Leadership in Marketing

Confessions Of A Content Marketeer

FLI GoPro This is our home

“The fear of every marketeer running a UGC (User Generated Content) competition is that it will generate as good as no response”, says Jef De Busser, author of the below article on “Leadership in Marketing”.

Content Marketeer Jef De Busser describes month by month what it took
to organize the first ever GoPro Nature Award,
an initiative from A.S.Adventure and Gopro.

“An incentive that will get you out of the house for weeks on end, GoPro in hand, no larger than your fist. Determined. Searching. Exploring. The sky the sole frontier. That and the extent of your patience.”

What started out sitting around a white meeting room table on a parky Monday in March, culminates in a symphony of emotions seven months down the line.

What started out sitting around a white meeting room table on a parky Monday in March, culminates in a symphony of emotions seven months down the line.

A nicely constructed portrait that features all four elements.

Two fists in the air, outlined against the setting sun. A video message certain to touch the heart of every Belgian.

That’s a promise.

Whether you’re a marketeer or a keen jack-of-all-trades, anyone who’s ever organised a competition knows that there are a number of things that stand between them and a successful event. 1. Don’t ask entrants to make much of an effort, 2. Don’t ask them to search their minds for too long or 3. Be creative and 4. Don’t ask for a show of commitment beyond a ‘like’.

If you’re hoping to combine all four of the above, you’re working in the wrong industry.

Meanwhile in the Ardennes — The first thing he notices is the perfect grey ceiling upholstery. Only then does he feel the frosty finger on the tip of his nose. Tick. A sure sign of impending muscle ache. Dry mouth. Sore throat. The cold’s gotten right down to the back of his knees. Seizing up his joints. Tick-tock. He’s able to see the sky between the Dacia steering wheel and the dashboard. Other than that, the windscreen is completely iced up. The logo looks rather mopey. Tick-tock-tick. The sun’s coming up. He dossed in his car. ‘This is getting out of hand.’ Tock. (- Tim)

Meanwhile at the office — The briefing: A.S. Adventure and GoPro are inviting people to send in evocative videos of no more than 2 minutes that comply with the following requirements: they should deliver a powerful image of whatever great outdoors still surrounds us, call on people to interact with the natural world around us with greater awareness, the videos need to be made entirely with a GoPro using the device’s features to the max and be easily identifiable. Oh yeah, all footage needs to be shot entirely on location in Belgium or Luxembourg.

The project has a set deadline: the print campaign and the website are set to go live on 29 May. There’s no shortage of ideas, but lending the whole thing some momentum is proving quite a challenge. In hindsight, there’s too much waiting going on. The weeks go by slowly and even though the full picture is growing every day, it’s not until early May when the ‘sense of urgency’ really kicks in. The print campaign is all ready to go, but the whole online project has yet to get under way properly. Let’s do this. We’ve got co-ordination and design under control, but I’m still looking for a decent developer. Phone calls back and forth fail to yield much in the way of results and the whole endeavour is being thwarted largely by people’s busy time schedules. The preparations are all set and done, but where’s that developer?

Wednesday 21 May — 8 days before the deadline, 4:00pm — “I can’t get hold of anyone.” I get to hear. Yet again. I’m slowly starting to think we’re not going to pull this off. All available resources are booked solid as far as the middle of June. Time for Plan B and if that doesn’t work, I’ll build the bloody site myself if I have to. I’m walking out of the online studio, swiping away my phone’s welcome screen. Where’s my developer? Hopefully he isn’t engrossed in some kind of tutorial and it’s too early to grab a beer anyway.4pm: the perfect time of day to idle away some time on the social media. Right?

Jef De Busser Twitter picture-001

“I’m looking for a front end developer for the following five days. RT=Karma+1″

50 minutes later: I’m on the phone to my developer.
Tweeps: I love you guys 😉

Thursday 29 May

GoProNatureAward.be is online#done

Phase 1 has been completed. Happy with the result. Everybody’s been working hard these past few days. Focused.

The print campaign starts today. In amongst other people, jury members include actor Koen De Bouw and director Philippe Soreil.

From now on up to and including the end of September, everything’s in hand…

We’re going to create a buzz around the campaign. Do you reckon?

We send out a press release. It’s a great campaign that is worthy of attention from the press. I’m mailing newsdesks. A campaign looking to encourage people to interact with Belgian countryside with greater awareness. What could be more praiseworthy? Plus the winner gets a 10,000 euro cash prize. This has to be the biggest nature conservation campaign in the last decade. This is news. Do you reckon?

After spending 15 years working as a journo myself, I’ve still got a number of contacts in the media. Reporters I can contact. I send out the press release, but reactions are particularly lukewarm (“… has all the makings of covert advertising.”). The press release plan is a dud. Time for Plan B then. Time for a peak in visitor numbers.

In June, July and August the website draws a grand total 8,000 visitors (GoProNatureAward.be).

No matter how great you think your competition is, if it hinges on UserGenerated Content, you are completely at the mercy of what gets sent in. The dread of every marketeer running a UGC competition is that it will generate as good as no response. And the GPNA is no exception. After six weeks, the number of entries is woefully low. Did we overplay our hand? Did we set the threshold too high? How many people that have a GoPro are prepared to venture out into the great outdoors, with a well-considered plan and even more considered ideas about editing, which they will be spending days if not weeks on, all for the benefit of the Belgian countryside? Do such people exist?

Give it some time. Making a good video takes time. I think.

To give the competition a bit of oomph, we’ve decided on a system of weekly winners. Although we soon find out that it’s important that we interpret the concept ‘week’ in the broader sense. We only include entries in the shortlist of weekly winners if they deliver on quality. Especially as this is the shortlist which the jury is set to pick the final winner from come early October.

In July, we get in 6 entries. The weekly winners are a good example. By now the competition certainly gained exposure, and I get asked the odd question every now and then.

In August we get in 18 entries. The competition is up and running. It’s taken some of the pressure off. I leave for two weeks’ holidays, albeit with mixed feelings.

13 September — Around mid-September, we finally get in the competition-saving entry. Louis Petit sends in “Let’s have a dream”. After 1 minute and 43 seconds, I know we’ve got a successful competition on our hands.

Afterwards, Louis Petit wrote about his entry:

A big part or the images are matched with the sound I created. For example, the horse when we hear “our food is unfit to eat” (think about lasagne), the butterfly leaves (the air is unfit to breath), the injured bee (it’s like everything everywhere is going crazy), the snail that doesn’t want to hear (and all we say is please at least leave us alone), the boars are leaving (just leave us alone), the horse getting up (I want you to get up now). The entire end is about feelings when the drone takes off at the same time as the music, the tadpole when we talk about the wonderful adventure that life is, the sky for science (referring Mars in the beginning), the cows running (life has value) and finally when the white (=peace) butterfly takes off, you hear: Now is the time”. It makes you feel like we can repair all the mistakes in our world.

His video is an extraordinary combination of great looking images that are matched up with speeches by Martin Luther King and Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator”. “Let’s Have A Dream” is included in the shortlist on the spot. Ultimately, Louis’ video ended as the runner-up… The end of September is just around the corner. Preparations to organise the announcement of the winner get under way.

Monday morning 29 September — I rub my eyes again: 28 new entries over 1 weekend. WTF? Did we get some kind of joker who sent in his video 20 times over? Nothing of the sort. 28 individual entries. Delivering decent quality. Very decent quality.

We made a lot of noise to give this project a chance and for people to take it to heart. And Belgian nature lovers heeded the call. The biggest and nicest wake-up call for the Belgian countryside is in the making.

And the best was yet to come.

Tuesday morning 30 September — The last few entries come in, but it’s Tim Janssens’ video that I end up watching five times straight. Full screen. 10 minutes of goosebumps.

I could just hug somebody.

Feeling like your faith in humankind has just been restored. I show Tim Janssen’s entry at Head Office and at A.S.Adventure: to colleagues, the people at the marketing department, members of the management team,… I’m not sure if they feel what I’m feeling, but everybody is impressed.

I want every Belgian to see that video and the only way I’m going to pull that off is by calling on the Flemish and Walloon news sites. Let’s hope I don’t screw it up.

There is no Plan B.

Tuesday 30 September — iMinds is staging BrusselMix, an evening about media and innovation in Flanders. As it turns out, it’s an informal event, at a trendy Brussels café, that is attended by quite a few journalists. As it happens, I bump into a reporter who works for Flemish daily Het Nieuwsblad, and ask him if he can spare 5 minutes for me some time next week. “I’d like you to see a video.” We arrange to meet up the following week. I’m operating on the assumption that when he gets to see Tim’s entry, I’m not going to have my work cut out trying to persuade him to do a full write-up.

In September, we get in a total of 60 entries. In all, 84 videos are sent in.

“Conducting (content) marketing as seen in this project is an art form in its own right.” (Jef De Busser)


Friday 10 October — I arrive at Mediahuis, the publishing house behind  “Het Nieuwsblad” at 11am on the dot. Warm handshake. We dispense with the coffee and go straight to the newsdesk and grab a chair. The journalist I met earlier in Brussels answers a number of incoming phone calls. The housing of his old Smartphone is battle-scarred with plenty of scratches, as is its screen. He switches off. I clearly need to make this quick. I show him Tim’s video. After 30 seconds, his gaze wanders. He’s seen enough.

No need to tap into my powers of persuasion.

Initially, we weren’t going to announce Tim’s video as the winner until a few days later, but it’s been decided not to wait any longer. On Sunday 12October, we announce the top 3 at the Namur Nature Film Festival. On Monday 13 October, we’re set to announce the final winner.

Monday 13 October, 05:30am — I get up before my tossing and turning ends up waking my wife. Will today be the icing on the cake of all our hard work and efforts? Will this be the crowning glory the GoPro Nature Award deserves? Or will it prove to be a loud one-off roar that briefly drowns out the unrelenting noisy daze of daily current events, but then slinks off like a deflating balloon. I make some coffee. Open my laptop. The dog sleeps right through it all. I’m going over the press release. Check my diary before deciding to launch the press release and handle the correspondence with Het Nieuwsblad out of Head Office. What’s the potential of this video? The cameraman sent in the final version on Sunday evening. He is on stand-by just in case final changes need to be made before 10:30am (the time of dispatch). I prepare texts and mails and I’ve compiled a list of exactly who I’ll be contacting in which order. Don’t screw up. At 6:20am, the door gently opens. The dog comes walking up to me keen as mustard this early in the day, my 7-year old son trudging behind him. He’s always the first to get out of bed. He’s rubbing his eyes out. Unable for the life of him to understand what I’m doing here at the crack of dawn. I gently fold down my laptop and give him a cuddle. My faith in humankind.

Monday 13 October, 09u00 — Monday mornings we have half an hour where all Head Office staff get together. Anyone who’s got something to say can take the stand. I’m on the list of announcers. For the benefit of those in attendance, I re-introduce the GoPro Nature Award, before giving them the scoop of the announcement of the winner. “This Is Our Home”. I’m not sure if it gives them goosebumps this early on in the week, but things go quiet for the entire screening. Not a soul that coughs or slurps his coffee. I know enough.

Monday 13 October, 10:00 pm — It was hectic, but all major news sites picked up on the announcement and embedded our YouTube video. The cherry on the cake. Tim’s coming round tomorrow to pick up his cheque.

Tuesday 14 October, 04:30pm — At A.S.Adventure’s head office, I finally see the man who made “This Is Our Home”. We raise a toast to Tim who explains his mainsprings to Frederic Hufkens (Group CEO A.S.Adventure Group), Didier Neyt (marketing director), Greet Anthoni (press manager) and Dominique Motte (CEO A.S.Adventure) as we view his video again. The composer from Begijnendijk spent three months working on his two-minute entry. “At the outset, you often think of the 10,000 euro cash prize, but that soon passes. The quest for the right images soon went on to become a daily mission. I’m a huge nature lover and the GoPro Nature Award was a great excuse to set off into the great outdoors. Even though I may have been a little overzealous in the amount of time I spent on it.”

He did his filming using 3 GoPro cameras, frequently spent the night in his car (a Dacia), 1 drone, 2 fishing rods and mustering an inordinate amount of patience. Striking detail: the music to which the images have been set was also composed by Tim.

 FLI GoPro ASAdventure

After just two days, “This Is Our Home” had already attracted 45,000 views.

The GoPro Nature Award is a magnificent scheme launched by GoPro and A.S.Adventure, involving a lot more than a YouTube video that has since drawn in excess of 70,000 views. It confirms that our commitment to the (Belgian) countryside deserves all the extra attention it gets. Seeing all the media pick up on the news is the recognition the GoPro Nature Award deserves with “This Is Our Home”. It’s an intense project that took up a grand total of seven months in which we pulled out all the stops.

Except those of the tree hugging community.

GoPro Nature Award 2014
A project by A.S.Adventure, GoPro and Head Office.
Duration: May through October 2014
Campaign website: www.gopronatureaward.be
Entries: 84
Jury: headed up by Koen De Bouw and Philippe Soreil
First prize: 10,000 euros
Winner: “This Is Our Home” by Tim Janssens

With thanks to: Team AweSome at Head Office (Emilie, Alex, Gerry, Steven, Eva), Matthieu, Gunther, Riemer, Caroline, Peter, Elisabeth, Isabelle, Erwin, Alessandro, Evi, Jolien, Geert, Gwenda, Team AweSome at A.S.(Veerle, Lindsay, Tinne, Didier, Vicki, Sarah, Greet, Sfen, Stefani, Edith), Thomas, Kurt, Jorn, Tim, Jozef, Mike, Rik, @bartstaes, @fdgraeve, jury members Koen, Philippe, Geraldine (Filmfestival) and Filip (Natuurpunt).

The GoPro Nature Award is one of the many campaigns set in motion by A.S.Adventure’s marketing director Didier Neyt as one of the many A.S.Adventure people it has been my privilege to work with this year. In addition, this year he has been nominated for Marketeer of the Year. The GoPro Nature Award goes way beyond A.S.Adventure. Conducting (content) marketing as seen in this project is an art form in its own right, which would certainly entitle him to the honorary title as far as I’m concerned.

About the author: Jef De Busser joined the Head Office content marketing agency in January 2014, serving as content manager for A.S.Adventure, although he has been working as an online editor and editor-in chief on a variety of men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazines over the past 15 years. Has a penchant for coffee, horsepower and a good story.

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