Tango case study: using innovation in social media
May 12, 2009

User-generated content is something brands are finally accepting must become part of their marketing mix. Here's one radical example of the positive trust relationship created between one agency and a soft drink.

The use of innovation in communication continues to raise eyebrows, none more so than the latest work for Tango. Here's a proposition for you to consider:

As a respectable agency, imagine you have to recommend to one of your clients who owns a well known soft drink, wants to target 14-20 year old males directly with a proper digital strategy. What do you do?
  1. Buy placement on 20 sites, optimise for eCPM (and get a Twitter account of course).
  2. Hire a creative agency and pay £20,000 for them to come up with a 'viral' video.
  3. Or perhaps, 'Let's do a 360 degree campaign and go beyond integration to leverage this network-converged world!'

Choice A is easy to justify and you would be crazy not to do it, right. Right? B is tempting (it's cool to be cool), but you got burned a few times already by putting all your eggs in the same basket, realising that what you were told or thought would be viral wasn't. C: Ten Bragging Rights for using most buzz words in a same sentence. So what then?

In last week's newsletter, Graeme Wood from Zed Media advocated for more collaboration between agencies and their partners. He also indicated he viewed digital as a means to store and transmit information, rather than a media channel. I couldn't agree more, and would add that it is critical to create information as well, even before storing and transmitting it (online but also offline!)

Recently, Hill and Knowlton came to my firm to explore what we could do for Tango. They were thinking long term, and in essence, we agreed on a Tango campaign with 10 dares running over 2009 (one dare per month). Our content team came up with 30 dare ideas that would work with our community based on what we understood about Tango. This allowed their brand director to immediately close the door on the ones that were not on brand, define the exact guidelines of what was acceptable content or not, and generate new ideas. In a subsequent kick-off meeting, we all agreed on which three dares to kick start the campaign, mocked those up for client's review and went live with it within a few days.

But this wouldn't be nearly enough. Even if this is already way more engaging than banners, 14-20 year olds can smell branding pushed in their face right away.

To make it legitimate and add value to our users, Tango and H and K agreed to play the game to the fullest. They came to our offices and then featured in a video which showed the 'Tango guys' pranking the 'bragster guys' (my business partner and I), effectively completing one of the dares opened to the community. On the back of that, the 'bragster guys' then dared them to print their can upside down (and slap a bragster logo on it). A dare got created, leaving the community guessing if this was for real -- and that's where the engagement process truly began. On April Fool's day, a mockup of how the can would look like was released on the site. A couple of weeks later, Tango invited us to their factory to record the video proof that they effectively did it, printing 2.5 million of them and then getting them on sale in stores across the U.K.

While Tango may seem like an exceptionally good fit to push the boundaries in such a way, the reality is that ALL brands could achieve something similar. For a recent Lionsgate movie release, an online user (who couldn’t resist their dare) changed his name by deed poll to that of the main character of the movie, while another re-enacted a movie scene that got over 200,000 exposures. Adidas, traditionally a more conservative brand, will run a large scale integrated campaign on the site, getting 8 of their top players involved in the dares themselves.

For this to work, brands need to be willing to go beyond short term obvious approaches and invest time upfront to establish credibility towards often-skeptical online users. Then they need to pick the digital partner(s) that works for them and get comfortable with the notion that user generated content -- whilst coming with some perceived lack of control -- can indeed be powerful enough to get into the younger generation's mind and create amplification that goes well beyond online, when played right.

Interestingly, many traditional brands need to experience the journey of getting burned with spending millions targeting 14-20's with little success before making the mental switch. Every month that goes by, we see more and more of this happening, which is very promising.

But where was the media agency in this example? In this case, H and K initiated and is now managing the campaign on behalf of Tango, all while getting to boast of far better eCPM than what would have been reached in Option A, as mentioned. Option A and B may still work as unique safe heavens while everybody talks and tries to figure out exactly how to make Option C work. But not for long…

Bertrand Bodson is co-founder of