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Bringing ET back to Earth with streaming service Xfinity

Goodby Silverstein & Partners won the Advertising Strategy award at the US arm of The Drum Awards for Marketing in 2020. Here, the team behind the ‘Holiday Reunion’ campaign reveal the thinking behind one of advertising‘s biggest cultural moments, created for streaming service Xfinity.

The challenge

They may be in homes across America, but cable companies are not universally loved. And while Xfinity was confident that is products are liked by customers, small service mishaps can have huge negative impact on brand reputation. The streaming market is also becoming increasingly crowded, meaning its competition continues to entice consumers with new bundles, less advertising and fresh content.

Xfinity seeks to deliver cutting-edge technology that brings people together through its products and services, but product truth doesn't always translate to brand love. Goodby Silverstein & Partners were tasked with getting people to appeciate the role Xfinity’s products play in their overall service offering, and encourage them to fall in love with the brand.

The strategy

The team realized that technology is so much a part of our lives nowadays that people often just don’t notice it. To stand out, it needed an idea that would help consumers see advancements and features through a new set of eyes.

Wary of a poor brand reputation, the campaign had to rely on a construct or character that people would readily welcome into their homes.

The answer was to create one of entertainment history's most epic reunions. The team built a campaign that tapped into joyful childhood memories of family time cherished by the target demographic.

The team set out to inspire people to reconnect with their loved ones during the holiday season. It brought back E.T., one of the most beloved characters in movie history, to return to Earth and reconnect with his best friend, Elliott. Because this duo had not been seen together since the 80s, featuring them let the campaign tap into nostalgia while demonstrating the dramatic progress technology has made. This highlighted the services offered by Xfinity - unthinkable in the 80s. The message was simple: no matter how far away you are from your loved ones, Xfinity offers the perfect tools to help you reconnect.

The campaign

Based on historical data, each year, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, nearly $4bn in advertising investment floods the US media landscape. This meant breakthrough was critical to the media strategy: it couldn’t just rely on typical tactics. The media strategy centered on becoming a part of people’s moments of connection with their loved ones.

On Thanksgiving the campaign took over a massive American cultural stage, with the launch of a two-minute ad during the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Simultaneously, the extended four-minute version was released on YouTube and social platforms, to promote sharing and conversation.

The spot continued to air during NFL games, even closed out the day by airing on science-fiction channel Syfy after the original E.T. movie. The cultural moment extended through the Thanksgiving weekend, one of the highest family-movie-going weekends, by emulating the cinematic experience.

Throughout the holiday season, online audiences could engage with a deeper layer of experience. Starting with a secretive social teaser - two days before Thanksgiving, as people were traveling home and getting in the spirit - it continued after the initial wave of launch excitement with a series of Easter eggs for fans. These were shared in conjunction with brands like Nike and Reese’s Pieces, and social media influencers.

The results

The project was an epic collaboration with a short timeframe: in just 12 weeks, the team had to secure Steven Spielberg’s blessing, original puppet moulds, music from John Williams and, of course, the actor Henry Thomas - who played Elliott as a child. The result was a unique cultural moment that increased brand love for Xfinity.

‘A Holiday Reunion’ became the number-one trending video on YouTube. Over 450 articles were written; Forbes named it the number-one Christmas ad of 2019; and it received more than 2.3bn impressions.

In total the campaign received over 227 million digital and cinema views globally. It was shared over 595,000 times across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, causing a thirtyfold increase in brand conversations. And to top it off, families rented the original E.T. movie through the Xfinity platform over 2.8 million times and helped Xfinity achieve its highest Net Promoter Score ever.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Marketing in 2020. To find out which competitions in The Drum Awards are currently open for entries, click here.