Title: Pop Up Ads to Pop Up Books
Media: Mobile, Branded Content
Country: United Arab Emirates
Date Of Campaign: January 2020
Background: IN THE UAE, HAVE BOOKS ENTERED THEIR FINAL CHAPTER?All bookstores in the UAE have been seeing declining sales, year after year. It has led to the closure of big brand stores, leaving everyone wondering if books had entered their final chapter. WHSMITH, IN THE UAE, WAS LOOKING TO REVERSE THE TREND.WHSmith was facing its biggest decline in the children’s category.For WHSmith the challenge was no less. Volumes were down 52% from an average of 15,360 books per month to 7,600 (a majority of this from the children's category). To reverse this trend, they wanted to promote their updated editions of children’s books that were introduced in their stores across the UAE.AN UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACH WAS NEEDED TO REVERSE THE DECLINE.The situation warranted an unorthodox approach to promote WHSmith and its bookstores because promoting books and expecting kids to show up through the door was not working.Also, competing bookstores like Kinokuniya and Borders had bigger budgets to run promotions and partnerships. HOW COULD WHSMITH GET MORE CHILDREN TO READ?We needed to drive interest in WHSmith’s catalogue.Accordingly, we needed to increase footfall in stores.And as a result of this behaviour breakthrough, we needed to boost sales, with at least a 7% increase reflected in the books of Q1 2020.During a period of decline, this would be considered significant, especially when compared against the efforts of competing bookstores.
Idea: The challenge looked like a decline in sales of books. But the real challenge wasn’t that obvious.UNCOVERING THE STRATEGIC CHALLENGE BASED ON AN ALARMING STATISTIC.The average book-reading time for an Arab child, for pleasure, is 6 minutes-a-year compared with 12,000 minutes in the West, as per Arab Thought Foundation’s Arab Report for Cultural Development.The reading rate of an Arab individual is a quarter of a page a year compared with 11 books in the US and seven books in the UK; it’s alarmingly low. This changed the brief’s context. UNCOVERING THE STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY BASED ON A RELEVANT INSIGHT.From simply promoting books, we needed to promote the love of reading itself.Truth is that children didn’t have a love of reading because they didn’t find it rewarding enough. Child psychology studies demonstrate the most effective way to inculcate new behaviours is through repetition and reward.If we could get kids to love reading with WHSmith by feeling like it’s a rewarding habit (repeatable), we could get them (and their parents) to find the books they love with WHSmith.Research studies into children and practical experiments have proven that especially for children who are reluctant or struggle to read, incorporating technology into reading activities at school or at home can increase motivation.UNCOVERING AN UNTAPPED EMERGING PLATFORM TO BUILD A LOVE FOR READING: MOBILE GAMES.We didn’t want to simply promote new books or force kids to unlearn existing habits, as it just wouldn’t be effective. So, in terms of how we engaged them with content from WHSmith, we had to go where they currently are: Mobile games. Up to two-thirds of children in the UAE (between the ages 7-11) spend hours playing games on their (or their parents’) mobile phones (vs 6 minutes in a year reading a book).THE CX STRATEGY WAS TO ENTER THE DIGITAL WORLD THEY LOVE TO SPEND TIME IN.The strategy was to increase their love of reading, by entering the emerging new media world of gaming they love to spend time in, and to inculcate the new habit and love for reading - through repetition and reward. We looked for the games they spent most of their time on, so we could repeatedly engage them with the habit of reading stories. Through gamification, we wanted to make each interaction, a positive and rewarding one.Now, these emerging mobile games have frequent pop-up ads that cannot be closed until their run their course.So, we hijacked this emerging media space of pop up ads during mobile games with content from WHSmith’s books; content they needed to read in order to close the ad and proceed with their favourite game.And we launched ‘POP UP BOOKS’.FROM CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TO CHILDREN EDUTAINMENT: WE REDESIGNED FAMOUS CHILDREN’S BOOKS AS SHORT STORIES TO APPEAR IN PLACE OF POP UP ADS IN MOBILE GAMES.• We identified the most popular kids’ games in the UAE, and redesigned famous children’s books as short stories to appear in place of a typical pop up ad. • Instead of putting the books as is, we redesigned them to fit within their world of gaming to feel immersive. • The stories were made shorter, with intriguing endings and the colours were playful and vibrant to suit that environment. • The digital drawings had simpler shapes and the animation was gently-paced, allowing the child to focus on reading the stories at their natural speed. • The stories were gamified with a quiz. Children could read the story and answer a follow-up question to close the ad. • Answering the question got them rewards in the game they were playing, like coins, extra lives, boosts, and more.PROMOTING THE EDUTAINMENT IN A TARGETED MANNER TO DRIVE BEHAVIOUR BREAKTHROUGH.• We released a range of stories across the most popular gaming apps over the year. • By selecting the games and linking each story to the theme of the games, we were able to target the content to children by age and interest to make the interaction as engaging as possible.• These gamified stories interested children and made the interaction feel rewarding. CONVERTING BEHAVIOUR CHANGE INTO PURCHASE.• As children forged a positive association with the reading habit, as well as with WH Smith, they, with their parents, were encouraged to visit the WHSmith website for that specific book they were reading or to find other books, add to cart and purchase.
Results: By going beyond promoting books and promoting a habit instead, we achieved returns on culture, brand and business.INFLUENTIAL EFFECT:We engaged with 29% of children in the UAE (from ages 7-11). In a medium where few ads are watched completely, 98% of our stories were interacted with till the end.Note: This is based on a CPV model and the reach was calculated according the number of unique users (devices) and views for that target group. And the 29% was based on the unique views acquired amongst users during the campaign.We received enquiries from parents at our stores across the UAE. And local and international authors at the Emirates Literature Festival joined our efforts too.“With screens, books have been fighting a losing battle when it comes to getting a kid’s attention. Until now.” Ahlam Bolooki, Director, Emirates Literature Festival.BEHAVIOUR BREAKTHROUGH EFFECT: 6 MINUTES A YEAR TO 6 MINUTES A DAY, FOR A YEAR.From an average of 6 minutes in a year, the leisure reading time of children through interacting with and reading the pop up books was nearly 6 minutes in a day, over a year.COMMERCIAL SALES SPIKE EFFECT:Increased interactions led to an increased interest in our catalogue and that led to a footfall in our stores and an increase in sales too, with a sales volume pickup of 11%. Remember, this was at a time when competing bookstores like Kinokuniya and Borders had bigger budgets running promotions and partnerships. While WHSmith grew, reports indicate competitors declined.