Why BBC’s Dr Who killed its social media channels for 24 hours
BBC Studios Creative won both the ‘Best High Impact Campaign’ and the ‘Best Music and Entertainment Campaign’ categories at The Drum Awards for Digital Advertising 2022 with its ‘Doctor Who: Flux’ work. Here, we find out more about what went into this successful project.
To mirror a plot point in its upcoming series of Dr Who, BBC Studios Creative deleted the show’s social media channels, including Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and its official website for 24 hours in order to get #WhereIsDoctorWho trending organically before dropping fresh artwork and a trailer for the season.
Dr Who: Flux was a 6-hour mystery marathon, featuring collapsing dimensions and muddled timelines. BBC Studios Creative was given the brief to develop an innovative 360 campaign to promote the season, bringing the intrigue and scale of its plot to life.
The team behind the campaign needed to ensure the success of the show overall, while also driving fans both new and lapsed to engage with its digital channels.
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Unlike other contemporary sci-fi mainstays such as Star Wars and Marvel, the team behind the Dr Who push had only a limited budget with which to play. Therefore the idea had to be simple yet effective.
In order to bring the disturbance of Flux to life, BBC Studios Creative developed an interactive treasure hunt, leading fans to spot hidden messages across its teasers for the show. It began when fans spotted a message hidden in the end board of Dr Who’s Comic Con teaser trailer, which led to a secret website where excited fans discovered a voice message from The Doctor’s companion, Yaz, explaining that she was missing. #FindTheDoctor was born and eager fans got to work, dedicating the next six weeks to working together to solve the epic mystery.
13 clues were hidden in the real world and online (meaning fans from all over the world could get involved). These included a 19th century oil painting featuring a familiar blue box (the Doctor’s Tardis) on display in the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, the Doctor’s Sonic screwdriver trapped in amber at the Natural History Museum, co-ordinates hidden at a filming location on Google Maps, the Doctor’s friend Mary Shelley leaving a coded message in the British Library and an intriguing ‘Unknown Object’ (the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver) displayed in The Science Museum.
The final clue was discovered by using Shazam to reveal the title of a music track played under a hidden video. When added together, these clues created a password that unlocked an exclusive trailer, a reveal of the Doctor’s new enemy ‘Swarm’ and a special thank you message from the Doctor herself, Jodie Whitaker.
Once intrigue had suitably built, BBC Studios Creative killed the Dr Who social channels, sending fans into hysteria and creating huge anticipation for the trailer, which premiered on the Graham Norton show and was dubbed “the best Dr Who trailer of all time”.
The BBC reported unprecedented engagement following the trailer release, not only gaining 7.2 million viewers on the trailer within 48 hours but also adding 1 million viewers to the show itself upon the season’s launch.
The social team more than doubled its metrics from previous seasons, with Instagram reach up by 134%, unique website visitors up by 462% and total reach up 114% on all KPIs.
The campaign was extensively covered by international press and every stage trended internationally, usually multiple times. But, most importantly, sentiment among established and lapsed fans was overwhelmingly positive, making Doctor Who: Flux an incredible success.
This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Digital Advertising 2022. Click here to find out which of The Drum Awards are currently open for entry.