· 4 min read
The best way to learn social is to consume social. You’d assume running to any of the major advertising awards shows would help, especially since several hand out literally hundreds of trophies each year. The problem? They often celebrate huge brands that leverage massive celebrities, or heavy paid budgets to push views on the campaigns, or multi-faceted content approaches that cost millions. They’re cool! But you can’t learn a ton from them. Certainly not if you’re a team of one, or working off a basic content budget.
I went through various award winners to find a few with lessons you can immediately apply to your own practices.
The Drum Awards’ Most Innovative Use of Social: HBO Max’s Bada Binge!
The Sopranos isn’t just one of HBO’s biggest hits—it’s one of the most famous TV shows of all time. Totally makes sense why a prequel film’s a smart endeavor, even 14 years later. To build interest in the launch of The Many Saints of Newark, HBO launched #BadaBinge, a rewatch challenge encouraging fans to watch six seasons of The Sopranos in six weeks; @HBO deployed all sorts of content to help fans keep pace, from calendars and episode lists to plot-point quizzes and TikTok vlogs.
Why I like it: They knew it was all about the old show
This film’s a prequel. You wanna know who’s gonna watch the prequel? Fans of the original show. I love that the campaign is honest about that fact—they built the entire social campaign around the old show’s content, not around teasing the new show’s content. They get the why.
When I worked on the sixth season of Community (#sixseasonsandamovie!), I chose to push our content toward the familiar characters rather than introduce the new faces. Why? Because my job was to get people into the new season, then trust that the show itself could sell the new cast. Best way to do that: lots of Annie Edison.
Clio Awards’ Silver Winner, Social Media: Vienna strips on OnlyFans
Facebook and Instagram don’t allow nudity on its platforms, even in art. That’s a problem for the Vienna Tourism Board—much of the city’s gorgeous art history is portrayed through nudes. While “Maybe I should make an OnlyFans?” has been a friendly gag for years, they actually did it, using it as a PR gag. I broke down some of their content and copywriting on Twitter.
Why I like it: an odd platform idea that’s just for PR
A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby
The genius here is NOT that they created an OnlyFans. It’s that they understood how to create a PR-friendly stunt, which happened to be OnlyFans. The metric of success wasn’t OnlyFans subscribers—it was social media and PR impressions. That’s an important distinction!
I tried a similar gag back on Community (I’ve been rewatching on Netflix, it’s on my mind, sue me). We made a LinkedIn account for Elroy Patashnik, one of the new characters who had a plot line about looking for a new job. It took us forever, it was technically against LinkedIn’s terms of service, and it got no traction on LinkedIn or on our main social channels. Wanna know why? It wasn’t that great of an idea in the first place. If you’re gonna use an unexpected platform as an organic social media stunt, the concept needs to generate interest on your existing channels, otherwise, it’ll get lost in a sea of content.
The Webby Awards’ Winner, Celebrity/Fan: Ted Lasso’s Toast Me
Roasting has been a snarky social staple for years now. Then Wendy’s made roasting an entire brand identity. Ted Lasso could never, though. The TV show’s title character is as kind as they come, constantly smiling and offering words of encouragement. That’s why the show leveraged the hashtag holiday #SaySomethingNiceDay to play off all that roasting, creating #ToastMe: an opportunity for anyone to get toasted by Ted. And they only promoted it with one single tweet.
Why I like it: great social that isn’t video
Between TikTok and Instagram Reels, it often feels like every single piece of brand content is a video. Ted Lasso trended all day with a text-only campaign. No videos, no images, all clever copywriting to support a culturally relevant idea. Good ideas always win. Believe.