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5 ways "Rio 2" helped breathe new life into Western Union

5 ways "Rio 2" helped breathe new life into Western Union Laston Charriez

When Western Union was thinking of cool ways to spice up its "$50 for $5" campaign in early 2014, it turned to Hollywood for an injection of energy. The film "Rio 2" was about to be released, and the financial services company saw the perfect opportunity for a collaborative marketing endeavor. "Rio 2" was aggregating an audience that appealed to Western Union, especially in the Hispanic market. The company started conversations with Fox Studios to produce high-quality, fun, and unique ways to inject the Western Union brand into the "Rio 2" hype.

Using humor to make the message stick

First, Western Union was given the "Rio 2" script well in advance and knew the content worked perfectly for the audience it was trying to reach. Based off the story and characters, Western Union and Fox Studios wrote a funny and entertaining script for the marketing effort, in which some "Rio 2" characters are thinking of ways to send money to a family member and ultimately find that Western Union is the most reliable solution. Going in the humorous direction was an easy (and expected) path and gave levity to a service not usually looked at with much pizzazz.

Creating high-quality video that was consistent with the movie

Western Union and Fox Studios created four funny and entertaining TV commercials featuring characters from the film debating how to send a family member some quick cash. These videos were painstakingly animated in the same high-quality fashion as the actual film, ensuring consistency and seamless integration. Each commercial was tested in front of a focus group of consumers and was refined to the point where Western Union knew they would be highly effective and break through the clutter.

Diverse platform partnerships

Once the story was set and the content was vetted, Western Union partnered strategically with broadcast television, cable channels, radio stations, and digital partners to release the message. ABC Family, TNT, A&E, and Hallmark Channel were just some of the many TV networks selected to run the commercial because their audiences fell in line with the Western Union demographic. It selected radio as a big platform to get the message out as well, choosing popular stations such as Univision Radio, iHeart Radio, and Rhythmic CHR, just to name a few. Western Union also had a broad paid media campaign across digital partners such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and of course, YouTube.

The mix of film-quality content, a diverse video/radio platform strategy, and a targeted digital footprint helped catapult this campaign to receive millions of views. No one knows more about this undertaking than Laston Charriez, Western Union's SVP of marketing. In this exclusive interview, he speaks with iMedia about the tactics involved in creating, maintaining, and executing this unique partnership campaign.

Outdoor campaign branding

Western Union did not just stop at the airwaves, sound waves, and digital outlets to spread its message through this unique "Rio 2" marketing vessel. A variety of outdoor tactics and branded efforts were put into effect to get the campaign on the streets and in businesses. Western Union sent a box of in-store themed materials and advertisements to its nearly 50,000 Western Union associated locations. This included banks, vendors, big retailers, and any business that employed the Western Union financial transaction service. These materials all tied in to the digital footprint that the campaign had already established, and served as blunt tactics to get the partnership visible to foot traffic customers. The goal was to get the consumer thinking of Western Union when it thought of "Rio 2." Since this film was on track to be a blockbuster, the brand/film association was a vital pathway to spreading a positive brand message. There were even had outdoor events and street stunts to promote the campaign, with event partners such as The Today Show, TBS, and 106 & Park.

The metrics and success

At the end of the day, Western Union's goal was to prove transactional lift, higher brand equity, and exceptional digital engagement. The success it found reinforced all these goals. Nationally, the campaign generated over 35 million impressions, sent video completion rates at 46.6 percent above the pre-established success benchmark, and mobile display performance at 89.7 percent above the pre-established success benchmark. Among the Hispanic demographic (an important one for Western Union) the campaign has served over 25 million impressions, sent video completion rates 20 percent above the pre-established benchmark, and sent mobile display performance a whopping 370 percent above the pre-established success benchmark. This mix of video, humor, platform distribution variety, social outreach, and outdoor marketing helped create a positive and highly successful campaign for Western Union. Financial transactions are not usually a sexy topic, but this brand was able to give it new life through risk-taking and a unique partnership with an animated film.

Laston Charriez ends our conversation on Western Union's partnership with Fox Studios by explaining how understanding your consumers and their needs is the keystone to launching successful campaigns like the "Rio 2" example.

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Article written by senior media producer David Zaleski.

Videos edited by associate media producer Brian Waters.

"JANUARY 27, 2014 - BERLIN: the logo of the brand "Western Union", Berlin." image via Shutterstock. "Let me take you to Rio" via Creative Commons.

Laston Charriez is SVP of marketing for the Americas region at Western Union. In this role, Charriez leads all marketing activities for the company in the Americas and also has profit and loss responsibility in the U.S. He joined Western Union in...

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