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Special Project

Special Project
From the 13th Annual Shorty Awards

#AerieREALPositivity Challenge with Charli D'Amelio

Entered in TikTok Partnership


Aerie celebrates the REAL beauty of women inside and out. Positivity and empowerment have been part of Aerie’s DNA since the onset of its #AerieREAL platform six years ago, leading to a powerful movement and strong community. In response to COVID-19, Aerie wanted to show up for its community during this challenging time - in a bigger, more meaningful way. 

Aerie tasked SHADOW to devise a social campaign that would bring these core messages to its audience and add layers of (social) connectedness despite the mandatory stay at home orders. 

The foundation for this campaign was already there - Aerie didn’t need to change its tone or reinvent its customer communication. Rather, Aerie leaned further into its messaging through a new medium, TikTok, with authentic talent who reflects the brand’s values. 

SHADOW considered the following insights to inform its approach. First, now more than ever, customers crave real and authentic brand connections - something synonymous with Aerie. Second, Aerie shows up where its customer spends her time - and currently, that’s on her phone. Aerie saw digital demand increase 113% to last year, and AEO Inc. saw 45% increase in app downloads and 4M+ unique visitors during Q2. We noticed a desire for short, relatable content. Also, TikTok was rapidly gaining traction for its fashion and lifestyle content packaged up in brief, uplifting moments. 

This led to the #AerieREALPositivity Challenge, launched April 15th, to remind people everywhere to stay positive and encourage them to share this message with the world. 

Strategy and Execution

Aerie’s consumer research indicated demand for the brand’s authentic marketing and need for positivity - and we knew this message would need to feel personal, fun and engaging to resonate and have reach.

SHADOW concepted around a “Positivity Challenge” that would live primarily on TikTok, a platform known for its humor, levity and innate goodness. While the reality of a long road of quarantine had people online sharing their frustrations and sinking moods, Aerie challenged users to share three things they were grateful for or feeling positive about using ephemeral text boxes, while dancing along to a custom song we produced. SHADOW intentionally kept the creative simple to minimize the barrier to entry for participation. The easier the challenge, the more likely people were to join.

We decided to write and produce our own custom music track for this challenge, as owning all the rights to the music allowed us to more seamlessly promote the challenge across various channels. SHADOW’s creative team wrote and produced a bouncy, energetic song -- 100% Real Love sung by PopUp Girl -- in 48 hours. 

With the challenge creative complete and a fun audio track to set it to, now it was time to introduce the challenge to the platform. We leaned into brand-right TikTok-native influencers like Charli D’Amelio, who has built a highly engaged audience and shares the brand’s core values, as the launch partner to kick it off on April 15th. Not only did she drive reach and participation, but her content brought fans to Aerie’s site to purchase her look.

SHADOW also leveraged Aerie’s existing community of inspiring ambassadors, the #AerieREAL Role Models, including Tiff McFierce, Manuela Baron, Molly Burke and Breanna Huckaby, to participate at launch and invite their followers to take part. SHADOW strategically incorporated Instagram deliverables into their asks in order to directly speak to the existing Aerie customer on Instagram and bring her over to TikTok. Aerie got its community excited by promoting across its social and #AerieREAL Life (ARL) site too. 

To further amplify, SHADOW invited editors from outlets including Fashionista, Teen Vogue, StyleCaster, BuzzFeed, and more, and influencers like Carrie Berkk, Denise Mercedes, Keenya Kelly, Mina Tobias, Natalie Barbu, Nadia Aboulhosn and Diandra Barnwell. From there, people have posted their own videos on TikTok and other social channels, which has successfully taken the challenge across platforms. 

Aerie also took its message of positivity outside a social landscape. Knowing that food insecurity is growing at a rapid pace due to COVID-19, Aerie, along with AEO Inc. and AE, partnered with America’s Food Fund, to help ensure reliable access to food with 100% of challenge contributions supporting Feeding America and World Central Kitchen. Additionally, Aerie executed surprise and delight moments for COVID-19 heroes, St. Barnabas Hospital in NYC, and more, and called for its community to share how they were demonstrating #AerieREAL Positivity and featured submitted videos and photos. 


Within its first week, the #AerieREAL Positivity Challenge generated 902.3M TikTok views. Partnering with Charli D’Amelio also helped generate growth across Aerie’s digital platforms and officially launch its TikTok. Following her IG post, Aerie gained 16,049 Instagram followers over one weekend (4/17-4/19) – a 1,082% increase compared to the weekend prior, AND 15K TikTok followers. Within 2 weeks, the campaign was up to 2B TikTok views.

The challenge surpassed almost every benchmark allocated for the campaign’s promotional period (4/16-4/18) on TikTok:

●      Total Video Views: 384,015,992 (vs. 300M)

●      Video Creations: 478,104 (vs. 200K)

●      Video Creators: 253,597 (vs. 100K)

●      Engagement Rate: 18.02% (vs. 15%)

●      Impressions (Challenge Page): 106,922 (vs. 100K)

●      External Link Clicks (Challenge Page): 275

●      Aerie Web Traffic Average Increase: 855%

Aerie saw a notable increase in traffic to its #AerieREAL Life home page during this period with 138K views in one day alone, primarily driving to the Positivity Post

To date (January 2021), the campaign has driven 2.1B+ video views, over 562,100 video creations (surpassing the average benchmark for TikTok campaigns launched at the same time by 163%).

SHADOW used this initiative to continue storytelling around Aerie’s authentic marketing and community engagement. WWD, BoF, Forbes, Glossy, Adweek, and more, covered with headlines including “How Aerie Established a TikTok Following in Two Weeks.” Aerie Global Brand President and AEO Inc. Chief Creative Officer, Jennifer Foyle, presented the strategy and results to over 300 people at WWD’s Retail Forum.


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