Duolingo Uses Drone Projector to Tells Its Lapsed Users “We Won’t Be Ignored”

Brand: Duolingo
Lead Agency: Jotacom
Award Level: Gold, Bronze
Year: 2022
Categories: Branded Content; Data-Inspired Insight

Campaign Summary

With its mascot Duo gaining a reputation as a bit of a stalker on social media, language-learning app Duolingo decided to lean into the reputation, using drones, projectors, and geolocations to allow Duo to target former students who had lapsed in their learning with an unignorable push notification, projected onto buildings near their homes.

Campaign Objectives

The main goal of Duolingo's "The Unignorable Notification" campaign was to identify users who for some reason had stopped using the platform — and were ignoring the app's mobile notifications — and bring them back. The brand also wanted to attract new users in this potential market by generating buzz around its app.

Campaign Strategy

During pandemic lockdowns, Duolingo noticed that social isolation had people everywhere seeking remote learning opportunities. Even within the brand's own app, there was a 30 percent increase in the number of returning users during lockdowns, with an additional 25 percent increase in new users.

At the same time, using social listening, the brand was discovering that its mascot, an owl named Duo, was beginning to earn a bit of a reputation on social media platforms: fans saw him as a playful stalker, constantly sending them reminders to continue their education. Despite Duo's pushy but endearing demeanor, many fans still ignored his persistent notifications.

Using these two insights, Duolingo set out to capitalize by creating the world's first unignorable push notification, targeted to former students who had lapsed and were continuing to ignore Duo's more traditional push notifications.

Duolingo started developing an elaborate plot, which involved recruiting via social media the families and friends of former students who had stopped their learning, using geolocation technology to identify where these students were located, and developing an unprecedented way to deliver the world's largest push notification directly to their homes while they socially distanced.

This effort was only possible because of a robust data analysis that pinpointed how long those students had been away from the platform, their previous performance, the languages they were studying, their geographic and micrographic locations (to enable the logistics), coupled with limitations on drone flight hours, weather, and synchronicity with the plots. Duolingo also used its own learner data to find opportunities to target students in areas where it was likely to reach other potential learners. There were more than 500 interested parties — referred from friends and family — and eight "pranked" students.

Campaign Creative Solution

Duolingo designed a drone featuring a high-resolution projector, capable of projecting images with a diameter of up to 48 feet. Using the neighboring buildings of lapsed students in São Paulo, Brazil, the Duolingo drone would "prank" these students by projecting giant personalized notifications to remind them to resume their studying. The drone was also equipped with several cameras to capture the reactions of the students, their families or friends, and potential new users passing on the street. Duolingo also partnered with influencers to maximize the buzz created on social media.

With the creation of its innovative digital-drone-out-of-home (DDOOH), Duolingo created a new media channel, a "moving billboard," and brought a new kind of push notification to the windows of its students. The effort was made possible through robust data analysis, which was used to pinpoint:

  • The length of time students had gone without doing a lesson
  • Their performance when they were active
  • The languages being studied
  • Their micrographic locations to enable logistics


The campaign generated tremendous buzz in Brazil, which then spread to the rest of the world. Bringing the Duo Owl to users generated a lot of word of mouth, positive reviews, and consideration for the brand. With all of that attention, Duolingo had 554,000 more active learners in the Brazilian market alone during the campaign period

On social media, the campaign went viral, with users spontaneously creating memes referring to pop culture icons (Spiderman, for example), a notification skin on the renowned mobile game Minecraft, and a series of spontaneous videos on TikTok.

Twenty-three days after the hero video launch, the campaign had achieved 75 million earned impressions worldwide, 24.5 million video impressions, 19.4 million people reached, 10 million video views, and 10.7 million total engagements. Those engagements included 99.1 percent positive mentions and 35 percent lift in brand search on Google. Across social media, Duolingo earned 11,000 new followers, plus a 3.7 percent increase in daily active users on its app and a 5 percent increase in new users.

Related Case Studies


"The Unignorable Notification." 2022 International ECHO Awards Gold Winner, Branded Content; Bronze Winner, Data-Inspired Insight. Brand: Duolingo, Inc. Lead Agency: Jotacom