In order to get through her chemotherapy, cancer survivor Liz Dwyer wore the shirt of her favorite band, '80s synth pop icons Depeche Mode, every time she would go for treatment. "It would remind me of all the good memories and keep me feeling like I was alive again," she said, wiping away tears.
Hers is just one of the many stories you'll find on the band's Facebook page, which Depeche Mode has turned over to a different fan to moderate -- every day, for an entire year. The idea is geared toward promoting the release of the band's 14th studio album, "Spirit," and to get the word out about its "Global Spirit" tour, which kicked off on May 5 in Stockholm.
To debut the campaign, the band's lead singer, Dave Gahan posted a message earlier this year (above) inviting fans to take part, and since then, more than 3,000 people have applied. Along with Liz, others who've taken the reins include astronaut Tim Peake, a journalism student, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk (who brought in his friend Trent Reznor) and today, the band Linkin Park.
The latter marks what promises to be the most ambitious fan contribution to date, as it falls on the day of Linkin Park's' own big drop --its seventh studio album, "One More Light" and the band already has its own packed schedule, including a show in Las Vegas tonight.
"We grew up on Depeche Mode," the band wrote in its first post. "They were one of our earliest influences--from the sounds they used to the ways they put a song together." That appeared with a video of the band's impromptu performance of a few lines of DM's "Strange Love," and promises of more surprises.
BBH L.A. and Facebook's Creative shop are the creative forces behind the takeover idea. "Our deck, when we first presented it, centered on, how do we promote a new album for a band that's been around for 30 years? We let the fans do it for us," said BBH L.A. Senior Copywriter Emily Rosen.
To keep the content flowing, the BBH team has gone through each fan submission, finding those with intriguing stories, and whose tales may dovetail nicely with the band's tour. For example, to help announce the band's return to Latin America after nine years, the agency chose Lothar Torres, an enthusiastic fan in Mexico City. His selfie post ended up reaching more than 1.7 million people, 44% of whom were not already DM fans. Depeche Mode's management team has also helped to secure the "celebrity" fans to participate.
The idea might offer some useful tips to bigger brands looking to tap into the power of Facebook fans. "It doesn't require the band to actively promote themselves," said Alex Pollock, one of the band's managers. "It's much more about fans speaking to other fans, a platform for them to come together and amplify the band in that way. It felt very natural for Depeche Mode."
Moreover it provides a mechanism for consistent, "authentic" messages as the band is busy jetting around the world on their tour, which goes well into next year. "It's more of a publishing platform than it is a one-off campaign," said Pelle Sjoenell, BBH Global Chief Creative Officer.
Putting your page in fans' hands, however, does not come without risks -- such as fans posting something unsavory, like hate speech -- or just being plain boring. But BBH and Facebook built a custom tool that tied in with Facebook's api to help sure the posts met certain standards, and in the case of content that's not so great, "It's just a day," Pollock said. "If we get a variety of different voice and some things are not interesting to the majority, we're all right with that. It will be interesting to somebody."
It helps that the BBH team remains hands-on in terms of helping each participant tell the best story. "Our role is to help them find the narrative," said BBH Community Manager Carl Stevens. "We're there for as much help, or as little help as fans want. There are some with a very clear idea of the story they want to tell, but others who have an amazing connection but don't necessarily know how to explain it."
As for how BBH first hooked up with Depeche Mode in the first place, Pollock had a friend at the agency, and when he had asked for advice on who could help promote the new album, the agency raised an enthusiastic hand. BBH's Sjoenell, along with his brother Calle, who now heads up Facebook Creative Shop Nordics, are Modies themselves. "Back in Sweden, we would line up outside in the cold, sitting in cardboard boxes, waiting to buy tickets," Pelle said.
One of the most important aspects of Facebook Creative Shop's role has been to help ensure that the user experience is protected throughout. "That's always Facebook's first rule," said Facebook's Sjoenell. One example of this is the profile picture that appears on Depeche Mode's page, which is a video "carousel" of the week's different admins. With a new admin every day, that would make for a lot of annoying updates that could screw with engagement. So the team came up with the idea to update that only on a weekly basis, but use video to highlight multiple moderators -- and even tease some of the surprise celebrities.
In the first month of the campaign, which kicked off in March, the Depeche Mode page has seen a 26.4% increase in total engaged users, as well as a 74.4% increase in total organic reach, according to stats compiled by the BBH team.
"The thing we found so interesting about the idea is that it's such a gentle twist of the way our system works, but you can create this massive engagement," said Facebook's Sjoenell.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article erroneously described Depeche Mode fan Liz Dwyer as a single mother. She is married.