How do you take a century old communications company and reposition it as the future of entertainment for digital natives? This was the challenge that AT&T presented us with. Not a small task, but definitely a fun one.
In order to communicate the relevance and value of the AT&T brand to young people, AKA consumers who intentionally evade traditional advertising, we reimagined what branded entertainment could even be. To us, that means entertainment that is actually entertaining and that consumers actively seek out.
Enter Guilty Party—a scripted whodunit series on YouTube built to maximize engagement and viewership by tailoring the entire experience to how teenagers instinctively use the platform. Success to us looked like an active, engaged audience having meaningful discussions in a safe space despite there being a brand partner. We wanted fans to celebrate our partners at AT&T for creating a creative and safe space and actually creating meaningful entertainment experiences on the platform.
We leaned into behavioral, cultural, and consumption insights and created an ecosystem for Guilty Party with YouTube as the hub and support coming from four other social platforms.
Guilty Party, the story of a victim of high school bullying taking revenge, was told over the course of 10 weeks with nine short form episodes and 48 vlogs. Each of the vlogs were told in-character by one of our nine social media influencers (Miles McKenna, Teala Dunn, Alexis G. Zall, Jessie Paege, Manolo Vergara, Kian Lawley, Tiffany Alvord, Vale Genta and Kenny Knox) with a collective reach of over 38 million fans. We leveraged our influencers' organic fan bases and drove viewers to Guilty Party by creating custom content with tailor-made end cards that lived on each creator's channel.
After each episode, our influencers created ancillary vlogs in-character, further leveraging their built-in audiences. In addition, we created personalized YouTube channels for each of the characters, complete with their favorite channel subscriptions and even go-to playlists. These channels allowed characters to comment on each other's video diaries, as well as comment back to viewers. As soon as every vlog was uploaded, the characters immediately launched into detailed conversations with each other that hyped up the viewers more and more. Even with these convos happening routinely, fans continually expressed surprise and delight at characters responding to their comments. By creating these channels for our story's characters that could actively engage with viewers, we were able to mimic the way real drama unfolds on YouTube, to make our fictional universe feel real to the audience.
In the series finale, we integrated fan comments on previous episodes, which was a huge payoff for our fans that were actively engaged throughout the series. In the end, we didn't just create a YouTube series, we created a community that continues to connect over shared strategies on how to combat cyberbullying. When fans say things like Guilty Party is "the future of TV," we know we did something right.
As a vehicle to drive audience connection and engagement, Guilty Party exceeded our expectations and was a success in more ways than one. In just ten weeks we accumulated 42 million views, 351 million impressions and 38 million engagements—an organic YouTube engagement rate 5.7 times the industry standard.
In just one season, we effectively created a diverse community that actively engages in meaningful conversations on our channel, even months after the finale. That's something to be proud of.
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