Financial Times: Avatar


Client: Pearson
Product: The Financial Times
Category: Media
Agency: Essence
Country: United Kingdom
Year: 2015


Campaign Summary

The Financial Times -- also known as "The FT" -- is a well-established premium provider of global financial news and insights, and it sets extremely challenging year-on-year growth targets. Its key objective for 2014 was to increase product consideration and awareness to grow its subscription volumes by tapping into a market segment it had yet to target: the younger, tech-savvy audience. Mobile played a major part, not only in the cross-device and re-messaging components of this campaign, but also specifically with the timing and behavior of the audience.


Objective and Context

The first year of the FT campaign was known internally as Project Pink. Phase 1, known as the On the Pulse campaign, ran solely in the UK and was such a success that the FT wanted to apply the same strategy globally. Thus, Phase 2, known as Avatar, was born.

The idea was to design the ideal avatar to represent the typical FT reader – one that the target audience would relate to. The avatar had to help the target audience feel as though the FT is a reliable source that keeps them informed in the way they would like -- according to time, location and preferred reading habits -- and delivers the latest international business, finance, economic and political news and analysis in the most suitable format for that target audience.

A cross-channel messaging and media plan was crafted to expose readers to messages at key points of the day, such as their daily commute or lunchtime, on the various tablet, mobile and desktop platforms they may be using.

The young, tech-savvy audience includes 24-54 year olds, has a male skew, is affluent, university-educated, culturally active and keen to receive financial news. For the digital media activity, the FT wanted to target 25-34 year olds who tend to be time poor, bombarded by ads and interested in access to news on the go. (The paper subscriptions target was the 34-54 age group.) 


Creative Strategy

The strategy was purely data-driven to create relevant and timely messages, including identifying key media opportunities that target optimum times of day in which the typical FT reader would be engaged.

FT took a deep dive into various research data sources – including third-party insight from GWi and TGI, pixels on the FT site and first-party FT data – to gain a full perspective on the audience profile. A detailed understanding of the different specifications of each market, each medium and each channel enabled true tailoring of messages, encouraged engagement and drove conversions. Data showed that the target audience’s consumption habits focused on video, mobile and tablet during out-of-office hours, so the FT delivered specific executions using these elements.

A two-sequence data strategy was delivered between two complementary FT initiatives to ensure both the upper and mid-sections of the sales funnel were being thoroughly fed with quality leads to maximize conversion. Initiatives included an audience development program, focused on upper funnel, younger markets and product education; and an acquisition program, focused mid-funnel, all markets and benefit-led.

A combination of over 10 different media channels was used. The audience favored video as a media channel, so rich media banners, interactive and pre-roll media were implemented. Mobile and tablet-optimized banners and tablet rich media ads were also included in the rollout, as well as paid social and digital, and out -of -home executions to broaden the campaign.

All media elements were strategically aligned to create a holistic campaign experience across a number of markets globally. Integrated marketing communications were delivered across the U.K., 11 U.S. cities and three key APAC countries by using 15 local partners and reaching hundreds more through programmatic.

OOH placements on the London Underground were strategically positioned to reach the demographic around London’s business and financial centers:  Bank, Liverpool Street, Canary Wharf, Moorgate and London Bridge. Partnerships were also formed with key websites to obtain the best integration for homepage takeovers and implement the most innovative formats that had never before been delivered by various publishers.

To maintain relevant and timely message delivery through the numerous executions, the FT implemented a sequential re-messaging strategy using tailored offers across all creative formats, including standard banners, rich media banners, video and mobile.

Mobile played a major part, not only in the cross-device and re-messaging components of this campaign -- from desktop to mobile -- but also in the timing and behavior of the audience. Data showed that target audience consumption habits focused on video, mobile and tablet during out-of-office hours, so the FT delivered specific executions using these elements to further tailor the campaign. It also leveraged cutting-edge technology partners not only to reach the audience on a receptive platform but also to re-message users who had already engaged with the online elements of the campaign.


Below are the results of the campaign:

  • Search queries for “The Financial Times” and related brand terms increased by a 260 percent net response rate in the U.K. The click-to-conversion rate increased 22 percent from pre- to post-launch.
  • Over 11.8 million unique users were reached globally across five countries.
  • Year-over-year growth in subscriptions in the U.K. increased by 20 percent over the campaign period, shifting from 18 percent growth in the five weeks preceding the campaign to 38 percent growth during the campaign).
  • Global subscription volumes spiked during the campaign period with growth of more than 18 percent year-over-year for the period.
  • This innovative campaign was the FT’s first global demand generation campaign; first use of OOH domination formats for the brand, first use of interactive pre-roll and mobile rich media; and the most sophisticated full page ad that FT partner The Economist had ever run on its iPad app.



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