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Newcastle Reveals the Secrets of Facebook Advertising

Plans Fourth of July brand blitz

Anna Kendrick's popular non-Super Bowl ad for Newcastle

If you have no TV ad budget, would all-digital work? Newcastle Brown Ale would argue yes—digital content is just as effective if not more effective.

The Heineken-owned beer brand only advertises online, with Facebook as its core platform, and has used its success to get retailers to carry more of its beer when it plans major campaigns on the social network, according to Quinn Kilbury, brand director at Newcastle.

Newcastle is launching its second big marketing effort of the year, this one around the Fourth of July, and it will incorporate the social strategies refined during its Super Bowl push from Droga5, when it stole attention from actual in-game advertisers.

“It’s a pretty simple formula: newsworthy, inherently different enough that people want to talk about it, and bring[ing] in the right celebrities to help break through,” Kilbury said.

For the Fourth of July, the theme is If We Won. Newcastle, a U.K. brand, made videos that look at what the world would be like if the Brits won the American Revolution. Kilbury said there will be celebrities, but declined to reveal which ones.

For the Super Bowl, Newcastle tapped Anna Kendrick and footballer Keyshawn Johnson. The campaign was called If We Made It, and was based on fake ideas for what the brewer would have done had it bought a spot during the game.

Facebook and its creative team, led by chief creative officer Mark D'Arcy, will hold Newcastle up as an example for other advertisers when it meets with the industry at the Cannes Lions ad festival in France next week.

Here’s how Newcastle made it during the Super Bowl and plans to win the Fourth of July, according to Kilbury, who gave Adweek a unique look into how the brand uses Facebook.

Forget free social media, it won’t make a dent
Newcastle knows that when it posts to Facebook, most of its unpaid content is not reaching fans in their News Feeds. So its three to five posts a week are not meant to go hugely viral and don’t incorporate the biggest creative ideas. Newcastle would be happy to see just 500 shares on its everyday content for its closest fans.

Save your best content for the biggest events
When it comes to the Super Bowl and the Fourth of July, that’s when Newcastle strikes, spending money to spread the content and using its most sophisticated targeting and messaging techniques.

Time the conversation and control the message
Facebook knows when the conversation on the social network turns to Super Bowl ads or the Fourth of July celebrations. Newcastle looks over the calendar with Facebook reps to time its posts weeks ahead of these big events. For instance, they released teasers on schedule with actual big-game advertisers. Also, they carefully timed media events with the campaign’s stars—a Conan appearance by Kendrick on a Tuesday when they knew they would post to Facebook on Wednesday.

News coverage equals News feed coverage
Facebook prioritizes newsworthy content in the News Feed, so Newcastle made its own news with events like Kendrick’s talk show visit. The entire campaign and the surrounding events were mentioned more than 600 times in the mainstream media, propelling the topic to the top of Facebook trends for two days.

Target fans and nonfans with different creative
Newcastle has one creative strategy when it targets its known fans and another when it broadly targets men in their 20s. For instance, its closest followers immediately get its humor, so the Super Bowl videos targeted their way didn’t have to overly explain things—that the fake commercials were a joke. For non-followers, the creative that was used went more in depth setting up the joke.

Listen to Facebook’s experts about what works
Newcastle thought that it had a winner with one of its videos featuring Johnson. What was wrong with it? It had a funny punch line, but was slow to start—and with limited social media attention spans, that’s bad. Facebook told Newcastle that audiences would tune out but tried to make it work anyway.

Sometimes you’ll be surprised by what does work
The videos of real focus groups critiquing the fake Super Bowl commercials performed surprisingly well. Newcastle had first looked at those spots as just an afterthought, but after seeing them perform decided to put some money behind marketing them rather than, say, the one with Johnson.

That’s the lesson: Let the data do its job
Newcastle was testing different creative content with different audiences, switching it up depending on what received the best feedback. It changed wording, studied fonts, messed with lengths, and swapped videos. Weeks ahead of the Super Bowl campaign, it even tested a smaller unrelated Facebook video campaign as practice.

Sales rose and retailers are listening
Beer sales around the Super Bowl saw a triple digit lift, Kilbury said—although he declined to share exact sales numbers. He said the sales lift was significant enough to convince retailers to stock more Newcastle for the Fourth based on the success of the Super Bowl, when brand awareness grew by 5 percentage points and purchase consideration grew by 19 percentage points. Five top retailers will run big displays for Newcastle two weeks ahead of the Fourth of July, he said.

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