ANZ, Bauer and Spark PHD build an audience from Grand Designs sponsorship

The media plays an important role in the building and renovation process, whether it’s creating that flicker of inspiration required to take the plunge, showcasing trends to help you decide what you want or providing guidance and advice during the process. And ANZ, the country’s biggest home loan provider with around one third of the mortgage market, helps make plenty of that happen. 

In an effort to maintain that position, ANZ sponsored the first season of Grand Designs NZ and the above-the-line campaign that was linked to its sponsorship did a good job of showing how the bank could help bring the ‘grand plans’ of a wide variety of New Zealanders to life.

But while the TV show was a success in terms of ratings, Amber Ardern, the head of Bauer’s Media Collective, a group of cross-disciplinary creative thinkers in charge of developing content-led solutions for clients, says the houses it focused on were typically multi-million dollar projects—something not everyone has the resources or inclination to achieve.

ANZ’s media agency Spark PHD—and, specifically, its new content team led by Mike Harland—approached Bauer’s Media Collective with a brief around extending its sponsorship of the show through a content marketing campaign that would offer “inspiration you can use” and allow ANZ to make design real for people—and, of course, subtly link it back to its products and services. 

Breaking it down

Bauer tapped into the expertise of its editorial teams, such as Your Home and Garden’s managing editor (and The Block NZ co-host) Shelley Ferguson and Home editor Jeremy Hansen to develop eight broad themes—simplicity, urban communities, mixed materials, smart homes, flexible spaces, eco-friendly living, small homes and personalisation—that related to the show and were tipped to influence New Zealand design over the next few years. 

It then brought in regular Home contributor Simon Farrell Green to do those themes justice and help choose relevant homes to showcase. 

Each trend within the series was translated into videos fronted by Hansen and Eva Nash of Rogan Nash architects to give the content some high-end credibility, print executions that ran in both magazines (the combined readership is 339,000) and short-form content and galleries that ran online on homestolove.co.nz. Content was also distributed through third party paid print channels, video on demand, social media and ANZ-owned channels.

Designs for Living

Take a look at simplicity at its best in this beautiful Auckland home. For more inspiration visit Designs for Living anz.co/Thlqm

Posted by ANZ New Zealand on Sunday, 11 October 2015

ANZ Designs for Living

Creating a truly unique home is about more than picking a colour palette. Explore the use of contrasting materials and create interest in unexpected ways. For more inspiration visit Designs for Living: anz.co/TKfkL

Posted by ANZ New Zealand on Saturday, 24 October 2015

This home uses design to capitalise on its spectacular views. With state-of-the-art engineering and clever spaces, it’s the perfect example of smart architecture. For more home inspiration visit: anz.co/Uv2Od.

Posted by ANZ New Zealand on Thursday, 26 November 2015

All up, Bauer created 32 pieces of content for the series, making it the biggest content campaign it has done so far in terms of output. 

“There’s a whole world of inspiring design out there and [ANZ] were the ones presenting it and showing how it could be achieved,” says Margaret Hawker, the head of strategy at Media Collective. “So they become the bank to talk to for home design projects, from completely new homes through to smaller renovations. And that top-of-mind association is what content does really well for clients.” 

Gotta have faith 

One of the recurring themes with good content marketing is the need to find the hook that allows the client to tell a great story, which is where a strong editorial collaboration can really deliver. Hawker points to international research that shows when you add a sales component into a content campaign it can turn readers off. 

“Don’t try and act like you’re my friend and then sell me something,” she says. 

Campaigns like this require an element of trust between brand, publisher and agency and Ardern says it was a very collaborative process. She says that clients who have worked with Bauer Media “recognise the value of having journalists, not copywriters, and good photographers, not stock shots,” she says. “And great work doesn’t feel like a campaign. It’s something we would like to do anyway.”

She points to Griffin’s and its agency MBM as another good example of a successful content partnership. With an all-new product launched in 2014 by a Bauer Media content campaign, the door was open for more innovative collaboration with Seasonal Suppers, a quarterly content campaign that saw Bauer bring in guest chef Al Brown and set him loose on the product. 

“It’s not about logos and brands,” says Ardern. “He used the product in recipes exactly how he wanted. Griffin’s may never have thought to use Huntley & Palmers flatbreads in the way Al’s done, but they love the way it shows the product in a new context.”

(Image credit: Metro magazine)

The editorial eyes have it

While some sectors, such as food, lifestyle and homes lend themselves more naturally to content marketing because the commercially funded content is so close to what the editorial team does every day, Hawker says content marketing can work for just about anyone with the right hook. 

But editorial staff are accustomed to getting their own way. So what happens when there are a few more cooks in this more commercial kitchen? 

“It stretches everyone,” says Ardern. “All of the parties made Designs for Living better. It is relatively new to editors, but the best outcome is to have every partner in the room and our experts, our journalists, can lead that conversation in terms of trends and getting that conversation right. There were definitely things both editorial and client teams challenged my team on that made the content better. And I loved that.”

Or, as Hawker says, “it takes a village to raise a child”. 

But is there a danger that editorial integrity is being eroded when editors are working directly with brands? There is risk, says Ardern. But Bauer’s Media Collective does an internal self-check with each new campaign on whether it’s appropriate. 

“Some brands want the editors to front things we’re not comfortable with. And we will push back. And we have. It’s got to work mutually. It’s got to be great for both, otherwise the audience will pick up that lack of authenticity and the client won’t see the response they’re after… Obviously it’s harder for editors on our current affairs titles to put themselves in front of a campaign. But we’ve just completed a campaign with Lincoln University together with The Listener, North & South and Metro where we created content that was perfectly suited to those brands, so it can be done.”

Off the charts

Ardern says one of the most important things is to set expectations at the start of any content-led campaign. Typically, content is about demand generation, rather than fulfillment; the softer, more irrational end of the marketing continuum. And in this case, the KPIs were brand love for ANZ and brand connection to home design. 

While marketers may not have the same content creation skills as publishers, they are much more accustomed to tracking the results of their activities. This has traditionally been a weakness of publishers who were accustomed to creating content, sending it into the wild and moving on to the next project. But the rise of digital has meant they are getting better at it and, in Bauer’s case, it tracked everything along the way and its insights team also conducted pre-campaign and post-campaign surveys with its research panel to see how it had affected brand perception. 

“It’s a new beast and everyone is unsure on how to measure that, so we really wanted to put that into the mix,” says Ardern. 

Build it and only some will come

In the past, mass media owned the audiences, tried to keep them in their walled gardens and rarely, if ever, created content that could be used in competing media. But in an age of content overload, creating the content is just one part of the job. So, in what could be an update to the classic ‘if a tree falls in the woods’ conundrum, if nobody sees it, is it still content? 

Ardern says media fragmentation doesn’t need to mean message fragmentation. A strong story, produced by quality editorial teams, and tailored to audience and platform, will deliver for clients. For example, content produced for NZME’s Canvas was produced by Bauer for a weekend reader audience.

This can mean that clients and publishers need to look outside their own assets to get the reach numbers they desire. Previously, Bauer worked with digital partners like Yahoo to do that and while she says its digital audience is growing rapidly after a big investment last year, with ANZ’s Designs for Living campaign Spark PHD increased the audience significantly by pushing content out through third party discovery platforms like Outbrain, YouTube and programmatic networks, with everything leading back to the hub on homestolove.co.nz. 

Bauer’s social media for ANZ’s campaign reached more than 315,000 people, ANZ used its own social channels to extend this reach and more than 55,000 people saw the content hosted at its hub homestolove.co.nz

“But it didn’t just happen naturally,” Ardern says. “It’s definitely all about the schedule you put behind these things. Planning is a massive part of it. Up front it’s all about what are we going to create. But getting [the audience]to the content is almost more important.” 

Under the influence

Advertisers have always looked to tap into the credibility of magazine brands. But Hawker says brands are increasingly looking to tap into the credibility and influence of individual editors.  Ferguson has been fronting a campaign for Spark’s Morepork, which also sponsored The Block NZ, and Ardern says deals like this always work best when the person doing the endorsing actually likes the product, as Ferguson did (thankfully, Al Brown was also a fan of Huntley & Palmers). 

Homeware lover Shelley Ferguson is a huge fan of Shut The Front Door. She uses Morepork to check in how things are going at home when she’s out and about.

Posted by Morepork on Saturday, 23 January 2016

Ardern says Bauer is getting asked daily for its editorial staff to front campaigns for brands, so it’s about managing that demand so they’re not over-exposed—and also managing the amount of branded content work that is flowing through the business. It’s hard enough putting out a magazine at a time when editorial teams continue to shrink, so giving editors more commercial work may seem like a stretch. But she says there is a willingness to experiment and, because editorial staff have had to develop a better understanding of the commercial side of their titles, an understanding that it’s a necessity. 

“It’s the new reality, it’s what clients want,” says Ardern. “There are a lot of challenges and a whole lot of new processes we’re bringing into the business to manage that. But everyone’s really open to it … For Jeremy [Hansen] it was a real challenge. He was incredibly busy and on deadline when we asked him to do the campaign. But he got really involved and he saw the work and he was really proud of it and that’s what allows us to do it next time.”

And judging by the success of this campaign, the enthusiasm of the staff and the thirst for good content campaigns from marketers, there will presumably be plenty more next times. 

This story is part of a content partnership with Bauer Media.
​Check out ANZ’s Designs for Living.
​For more information about Bauer’s Media Collective contact [email protected].

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