Written by Agency.Asia
We thought we'd let him inspire you, as he agreed to tell us what it took to turn Yellow Pages platinum and one of the most successful viral campaigns of the year. Over to you, James ...
How to Build a Treehouse by James Hurman, Colenso BBDO
If I told you people had paid $195 to spend three hours being advertised to and then thanked us for it you'd be forgiven for questioning my honesty. But earlier this year, halfway up a very tall pine tree, we managed just that after doing something extraordinary with one of life's more prosaic articles, the Yellow Pages.
It was the perfect product for the twentieth century. A giant yellow book in which whatever you needed could be found. Some asbestos for your ceiling. The nearest stockist of waterbeds. A man to repair your telex machine. It was updated every single year and efficiently delivered by hand to every home in the country. A big yellow helper, without which our parents' lives would have been even more arduous and toilsome.
As 2008 began, our client was justifiably troubled by the public's view of their brand. The Yellow Pages was something your Mum kept in the cupboard underneath the telephone, and pulled out when something went wrong with the plumbing. It was an icon of the pre-internet age, and en masse both consumers and businesses were questioning their need for Yellow in a world where they could find anything they wanted on Google. The future of a product we once couldn't live without looked suddenly uncertain, and the public perception that Yellow Pages was neither contemporary nor innovative was a harbinger of slow and torturous demise.
In understanding how to earn our client a place in the 21st century we turned to the teachings of thirteenth century French Roman Catholic friar, St Francis of Assisi. "Preach the gospel at all times," he told his fratrês, "use words if necessary." It's a wonderful articulation of something we all know is true - that our actions speak louder than our words - and so rather than telling people how contemporary and innovative our client's brand was, we made a decision do something truly contemporary and innovative to prove beyond doubt that Yellow really did have its head in 2009.
To prove that, even this century, you can get any job done with Yellow, we challenged Tracey Collins, an unknown accordion player, to build a treehouse restaurant using only contacts from the Yellow Pages. We based her in a redwood forest with Yellow books, a laptop and mobile phone. Over the next few months she worked with 65 Yellow listed companies to build and then open a fully functioning tree house restaurant. .
The entire process was documented and New Zealand was kept up to date via Tracey's blog, and through TV ads, outdoor, and online banners which directed people to our website. There you could engage with Tracey's daily blog, webisodes and live webcam.
There were tribulations - like being made to create wheelchair access to comply with council building code compliance! And victories - like opening the restaurant in January 2009 to rave reviews. Bookings were taken on Tracey's website for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, and the two month season was completely sold out as people from all over the world scrambled for the two thousand available seats. The Treehouse became a monster conversation, being featured on over 20,000 websites, 85 magazines, the front page of New Zealand's biggest newspaper, every major NZ TV news property and even the blog of Kanye West.
The worth of those conversations was 61% awareness of the Treehouse off a tiny US$210,000 media spend - 88% more efficient than previous traditional advertising campaigns. And those aware of the Treehouse showed improved attitudes toward the Yellow brand across all measures, particularly the all important "is modern/of today" metric which grew ten points.
But the most gratifying result was the thanks we got from the people that engaged most deeply with the campaign by coming to eat at the restaurant:
It was a privilege to be able to come and visit the place… it was an exquisite experience… an unforgettable, truly different and brilliant evening out… the atmosphere was surreal and magical… a once in a lifetime experience… thank you for making our day so perfect and the start of my 50th year something extra special… we really had a wonderful experience, thanks so much!
The true value of this campaign wasn’t just that it delivered an unlikely result for Yellow, but did so with an idea that people welcomed into their world, truly valued and took the time to thank us for. Yellow Treehouse website
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