A new way to test long-form content? We launched a music talent show in 58 hours for Vodafone.

Giorgos Vareloglou
REBORRN
Published in
10 min readSep 8, 2020

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Foreword.

In 2019, we had the chance to facilitate more than 40 Design Sprints around the globe. Unfortunately, due to confidentiality, we can talk publicly for a tiny fraction of them. So we kind of celebrate every time we get the chance to share a piece of our work with the world, and for this one, we have to thank Vodafone for letting us share this 3rd case study at Reborrn.

While this case study is published by REBORRN, the outcome is the result of a rare-to-find cross-functional team consisting of Vodafone leaders, Vodafone’s roster agencies, The Storylab and George Levendis. We just helped connect the dots and facilitate a process of co-creation.

Background. 🕵🏻‍♂️

Vodafone is headquartered in London, and besides its governance role in overseeing the operations of local OpCos around the globe, it also works as the enabler between OpCos for cross-market collaboration. As part of this effort, Vodafone has this very interesting concept of Acceleration Units where leaders coming from different markets form a cross-market “squad” to accelerate change in a certain area of focus by sharing & acting on learnings coming from common challenges.

In Dec 2019 we were lucky enough to get a call from Vodafone’s “Youth Acceleration Unit”, a team consisting of more than 15 leaders coming from different markets around Europe on a mission to explore ways to accelerate Vodafone’s growth in Younger Segments.

The case in point was to explore the idea of a fully digital, multi-market music talent show. And the million-dollar question, is why on earth should anyone call a management consultancy to get involved with a Music Talent Show? We are not a production company nor a digital agency and we can assure you, we have no idea of how the music industry works.

While this article answers the question thoroughly, the short answer is this:

Vodafone was smart enough to explore quick ways to get the market’s validation of such a concept, before investing significant resources in such an ambitious project. And that’s where we came in since we have a pretty good process to help with that.

The Methodology: Design Sprints with a twist. ⚙️

So how do we come up with a concept and validate it with consumers within a week?

The answer to such a challenge was lying beneath a widespread Design thinking approach: Design Sprint Methodology (but with a twist, more on that later). If you are not familiar with Design Sprints, you might want to take a look at Google Ventures where it started from in 2016.

Design Sprint Methodology — how it works

It’s a way of working that uses design thinking with the aim of reducing the risk when bringing a new idea, product or service to the market.

Long story short, it’s a structured process where you go from nothing to a solution prototype that you can test with consumers within a week. At REBORRN, we have created our own version of Design Sprints, called the “58 Session”. it’s shorter (58 hours), more intense, and has more tangible outcomes. You can read more about it here.

The Challenge to Solve. 🤓

Every Design Sprint starts with a clear challenge. This Design Sprint was about coming up with one idea for a fully digital multi-market Music Talent Show for Europe.

While this might be “business as usual” for a content production firm or a TV producer, it was way out of the comfort zone of a TelCo, even for its marketing teams.

But even for content producers, the validation process to see if there’s a market fit for a certain content format (ie a TV Show or a Digital Reality format) is a tricky challenge.

The most common approach to testing long-form content is either market research using research panels and focus groups or pilot productions. If you are a Netflix subscriber you most probably have observed that S01E01 in certain series are slightly longer in duration, or they are even called pilot episodes. That’s a common way to control the risk of failure by approving the production of one episode instead of a whole season.

But neither of these two alternatives seemed to work for us. On one hand, we want more solid evidence than the opinions of a focus group, but we didn’t want to commit the investment of a pilot before having at least early signs of a market fit.

So we felt confident enough to launch an actual teaser of the show in less than a week as part of a Design Sprint. Here’s how we did it.

Building a world-class team. 🙌

The first task when preparing for such a sprint was creating a cross-functional team that was up for the challenge. So we created a larger-than-usual team making the most out of Vodafone partners’ network, but also bringing in music industry experts and content producers. So here’s how it looked like.

  • 12 Vodafone leaders all over Europe, with a deep understanding of their markets.
  • A team of creatives from Wunderman Thompson & Savvy Partners that would help us build the prototype.
  • A team of videographers that would help us script, shoot & edit video content.
  • The Storylab, the Dentsu owned global investment & production firm for premium entertainment content.
  • George Levendis, a global media executive with an insane track record in the music industry, among which the global distribution of Got Talent.
  • Two facilitators from REBORRN.

We now had a world-class team to work with.
To immerse the team with the challenge, we invited a few external participants for Day 1.

  • We invited Google to discuss Digital Music Content and Youtube as a platform from a creator’s standpoint.
  • We also invited The Storylab’s Global President to discuss Talent Shows from an investment and distribution perspective.
  • We had a Youtube Creator and singer Natasha Kay to discuss what music talents expect from Talent Shows.
  • Finally, we had the honour to host a Vodafone OpCo CEO to discuss the business perspective that lies in such a challenge.

All the above interventions would last no more than 20’ with the team “interrogating” our experts to get more context on our challenge.

The session: A mission impossible. 🚀

It was a Tuesday morning in a rather dodgy area in the centre of Athens when people started gathering to kick off the sprint. Romanzo is both an incubator for start-up companies within the creative industry and a cultural centre, for parties, concerts and more. It’s a Vodafone sponsored venue.

We had scheduled a team meeting with the creative teams to discuss the challenge ahead of us for the next 3 days.

When they understood that we would have to build and launch a talent show in less than 3 days, most of them started laughing or pointing the obvious that you can’t build a show, brand it, and launch it in such a short timeline.

But we all had to trust the process.
* Even for us at REBORRN, that was a first. We have build prototypes or MVPs before, but we’ve never gone that far.

The Design Sprint Agenda

Tuesday

We spent the day immersing the team into the challenge by following the Design Sprint Methodology.

  • We agreed on “How success looks like”.
  • We set the “Sprint Questions”, which is essentially the challenges we had to overcome,
  • We did a “mapping exercise” to understand more about our users, and following that,
  • We had an “Ask the Experts” session inviting external speakers as well as,
  • A “Lightning Demos” exercise where everyone in the team had to share examples of how other industries are tackling similar challenges.

We wrapped up the day with a “How Might We” exercise that would give the team a common focus for the next day’s solution design process. The team voted the most relevant HMWs and as such, we picked a target.

Wednesday

The next day, the team spent the first half of the day on Solution Design through a structured process that is called the 4 step sketch. If you’re curious to know more about it, here’s a comprehensive guide from Google Ventures. Basically you go from random thoughts to a concrete solution through a 4-step silent process.

After lunch we ended up with a sticky decision through a 5 step process:

  1. Art museum. We taped the solution sketches to the wall in one long row.
  2. Heat map. We had everyone review the sketches silently and put one to three small dot stickers beside every part he or she likes.
  3. Speed critique. Three minutes per sketch. As a group, we discussed the highlights of each solution. We Captured standout ideas and important objections. At the end, we asked the sketcher if the group missed anything.
  4. Straw poll. Each person silently chose a favorite idea. All at once, each person placed one large dot sticker to register his or her (nonbinding) vote.
  5. Supervote. We gave the Decider three large dot stickers and wrote her initials on the sticker.

💡The idea was a brilliant concept that came from a Vodafone leader — not a creative professional, nor a music industry expert. It’s so brilliant that it needs no more than a sentence to pitch it.

After reaching this point, we went completely off-script. 🏴‍☠️

Having a winning idea in place, we ditched the design sprint methodology and turned the session to something that looks more like a hackathon.

We split the group into smaller teams and started working for the rest of the sprint in 60’ iterations we call “Working Blocks”.

The concept of working blocks is inspired by this article, written by Tim Urban. If you split your working day into time blocks and work focused on one block at a time, free of distractions, you won’t believe the volume and the quality of work you can get done.

1 Working Block = 50’ teamwork + 10’ group review.

Using this approach here’s what we achieved in 13 Working blocks (aka 13 hours):

  • We built a name and a brand for the show.
  • We launched a presence on every social platform.
  • We built a website presenting the show, with a call to action for music talents (it’s still live!)
  • We set up web analytics infrastructure to measure success KPIs.
  • We built a working hotline for participants.
  • We build a full-blown digital campaign on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, and Google.
  • We signed 4 high impact influencers to spread the word for the new show.
  • We shot, edited and published a high standards teaser video presenting the show, you’d normally need weeks to plan and shoot it.
  • Going beyond the 60” cut, we created several 15” preroll ads, a 6” bumper ad and 15” vertical ads for Instagram.
  • A team of producers along with Vodafone People created a pitch deck, a detailed business case and a clear roadmap to bring this show live to Europe.

The highlight of this insanely intense working session was the video. Having worked in advertising for more than a decade, I couldn’t believe in my eyes when I saw the final result. The team shot, edited and published this video in less than 10 hours 🤯🎬. In less than half a day a high-quality teaser video was shot, edited and was running on Youtube as an ad! You can see shots from the teaser on the following case study video.

Note: Wearing my previous ad-agency hat, I would swear that such a thing cannot be done in less than three weeks.

The result: Hundreds of applicants in less than 2 weeks 🎯

With a media spend of a few hundred €, we kicked off a 2-week experiment unfolding a targeted but limited in reach campaign to understand consumer interest behind the key success KPIs of the campaign but also test how music talents would perceive such a show format.

The results were impressive. Since the very beginning of the experiment, talents started calling on the hotline to participate by getting their shot in a 30’’ over-the-phone demo. With a limited media investment, we had hundreds of applicants in a 2-week timeframe and this matters, especially for anyone involved in the talent show business.

Here’s a 3’ video the team created summarising this amazing case study 📽:

A short documentary that was shot during the sprint.

While the future plans were severely disrupted due to CoVid-19 and the lockdown across several EU markets, the team is still working on bringing this life.

A new way to test long-form content formats?🤔

We want to wrap up this article by posing a question.

Could this approach work as a testing approach for several long-form content formats like TV Reality shows?

To be honest, we've never been involved in the streaming or music industry business, but we’d love to hear from industry experts if such an approach would work on a scale for streaming platforms or TV producers.

Compliments 🙏🏻

To this rare-to-find team of 26 people across the EU who made this happen and trusted us and the process throughout the 3-day session.

To Konstantinos Moumouris and Eleni Meziti from Vodafone Greece as well as Zohar Weitz and Almula Soylem from Vodafone Group, who came up with the whole initiative and actually made this happen.

The Storylab’s Global President Michael Iskas & George Levendis who brought in world-class expertise in the room and provided generous guidance to the group.

To this amazing production team that did the unbelievable, producing a high standards teaser in less than 10 hours

Natasha Kay who was kind enough to offer her stunning voice for the video production.

* Note: Interested in more REBORRN Case Studies? 👉 #1 #2.

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