Research Creatives Love

How BT and AMV BBDO rely on innovative techniques and delivery craft to resonate with a tough audience: the creative department of advertising agencies.



At AURA's May 2018 event, First Aid for Brands, AURA members welcomed Nathalie Gil, Insight and Research Director at BAMM, to talk about recruiting moments which help to fuel the creative process. 


Research Creatives Love

Is it really Mission: Impossible to get a debrief report straight to the creatives’ desks? Can research truly help advertisers to bridge brands’ connection with people and culture? 

There’s a scepticism surrounding research in agencies. This is born from a desire to be original and the fear that research will stifle this drive. Deserved or not, research has a reputation for softening the edges of prickly content, and eroding cut-through in the name of populism. Certainly it is often the case that research findings struggle to find their way into creative briefs. Agencies are constantly looking at a number of sources and inspiration for their insights, and often, the research seems to fall away into the background. 

AMV BBDO and its client BT, together with BAMM, decided to challenge this preconception and prove that research can be truly beneficial to the creative process. In the Aura Seminar session, BAMM had revealed the fruit of this collaboration, the BT Repositioning Storybook Project, a first-of-a-kind study for BT.

With BT and AMV’s repositioning strategy, ‘Be there: BT brings you closer to the people and things that matter most’; there was a need to know the real face of Britain at a time when Brexit was fresh in everybody’s minds. BAMM’s solution  to the task was radical but effective: a modern ethnographic approach that pushed the boundaries from start to finish, always having in mind the tough audience who would receive and make use of its outputs: the creatives. Here are the learnings from this approach that BAMM shared with delegates during the AURA session:

  • Rejection of traditional people-first recruitment, instead using ‘event-centric’ approach, to reach a diversity of amplified and tech-dependent moments of closeness and separation; such as following a family on an Eid Al Fitr celebration, a bride on the day before her wedding, a couple on a blind date.
  • Team of researchers and photojournalists had rejected discussion guides in favour of the ‘participant observation’, hunting for an array of micro-behaviours that reveal the many ways in which technology is bringing people closer.
  • An emotionally rich and visually arresting storybook as one of its long tail of outputs; as well as videos and photos illustrating dramatic moments from field. Its outputs have been adopted by strategists and creatives at AMV and integrated in an unabridged format in everything from creative briefs to production meetings and casting discussions. It became a source of inspiration for BT campaign development long into the future.
  • Analytical rigour to ensure the study did not only focus on loose stories, but showcased powerful elements that responded to Client and agency needs: the authentic richness of BT’s audience; insights that cluster emerging behaviours and motivations on the use of tech; and emotional connections behind the moments that bring people together.

Thinking of the final audience of the debrief outputs have helped to clearly influence BT’s new campaign, increasing brand affinity and modernity, as well as campaign cut through, bringing the BT brand back to its best: portraying real people, real stories.

The BT Storybook study revealed the power of thinking carefully about the stakeholders who will be using the research for a more successful impact for the business. As our client David Murray, Strategy Partner at AMV BBDO, says: ‘This project has been a huge source of pride and usefulness for AMV. Not only has it opened our eyes up to a huge amount of learning, educating us as to the realities of our modern target audience, but it has changed the create teams’ attitudes to research within the agency, from being something seen as a source of frustration and limitation, to a fertile pot of inspiration and useful stimulus.’


Interview: Nathalie Gil

Watch the full interview with Nathalie Gil