Formula E racing – using advertising to draw in a new audience with a brand message

SCA advertising school BrixtonSince 2015 I have been the regular planning mentor at the School of Creative Arts in Brixton  led by Marc Lewis. A school which every year trains young creatives so they can get placements for their first advertising job. So one day a week I spend doing account planning thinking on the hoof with around 35 students from half a dozen countries. This year Marc has asked me to  use Dave Trott’s binary brief format to prepare creative briefs for the teams to work with. We have just finished the first one. Because of the number of students I have to write not one but 3 creative briefs so they have something different to work on. So it has been interesting having to think about a particular market. From 3 different directions. What it clarified beautifully was how depending on your market positioning you need advertising to do very different things.  So with Marc’s permission – I will unpack these briefs as I used them with the students. As they get more capable I may be able to put in links to their work so you can see how they are getting on. But in the first term it is too soon for that. So here’s my first set of briefs about Formula E racing from the perspective of 3 different brands. Formula E racing using electric cars. Innovations include the ability to allow fans to boost the battery of a particular car virtually by voting rather as in a reality game show. Allowing fans to drive the same circuits as the drivers using simulators. And allowing them access during the race to all of the conversations between drivers and their teams back in the pits. Formula E is attempting to be far more inclusive than F1 ever was. And Formula E set the races are on real roads that ordinary people drive on in cities around the world.

Dave Trott and the binary brief

Dave Trott used the binary brief with his teamsFirst you need to get your head around Dave Trott’s Binary Brief which is based on 3 questions. Dave puts it way better than me so I suggest you follow this link and read his blog about the binary brief. If you have time you can even watch Dave talking about the 3 questions in the APG video. Then come back and I shall crack on.  So the 3 questions are:binary brief has 8 outcomes

1. Brand Share or market growth?

2. Triallists or current users?

3. Product or brand?

And my take on Formula E was AAB – that’s market entrants selling to triallists with a brand benefit.

I wrote 3 briefs: one for Formula E who have to attract new followers in the face of the dominance of Formula 1 who have the money, the legacy and acres of television scheduling. Renault who build the standard chassis of all of the Formula E cars and have provided a winning team of their own.   And lastly Virgin DS Racing – Virgin’s latest venture to dip a toe into motor racing and automotive design.  Who want to use their involvement to build profile for Virgin particularly after the stumbles of Virgin Galactica the project to send paying customers into space. Virgin DS racing is a less high risk publicity story.

Applying the binary brief to Formula E, Renault and Virgin

Renault Formula E and the binary brief You can see the structure and how it relates to the binary brief. Formula E have to take share off Formula 1. But they are likely to do that by attracting a new audience of racing enthusiasts who are a generation younger than the petrol head brigade. They need to identify the conventions of Formula 1 and make them look dated and something your Dad would do but you wouldn’t. Finally Formula E need to activate these new fans – they need participation. Without which the advertising will not bring a return.  My starting proposition was Formula E the environment where I can be a champion.

Renault by contrast have an impressive base of Renault owners across Europe. But their audience is fragmented as they tend to promoted individual models. The challenge is whether their participation as a core partner of Formula E gives a point of difference and a feelgood factor to Renault owners when every automotive manufacturer is scrambling to get into hybrid and electric cars if only to keep the authorities off their backs.  So the role of the advertising is to persuade Renault owners and prospects that Renault are genuinely placed to innovate in ways that will benefit the cars they are driving now and in the future.  This proposition is about commitment to electric racing making Renault a leader and measured by affinity for Renault.

Virgin are well known for all sorts of products and services but racing isn’t one of them. So the role of advertising is to encourage participation (Virgin has enough fame thankyou!) to use the interactivity in Formula E to get people boosting the battery and fortunes of the Virgin team.  So this is a message about Virgin’s competitiveness and their empowerment of the customer. Proposition – you can turn Virgin drivers into champions.

Now I would be the first to hand raise and admit I haven’t seen a single brief from any of the brands involved – this is a war gaming exercise. But it indicates that when we develop advertising we are not just looking for ways to gild product truths but to bring about specific changes. To be clear about the binary brief its not a planner’s tool but a creative’s tool so the team are clear about the job they are setting out to do. Absolutely brilliant in my opinion!

How the students responded to the Binary Brief

Formula E for binary briefOn the Formula E briefs the students steered a line safely away form Formula 1 – not sure a direct comparison is a good idea. Some strayed into gaming which is so ubiquitous it would be easy to get lost in the mass of console games. What the best did successfully was to push Formula 1 up a generation – your dad wouldn’t like this was one of the straplines.

For Renault the prospect of haloeing across all the models proved too difficult – so they focussed in on the Zoe to make the connection between a run around for mum and class leading performance.

For Virgin – the students discovered that there was a lot in the Virgin brand which they could  harness to make electric racing seem more exciting when you knew Virgin was involved and you had the chance to get involved yourself.

So that’s the first binary brief of the season. Two more before Christmas. And the remaining 5 in the early months of 2017. Stay tuned. And if you need activating – it should be perfectly obvious that if I can write 3 briefs in the same marketplace for 3 different brands at the same time then giving you some forensic support on one brand is like falling off a log. So call me!



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