Fouad Abdel Malak – Regional Executive Creative Director and Tahaab Rais – Regional Head of Strategy & Truth Central for FP7 McCann MENA spent some time with AME’s Effective Perspective, together they share the powerful inspiration behind their AME Gold-winning entry “#The Astronomical Sale” Mastercard.
FP7 McCann MENA’s results driven entries into the 2020 AME Awards landed the agency on the AME Agency Report and their AME-winning #The Astronomical Sale was one of the agencies super effective campaigns that contributed to their success.
The agency saw the opportunity to put Mastercard where EVERYONE would be looking during the once in a century solar eclipse. By gamifying the experience, they created the sale of the century offering shoppers rewards from Mastercard timed to the phases of the solar eclipse.
Powerful Results: +116% increase on engagement levels vs. industry benchmark 18,000 new registered Mastercard users on Noon.com. All products promoted were sold out during the eclipse – a record for e-commerce in the UAE. As a result, Noon.com, the partner e-commerce platform, benefited too: 15 times higher than usual in the banner click through rate on Noon.com’s homepage.
“A vast majority of customers use cash-on-delivery as a payment method upon checkout. So, what was effective about this campaign was that the window that this campaign ran in, very rarely do credit cards become the dominant mode for payment. This is unique not just for Noon.com but also for e-commerce in our region. This has helped create awareness among customers to come online and shop with trust and that’s the real success of this campaign for us.” Faraz Khalid, CEO, Noon.com
AME Awards: What was the initial inspiration for this campaign and how did the conversations first come about?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: New media spaces are always hotly pursued by brands. We managed to do what no other brand has been able to – we put a promotion in the sky. One of the young teams who recently joined us were exploring the interesting things to do in the UAE around Christmas. Astronomy is a big passion point in the Arab world, given the contribution this part of the world has made to astronomy. And there was a lot of buzz forming around a rare eclipse set for December 26, hasn’t been seen in the UAE for 172 years and won’t show itself again for nearly a century. At that same moment, one of the lads had his screen open on a Mastercard key visual he was developing, and the idea of matching the Mastercard emblem with the form of the eclipse started to take shape.
AME Awards: Were there any challenges when pitching your client this idea or were they on board right from the start?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: The initial challenge was if could pull it off in time, since it was the Christmas season and a lot of people would be on holidays (the pre-COVID times when we could travel!). But that concern quickly changed to, “How can we support you best?” The impetus was on us having to be quick. So, we managed to establish a kind of a SWAT team: combining key personnel from the client side, media partners, digital partners, and our teams, working in unison over the holidays, to ensure nothing was amiss.
AME Awards: How did the partnership with Mastercard and Dubai’s e-commerce site Noon come together and how were the products decided?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: In the UAE, shopping online is dominant. But paying online is not. People rely on cash-on-delivery. So, to grow its share, Mastercard, as a business, has to find new ways to encourage shoppers to move away from a cash-on-delivery system, and to embrace and trust online payment solutions.
With brand preference not being as high in the Middle East, Mastercard removing its name from its logo, is a key strategic consideration to bear in mind. So, we needed to make the most of the new logo by making the logo synonymous with benefits for people having that in their wallets.
Now, to improve recognition, preference and usage, a key goal is to make a payment solutions’ card, the card-on-file i.e. one’s Mastercard card needs to be set as the registered card on online and e-commerce platforms by users on those platforms. So, it becomes the preferred way to pay, hence positively influencing the business.
So, we got Mastercard to partner with Noon.com, the biggest e-commerce retailer in the UAE, and built a unique activation and promotion tied to the eclipse. It seemed a natural fit, since noon.com is a new entrant to the market and has bold ambitions to conquer the already established international players. The tech needed a bit to figure out, but eventually all parties started working together really well, agreeing on the right balance between what consumers most desire (noon.com has crucial data on that) and what balance of products were to be put on offer to appeal to a wider audience, while keeping up with modern tastes, hence electronic items won the day.
Ultimately, Mastercard is a great brand and with the idea we had, attracting a partnership, given the shared value and shared interest was relatively easier. And both brands benefitted too. To quote Noon.com and their endorsement for the campaign: “A vast majority of customers use cash-on-delivery as a payment method upon checkout. So, what was effective about this campaign was that the window that this campaign ran in, very rarely do credit cards become the dominant mode for payment. This is unique not just for Noon.com but also for e-commerce in our region. This has helped create awareness among customers to come online and shop with trust and that’s the real success of this campaign for us.”
AME Awards: Share the unfolding of the project from inspiration to final execution of the campaign?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: That’s a tough one to answer considering it all came together pretty quickly and we adjusted the campaign parameters on the run. Here are a few important notes that might shed more light:
The team did a tremendous amount of research on the eclipse itself – the timings, the visibility, the relevance to the region – these were all elements that we knew would make or break the success of the promotion. We even travelled to the Dubai Astronomy Centre to make sure that the research they had done correlated with what the scientists had found, and to pick up new insights and details, especially with regards to astronomy’s regional relevance and influence.
The entire strategy, media plan and creative was worked out and agreed with all parties and departments way before we approached Mastercard and 3rd parties. We attempted to make it as full proof as possible with all the elements in place to ensure scalability and ultimate success. Carat, the media agency, had a big role to play, ensuring we had the right platforms and timings for each component.
It consumed all our time, over late-nights and weekends, but we all knew we were onto something truly unique and with potential to change how people treat simple promotions in the future.
At first, we were not sure of the turnout, but when we showed up on the day of the eclipse at 4.30am to set up our cameras, we were truly astounded by the huge turnout. The observation deck of the Dubai Astronomy Centre could hold 200 people, and an hour before the eclipse 500 were already waiting outside. Furthermore, our peers from around the world had been sending us positive responses about the innovative simplicity of the campaign. The partner noon.com (Arabia’s biggest online store) prompted us beforehand that the promotion was oversubscribed 3-fold, and that they had concerns the site might not cope with the load. Of course, all went well in the end and the extensive media coverage around us was a further sign of the success.
AME Awards: How did you create buzz and engage consumers about this unique event?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: For a natural phenomenon that happens once in a century, we wanted to create the sale of the century, giving shoppers across the UAE amazing rewards and benefits if they used their Mastercard during the solar eclipse. We also wanted to gamify the experience for shoppers by timing the rewards to the phases of the solar eclipse.
In doing so, we wanted people to save money from their holiday shopping budgets for the period on December 26 or pre-spend what they’d be planning to spend for the Dubai Shopping Festival (on their VISA) to Mastercard’s Sale. Before the eclipse, through a transmedia content strategy, across social, digital, mobile, on-ground and PR, we created buzz about the promotion. And during the eclipse, from 6:30 to 8:30 am, one day after Christmas, Astronomical Sales from Mastercard, brought a dead retail season back to life. On the day of the eclipse, events were held across Dubai, to spot the eclipse. Thousands of people gathered with their phones in hand, tracking the eclipse in order to get the best prices. And when the eclipse started, so did the sale.
AME Awards: Were there any unusual creative and logistical challenges that you faced throughout the campaign and how did you solve them?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: Getting certain approvals from authorities/entities to get the right shots at the right locations wasn’t as straightforward as we thought.
Then, the mechanism wasn’t simple. When the eclipse started, so did the sale. As people tuned in on ground on their mobiles and at home from their laptops and mobiles, as the sun diminished, so did the prices, reaching discounts of 97%, and returning gradually to full price. For those who purchased at the exact moment the eclipse formed the Mastercard logo, priceless surprises were rewarded to shoppers.
So, ensuring the live transmission tech of the eclipse went off without a hitch during the promotion and the prices corresponded accurately to the moon’s coverage of the sun was a very complex affair. This highly technical feat hadn’t been attempted in these parts before and we were fortunate enough to have the right people on the ground to resolve any issues.
AME Awards: “The Astronomical Sale” delivered impressive results and built awareness and sales for Mastercard. Please share some of the strategic elements that led to the campaign’s success.
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: To start off with, we wanted to target shoppers across the UAE who used e-commerce shopping platforms. We wanted their Mastercard card to be the card-on-file for them, which is no easy feat in a market led by cash-on-delivery. But since historical data proves that the period from December 26 to January 2, right after the Christmas holiday and shopping bonanzas across the UAE, tends to be the slowest retail season. Everyone has shopped and spent all their shopping budgets, with very little remaining in their wallets. This presented itself as an opportunity to hijack the pre-Christmas shopping festival with news, content and PR about the sale of the century that was coming up on December 26 when a rare eclipse would happen and encouraged people to hold onto part of their wallets and part of their holiday season’s shopping budgets for December 26. And it worked.
AME Awards: For those who purchased at the exact moment the eclipse formed the Mastercard logo, priceless surprises were rewarded to shoppers. What type of rewards were featured and what was the reaction from the shoppers about this value added?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: On top of the crazy discounts on desirable products which reached 97% off, 2 lucky winners were given priceless dining experiences in some of the most extraordinary locations in the UAE from Burj Al Arab to a private desert dining excursion.
AME Awards: What results were you most proud of and why?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: What was most satisfying for the team was meeting 15-year-old Ashmeet in the early hours of the 26th, full of enthusiasm, waiting at the door. The head of the Astronomy Society said it best: “This kind of promotion gives the youth of today enough motivation to get out of their homes, drop their tablets and consoles, and just look up at the sky and discover the wonders of space.” Also, it was the first time an entity like noon.com that usually is forced to deal with cash on delivery because of people’s habits, experienced an astronomical spike in the usage of Mastercard too, helping them capture 18,000 new registered cards online in a few hours.
AME Awards “The Astronomical Sale” earned an AME Gold Award what does being honored with a Gold that helped earn FP& McCann Dubai earn a spot on the 2020 AME Report mean to the agency?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: Work that works in solving problems for big brands and delivers on their objectives gives our industry a purpose and a reason for being. Doing charitable and social good work is noble. But, unless we also do fame-worthy work for big brands, we are not doing our industry much justice. As an agency, we have focused on creative effectiveness as a key pillar. So, it’s really exciting for us to win at AME. AME represents a powerful celebration of creative and effective campaigns. So, winning this recognition has helped opened new doors for us when it comes to turning seemingly ordinary briefs into campaigns that inspire people to engage more with Mastercard, yielding positive results in terms of brand and business KPIs, earned media and importantly, in terms of brand ambition.
AME Awards: What is next for Mastercard?
Fouad Abdel Malak and Tahaab Rais: We have a very ambitious platform in the works for upcoming Dubai Expo and are always striving to challenge notions of traditional sponsorship activations and explore experiential activations that truly redefine the way brands interact with their audiences in future. Can’t say more than that. :-)