By The Drum, Editorial

June 6, 2024 | 7 min read

Winning Government or Public Sector Gold in The Drum Awards for Marketing Americas is The New Jersey State Office of Innovation’s Communication + Engagement Lab. Here is the award-winning case study.


Our “Success Starts Here” campaign did exactly that—create successful, tangible outcomes in the State of New Jersey.

Throughout the course of this campaign, new business formations on increased +126% year over year, contributing to the creation of new businesses in New Jersey and economic growth, counteracting a state-wide decline.

We created this impact by changing how the State communicates.

Instead of the typical “inform and educate” approach, we used a critical insight uncovered in research to support a pivot to a campaign based on what our audience wanted to hear.

Research uncovered what our audience wants from the State is help to succeed.

This became the foundation for our strategic approach, bringing to life how helps independent businesses succeed.


Our campaign featured real New Jersey businesses owners finding success, allowing our audiences to see themselves in our campaign and giving them “proof” it can be done.

We developed a distinctive zip code model for media targeting and optimization, allowing us to effectively reach members of underserved communities.

This approach was so effective that it actually changed our audience’s perception of their businesses’ likelihood to succeed (+6%) and satisfaction with State support (+26%).

Since the campaign launch, users increased +71%. Growth was driven by underserved communities (+102% sessions) and Spanish speakers (+2,602% users).

“Success Starts Here” inspired New Jerseyans to believe that their businesses would succeed—thanks to helping along the way.


Here’s how we did it:

Our data-driven approach started with an audience insight that was uncovered during 1-on-1 qualitative interviews. We heard from our audience that more than anything, they want to achieve their goals—which includes using their business as a tool to create impact in their community.

“Free money is nice. But it’s not the same thing as having a thriving business.”

These findings led us to our critical insight, that our audience wants from the State is to help to succeed.

This critical insight became the foundation of our value proposition ( helps independent businesses succeed) and strategic approach, which was to develop a campaign that brings to life how helps independent businesses.

Audience data showed that business owners are found across age groups (with entrepreneurs skewing younger and established business owners skewing older) and are heavy users of social media. Additionally, social media usage is the greatest amongst diverse communities. Video is the top platform and accounts for half the time spent on social channels. The video affinity insights were reinforced with competitive intelligence that showed competitors receiving the majority of their social traffic from YouTube. This was reinforced by stats on the growth of streaming service usage and the fact that diverse communities are the heaviest users of streaming services.

The critical insight + audience data were combined to develop a video-first approach to meet our audience where they are (on their preferred platforms with their preferred format) and featured real New Jersey business owners who are succeeding (giving “proof” it can be done).

The media mix prioritized channels that support video (TV, streaming and paid social) as they offer high-impact awareness and effective target audience reach, especially with audiences from diverse and underserved communities.

An extremely robust, always-on, paid search campaign ensured we were present to capture audience demand the moment it appeared.

Wherever possible, conversion-based optimization and dynamic creative capabilities were leveraged to maximize the campaign’s scale and efficiency.

To support the reach of historically underserved communities, a zip code model was developed by leveraging two pre-defined State zip code lists.

The zip codes identified in the model were used in media targeting as well as a mechanism for evaluation and analysis of the campaign’s impact in those areas.

A series of creative concepts were developed to bring our insight and strategic approach to life. Four creative concepts were then quantitatively tested to identify a winner against key advertising attributes (awareness, believability, intent) and to validate that the messaging was equitable in its appeal.

That extra step to validate our creative concept ensured we were going to market with an execution that was proven as effective before investing in production and media.

Production took a video-first approach as well, with the video shoot being used as a “production engine” where all required campaign video and photography were secured at the same time. This produced all the assets needed for the campaign and created an asset library from which we could pull video/photography assets to produce new creative as needed.

The winning concept was then translated into :30 and :15 video ads for use on TV and streaming platforms, digital OOH, a series of :12 paid social videos, static social ads, animated and static banners. Additionally, a multitude of individual assets (visual and messaging) were produced for use in dynamically served creative campaigns. Assets were translated into Spanish language to support Spanish-language targeted media buys.


Since the launch of the campaign, users of increased +71% year over year.*

This growth was driven by a +102% increase in underserved community sessions.* To date in 2024, year over year growth from underserved communities has tripled (+299%) and the rate of growth continues to outpace growth from other audiences, growing +55% faster.** Sessions from underserved communities now make up 21% of total site sessions, an increase of +24%.**

Growth was also driven by a significant increase in Spanish language users of +2,602% year over year. Spanish language users grew to make up an 8% share of total site users - an increase of +779% year over year.*

During the course of our campaign, new business formations on increased +126% year over year.* This means our campaign was helping accelerate outcomes in the state of New Jersey.

At the same time, new business formations in New Jersey were flat overall (+0.57% year over year).* This means the campaign helped counteract a state-wide trend, outperforming the state-wide business formation by +22,095%.

We attribute the success of the campaign to developing insight-based creative that was validated with data before production.

The winning creative concept was so effective, it actually changed our audience’s perceptions. The winning concept increased our audience’s expectation that their business will succeed by +6%.*** Additionally, their satisfaction with what the New Jersey government is doing to support them (entrepreneurs, business owners and operators) increased by +26%.***

These changes were driven by women and people of color. Women’s satisfaction with government support increased +37%, and their belief in their business’ likelihood of success increased +10%.*** People of color’s satisfaction with government support increased +19%, and belief in their business’s likelihood of success increased +8%***

This means our campaign helped New Jersey residents:

  • Feel more supported by the State of New Jersey
  • Believe more strongly their business will succeed

This is especially true for historically underserved groups (women and people of color).

Ready to get your work recognized on a global stage? Enter The Drum Awards today. Need more inspiration, read our Award Winning Case Studies.

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