HuffPo spies on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

OMD works on a customized digital campaign with AOL's Partner Studies to promote the Warner Bros. film, opening in theatres this Friday.

A Guy Ritchie-directed, Cold War-based spy comedy has given a studio and a media agency the freedom to play with digital executions aimed an audience enthralled by the world of espionage. 

The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a Warner Bros. film, is being promoted by a creative-media collaboration between AOL’s new in-house Partner’s Studio and OMD.

Visitors to the HuffPo site will see a custom in-article mobile ad unit that invites them to take a game-style spy quiz to identify their personality-based spy strategies: a classic double “0″ or a charming devil, for example. The ad then allows users to share the campaign on social or purchase tickets to the film. The campaign also includes video content across the site as well as on AOL’s video network.

In addition to the quiz, the studio has also created other spy-themed custom content for HuffPo, which appear as a sponsored features on the site. The studio creations  include one feature on the real people who inspired fictional spy characters and five spy tricks ordinary people could execute.

The digital campaign is the first custom execution of its kind for Partners Studio, which was announced in February this year. Using internal research that indicated HuffPo readers like spy-related content, the studio’s in-house team came up with the idea and pitched it to OMD.

“We found that the concept of spies resonated well with HuffPost demographic and we wanted to create a fun way of engaging the audience with a combination of mobile and premium display ads,” says Kira LeBlanc, manager, marketing and communications at AOL Canada.

The man from Uncle

Digital always plays a strong role in raising awareness and creating buzz for a theatrical release, says Roula Fogarty, at OMD, adding that The Man from U.N.C.LE. posed a particular challenge because a number of competing spy films have recently come to market. “We were looking for a way to stand out from that.”

Early results for the campaign from HuffPo’s internal numbers meter show that the ad is outperforming the industry average for entertainment-related campaigns. The click-through rate is 4.49% next to the entertainment industry average rate of 0.24%, according to HuffPo’s numbers.

Ad units placed around the spy-themed custom content are seeing a four times greater engagement rate than those running outside custom content.

“The purpose of those units is to provide scale and reach to the campaign, while the purpose of the contextual units is to drive sales,” explains Tim Howard, account director at AOL Canada.

The campaign was developed out of a need to engage more with audiences on mobile, according to Fogarty, who liked the quiz format because of its interactivity. The agency also found that HuffPost’s more intellectual audience was well aligned with the target market is for a Guy Ritchie film. 

The campaign also includes national TV spots and OOH.

The film is based on a 1960s series of the same name and centres around the unlikely partnership between a CIA agent and his Russian counterpart at the height of the Cold War. It releases in theatres in Canada on Friday.