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Aldi's #FreeCuthbert campaign takes Grand Prix at The Drum Awards for Social Media

McCann Manchester fully commit to the caterpillar theme as they accept the Grand Prix for Aldi's #FreeCuthbert campaign.

Aldi has bagged the top accolade at The Drum Awards for Social Media 2021 for its ’#FreeCuthbert’ campaign which turned legal action from rival supermarket M&S into a masterclass in reactive social media marketing.

The campaign began when Aldi was issued court proceedings by M&S in April 2021, alleging its Cuthbert cake bore too uncanny a resemblance to its own best-selling Colin the Caterpillar model. This prompted the social teams at Aldi and its agency McCann Manchester to spring into life and launch a social media crusade which ridiculed M&S’s complaint, became a mainstream media sensation and ended with cake proceeds being donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Jury chair Lisa Hale, head of social at Specsavers, lauded the work as "a great example of crisis management – a lesson in the power of social media." Proving that a good joke is worth sticking with, the team from McCann accepted their awards in full caterpillar costumes in honour of Cuthbert.

Other big winners on the night included Weetabix, which took home Hale's Chair Award for its viral Weetabix ‘n’ Beanz stunt, Reckitt and Beko.

The awards also recognized the individuals and teams behind the best work. Lauren Tenner, of plant-based food company This, was named Community Manager of the Year, described as ”diabolically hilarious, rapidly responsive, and customer-centric”. Tourism New Zealand won ’In-House Team of the Year’, impressing the judges with its 'Travelling Under the Social Influence' concept.

’Social Media Agency of the Year’ went to Battenhall London, who had a record breaking year, expanding into Los Angeles and Dubai - all while investing in a new workplace policies like a diversity and inclusion programme, ”total flexible working, meeting-free Fridays and unlimited holiday”.

This year’s awards were judged by an international panel of experts, from brands and agencies including Huawei, MediaMonks, GroupM, AirAsia, Pizza Hut and Squarespace.

The winners were announced at a virtual ceremony on November 11, broadcast live from The Drum’s new media hub and event space in Shoreditch. To find out more about the new space, including its ‘shop of the future’ and fully-equipped bar, visit The Drum Labs website.

You can catch up on the ceremony below if you missed it, see the full list of winners on the website, or visit the case study section of The Drum for exclusive behind-the-scenes insights into all this year’s winning entries.

Grand Prix, Retail or E-Commerce, Best Viral Campaign, Most Innovative Use of Social

Agency: McCann Manchester

Client: Aldi UK

Campaign: #FreeCuthbert

In April 2021, the UK was gripped by a real-life legal drama, as high street veterans Marks and Spencer filed legal action against challenger supermarket Aldi. It alleged Aldi’s caterpillar cake, Cuthbert, was infringing upon the copyright of its own caterpillar cake, Colin – a birthday party staple for over three decades.

McCann Manchester saw an opportunity to control the narrative: while M&S wanted to win in court, client Aldi wanted to win in the court of public opinion. Instead of cowering before the complex issues of trademark and intellectual property, the team decided to highlight the absurdity of the entire situation. After all, this was ultimately a quarrel over a children’s chocolate cake. “If we thought it was ridiculous,” staff mused, “maybe the public would, too?”

From a single tweet lampooning M&S’s famous tagline, the story became one of Twitter’s biggest viral events of the year – Aldi’s biggest news story ever. And as the #FreeCuthbert tweets gathered steam, public support grew: protests were held outside Marks and Spencer, Cuthbert ‘appeared’ on TV comedy panel shows, and countless memes, parodies and memorabilia were created. Brands, charities and celebrities added their voices.

Thanks to this overwhelming public support, a limited-edition Cuthbert the Caterpillar was restocked in Aldi stores by May. The icing on the cake? All profits would go to Aldi’s charity partners, the Teenage Cancer Trust. By asking other supermarkets to join the campaign, #CaterpullarsForCancer raised thousands for charity.

When announcing the award, Hale described this campaign as ‘perfect in every way’. “This was one of my favorite ever reactive campaigns, and a great example of crisis management – a lesson in the power of social media.” She praised its results: “They raised and an incredible amount of money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and eventually saw off the lawsuit against Aldi.”

The team at McCann in turn celebrated its client for having faith in the renegade idea. “Aldi was bold enough to go along with it, which made us really happy. We're proud of them. The campaign worked - and best of all - it was funny.”

Chair’s Award, Low Budget

Agency: Frank

Client: Weetabix

Campaign: Weetabix ‘n’ Beanz

Not many breakfast foods can say they have been the subject of parliamentary debate. Before making its baked bean debut, Weetabix‘s brief to London agency Frank was to be bold, but not reckless, and showcase its versatility while driving appeal with new and existing audiences. And, of course, deliver increased sales.

Working with a small budget of £5000, Frank decided to build on a trend observed online, which the team dubs ‘Weetabix ‘n’ tingz’. Building on these ‘Weetabix with…’ pairings, it crafted a series of servings suggestions featuring other breakfast table staples, designed to spark moments of banter - or ‘brandter‘, as Frank put it.

Partner brands, including Marmite, Innocent and Heinz Beanz, were approached prior to activation, and their products were all photographed atop Weetabix. This gave each brand’s social media team the opportunity to draft their funniest tweets, and react in a timely fashion. Critically, this also giving permission to other brands to participate once things kicked off. The combinations ignited a band and consumer pile-on.

Weetabix with baked beans was a combination designed to both rile the Weetabix purist and entice a more adventurous palate, driving debate organically. The campaign was also perfectly timed, which Hale believes was key to its success: “It was exactly what we needed in a cold February lockdown.” Timely, personalized and humorous reactions from the Weetabix account helped the conversation gain momentum.

As for why it deserved the chair’s award, Hale points to the results. “It's the very essence of good social media marketing: limited spend, maximum output. It captured the attention of the public – not just the media – all the way to a debate in the House of Commons. “It even had my team [at Specsavers] pouring beans on a pair of glasses in the middle of the night!”

The campaign earned Weetabix over 20,000 new social followers, and six million organic engagements. Most importantly, it led to a spike in sales and rejuvenated purchase intent, which is now at a two-year high.

Retail or E-Commerce

Agency: Barbarian

Client: Reckitt - Mucinex

Campaign: Sickwear

Mucinex is a leading over-the-counter cold and cough medicine, operating in a hyper-traditional category with limited product evolution. It has long relied on its well-established Mr. Mucus for brand recognition.

To attract a younger audience, and help the brand evolve in a modern health and wellness industry, Mucinex needed to innovate. Agency partner Barbarian helped design and market Sickwear - a first of its kind, six-piece, gender-neutral fashion collection. Combining art and science, it was made to help suffering individuals feel better - and look good - during a cold or flu.

The range was launched via a category-first, live-streamed fashion show on YouTube, and sold out in under 24 hours, resulting in the largest single-day DTC eCommerce sales in Mucinex.com history. More importantly, it drove the brands transformation from an over-the-counter medicine company into a holistic lifestyle and wellness brand.

The jury praised the campaign for its unconventional approach and strong results. “This is unexpected and I love it,” commented one judge. “The clothing is stylish and functional. The social media campaign used a good mix of creative, influencers and tapped into FOMO by adding the live and limited elements.” They also saw potential for growth: “I’m excited to see if they continue to expand on the idea of hygienic athleisure - maybe at a more affordable price point!”

Best Use of Instagram

Agency: Beko Turkey

Client: Besiktas J.K.

Campaign: Besiktas Reels Project

Beko is subsidiary of one of the largest household appliance producers in Europe. It has sponsored Besiktas, one of Turkey’s three biggest football teams, since 1988. After a trying year, where both live sports and the channels teams use to connect with fans were severely impacted, Beko turned to the newly released Reels feature on Instagram. It created an Instagram-first video campaign shot entirely on mobile, the first commercial film of its kind in Turkey.

The campaign’s success was amplified by the platform’s unique tools: Beko wanted fans to not only watch but to engage with video content, adding their own voices. Polls, lyric videos and a specially-designed AR filter (featuring the symbol of Besiktas, the black-headed eagle) all encouraged fans to join the conversation and create their own content. ‘How To’ videos explained the features, so even Reels newbies could take part.

Beko also enlisted the help of Kamufle, a Turkish rapper and songwriter, to create a new chant that would unite fan’s love for the club with the Beko brand. The cheer helped capture the spirit of Turkish football, which, according to the jury, contributed greatly to its authenticity and success. “The concept felt genuine for the audience, and grounded in the community – a big plus.” The judges also loved that this was a Reels-first campaign. “It left me hungry for more Reels- and Instagram-specific techniques, rather than a platform-agnostic approach.”

Financial Services

Agency: MediaCom UK

Client: Scottish Widows

Campaign: Let’s close the £100,000 pension gap

Scottish Widows has been an industry trailblazer, on the side of women since its inception in 1815. The Scottish Widows Fund and Life Insurance Society began life as an ambitious undertaking that became the blueprint for the entire pensions and retirement industry.

Over 200 years later, the company is looking to resolve yet one more barrier to women’s quality of later life: the pension gap. Women generally retire with £100,000 less in pension savings than men. To achieve financial parity women would need to work for at least 30 years longer than men or start working from the age of nine. Neither option is reasonable, palatable, or even really possible. Women also live longer on average – so their funds need to stretch further.

Agency partners MediaCom saw International Women’s Day (IWD) as an opportunity. It became the focal point to raise awareness and fuel debate, particularly suitable for Scottish Widows given its long-standing role as a champion of women.

The campaign itself centers on three short videos, each of which features a nine-year-old girl hearing about the pension gap for the first time. As they confront the unfairness of the situation, they highlight its ridiculousness as only young girls can. ‘Spotlight’ placement on Twitter, booked strategically months in advance, allowed Scottish Widows to bring the conversation to a wide demographic. In fact even before IWD, a ‘First View’ placement meant one of the three videos was the first thing people saw when opening the app.

The results were a 94% positive sentiment, unheard of in the banking and finance industry. The campaign reached a quarter of the population in 48 hours and 81,000 actions were taken as a result of seeing the creative on Twitter. After substantial earned media coverage, the gender pension gap was even debated in parliament.

The judges said this campaign “challenged a tough topic with class and empathy”, thanks in part to the brand’s credibility as a women’s champion. “Timing was key,” they added, referring to the International Women’s Day tie-in, “and Twitter was the correct platform. The next step would be to engage GenZ on other platforms like TikTok – a well-thought-out idea with promising results.”

The full list of this year’s winners is available on the website for The Drum Awards for Social Media. The winning entries are also available in the Case Studies section of thedrum.com.

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