

In doing so, we ignited a nationwide conversation around living within your means and highlighted how we try to live lives we can’t afford, because of how we think people perceive us through what we appear to have.

Describe the goals that Atmosphere and the King James Group set for itself and the extent to which it achieved these goals.

The success of the campaign was measured against four key pre-agreed objectives. These included:

  • Launch Sanlam’s conspicuous-saving remedy through on-target content and media channels.
We delivered 82 million earned impressions, which was 73% over-target; achieved 92% top-tier media exposure, which was 15% over target; and drove over 600 000 music video views, which was 25% over target;

  • Educate South Africans through relatable insights. 
Key results included over 600 000 documentary views, 28% over target; over 100 top-tier traditional media, social media influencers and super-fans attended the reveal event; 19 000 joined via Facebook Live; and 82% of our earned media exposure carried campaign key messages;

  • Generate public interest to drive high levels of engagement.
We had over 170 000 click-throughs to the campaign page, which was 181% over target, with visitors spending an average of six minutes on-site per session; and achieved 1.2 million social media engagements; and

  • Position Sanlam as the leading voice on the topic of saving. 
Sanlam owned the majority share-of-voice across news and social media during July, driving three times more conversation than the nearest competitor.

What are some of the challenges of running a successful marketing campaign for a company that works in the financial services industry?

Savings, finance, and debt is a low-interest category and your own debt is a topic actively avoided. As important a topic as it is, traditional savings messages often come across as ‘finger pointing’ with limited interest and impact.

Adding to this, financial service companies are also seen as untrustworthy and ‘old school’ by many. To get people to interact with a financial service company, and to enjoy that interaction, is a big challenge.

We, therefore, knew that we needed a novel approach to enable Sanlam to generate real-impact interest in a positive and engaging way. We also needed to move beyond the financial pages and to show up where people least expected us, so making smart media choices was key.

What was your secret to making the influencer marketing element of this campaign such a success?

The secret is authenticity and partnership. Selecting the right influencers for a campaign is less about who the most popular personalities are at that moment and more about who has the right influence and who will be a credible voice in the conversation.

Once you identify who makes sense on paper, it is as important to meet with them, workshop the idea, and find tangible connections in their lives – which provide those truly authentic talking points that take their involvement from a paid-for endorsement to a partner as committed to achieving the same end goal.

It is, of course, also as important to get your ‘admin’ in order so responsibilities and commitments are clear upfront. This should also speak to ways of working, for example: “We will curate content on your behalf” versus “We will provide messaging for you to craft into content that you feel works best on your platforms”, and so forth.

What are some of the biggest lessons your team has learnt during this campaign and how will you apply these insights in future campaigns?

A campaign that enables you to interact with your audience, speak their language, become part of their daily dialogue, and do so while also creating a memorable piece of communication will always work better than single non-connected pieces of work.

Integrated, single-minded, campaigns are far more powerful and much more hardworking when it comes to driving the conversation to shift behaviour.

A breakdown of the #ConspicuousSaving campaign

Phase one: Seed - from 1 to 21 July 2016

Suddenly frugal celebrity social feeds

From 1 July, Cassper Nyovest and Pearl Thusi’s social media feeds switched from images of their usual champagne and Bentleys to the opposite. Shopping trips to low-cost fashion stores and trading luxury chauffeur-driven rides for Uber X are examples.

The response was immediate as millions of followers speculated: Are they broke? What’s going on?

Speculation heightened by entertainment and news media

We hyped up speculation by ‘leaking’ images of Cassper getting a street barber haircut and Pearl thrift shopping.

It grabbed headlines instantly as journalists and bloggers joined the conversation with headlines like: “What’s up with Cassper Nyovest and Pearl Thusi's new lifestyle?” and “Frugal Cassper rents his house out online for R2K a night.”

The earned exposure was contrasted with native articles placed across key consumer titles, showcasing the hard work of the ‘real people’ behind the glamour.

Phase two: Reveal - from 22 to 31 July 2016

Pearl appeared on the cover of Cosmo in a hessian sack

She looked a million dollars, but her outfit cost considerably less. The article inside spoke mainly of how down-to-earth this hard-working single mother was and debunked many of the myths of celebrity lifestyle.

Cassper wrote a hit track about the pitfalls of living beyond your means

A ‘big-budget’ music video was produced for “Mr Madumane (Big $pendah)” but recycled materials replaced the usual bling. It went double platinum.

Sanlam hosted a reveal event – disguised as Cassper’s music video launch party

The launch had over 100 media, social influencers, and super-fans. Thousands more joined through Facebook Live and the positive reactions and comments streamed in.

We made a documentary chronicling the celebrities’ Sanlam journey

It was screened at the event and released on the campaign page for the rest of South Africa to join in the conversation.

Earned and paid media interviews and features

Media interviews with Sanlam, third-party experts, and celebrity partners drove home the saving message. This was amplified through a second burst of native articles across key personal finance and consumer titles.

Find out more about the overall winner of the 2017 PRISM Awards in our article: How Tribeca and Retroviral rocked Rocomamas’ marketing.