A few years ago, the once beloved Qantas brand was in a state of emergency due to competitive price wars, union disputes and layoffs. Then thanks to shifting corporate strategies, the company began to emerge from the ashes but it still needed a boost. It wanted to do something unconventional to invigorate pride in the Qantas employees and to reawaken the spirit of Australia in the public's hearts. It wanted to tell a positive narrative about Qantas and close the gap between perception and reality of the Qantas operations and services.
The company had made significant improvements to the product and service it was offering its customers, and this was showing in its best ever customer satisfaction scores. But beyond the experience, research showed customers wanted to know how it pulled it off.
How does it turn around a flight so quickly? Where does my bag go when it goes off on that belt? What causes delays? How does it ensure 400 flights take off and land each day? Where do cabin crew go to sleep!?
Qantas had great stories to tell, it was the right time to tell them and Australia’s fascination with Qantas reassured the brand that there was appetite to hear them.
But what format should these stories take and how should it present them?
Three key audience trends informed this decision:
• Over the past three years Australia has seen an unprecedented growth in the consumption of Factual Entertainment television programming, delivering millions of engaged eyeballs
• In the same period, the Australian market has seen a 535% growth in online streaming service subscriptions, so the agency knew that whatever it created it had to ensure that people could watch it any time, on any device, on demand
• Social needed to play a key part; ensuring the message wasn’t one way, but that viewers could interact, ask questions and engage with the stories it told – making this a two way experience.
OMD created Ready for Take-Off - an eight part, 30min factual entertainment documentary that told the story of running the world’s safest airline.
Using the lens of Qantas staff as key characters, the show charted the highs and lows, the conflicts and resolutions, and the smiles and tears of running Qantas in 2015. Across Australian airports, Dubai, The USA, Indonesia and at 35,000ft, the show was a purposely ‘warts and all’ account of how Qantas moves over 28 million customers a year.
At no cost, Ready For Take Off aired prime time on Channel Nine over eight weeks, and was moved from Friday to Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm; the Holy Grail for branded content. The show received extensive promotion by Channel Nine, equal to that of other prime time programming.
The show was available on JumpIn (Nine’s streaming service) as soon as the show went to air, allowing anyone watching on mobile or tablet to watch the show on demand.
The role of digital was critical and two fold.
A heavy paid social media tease prior, during and post the show drove awareness, editorial content and PR reviews of the show were promoted via Outbrain, and influential social media handles (media and aviation enthusiasts) encouraged people to tune in.
Additional content and commentary was released on social at exactly the same time as a significant event occurred on screen, deeper two minute side stories appeared in social for people who wanted to watch more, and live Q&A’s were conducted via Periscope in the commercial breaks to ensure audience retention and engagement.
The show set a new standard for branded content, consistently bringing in over 550,000 viewers and the fifth episode peaking at over one million viewers (just on TV). The show was regularly the number one programme for its timeslot and at one point (episode five) rated as the number one show of the day across FTA TV.
The storylines and series clearly struck a chord with audiences, with 95% of people who watched the show saying they would watch again.
Social media sentiment also echoed this reaction, with over 90% positive sentiment towards the show across social.
Brand tracker scores saw an increase of 37% against the metric “Makes me think Qantas is an innovative airline” amongst those that watched the show.
And on broadcast value alone, the show delivered over $16,000,000 of return on Investment for Qantas.
As part of the deal, it also drove revenue back from all digital inventory as well as from International tape sales, of which it has already sold to six markets.