How AT&T Revamped An 8-Year-Old TV Campaign To Make It Mobile-First

By Chris Kelly | March 8, 2019

Full article ran here.

In 2010, AT&T launched the "It Can Wait" campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and texting-while-operating. However, the high-end, visually-striking 30-second TV spots that have often been the campaign's stock-in-trade were starting to show their age by 2018, especially for an increasingly mobile-first audiences. U.S. adults spent an average of 3 hours, 35 minutes per day on mobile devices last year, and mobile screen time is expected to surpass TV viewing sometime this year, according to eMarketer. Not being mobile-first when the campaign aims to change mobile-user behavior underscored the disconnect.

Still committed to the campaign, AT&T needed to transform the initiative so that it told a story, on a small screen and in a way that would get people to pay attention. AT&T brought on mobile ad firm Kargo to modernize "It Can Wait" in 2018. By making mobile-first a guiding principle and letting data drive creative, Kargo's take on the campaign reached more than 18.2 million people in the U.S., notching a 45% average video completion rate (compared to a benchmark around 25-30%) and 5.21 seconds average in-view time (surpassing a 3-4 second benchmark).

"You have an amazing initiative and resources behind it, but a legacy of 30-second TV creative," Harry Kargman, founder and CEO of Kargo, told Mobile Marketer. "What would it be like to flip this initiative on its head and approach it with a mobile-first approach?"

Mobile-first and data-driven creative

A mobile-first attitude affected every part of Kargo's approach. Instead of the usual 16:9 aspect ratio, Kargo framed all video with a 1:1 ratio — optimized for Instagram — and vertically, for how most mobile users watch video. Often, this even included putting black tape on camera lenses to ensure a square shot. When it was time to develop the creative, Kargo realized that if the brand couldn't tell the story in two seconds and get to the punchline in four to five, it would lose about half the audience to mobile's "ADD society."

To further ensure a mobile-first focus, Kargo bundled together the creative and media analytics process during two separate shoots. The first was based on observations the firm had from running the campaign's media: Kargman and his team wanted to use more multicultural, diverse actors, and set them in an urban environment. Then, after running the first set of creative, Kargo used the analytics to see which audiences were interacting and for how long, creating a feedback loop that influenced the next shoot.

"We took the media-side analytics to get a better understanding of the audience and their viewing habits, what they liked and didn't like, even data about type of audience who was consuming fully the creative," Kargman explained. "That feedback loop where you combine creative with media analytics — I don't think that's ever been done before" on the "It Can Wait" campaign.

Plus, to break the campaign out of its usual creative box — imagine a Caucasian, suburban, pick-up truck driver, texting and slamming on the breaks — Kargo thought about where the growth in distracted driving accidents was happening. That research led them to electric scooters in urban environments. The trendy smart city tech is leading more people to be injured while riding standing electric scooters than by riding bicycles or traveling on foot, leading to emergency room visits that are often for head injuries. To freshen the creative, Kargo partnered with Bird Scooters, which gave it the rights to shoot footage of scooter users riding while on their phones.

Kargman said the "proof's in the pudding," pointing to the campaign's high video completion rates and view times. 

Lucas Dawson