Stealing the Spotlight

Advertising takeover of Grand Central amplifies Thomson Reuters as a media company with answers

By Todd Wilkinson

Courtesy of Thomson Reuters


"Grand Central Takeover" may sound like the name of a Hollywood action-hero movie or maybe a high-adrenaline video game. But the 2017 ANA B2 Award-winning campaign is no fictional drama. After racking up tens of millions of impressions in just a month's time, it now holds vaunted status as a bona fide mass-media phenomenon.

The genesis of Grand Central Takeover, a bold collaboration between global media information powerhouse Thomson Reuters (TR) and agency TBWA\Chiat\Day NY, started with a simple question: How can a company with stellar name recognition but limited ad budget reach a large target audience and present its product to potential customers in a revelatory way?

"Thomson Reuters is a brand that almost everyone has heard of, but not everyone knows what they do," says Rob Schwartz, CEO of TBWA\Chiat\Day NY. "So our mission was to clarify who they are and then amplify it."

Part of the strategy, he adds, was to develop a platform that would call attention to, and imbue poignant meaning for, TR's freshly minted slogan — "The Answer Company," which TBWA played a crucial role in coining.


All Eyes on TR

Grand Central Takeover was driven by the insight that a high concentration of professionals employed by New York's finance, legal, tax and accounting, risk management, and media sectors — ideal consumers of TR products — commute through Grand Central Terminal, New York's busiest mass-transit hub.

To reach the audience, researchers with TR and TBWA carefully assessed foot traffic patterns throughout Grand Central. This laid the groundwork for an audacious plan called "hyper-mega," in which TR would own all of the advertising inventory in Grand Central, including the subway stations connected to the terminal, for an entire month. People traveling down walkways and through tunnels would see nothing but the TR story for hundreds of feet and up to 30 seconds of strolling time.

"We would be mega in a hyper-targeted manner by having ad placements appear in every kind of media that people passing through Grand Central might encounter," says Stephen Sonnenfeld, VP and global creative director at TR.

September was selected for implementation because it marked the end of summer vacation. The "takeover" of Grand Central included 1,000 TR billboards, many of them large and eye-grabbing. The intent was to create a "curated presence," akin to visuals in a museum, with placements emphasizing The Answer Company tagline.

Each billboard featured a tailored message posed as a question that invited personal introspection among viewers. One ad, for example, asked, "How can you discern between what's trending and what's true?"

The campaign also included a mobile component, what the TBWA creative team dubbed video "orange papers," which described TR's services via testimonials and storytelling packaged as short films. They would show up on mobile devices whenever viewers were within a certain radius of Grand Central.

"In total, the campaign had the impact of a brand that felt like it was everywhere, yet we were, in truth, in one media venue, and that made it more cost efficient too," Schwartz says.


The Results

The response to Grand Central Takeover was off the charts. Some of the notable metrics include a 400 percent increase in top-of-mind awareness, a 129 percent increase in unaided recall, a 175 percent increase in association of Thomson Reuters with The Answer Company, a 122 percent increase in the digital display click-through rate, a 64 percent decrease in cost-per-click, and a 427 percent increase in social click-throughs.

There was also a significant lift in appreciation of key brand attitudes and an overall uptick in willingness to engage with the brand and pursue more information, Sonnenfeld says.

"For people who didn't fully appreciate the scope of our business before, Grand Central was a great reflective way to familiarize themselves with the power of our company," Sonnenfeld adds, although he would not divulge total spending for the campaign. "Let me just say the program was very successful."


"Return of Pride"

Moving forward, TR plans to take the success of Grand Central Takeover and hyper-mega to other key markets. More importantly, the campaign brought greater meaning to The Answer Company tagline, resonating with consumers and adding to a sense of esprit de corps among its own employees.

"We observed a lot of internal Thomson Reuters folks taking selfies with the work and posting their shots to social media," Schwartz says. "As an industry, we are always in such a rush to prove ROI in terms of customer acquisition. But you cannot underestimate the power of pride greater advertising has with generating ROP — return of pride."

TR's Sonnenfeld adds that TBWA is a unique agency partner. "We're a fairly complicated brand and they are the foremost proponents of simplicity, so in many ways we're an ideal match, not just with Grand Central and hyper-mega, but with the totality of our relationship," he says. "This campaign is an example of what happens when client and agency have a relationship based on true transparency and a genuinely open forum for creative ideation."


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