Bob Garfield

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

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It's a jungle out there, especially when trying to find unique advertising opportunities. Here's how one legendary company got hip.

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.