Universal Music: Years & Years


Key Points                     

  • Universal Music wanted to create maximum impact for the launch of Years and Years’ debut album
  • They created the world’s first viewer controlled live TV ad
  • The album went to number 1

The Challenge

Years & Years were one of the hottest new acts of 2015, winning the prestigious BBC Music Sound Award in January. Around this time, the music industry was changing. ‘New Music Fridays’ was an initiative that aimed to unify all new music release days worldwide, so that fans can access new music on the same day everywhere. Years and Years had a big ambition – they wanted to hit the number 1 spot with their brand new debut album on the first ever ‘New Music Friday’.

Their objectives were as follows:

  • Drive sales
  • Drive active engagement at launch
  • Drive maximum reach
  • Grow the Years & Years fan base

The TV Solution

Universal Music tasked their media agency, Mediacom, to harness the power and passion of the Years & Years fan base and to find a solution that meant the fans could interact directly with the band. The Years & Years fans are extremely active on social media, so that provided an opportunity. However, it was also important to extend reach beyond their core fan base.

With its unmatched ability to reach large numbers of people simultaneously, TV was the obvious choice. The idea was to use social media as the remote control that meant fans could direct an ad live on broadcast TV.

They chose Channel 4 as a partner because the channel could provide a large scale audience as well as having the right audience profile. For the live ad, they chose the programme ‘8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown’, because it was a programme that drove high levels of online engagement.

The Plan

The band created three different videos for their single, Shine. Each was similar but different in colour tone. They also created three Twitter hashtags: #ChooseLight, #Choose Dark and #ChooseShadow to reflect the three different versions of the video. The plan was to allow fans to vote for which one they wanted to see, live on air. The videos were seeded out to the band’s fan base in the days leading up to the event.

Three different two-second teaser ads were created to build excitement and anticipation in the build up to the live break. These ran across a range of E4 and Channel 4 programming, reaching their key target audience. Programmes included The Big Bang Theory, Gogglebox, Empire and Baby Daddy and there were also spots on All 4. The three two second spots were shown in each break, followed by a  final teaser which was four seconds long and finished with an instruction to #TakeControl, offering a glimpse of what was to come.

These first wave teasers ran for two days, followed by 10 and 20 second teasers in the three days before the live ad. The live ad was three and a half minutes long and during it, viewers were encouraged to tweet to say which video they wanted to see. As the tweets rolled in and were counted, the broadcast switched seamlessly between versions to whichever video was most popular. Over the course of the three and a half minute spot, the copy dynamically changed every 30 seconds, as fans competed to get their favourite version of the video on air.

During the tease phase of the campaign, the TV spots were supported by online display, social media and digital OOH. In addition, the campaign generated a large amount of PR buzz, with sites such as The Drum and Campaign Live writing articles about the event.


  • 1.5m individuals watched ‘8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, with an additional 50,000 tuning in for the live ad
  • 110,000 people visited the bespoke web page after the ad had finished to watch it again
  • Almost 14,000 tweets were sent in across the whole evening, with 6,791 during the live ad break
  • The average number of retweets per post from Years & Years fans is 2,000, but on the live ad evening, this doubled to 4,000. During the week leading up to the live ad, they garnered an extra 10,000 followers
  • Most importantly of all, they achieved 55,000 sales in week one and became the first ever ‘New Music Friday’ number 1 album.
  • The campaign won ‘Best low budget use of TV’ at the TV Planning Awards

Years & Years are a special band and we felt it was important to do something special to celebrate the release of their debut album. Giving fans and viewers the chance to control and direct a TV advert as it happens has never been done before and plays perfectly into the band’s ethos of rewarding their fans and always being on the cutting edge

Jack Melhuish, Marketing Director, Polydor Records


Sector: Entertainment

Brand: Universal Music – Years & Years

Campaign objectives: To launch the brand’s new album in an exciting and memorable way

Target Audience: 16 to 34 adults

Budget: Approx. £50,000

Campaign Dates: The teaser campaign ran from 6th to 10th July with the live ad on Friday 10th July

TV Usage: 2”, 4”, 10” and 20” teaser spots + 210” one-off live interactive ad

Creative Agency: The Outfit

Media Agency:  Mediacom


Related search terms: Case study, case studies, live ad, viewer controlled, teaser campaign, Shine, choose light, choose dark, choose shadow, Twitter, fans vote

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