Reddit thanks 'the idiots' and the heroes in ad campaign remade for coronavirus
Reddit had its first major marketing plan all mapped out. One of the components would hit travelers with billboards at airports with a message to visit r/FlightsFromHell, one of the small communities on the website.
“We had concepts like being in airports and talking about communities like ‘Flights From Hell,’” says Roxy Young, VP of marketing at Reddit, in a phone interview Wednesday, “because what better moment in time than to step off an airplane and have something that is contextually relevant in front of you.”
The idea was part of Reddit’s rollout of its largest brand advertising campaign to date, since it hired its first agency of record R/GA in February, following a year-long search for an outside marketing team. There would be billboards like the one at the airports, and they would have showed people the “brilliantly absurd” side of Reddit, Young says.
The hellish flights community only has about 100 subscribers, but it represents the types of conversations on the platform. There are thousands of subreddits dedicated to niche interests, cultural trends, sports, politics, food, pets and all types of subjects. The bad flights subreddit is a place to vent about uncomfortable air travel.
Then, everyone knows what happened. Flights and everything else were canceled in March, making an ad campaign at airports untenable. “People are no longer traveling and that didn't make sense,” Young says.
The rest of the billboard plans were scrapped, too, as people remained indoors to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Now, Reddit has a new marketing strategy for the times, one that will be 100 percent digital to avoid the outdoor portion of the original plan, Young says.
On Thursday, the first part of the new campaign launched. It’s still irreverent, and still produced with the help of R/GA. There is a video called “Thank You” that will appear on Reddit’s homepage.
Ad Age received an early look at the commercial. It starts off like it might be just another clichéd coronavirus tearjerker: “In these difficult times, we can’t forget to thank ...” the ad opens.
And then it thanks … “the idiots” on Reddit in subreddits, like “IdiotsFightingThings.” The video proceeds to highlight some the unsung heroes from that community, and then celebrates more creative minds—“the geniuses”—and other communities. There are homemade mask makers, adorable pets, musicians, chefs and even Bill Gates.
“We needed to re-evaluate the tone of the campaign, the timing of the campaign and the target markets,” Young says.
The “Thank You” video ends with a nod to the emergency workers on the frontlines of coronavirus, highlighting videos of people cheering them on, which has become a familiar sight in real life and in many advertising campaigns. Facebook, for instance, has used footage celebrating the frontline workers in its most recent commercials.
Reddit will unveil the rest of its marketing campaign, called “dive into anything,” over the coming weeks. The theme is the same one it initially conceived with R/GA to showcase the broad array of communities. Subreddits are forums where people discuss the topics at hand, and they are moderated by the users who create them. “Everything featured in the ‘Thank You’ video and ‘dive into anything’ is sourced from Reddit,” Young says.
The campaign was originally supposed to devote 60 percent to 65 percent of the budget to digital advertising, with the rest going to outdoor and experiential, Young says. The pandemic forced Reddit to shift to 100 percent digital, but Young would not disclose the total amount of spending.
Reddit also changed the target cities for the marketing. At first, Boston was one of the chosen locations because of its large student population. But with universities closed, that no longer made sense either, Young says. Now, Reddit is targeting Portland, Oregon and Denver, two cities where it has seen a surge in traffic during the coronavirus shutdown, Young says.
“We acknowledge the community and the role that they played in helping people stay safe and helping people stay sane in these challenging times,” Young says.
Those beautiful idiots.