USA TODAY: Know Your News Sources


Client: Gannett
Product: USA TODAY
Category: Entertainment, Media, Sports
Agency: in-house
Country: United States
Year: 2014


Campaign Summary

USA TODAY is a next-generation news organization that puts people at the center of everything it does, empowering consumers to lead “Smarter. Faster. More Colorful.” lives. While USA TODAY has a reputation for being trusted and unbiased, proprietary research uncovered a need for USA TODAY to distinguish its brand voice amongst the competitive media landscape, including all parts of the marketing community. USA TODAY wanted to demonstrate its brand positioning in an impactful, believable and relevant way; drive engagement and shift perceptions of its brand; and communicate what it is to media decision-makers in a fun and engaging way.

Its challenge was to ensure that all participants would consider and value its brand voice amongst other news brands – the more time this audience spent engaged, the better USA TODAY’s key performance indicators.

Objective and Context

USA TODAY designed the “Know Your News Source” dinner party digital game to engage its target audience with USA TODAY’s current brand positioning. Its objective was to enable executives to quickly and easily engage with the USA TODAY brand in a fun and memorable way. Use of social media to share scores and challenge peers is popular with it target demo, so it added that functionality, which also broadened exposure to its brand message and allowed for a broader base of participants.

The target audience consisted of on-the-go ad agency execs, client-side marketers and the marketing/media industry at large in the U.S. (including press and marketers at peer publishers). This trade audience is often more critical and skeptical of marketing initiatives than the general public. While the target audience is aware of some USA TODAY products, USA TODAY wanted the audience to engage with the brand more fully and understand how the brand is differentiated from the other news brands within the competitive media landscape.


Creative Strategy

How could USA TODAY reinforce its “Smarter. Faster. More Colorful”™ brand positioning in every aspect of the execution, including look, feel, tone and user experience? By creating a game that is smart, colorful and fast-paced in concept, illustration and voice. Easy to play, fun, and highly interactive, the nine-question game included attractive prizes to help entice reticent participants.

Rather than use traditional media to launch the program, USA TODAY invited a specific audience to play the game via a designed HTML e-blast and strategically targeted social outreach. Throughout the promotional period, USA TODAY used player feedback to optimize the invitation, making the prizes more prominent and optimizing the game play so participants moved more quickly through the experience.

Gameplay was available via URL in a responsive design that scaled the game experience according to the device used, enabling it to be played on any device or computer with Internet access. The ability to receive the invitation via email and social and to play on any device made this campaign scalable and shareable. Internal resources and a limited budget were used to build all aspects of the program.

The game leveraged web-based technology, responsive design and HTML-formatted email to provide program scalability with ease of distribution and access. This responsive online game delivered on the promise to provide news and information how, when and where people want it and in a fun way.



Below are the results of the campaign:

  • The campaign exceeded expectations. Combined, the e-blast and social outreach engagement rate was .8%, and 77% of those who engaged with the invitation played the game and the remaining 23% commented, liked or shared. The e-blasts had an open rate of 25% (10% above expectations) and average click-thru rate of 5% (3% above expectations). Visitation duration was 3:28, or 13 seconds per question, demonstrating that players were truly engaged.
  • People participated in this gaming experience how, where and when they wanted: 43% played on mobile, 51% on desktop and 6% on tablet.
  • While this effort was not developed as a recurring campaign, positive results and feedback led USA TODAY to plan its next iteration. Since the majority of participation came from Facebook on mobile devices, USA TODAY was considering  primary outreach on Facebook vs. e-blast.
  • The players had positive things to say about the experience and shared it with more than 30,000 people.
  • USA TODAY went above and beyond in achieving its strategic objective of having its target audience engage with USA TODAY and consider its brand amongst its competitors.

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