Contextual Research: Social media campaign examples

My Plastic Fantastics campaign will be designed to target a young adult audience using various social media platforms. Before I delve into making any campaign material, it would be a good idea to research the marketing techniques used to target a young adult audience. I am also examining the type of delivery and art stylisations used through existing campaign examples.

In the article, Preparing an Effective Social Media Brief, several points are made which highlight some important attributes required when marketing online. Firstly, it is good to know what you want to achieve through social media (Social Media, n.d.). Another valuable point made is that creating a sound brand and story is crucial for audience understanding and engagement. Then one must consider how to communicate their messages – through text or image, why not both (Social Media, n.d.)?

What you want to achieve through social media?

I want my campaign to present an awareness as to how plastic as invasive material in the ocean is affecting our marine life. I will explore playing with the phrase “I am what I eat” to create a dystopic set of aquatic characters that represent the plastic they have eaten. The goal is to depict in a light-hearted and friendly way the more serious issues of plastic consumption and pollution in our marine environments.

I am hoping to have a video made, gifs, a digital and analogue sticker set, a social media page set up and a logo. Posters and other forms of advertising may also be a good avenue to explore. Later on, a website and even a game could be developed.

What is the story behind my brand?

The Plastic Fantastics are a group of marine animals with weird hybrid qualities. Having evolved into strange fusions of their natural animal form combined with plastic waste; they are a result of what has contaminated their environments and food chains. After ingesting some of the trillions of micro-plastics floating about the ocean, their bodies are not shy of the phrase ‘you are what you eat’. 

Character finals

Now, the Plastic Fantastics are on a mission to bring awareness to the effects of plastic pollution to animals in marine habitats.

How will my campaign communicate its message?

My campaign will focus more on how the ‘quality and sharability of the content’ can generate interaction and engagement to carry forth a message, as opposed to voicing the message through hard facts and evidence; similar to that of the ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ approach. My campaign will feature a group of aquatic plastic hybrid creatures known as the ‘Plastic Fantastics.’ Their job is to visually demonstrate a dystopic story of what sea creatures could look like after living in and consuming plastic waste in the ocean.

Social media campaign examples

‘The Lost Night’ is a recent campaign circulating New Zealand’s social media, launched by the Health Promotion Agency. Following on the slogan of “Say yeah nah and ease up on the drink”, the Health Promotion Agency have created a clever advert targeting a young adult audience (20’s – 30) featuring content that depicts alcohol’s adverse effects on the memory.

The main message is promoted through a Youtube video which has also been presented on television as an advert, directing people to their website and social media pages to ‘find out more’.

The ad follows the evening’s events of a young male named Mark in his 20’s who has had too much to drink, falling into a paradox where his real body is replaced with a look-a-like mannequin. The Government agency named the Department of Lost Nights takes the real Mark under custody and holds him in their soft pastel pink quarters. I believe the pink is meant to represent the walls of a brain, as the story goes on to depict Mark’s memories being deleted at the department.

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A Facebook post on the Department of Lost Nights page – 4.3k views

Meanwhile the mannequin man takes on a night of partying and various social events in a glazed over state of vacancy. The video contains a simple bassy beat, a bright and edgy typographic title, contemporary costuming and setting and depicts the cliché type of events that young and drunk partygoers do. The humor is lighthearted and quirky, therefore reeling the audience in to find out what the ad is about without feeling accused or told off. Their logo is minimalistic and follows the current trend of hand symbols and black line work – almost like a tattoo.

A strong narrative with clear characters and setting in conjunction with a collective space to discuss the story on social media platforms has set up a campaign that engages the target audience. Current design trends in illustration and colour have been used which appear in youth pop culture and fashion. This reinforces a sense of familiarity between the story and audience.

‘Dumb Ways to Die’ was a cleaver cartoon campaign released for Melbourne’s Metro Trains in Australia by McCann Melbourne. It was made to create an awareness for safety around trains and rail road safety after numerous incidents where young people had been injured due to accidents involving said transportation (Global Digital Marketing, n.d.). In order to target a young adult audience on an otherwise cumbersome issue, the creators of the campaign came up with a set of abstract vector characters, adorned with bright colours and accessories.

Each character dances along to a melodious soundtrack, featuring their strange ways of dying such as having a beehive fall onto your face – or being stuck in a washing machine. Towards the end of the clip, characters who die to train-related incidents are featured. The colourful and minimalistic presentation instantly draws the audience in to content that is friendly and fun. The narrative played out through a song keeps the viewer hooked into what’s happening, then before you know it, you are reaching the end of the video which informs you of a clear message: “Be safe around trains.” The viewer is unaware that they are about to be told ‘what to do’ and the message is reinforced through content and characters that are easily remembered.

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Dumb Ways to Die focused on producing quality visual content with a  focus on ensuring it would be relatable to promote sharability through social media (Global Digital Marketing, n.d.). With the success of the video, creating a game, gifs and selling the video’s song on iTunes gave the target audience opportunity to further immerse themselves in the characters and story. The campaign increased in popularity, recognition and grew a fan-base worldwide. The colourful and minimalistic vector characters can be read universally for what they are; quirky human-like figures doing silly and humorous things.

“I give an X’ was a campaign created by designers at Pentagram to target young adults, promoting an awareness and sense of coolness to participating in the UK 2015 campaign election. This campaign arose as a response to the fact that only 65% of citizens voted in the 2010 UK election; with many who did not fitting into the young adult category (Pentagram, n.d.).

The campaign features a quick video using the pun of “who gives an x” in relation to many current socio-economic and political situations such as “who gives an x about who can marry”? while a range of x related imagery (from photographs of images that resemble an x shape, to many different x’s in various mark-making forms) flashes in time to an upbeat track. It is motivational and thought provoking through its creative presentation.

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The campaign encourages an online following, asking people to visit the official website and choose from any of the designed x’s to download and use on social media as their profile picture with a comment like the hashtag #igiveanx. In doing so, they are raising awareness to the campaign and its message, as well as promoting active precipitation.”By living in social media, I Give An X has a relevance to younger voters and, by allowing them to wear a virtual badge of pride, the campaign can influence their social circles as well”

The #igiveanx hashtag ended up reaching 480,000 people and a third of visitors to the website did download an X. To keep the content relevant for the course of the month, Pentagram organised advertising alongside high profile public figures like Paula Scher adorning their X with pride (Pentagram, n.d.).

In 2016, WWF hopped on the emoji craze bandwagon, using Twitter to promote the hashtag #endangeredemoji. The idea was to reach a younger teenage to young adult audience by making 17 animal emoji’s of endangered species that Twitter users could post on their feeds and donate money to saving them (Boyd, C 2017).

The idea with sharing and using emoji’s was to give a cute, visual realisation as to the diversity of endangered species in our natural world and to provide the audience with a simple way of making a micro-donation if desired (Hohenadel, 2015). This campaign also focused on using a blight colour palette and minimalistic vectorised imagery.

Global environmental organisation, Greenpeace, have many videos campaigning specific trending topics to generate awareness to their social media audiences on a daily  to weekly basis. The clip below is an animation to establish awareness towards the damaging effects of krill fishing in the Antarctic. The video demonstrates how the delicate ecosystem is negatively affected by overfishing of krill; leading to loss of life in other species. The last part of the clip advocates how we, the audience, can take action to petition for changing these circumstances by getting alongside Greenpeace to help them establish a sanctuary to protect this sector of the Earth.

The top video uses a painterly animation, featuring sea creatures and people that look life-like yet cute and cartoonish to voice a soft approach to a serious issue. Whereas the video below uses real actors and black, sarcastic humour to depict the irony on how the ‘wonderful invention of the plastic bag has integrated itself so perfectly into our marine environments’. The ironic humour show just how devastating the plastic bag really is to our marine life.

Conclusive data

Although each campaign targets a young adult audience and the content is varied, all campaigns have taken advantage of the world’s most popular social media platforms to receive audience engagement and in turn, create a following. The Lost Night and Dumb Ways to Die use light-hearted humour to carry across their messages as well as attractive colourful imagery.

The Greenpeace campaigns voice factual information but in a way that is not boring by utilising an art styled animation to create a softer approach, or humour that resounds well with a younger audience to entertain but instil a sense of understanding and shock value to the viewer.

Each campaign carries its message across using a clear colour palette and minimalistic, contemporary imagery that is easily identifiable back to the story/message/goal of the campaign. Here is how they mae the most of social media:

  • Video – visual, informative, fun, engaging.
  • Game – visual, interactive, fun, engaging.
  • Emoji’s – visual, useful, sharable
  • Downloadable profile pictures – visual, useful, informative, sharable
  • Appearance on multiple platforms i.e Facebook, YouTube, Twitter

So what can I take away from my research to apply into my own work? I believe I will need to have:

  • A clear illustrative or art style that reciprocates through my character design, colour choices, logo and layout
  • A consistent narrative; the campaign must iterate the same story and message through each platform and media
  • Modes of engagement; things that my audience can interact with, use, share, like to circulate an awareness for my campaign on social media (gifs, a video, a FB page, stickers to use in chat messages and on posts).

Reference list:

Boyd, C. (2017).10 Outstanding Social Media Campaigns You Need to See. Retrieved From:

Department of Lost Nights. (2018, February 1). The Lost Night. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Dumb Ways 2 Die. (2012, November 14). Dumb Ways to Die. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Greenpeace New Zealand. (2018, February 22). Sam Neill: Ban the Bag NZ. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Greenpeace New Zealand. (2018, April 5). This is why you need to care about Antarctic Krill. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Hohenadel, K. (2015, May 15). Help Save Endangered Species buy Tweeting these Emojis. The Eye.Retrieved from:

Pentagram. (n.d.). I Give an X. Retrieved from:

The Best of Global Digital Marketing. (n.d.). Case Study: Metro Trains’ Dumb Ways to Die. Retrieved from:

WWF International. (2015, May 12). WWF’s Endangered Emoji. [Video file]. Retrieved from:




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