Andy Donaldson, Director, Hitsearch


The brief…

When a campaign brief from a client includes the words “we want people to like us” then you think there might be some scope for fun. However, when the client in question is a short term loan company, considered by many to be the lowest of the low in the financial services sector, you realise that it might be something easier said than done!

In 2016, the UK’s short term, high interest, loan industry was very much maligned. Lenders in this sector had long been accused of taking advantage of the vulnerable and those living hand to mouth with interest rates in the thousands. Our client wanted to break that reputation, so they asked us to come up with a creative idea, including video content somehow, that would show their potential customers that short term lenders could be good guys too.

To say the brief was loose would be an understatement! There was a cap on the budget of £10k, including media spend and any third party costs, but our agency time came out of a separate retainer.

Whilst our client was a UK company, their staff at that time were mainly based in the US. Our main points of contact loved ideas that were a little unusual but the company as a whole, unsurprisingly in such a highly regulated industry, were rather risk averse.  Quite a challenge to somehow come up with a feel-good creative campaign that couldn’t take many risks.


The idea…

The creative content team got to work. I must have spent hours trawling YouTube for inspiration. A wide range of different people at various life stages made up the client’s customer base. We needed to find a campaign hook that pretty much everyone could relate to. Easy right?

It was on one of our weekly cross-Atlantic conference calls when we found ourselves discussing pets in the workplace and a light bulb went off. Who doesn’t like cute and cuddly animals? No one – that’s who!

I happened to have a houseful of rescue pets myself, and had an existing contact with a local foster-based rescue charity in Merseyside who do a great job of helping and responsibly rehoming homeless dogs, cats and a variety of small animals and birds.

An idea was born! What if we could run a competition for office workers to nominate their workplace for a “Kitten Takeover”? A workplace visit from some cute and playful kittens to make your workday a joy rather than just more of the daily grind – sounds like a dream, right? But was this enough to make a short term loan company the good guys? The campaign needed a more altruistic angle – so we decided that a donation from the brand to the nominated rescue charity for every Facebook share of the video announcing the competition (capped at a maximum amount) would be a great way to give something back to a worthy cause as well as spreading some joy. This also meant the rescue charity would get essential funds in return for letting us borrow some kittens for an afternoon!

When we pitched the full idea on our next call – the client contact loved the idea from the very start – and did a great job helping us to get buy-in from the stakeholders and the risk-averse compliance team.

As an agency, events weren’t something that we’d done much of in the past – being a digital marketing agency who primarily carried out most of our work in the online space. This was very much a real-life campaign alongside the digital aspects, which was a challenge for the team but one that we all happily jumped feet-first into. I mean, KITTENS!!!!!


Onto the logistics…

As both we and the rescue charity were based in Merseyside, we needed to make the competition element of the campaign strictly for entrants in the North West of England as transporting kittens on long journeys wasn’t really appropriate. But we also wanted people to know that they could share the video and raise money for the rescue charity wherever they were in the country.

In order to create a video asset showing the competition prize and providing the mechanism for fundraising, we needed to essentially have a Meow Monday of our own first – what a hardship!

In reality, having a dry run of the competition prize early doors was actually a brilliant move. Anyone who has ever had a kitten knows that the term ‘herding cats’ exists for a reason! We needed to make sure that the kittens were safe and happy throughout and that we were fully prepared for how things would go on the final day. One of the best days of my career so far in marketing, having five tiny eight week old kittens in the office for a couple of hours really was everything!

We purchased a couple of large pet play pens to loop together, a bunch of cat toys and even a litter tray to make sure we had everything we needed for our little guests to stay safely contained and have fun for the cameras. The whole team jumped in and got involved, from Hitsearch’s two company directors downwards, even the one with the cat allergy!

Video editing done, we launched the competition and ran the promotional video for two weeks to enable people to nominate their employer for a kitten takeover, with targeted social media campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and also on Yahoo Gemini.

Around 50 different companies were entered into the competition by their employees (having employer permission to do so was a term of entry) but after sense checking these and weeding out those which were out of area or an unsuitable environment to take the kittens into, we ended up with around 15 viable options and a winner was drawn at random.

There began what was by far the most frustrating parts of the entire campaign. The first winning company changed their mind due to someone in the office having a previously unknown cat allergy. We chose another winner at random, but they cancelled because the staff member organising it at their end would be on leave during the two-week window that we had to run the kitten takeover. Finally, a winning company was chosen who were able to go ahead; a recruitment firm based in Manchester City Centre.


The Event…

The original kittens that we’d filmed in video 1 with had long since found their new homes, but the rescue charity brought along another litter of seven adorable kittens for the actual Kitten Takeover in Manchester. We sent a team ahead to set up the space and make sure the area was kitten-proofed, then we filmed the whole thing to produce post-event video and social media content to extend the impact of the campaign even further.

A great day was had by all! The office workers absolutely loved playing with the kittens, a sizable cheque was handed over to the rescue charity for the funds raised by the video sharing campaign and the kittens themselves had an absolute ball! As far as working days go, this was by far one of my favourites in my career so far.

In the days afterwards, the video footage was edited to produce branded visual assets about the Kitten Takeover and was launched with some paid support across social media channels.


The results…

  • The branded campaign content reached more than 840,000 people in the UK via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Yahoo Gemini
  • Our campaign videos were watched more than 63,700 times and there were over 10,000 social media engagements with our branded content across the platforms
  • More than £2,600 was raised for Rescue Me Animal Sanctuary, which went on to help hundreds more unwanted animals with these funds
  • The social media interactions with members of the public in relation to the Kitten Takeover were overwhelmingly positive in sentiment, meeting the primary goal for the campaign and exceeding the client’s expectations
  • The project came in at well under the £10k budget cap, even including the charitable donation, all of the kitten paraphernalia and the media spend
  • Perhaps the best result of all… all of the kittens featured in our two campaign videos went on to find great forever homes!

The thing I enjoyed most about this campaign was it incorporated lots of my favourite things – cute rescue animals, helping a charity, video content, social media marketing, a happy client and adding a bit of no-strings feelgood joy to people’s day. This was a step out of the ordinary for me and for Hitsearch, and has helped us to diversify our service proposition in the time since. There are bigger and more shiny campaigns out there, but this is one that will always stick with me.