In 2016, multiple studies showed that young consumers were seeking out brands that they saw as "new," "trendsetting," and "innovative." Unfortunately for wireless carriers like AT&T, these young consumers tend to give most of the "innovation" credit to the companies that make the devices, not the networks that run them. Overwhelmed by a lack of differentiated devices and offerings in the telecom category, more and more young people were choosing their carriers based on brand relevancy. Our challenge was to communicate the relevance and value of the AT&T brand to young people, consumers who intentionally evade traditional advertising.
Our answer was to create entertainment that consumers actively seek out—but of course, like advertising, entertainment is also in the midst of a paradigmal shift. The expansion of social networks has made it so that increasingly our friends are our entertainment—and increasingly, consumers expect that their entertainment engage with them like a friend. We call this collapse between the lines of friendship and entertainment "friendertainment" and influencers are leading the charge.
For us, the developing trend of friendertainment was exciting given AT&T was already central to this trend, playing an integral role in the creation and consumption of friendertainment while remaining relatively uncredited by consumers. Secondly, for young people literally nothing is more relevant than their friend group. With the creation of AT&T Hello Lab, we aimed to create a fan friend community where AT&T brought consumers closer to their influencers through great content.
In February of 2016, we launched AT&T Hello Lab: a yearlong, influencerdriven initiative devoted to creating great friendertainment. In choosing influencers, we looked for the best innovators in the spaces where our audience was both connecting with friends and being entertained—platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Together, AT&T and our influencers created a bespoke content series in which the AT&T network truly powered the storyline. Each series lived on the influencer's respective social platform and was designed to uniquely engage personally with her/his specific audience. Live experiences, additional social extensions, digital ads starring the influencers, and custom merch engaged the audience throughout this yearlong campaign.
Dare to Travel: A multi-platform show featuring travel vloggers Damon and Jo, which functioned as real-time travel game.
Writing With Grace: A social media experiment that crowdsourced the writing of YouTube phenom Grace Helbig's novella Freak Week. To execute this, we teamed up with the popular developing social platform Wattpad, which allowed fans to read selected chapters, write their own versions, and participate in real-time writing workshops.
Make My Monday: A Snapchat series starring Shonduras, in which fans were given full reign to direct Snapchat superstar Shaun McBride in real time by submitting challenges they wanted to see him attempt every Monday.
On The Line: The first ever sports series on Instagram, featuring comedian and former professional basketball player Brandon Armstrong. Fans were able to participate by directly texting and tweeting questions during interviews, participating in challenges, and playing pickup games with Armstrong.
Schooled: A YouTube series following Rooster Teeth co-founder and series host Geoff Ramsey on a journey to recruit and train young fans to form an E-Sports team.
Public Record: A YouTube visual album in which we tapped the husband-and-wife musician team Michael and Carissa, better known as "Us the Duo," to write songs entirely inspired by their fans' personal stories.
The Disappearing Girl: A groundbreaking YA romance series where fans unlock the story as it plays out in real time over social media.
Dear Maiah: A digital spin on an advice column in which influencer Maiah encouraged fans to tweet, comment and text her questions, which she then answered in the form of comedic bilingual sketches.
Dine & Thrive: A cooking-show featuring Instagram-famous chef Lina Saber, who invited her fans to contribute in the creation of a digital potluck.
Your Move: The first-ever Instagram dance school for fans to watch and participate in, hosted by the Instagram-beloved self-taught dancer Amymarie Gaertner.
Ultimately, each show would create a fan community whose members engaged passionately with each other, the series, and the influencer—all with AT&T positioned front and center.
AT&T Hello Lab surpassed all social KPIs in its first year. We achieved 429% of our views goal with 42.7 million views, and achieved 358% of our impressions goal with 492.5 million impressions. In addition, we logged 30.4 million fan engagements in this time frame, a stat that further affirmed the success of our friendertainment content approach and the power of 1:1 fan interactions.
The results we're most proud of are the audience's reaction to the program. With AT&T Hello Lab, far from viewing AT&T as an intrusion, fans invited us into their friend group and commented on how much they loved what AT&T was creating, even calling the ability to co-create and connect with their favorite influencers "life-changing," and passionately requesting second seasons of all of the series we have aired to date.
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