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Agencies 4 Growth Festival Logo

Why HR brand ADP and Havas Media Group smashed the place up at SXSW

Havas Media Group was highly commended in the ‘Interactive’ category at The Drum Out of Home Awards 2019 with its ‘Breaking Barriers’ campaign for ADP. Here, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

Since its inception 70 years ago, ADP has been viewed as a conservative HR brand that most people simply equate with a logo on their pay-check.

Responding to the rapid changes in its industry and culture overall, the company began to embark on a journey of transformation with a clear goal of changing the notion of what a HR company can stand for, how it should behave and the role it can play in people’s lives. The ultimate objective andbrief from the client was to reposition ADP as a dynamic, tech-driven design-savvy company that is ‘clearing the way for a better way to work.’

In order to prove this new ambition, Havas wanted to create a memorable moment to announce ADP’s new intent and purpose.

The strategy

The key insight for this activation is that there are many systemic, workplace barriers that get in the way of doing great work, e.g., antiquated work systems/arcane technology, lack of work/life balance, gender discrimination, etc.

The creative concept was to create compelling physical manifestations of those barriers, both literal and metaphorical, and follow that up by giving participants the tools to remove—or more accurately joyfully obliterate them.

Havas chose to bring the idea to life at SXSW, a festival that lies square at the intersection of culture and technology, breaking ADP out of their traditional Human Resources/B2B bubble, while announcing their new brand purpose of ‘clearing the way for a better way to work’ in a fresh and unexpected way.

The campaign

The execution was curated havoc. Participants got the ultimate satisfaction of physically ‘breaking barriers’ by smashing objects that symbolized obstacles that get in the way of doing great work.

Guests suited up in protective gear and selected their tool (e.g., sledgehammer, baseball bat, crowbar, etc). Then they entered the ‘Break Rooms’ - one for each barrier - where they clobbered the barrier to pieces. Beyond the therapeutic physical experience, guests walked away with a slo-mo video of themselves in action doing glorious, soul-nourishing damage. The event was carefully designed with everything from custom lighting in each room to signature cocktails.

The alignment of SXSW and ADP brand positioning was a perfect synergy to target like-minded individuals who want to achieve something greater in their world of work. SXSW is a cultural epicenter for inspiration and innovation across business, tech, film and music. Havas achieved our lofty goal of making an HR company stand out among the most buzzy and exciting brands and activations at the festival.

The focus was not a demo target, but rather to gain relevance with this influential, innovation-driven crowd and transform their perception of what an HR company can be.

The results

The goal was to help transform ADP from a ‘stuffy old HR company’ to a ‘cool forward-thinking brand’ that cares about people. Our experience did so in a way that not only shattered preconceived notions of how HR can behave, but stole the show with the highly influential and famously hard-to-please SXSW crowd. It all added up to a bold new chapter in ADP’s brand story of clearing the way for ‘a better way to work. Key stats included:

  • 260 Glass Ceilings Shattered.
  • 255 Clocks Smashed.
  • 230 Fax Machines Obliterated.
  • 193 Piggy Banks Bashed.
  • Videos Shared: 1,594.
  • Impressions: Over 200 Million.
  • Stock price increased 9.68%; An important barometer for any B2B company.
  • Millward Brown Brand Attribute Study: 14% lift in brand perception that “ADP offers more than just payroll”.
  • Covered by national and international media outlets.

“Guests had a choice of what they’re fighting against...then they smashed the representation of that barrier to smithereens.” – Entrepreneur

“ADP was, undeniably, the dark horse of SXSW with an activation that gave attendees the chance to wreak (controlled) havoc.” – AdWeek

This project was highly commended at The Drum Out of Home Awards 2019. Click here to register your interest in 2020’s event.

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