Scotland is Open was a dramatic, heartfelt message of love for Europe from the shores of Scotland, timed to launch on what was the original "Brexit Day" of 29th March 2019.

With under 30 days to create and launch a major pan-European campaign spanning four countries, this was the most audacious, ambitious and exciting media brief Carat had ever received.

We set a clear shared vision:


It paid off.

A 78 million People reached In just 5 days, we reached over 78 million people through paid media;


In 2018, Scottish Enterprise (SDI), VisitScotland and Scottish Government combined budget and resource and aligned to form Brand Scotland under a unified marketing initiative called ‘Scotland Is Now’.

It aimed to present Scotland as a ‘country of first choice’ to live, work, study, do business and visit. Building on its rich history and heritage, it also shone a light on Scotland’s pioneering, progressive and inclusive ways.

As the world becomes increasingly international and connected, competition for talent, tourists, investment and trade has never been fiercer.

By early 2019, the biggest challenge facing Scotland was Brexit.



Research predicted that under all modelled scenarios - agreed deal; snap General Election; ‘crashing out’ – Brexit was predicted to have a negative impact on Scotland’s economy.

By mid-February, Brexit uncertainty had become an intolerable risk to Scottish businesses and communities. Former Prime Minister May’s deal had twice been rejected in Parliament and, with the Article 50 countdown rapidly running out, the UK was scheduled to leave the EU on March 29th.

In the face of adversity, Brand Scotland was inspired to take action.

"Brexit Day" presented an opportunity to send a bold message of commitment to Europe from Scotland. By pooling budgets, partners could deliver a £1.9m bang – far greater than any partner could achieve on its own.



Our media objective was single-minded – reach and seek engagement, at scale, with people in Europe who may be putting off from living, working, studying, visiting or doing business with Scotland by sending a clear message of intent:



Smart Objectives;

By mid-April, achieve:

1. 10% campaign awareness amongst select audience groups in key European markets

2. 30% agreement that Scotland is open and welcoming

3a. 30% agreement that Scotland extends a warm welcome

3b. 20% agreement that Scotland is inclusive and innovative

3c. 10% consideration of Scotland as a place to live, work, study, do business and visit

3d. 3% claimed action as a result of seeing the campaign

The scale of ambition was incredible. We required multiple organisations to create a massive, pan-European campaign from scratch in under 30 days with no clarity on the Brexit outcome (launch day).



The core strategy was common to all parties;



Go fast:

We had 30 days. Snoozers lose.

We needed to work as one cohesive team to maximise impact. Speed and agility were paramount. And so digital formed the very heart of our strategy, complemented with an integrated media mix.


Go big:

Brand Scotland’s audiences are diverse spanning tourists to investors to international students. Instead of applying our usual forensic targeting to reach specific groups, we wanted to ‘go big’ with our media strategy.

Research identified seven key European markets but in order to make the £1.9m budget go further we focused on four priority territories - France, Germany, Spain, Ireland.

We took an educated risk (and were proven right) that resulting PR, and earned social reach, would filter into other European countries, despite no paid-media activity, thus enhancing our reach into further EU territories.


Go bold:

To cut through the noise and achieve impact across such large markets required a bold strategy.

This came in the form of a simple message and a bold media strategy anchored in the principle of



Budget needed to stretch across Europe’s largest countries (combined population of 202M, equivalent to three times that of the UK) and an integrated media mix – out-of-home advertising in Munich and Paris airports, digital homepage takeovers and double-page-spreads in some of the leading European newspaper titles, display and social media.



The campaign proposition was simple: ‘Scotland values its relationship with Europe, no matter what’.

The creative execution needed to translate powerfully across Europe and be culturally relevant and sympathetic to multiple languages. It needed to avoid the political and address the emotional. And it needed to satisfy a broad stakeholder group.

The Brand Scotland team challenged themselves to think beyond ‘what can we do that will work in four countries’ and instead posited ‘if I could tell Europe one thing, what would it be?’

This framing refocused our thinking. And our creative idea was born.



Fame strategies rely on getting people talking. Our heartfelt, bold message achieved just that. We didn’t just want them to talk, we wanted to inspire them to share, respond and act.

Our media approach was digital-first, at broadcast scale, to address the strategic need for fast, big and bold activity.

Agenda-setting national press and Digital Out-of-Home also had critical roles to play.

Three key factors shaped our tactics;

1. To drive discussion, and contextual relevance, we employed a "Newsroom Strategy" – seamlessly placing our activity alongside discourse around Brexit, Scotland and Europe.

2. Brexit coverage was dominated by pervasive negativity, but our ‘earned media’ needed to share positive messages. At times when emotions are high, it’s important that we continue to nurture our relationships.

3. Brexit took centre stage in news stories because it’s so divisive. We wanted to transcend noise. We carefully selected media and audiences that were most positively disposed to Scotland’s ‘open and welcoming’ message, nurturing advocacy.

Our media placement aimed to reach people ‘open’ to our message;

  1. Press (open to information)
  2. Airports (open to other cultures)
  3. Social media (open to other opinions)
  4. YouTube Masthead (maximising reach)



Delivered in under 30 days, an effective implementation plan was pivotal.

Extraordinary levels of collaboration from Carat and Brand Scotland partners were needed to rise above the unparalleled political uncertainty and challenges.

On Friday 29th March, the UK Government held a final vote on Brexit. And the Brand Scotland team watched - knowing our campaign was about to break. The vote meant Brexit was delayed, plunging the UK and Europe into new depths of uncertainty. And so it was, that as Brexit was tossed back into the air – our message from Scotland landed.


The bulk of our media budget went to quality, scalable video-platforms – YouTube and Teads. Premium placement and homepage takeovers ensured our message was unmissable and placed alongside relevant editorial content.

The strategy paid off with 23million+views in just 5 days.


Allowing us access into people’s personal worlds, paid social media took our 30 second video to audiences far and wide.

In just 5 days, paid Facebook and Instagram activity alone reached over 23 million people. Twitter ads also delivered 28.6 million impressions.


We placed highly-impactful DPS’ in some of the largest publisher brands in the key markets – El Pais, Der Spiegel, Expansion and Le Monde – and delivered homepage takeovers to ensure both reach and impact. These platforms were selected not only for reach, but for their editorial alignment with the values and attributes of our message.

Homepage takeovers generated a massive 24 million impressions. This activity alone drove almost 41K landings to Scotland.org (38% of total landings), showing people didn’t just see the campaign, they acted on it.


In order to reach those open to traveling and ensure greater frequency of reach, we placed our digital creative onto OOH 6 Sheets within the take-off areas of Munich and Charles De Gaulle Airports, exposing our brand film to an estimated 1 million travellers.10


Paid media was only part of the story. Organic data shows this campaign went viral.

In just 2 weeks, across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, organic activity alone generated:

5.1 million impressions, 1.1 million video views and over 100,000 engagements (excluding video views).



The campaign exceeded any results of ‘Scotland Is Now’ campaign activity to date.

Exceeding every SMART objective set:

Objective Target Achieved (Net: Germany, Spain & France)

Campaign recognition

10% amongst each target audience Visit 30%, Relocate 34%, Study 49%, Business 33%
Scotland is an open country 30% agree 70%
Scotland is a welcoming country 30% agree 76%
Scotland extends a warm welcome even in uncertain times 30% agree 67%

Scotland is innovative

30% agree 56%

Scotland is inclusive

30% agree 60%


Extraordinary reach:

In just 5 days, we reached over 78 million people through paid media; that’s 39% of the entire population of our priority target markets.

People didn’t just see, they acted:

Our media objective was around reach and video views, but the campaign also generated a huge spike in web traffic: +559% vs previous period.

8,000 people subscribed to our YouTube channel, tripling followership.

Colossal engagement

Not only did this strategy work in terms of reach and scale, but it set in motion the key secondary objective of the campaign - ‘earned media’ amplification.


What made this campaign so unique is the way the world reacted...

Scotland is Open inspired over 8.8 million engagements and over 90% of comments were positive.



With a media budget of £1.9M you’d expect big resuts. But, these results are extraordinary. This campaign inspired engagement far beyond any forecast figures or expectation.

The campaign FAR EXCEEDED industry benchmarks for engagement across channels:

  1. Instragram posts had an engagement rate of 43.7%; 7x higher than the Industry benchmark for ‘good’.
  2. Facebook engagement rate was stronger still, with a staggering 12.5x greater performance than Facebook’s benchmark for ‘good’.



Within minutes of launch, we were awash with emotional responses, evidencing that our declaration of love was wholeheartedly reciprocated.

Our 'Go Big' approach created ripples across the world, and our First Minister couldn't resist commenting:

"In the fact of uncertainty over the UK's plans to leave the EU, this campaign sends a strong message that Scotland continues to be a welcoming and outward-looking country that will always be open for business... it is right that we promote Scotland across Europe and there is no better time to rmind out European neighbours of our values, our talents and our friendship that right now" (Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland).



"Scotland Is Open" showed what’s possible when media dares to;


With media investment of £1.9m we reached over 80 million Europeans, encouraging 50 million active engagements. That’s less than 20p per engagement - or five for every Euro. Scotland is Open is no ordinary marketing campaign.

A bold strategy created reach and impact, demonstrating that Scotland is open, welcoming, inclusive and compassionate.

But, most importantly of all, it showed what’s possible when we align behind a common goal and dare to be brave together.

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