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Hollyoaks brought real-world issues into stark focus with VR and IRL campaigns


By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

June 21, 2023 | 5 min read

The campaign won in the Social Media and the Partnership/Collaboration categories at The Drum Awards for Marketing EMEA 2023.

A promotional image for the Hollyoaks IRL campaign

The work brought real-world issues into the realms of social media and VR / Lime Pictures

Lime Pictures, working with Hollyoaks in collaboration with the UK Home Office and OMD Agency, created a VR experience highlighting misogynistic microaggressions.

The Brief

Channel 4’s flagship soap Hollyoaks has never shied away from addressing real issues. To create awareness about women’s safety, the show and Lime Pictures set out to develop a groundbreaking VR experience, allowing viewers to step into character Maxine’s shoes and navigate the streets of Hollyoaks Village at night.

The core idea behind the immersive journey was to highlight the misogynistic microaggressions faced by women and emphasize the importance of addressing women’s safety concerns.

The Idea

To bridge the gap between on-screen storylines and real-life issues, the show launched a multi-platform short-form documentary series called Hollyoaks IRL. The series delved into various social issues affecting Hollyoaks’ youth audience and featured real people whose experiences had influenced the show’s most important storylines. By authentically blending the fictional and real-life worlds, Hollyoaks IRL effectively resonated with viewers, sparking conversations and offering hope for change.

Beyond the show itself, however, the team recognized the power of social media platforms in engaging audiences, launching a dedicated TikTok channel in April 2022. The TikTok launch coincided with a special episode filmed in Mallorca, creating an opportunity for ’TikTok inception’. Through the channel, Hollyoaks provided behind-the-scenes glimpses into the lives of cast members and delved into on-screen and real-world storyline issues. The strategic placement of the TikTok QR code in every episode drove viewers to the platform, amplifying engagement and extending the show’s reach to new audiences.

The Results

The team’s efforts to create impactful social content and campaigns yielded significant results, leveraging the parent brand’s recognition to delve into real-world issues in new ways. In 2022 alone, Hollyoaks gained over 460m views and 900m impressions across various social media platforms.

The ’Long Walk Home’ immersive experience not only garnered over 2m views across platforms but also achieved global recognition, featuring in Meta Quest’s Must-See Immersive and VR for Good playlists. The campaign effectively engaged a predominantly male audience, fostering understanding and empathy toward women’s experiences.

In conjunction with the campaign, Hollyoaks collaborated with the Home Office’s ’Enough’ initiative to stop violence against women and girls, resulting in increased reporting and intervention rates among respondents. Impressively, following the campaign, 50% of respondents to a survey agreed they are likely to report behavior they’ve witnessed or experienced in the future.

This campaign won at The Drum Awards for Marketing EMEA 2023. Find out more about The Drum’s Global Awards program or head to our case studies hub to read more award-winning stories.

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