HBO Max was eager to celebrate its streaming service launch in May 2020, but due to the pandemic, the company needed to find a new way to reach consumers virtually during its "A Week of So Much More" campaign. HBO Max was forced to rethink their strategy, pivoting to a completely digital launch. The brand found that messaging environments were the perfect place to reach people and drum up excitement for the new service and content offerings.
With the goal of gaining widespread pre-launch consumer attention by showing up in an unexpected and delightful way digitally, HBO Max partnered with messaging technology company Holler in creating an exclusive, animated branded sticker set for use on Venmo. Branded GIFs, or animated stickers, provided Venmo users with appealing and dynamic content to spice up their transactions. What’s more, Venmo is a leading payment platform that has been largely untapped by the entertainment industry, meaning the campaign was uniquely positioned to reach target eyeballs.
Through this partnership, HBO Max was not only present on a popular platform, but the brand also leveraged a smart contextual targeting strategy powered by Holler Suggestions technology to surface HBO Max branded GIF content in relevant Venmo payments at the right times. The suggestions allowed HBO Max to surprise and delight people with relevant, useful and humorous content from key streamable classics like The Sopranos, The Wizard of Oz and Friends, ultimately improving their payment experience while building a positive relationship with HBO Max.
With the goal of connecting cult classics to everyday payments in mind, Holler’s in-house Holler Studios team got to work illustrating and animating a set of original branded stickers for HBO Max. It achieved its goal by taking the ownable IP of shows and movies — like the Wizard of Oz, The Sopranos, Friends, The Flintstones and Sex and the City — and thoughtfully associating them with popular Venmo payment topics — like food, rent, rideshare and drinks.
Key features: A branded sticker pack on Venmo, with original artwork created in-house by Holler Studios.
Creative Content: Holler Studios, Holler’s in-house team of veteran animators, crafted original animated messaging stickers highlighting some of HBO Max’s most iconic shows and movies. The content strategically incorporated recognizable imagery (think cosmos from Sex and the City and Barney Rubble’s car from The Flintstones), coupling it with word art to make the stickers useful in payment situations (like “Drinks on Me” and “Thanks for the Lift”). Leveraging this type of approach was a key driver of high share rates because the stickers not only delighted people with imagery from popular TV shows and movies, but they were also relevant and useful to Venmo payments happening in real-time.
Implementation: The stickers were then collated together in their own exclusive “Shows, Movies & More” pack within Holler’s library on Venmo. At the campaign launch, users were able to make common transactions more fun with the help of the HBO Max Stickers; suddenly, they could pay their rent with a Friends-themed sticker and settle the food bill with The Sopranos Satriale takeout bag. This campaign is particularly unique because of its ability to connect cultural zeitgeist with everyday transactions in a fun, useful and creative way. Holler is the only way to advertise on Venmo and this campaign allowed HBO Max to gain relevant exposure on a high-traffic payment platform with animated stickers.
HBO Max’s unique branded sticker campaign on Venmo had a massive 21% campaign share rate, meaning one in five people who opened the pack selected and shared an HBO Max Holler Sticker in their payment note.
Drilling down a bit into the specific content, HBO Max saw success in hyper-relevant conversations. The “Sopranos Take Out ” sticker was associated with food payments on Venmo and had a share rate of 5.25%. This is huge in comparison to the Holler Platform benchmark of 0.80% in terms of share rates. This particular sticker was even among Venmo’s top ten most used stickers that week — indicating how resonant and appealing the sticker was for users.
On Venmo, the majority of the content soared above the benchmark; the Wizard of Oz “No Place Like Home” sticker garnered a 4.29% share rate, mainly tied to rent and housing payments. Even the HBO Max logo sticker received a stellar 3.56% share rate and was among the top three performing stickers within the branded pack.
Overall, the campaign was a smashing success, proving that brands can reach people effectively on digital platforms in a short period of time. It also showed that HBO Max’s brand tone resonated with users and that they excelled in providing fun, useful content to relevant conversations. That’s what we call an iconic campaign!