The CLIO Awards is celebrating its 52nd year with a social media strategy that aims to engage and expand its audience.The venerable awards show, which honours advertising, design and interactive media campaigns, takes place on Thursday at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
“Nobody wants a long, boring, sit-down awards show any longer. And yet, if you do simply a party to celebrate the winners it doesn’t have the gravitas that people are looking for to honour their work,” CLIO’s director of events, Karl Vontz, explained in a phone interview.
Launched on March 1, CLIO’s social media campaign includes exclusive video content on Facebook, a cupcake giveaway and the early announcement of winners. Additionally, audience feedback on Twitter and Facebook helped determine which awards will be presented at Thursday’s show.
The campaign highlights the increasing role of consumers in shaping advertising and promotional campaigns.
For the first time, 2011 CLIO Awards winners were announced before the show. Results and videos of winning entries were posted on CLIOAwards.com on Tuesday.”We want people to have the opportunity to go online and see all of the winners because we simply cannot announce every single winner on stage, nor do people want that,” Vontz explained.
The move was meant to foster online discussion, a key focus of the social media initiative.
“We’re announcing it in advance so they have the opportunity to go through the work. Then the conference becomes a discussion about the kind of work we’re seeing now, and the awards show becomes a celebration of this year’s best work,” Vontz added.
One might expect this to lower attendance at the awards show, since entrants who know they’ve lost won’t come to the event. However, past experience has shown this isn’t true. When the CLIO Awards stopped privately notifying winners two years ago, Vontz said, there was no impact on attendance.
This year, winners have an extra incentive to attend the after-party: it is where they will pick up their trophies.
Reaching a new audience
In mid-April, Manhattan ad executives were greeted with a sweet sight: a CLIO-brand food truck parked outside of their offices, dispensing free cupcakes and sharing details of the upcoming CLIO Awards. Employees had to turn over their business cards to receive a treat.
In a testament to the power of “free” merchandise, even among well-compensated professionals, the CLIO Sweet Truck netted 1,500 business cards in three days.
“It’s kind of silly. All you’re getting is a free cupcake, and yet the number of people that turned out was shocking. People were standing in line for free cupcakes,” revealed CLIO event director Karl Vontz. “We were able to build our database with people we may not have been reaching earlier.”
The locations of the cupcake truck were announced on Twitter and Facebook, and the promotion reached additional participants through word of mouth.
The cupcake giveaway was a clear success, according to data provided by Euro RSCG PR, the CLIO Awards’ social media and PR agency.
Cupcake truck posts on Facebook generated 118,589 impressions and drove a 68% increase in “likes” during the first two months of the social media campaign. Facebook “post views” jumped 357% and “feedback” increased 208% during the same period.
In addition to touting the cupcake truck, the CLIO Awards Facebook page features information on award winners, sneak peeks of a print ad campaign and video interviews with judges.
“Everybody wants to know who is judging their work, and what is the thought process behind what wins and what doesn’t,” Vontz explained of the behind-the-scenes videos.
The social media campaign also increased by 12% the number of followers of the @CLIOAwards Twitter feed, to 8,397.
Despite this lift, Vontz believes the greatest impact is indirect. “Our goal is to get feedback from our audience,” he noted.
“It’s the quality of the feedback that will help us to improve the event… It helps us to select what awards we will publicly display on stage [and] it helps us to continue to evolve as an awards show.”
Listening to consumers
Audience reaction to the Facebook and Twitter campaign informed both the CLIO Awards entry system and the content of the show.
When deciding which awards to feature on-stage, the CLIO Awards staff turned to the Facebook page for direction. By analysing the favourite commercials submitted by Facebook fans as part of a ticket giveaway, CLIO’s event director Karl Vontz and his team determined which categories were most appealing.
“We watch the comments and we see which way people are leaning, where they get more interest,” he explained. “We can see if [content is] leaning younger, edgier, or if it’s a more traditional type of advertising.”
Additionally, changes in entry requirements provide the audience with insight into the creative process. Agencies are encouraged to submit two-minute videos that tell the story behind their campaigns; the winning clips are posted on the CLIO website.
“You think of Mad Men as the golden age of advertising,” Vontz noted. “But when you think of all the ways we have to communicate with consumers, you might ask the question, are we in the golden age of advertising now?
“At one time, advertisers told an audience what they wanted. Then there came a time when there were a lot of focus groups, and audiences told advertisers what they wanted as a group. I think what you’re seeing now is a continual conversation going back and forth, facilitated by things like Facebook and Twitter.”