A Bold New Media Strategy - For Scotland




Ambition and Challenge

The Project Unlimited team was formed in October 2016 to deliver a global branding campaign for Scotland. Scottish public agencies had historically undertaken a wide variety of activities to drive Scottish interests. While there had been individual success, there was a growing recognition that much more could be achieved if the nation’s international economic interests were to be promoted as a collective. The team was made up of representatives from Scottish Development International, Visit Scotland, Scottish Government and Universities Scotland. Its mission;

• To harness Scotland’s collective assets to drive more people to visit Scotland, invest in Scotland, study in Scotland and work
in Scotland.
• To deliver economic impact and influence in an increasingly competitive global economy
• To start a movement that represented the values of Scotland.

In October 2016 we – and they - had no idea how to deliver a movement that would further the interests of 4 bodies. After 2 years’ planning we transformed how we told the story of Scotland –

• Messaging – in 2016 each public body told a different tale, SDI one that appealed to an investment focused audience, and Visit one that spoke to tourists. In 2018 we told a tale that encompassed all pillars.

• Delivery - in 2016 we relied on TV and partnerships to reach our audience at scale.
In 2018 we used digital forensic targeting to tell a tailored story of Scotland.

One key challenge was budget. We were up against countries with deep pockets. In 2016 Ireland spent £41m promoting the country as a place to visit, live, work and invest in. We were working with a total budget of £6m. Money talks, even with ‘movements’ – the launch of the This Girl Can movement cost £7.1million, covering only the UK.

Our mission; kickstart a movement and compete against the big boys, to drive reach and engagement that would translate into economic gains for Scotland.


We had significant targets. Our headline long term measures were based on discretionary income, gross value added and ROI. However - these would be judged between 2 and 10 years after launch. In year 1 we were tasked with;
• reach
• traffic
• engagement
• advocacy measures

These KPIs laddered up to the long-term goals.

Due to the comparable budget of a previous campaign we were set a benchmark awareness target of 31% across the target markets - achieved with the Scotland Spirit campaign in 2017.



Our role was to launch the creative proposition, Scotland is Now, at scale.

The movement was to launch in 3 key markets due to their importance to the partners;
• London: England delivers 37% of Scotland’s tourism;
• New York: largest direct US air link to Scotland; historic interest in Scottish culture;
• San Francisco: large tech sector; growing start-up culture.

These markets were also chosen because of the pools of our target audience in each; we were tasked with targeting a liberal and progressive mindset that aligned with the Scotland is Now proposition, allowing for audience overlap and the ability to streamline messaging.

We needed to utilise an advertising mechanism known as ‘cultural imprinting’.

Kevin Simler, a social psychologist, first defined it; “Cultural imprinting is the mechanism whereby an ad, rather than trying to change our minds individually, instead changes the landscape of cultural meanings — which in turn changes how we are perceived by others when we use a product. Whether you drink Corona or Heineken or Budweiser “says” something about you. Cultural imprinting relies on common knowledge. For a fact to be common knowledge among a group, it’s not enough for everyone to know it. Everyone must also know that everyone else knows it”

The second role for media was to generate advocacy. Malcolm Gladwell, a key thinker on movements, stated “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” We needed advocates to
spread our message.

We looked to audience insight to steer our approach to advocacy. We built our audience in our proprietary research tool, CCS, to understand behaviours in the US and UK. Our key segments most over-indexed as sharing content to ‘provoke debate’ and to ‘show support for a cause’. We would use this to drive advocacy.

Finally, we had to back up our message with proof. People are cynics, especially where marketing is concerned. See: people’s reaction to Pepsi staking their claim as a brand that calms civil unrest. It was imperative that we seed content that backed up our claims of being an ambitious, inclusive and quality driven nation.

A movement is about sparking interest and letting advocates take the message forward – our SPARK strategy centered on 3 pillars;

Announce - Drive shared consciousness of our message through high reach media

Engage - Give people a reason to share by promoting stories of Scotland that would most appeal to their individual beliefs

Distribute - Back up our message with further proof that speaks to our traits




Research was conducted across our 3 launch markets into the target audience – a liberal person with affinity to the core brand message. We also built target audiences across the 4 pillars. With so many sets to consider - VisitScotland alone had 5 audience segments in the UK and a further 2 in the US - it was imperative we find commonalities with which to shape our plan.

One commonality was that we were speaking to a predominantly digital audience, one much less likely to watch TV than the general populace in all territories. This would make starting a movement hard – the best means of a) achieving scale and b) generating a ‘sharedconsciousness’ about an issue is through TV. Not only will you reach people at scale, but people know their peers are likely to have seen the same message and this drives cultural imprinting.

We needed broadcast-like scale - digitally.

We needed to make people feel like everyone they knew was watching the same message –notoriously difficult with digital media, where targeting is the rule.

We turned to the second largest website in the world. We launched our hero video on the YouTube Masthead. No audience targeting was employed. It felt like a TV campaign – but for a digital audience.

We were the first Scottish public sector campaign video to make the YouTube UK Top 10 leaderboard (#4 position), beating Apple and BMW, with considerably less budget.

The launch itself – in April 2018, during Scotland Week in New York – was further bolstered with independent cinema in London, NYC and San Francisco, double-page-spreads in The San Francisco Chronicle and The Guardian, and great PR coverage.


Having launched with scale, we transformed how we seeded stories of Scotland with our audience; moving from broad, universal campaigns to granular, forensic messaging and story-telling. To find the right people and serve them the right message we employed attitudinal targeting over interest and demographic led targeting, matching an individual with a Scottish video story that would most resonate with their values.

Thanks to the work of The Union and Whitespace we had engaging stories about what Scotland means to different people, based on values. An example – we had a video of a new refugee being welcomed in Scotland, representing the value of inclusivity, and we promoted this to those who exhibited similar principles.

We retargeted users based on engagement with the launch film and overlaid audience segments from the visit, invest and study pillars to create different audience pools for each pillar. We used Google Native In-Read Video, reaching our audience when they were viewing content related to the issues we were covering. We retargeted those who’d seen the masthead hero video with 30” TrueView ads.


We harnessed the learnings from the previous phases across both TrueView and Native to refine the prospecting and retargeting strategies, whilst adding an additional level of creative personalisation to drive greater message engagement. At this stage we used video which focused on the background behind the stories. Using LinkedIn, we could directly reach the C-Suite audience and deliver a hyper targeted Invest message.

Understanding the audiences in detail, from the Announce and Engage phases, allowed us to directly match the content and messaging most personally relevant to them and serve this across multiple digital channels. At every audience interaction, we advanced the story to affirm the attributes of Scotland to each audience group.



The Scotland is Now launch reached 32m people in its first 5 months through
paid media.
1/6 of the UK population was reached with the YouTube ad on the day of launch.

141% uplift in traffic to Scotland.org from London, 449% uplift from NY & San Fran.
+1188% YoY referrals to SDI from target markets.
+24% YoY referrals to VisitScotland.com +95% referrals to StudyInScotland.org.

120m video views through paid promotion and earned reach.

413k tweets using the #scotlandisnow hashtag positive conversation about Scotland and ultimately drive people to work/visit/study/invest here.

Awareness and Action

60% campaign awareness in target market (against 31% benchmark set from Spirit campaign, achieved with a traditional TV-based schedule).

The Scotland is Now campaign was crafted to SPARK a movement that would encourage positive conversation about Scotland and ultimately drive people to work/visit/study/invest here. 55% of those who viewed the brand film felt it challenged their perceptions of who we are.
49% expressed consideration to come and see Scotland for themselves.

Scotland is Now will rely on momentum; we’ll be promoting our message for years to come – but we’ve already sparked a movement that represents the values of Scotland.

“Dentsu Aegis played a fundamental role in the digital transformation process. Using a forensic targeting approach they constructed a communications strategy that employed the very latest in digital technology – with results that rivalled anything we experienced using traditional media.”

Charlie Smith Chief Transformational Officer, Scottish Enterprise
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