Here, we take a look back at one of Realia’s proudest campaigns…

In early 2018 Ashford Borough Council in Kent, became an event partner with Wild in Art to launch a creative, large-scale public art trail. Snowdogs Discover Ashford consisted of over 30 Snowdog sculptures placed around the area for 10 weeks. The sculptures were themed on the Raymond Briggs classic characters, The Snowman and The Snowdog, and were decorated by local and regional artists. Sponsored by local businesses, the Snowdogs were then auctioned off to raise vital funds for the well-regarded local charity, Pilgrims Hospices. 

The brief

As a new scheme, Snowdogs Discover Ashford had no awareness or social media presence. This was a completely new initiative to Ashford, and Realia was tasked with developing an engaging way to attract the audience to Ashford Snowdogs’ social media platforms, and effectively promote the sculpture trail on a paid and pro-bono basis. We needed to create something that would appeal to a large and diverse group of stakeholders including the local community, artists, local businesses and the wider Kent community. Meanwhile, we also had to engage with 30+ sponsors (and their agencies!) to ensure we all delivered a consistent and coherent approach so that we maximised rather than diluted the core message 

“Working with Realia on the social media presence and platforms for Snowdogs Discover Ashford has been a key ingredient of the success of the project so far. As a Council-led initiative, we knew what we wanted our profile to look like, and knew it needed a passionate and dedicated team to help us drive this forward. Realia is this team, and we are pleased to say that not only are they delivering against the brief, they are getting personally involved, and therefore the project is receiving many more unexpected positive outcomes”. Chris Dixon, Arts & Cultural Industries Manager at Ashford Borough Council  

Consistency in communication and a memorable proposition

Throughout the entirety of the campaign, Realia initiated and led regular marketing meetings with the Ashford Borough Council, Pilgrims Hospices, business sponsors and other individuals, to ensure that everyone involved in the scheme was engaged and all marketing messages delivered were consistent, while being mindful of the individual needs of sponsors. 

In our mind, it was fundamental to the success of the campaign that we were able to create a compelling link between the location (Ashford), the story and the charity. The story of the Snowman and the Snowdog is one that touches so many, exploring important themes of love, play, loss and hope. This is a story that is relived every day at Pilgrims Hospices and one we wanted everyone to understand… 

‘The proposition ‘Love, loss, life, death’. We all have a story to tell about our experiences of life’s adventures and it is those experiences that bind us to others, creating relationships and communities along the way. 

As the community of Ashford, we have so much to reflect upon, celebrate and look forward to. We are a diverse community in lots of ways but what brings us together is our ability to live life, love our family and support others in their time of need. 

Raymond Briggs ‘The Snowman and the Snowdog’ explores love, loss, life and death through the adventures of Billy and his Snowdog. This year we will enjoy our own magical adventure, right here in Ashford, with the help of our very own Snowdogs. Along the way we will discover new places and meet new people. We will have fun but more importantly, in every step we take we will be helping Pilgrims Hospice support recently bereaved children in our community. Children like Billy who have suffered the loss of a loved one. 

The Snowdog is fun, loyal, compassionate and offers love, unconditionally. This is your invitation to find your Snowdog and support the community you love. Ashford. Find your Snowdog.’   

Under this umbrella proposition, we devised weekly themes all of which had direct relevance to the stakeholders. We also created social hashtags and infographics for each week. These themes included #LoveWeek, #LossWeek and #ReflectionWeek. The campaign plan was shared in a launch event for sponsors, artists and the charity prior to the launch date, and it gained consensus on a consolidated and coherent message across all partners. 

We utilised our Opportunities to Engage (OTE) model as part of our wider social strategy. OTE is our integrated approach to deliver consistent, engaging content via social outreach, PR and search engine optimisation. Each piece of content is re-engineered for these platforms; maximising economies of scale, delivering increased reach and definitive metrics in terms of engagement and ROI. This provides audiences with multiple touchpoints to engage. We utilised this approach alongside the Ashford Borough Council Communications team, to ensure complete consistency across all platforms. 

Keeping everyone involved

To set the scene we began by profiling the success of past Wild in Art sculpture trails. We then focused on recruiting both sponsors and artists. 

We reached out to both of the target audiences by engaging with potential artists and sponsors through social media. This included following their company pages, liking and retweeting their relevant content and commenting on relevant posts. This communication worked alongside the daily sharing of content on Ashford Snowdogs’ social platforms highlighting the need for contributors and constantly utilising recognised hashtags such as #ArtistInKent, #CallForArtists and #KentBusiness. 

As sponsors started to join the scheme, we developed a weekly #SponsorSpotlight where we showcased each sponsor and their business on the Ashford Snowdogs platforms. We also continued to encourage local businesses to join as sponsors by sharing testimonials from current sponsors, which resulted in over 30 local businesses sponsoring the trail. 

When it reached the stage of revealing the Snowdog artists on social media, we created a weekly #SnowdogArtist post in which we showcased the artist, their story and reasoning for joining the trail. This helped create a background story to the trail, introduced the audience to the artists in a personable way and effectively continued to spread awareness of the trail, by targeting the artists’ existing social followings too. 

When all artists and sponsors were secured, we began to deliver the overarching social media-led marketing campaign to be delivered during the 10-week sculpture trail. During this, our priority was to connect Pilgrims Hospices, The Snowman and The Snowdog story and the local community.  

Evaluation and value

We measured our success through monthly social media audits, focusing on following, impressions, likes, clicks and shares. This way, we could reflect on what worked well and what needed improved on, to reach our objectives. 

When measuring our results up until the 1st September 2018, we found that we had increased Twitter impressions by 233,337 and Facebook impressions by 87,862 since our appointment in February – just 7 months. County Square reported an 11% increase in footfall in the first week of the Snowdogs campaign, Town Centre stats show footfall was up by 122k in September, compared to the previous month, and app downloads were approaching 4,000. There were over 44,000 redemptions of Snowdogs offers and visitors had walked a total of over 780 miles along the trail. This shows we are reaching our target audience and increasing awareness of the sculpture trail at a high progression rate.  

We were fully and emotionally invested in this project from the offset, and this was portrayed not only in our social media strategy, but in our voluntary support too. Alongside our paid work, we participated in and helped with many events throughout the duration of the project, created and distributed press releases and supported the Ashford Borough Council Communications team fully. Our support extended to the sponsors and artists too, who came to Realia throughout the project with any questions and received full social media support too. 

When we were appointed, we had to build awareness of Snowdogs Discover Ashford. This was a completely new initiative to Ashford – nothing had been done like this before, and we needed to develop an engaging way to attract the audience to the social platforms, and effectively promote the sculpture trail. 

As shown in the statistics, we had increased Tweet impressions by 233,337 and Facebook impressions by 87,862 since our appointment in February – just 7 months. This shows we are reaching our target audience and increasing awareness of the sculpture trail at a high progression rate.  

Critically, we created a single-minded approach to the campaign and won the support of all stakeholders including a multitude of marketing agencies. Our ability to develop messaging that reflects the propositions of the key, yet diverse, parties – Ashford Council, Snowdogs and Pilgrims Hospices was critical to the success of the campaign. We have all sponsors, artists and other stakeholders aligned which means that we have the best possible opportunity to amplify the campaign, while still fulfilling the individual objectives of those involved.

Final campaign statisticsSnowdogs Discover Ashford campaign

  • Snowdog results from 1st April 2018 to 28th February 2019 showed highlights such as:
  • 490,038 Facebook impressions
  • 382,137 Twitter impressions
  • 1000 new Instagram followers
  • 1,007 new Facebook followers
  • Average email open rate of 60% (industry average is 19.4%)
  • Raised £174,000 for Pilgrims Hospices

 – NW –