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Behind the Work

Inform, Provide, Protect: Rapidly Strategising for Lockdown 2.0

Spark Foundry, Tue, Dec 01, 2020

Lee Lythe, chief investment officer at Spark Foundry, explains how the media agency helped UK electronics retailer Currys PC World turn around an important brief within 12 hours

Inform, Provide, Protect: Rapidly Strategising for Lockdown 2.0

In what can only be described as a year like no other, consumer behaviour and the ways brands interact with consumers have needed to drastically pivot. Amid 500 metric tonnes of hand sanitiser and messaging to stay in, go out, eat out, don’t eat out, Dixon Carphone’s ambition was to provide clarity and assurance around safety to its customers as the UK prepared for its second national lockdown. The goal was to spread the word that Currys PC World stores were open, store hours were extended and COVID-19 precautions were in place. The brand wanted to ensure customers had access to the vital technology they needed for lockdown, with a message focused on safety rather than on selling.

With a second lockdown imminent, Dixons Carphone tasked their media agency Spark Foundry and their creative agency AMV BBDO to reach as many people as possible across Monday, November 2nd to Wednesday, November 4th, to communicate Currys PC World’s safe shopping message: 
1. Extended store hours for the days pre-lockdown
2. ShopLive: online video calls with Currys PC World experts offering unique shopping advice
3. Zero Contact Order & Collect (items delivered straight into the boot of your car!) 

The hitch being that the final decision to advertise was made the day before the campaign started, following the specifics within Saturday evening’s announcement from the Prime Minister. This started the clock at 11am on Sunday, a day not normally 'open' for booking media inventory. Creative assets were simultaneously evolving to incorporate the latest government guidelines. The campaign needed to be live the next day, which only gave us 12 hours to play with.

Combining speed, collaboration and expertise, we set to work. Spark Foundry and AMV BBDO had to work collaboratively and, as one team, scoped channel lead times and creative options to establish viable channels. Offering both scale and comparatively short lead times, the combination of radio, press and digital were going to be the most effective for getting this message out. 

Publishing & Audio 

The publishing and audio team worked tirelessly over the weekend; contacting key partners and negotiating terms. Getting hold of media owners on a Sunday is a feat in itself, but persuading both print and radio sales houses to reopen their inventory on a Sunday afternoon was a first for us and testament to how important it is for agencies to have strong relationships with commercial partners. 

Within six hours, the team had crafted a message from the brand ready to run on the Monday as full-page print ads in four key national papers; The Guardian, The Times, The Mirror and The Sun, and had booked a national radio campaign. In addition to logistical mastery, the team were able to negotiate fantastic value at short notice, working with our publisher partners to ensure the ads ran in standout positions. Print ran front half, and the majority of radio ran within the highly sought-after peak dayparts – unheard of quality access given the lead times.


Highly flexible with targeted scale, we knew digital would be a key activation channel for the Currys PC World campaign. Working closely with AMV BBDO, our trading teams and media partners, we activated the campaign within 24 hours of briefing. We executed both skippable and non-skippable video inventory on YouTube and programmatic VOD which allowed us to maximise our reach, whilst also leveraging key data points to target upmarket tech enthusiasts. 

The campaign was met with positive feedback from key stakeholders, customers and press alike. The positive customer impact was important as the brand approached lockdown and key trading periods such as Black Friday and Christmas. Dan Rubel, Dixons Carphone brand and marketing director, credited Spark Foundry as ‘miracle workers’, managing to ‘plan, book and execute media plans over a 24hr period and with great value for money too!’ 

Businesses like Dixons Carphone increasingly need to pivot and create communications at pace, and they rely on agency partners to have the dynamism, expertise and agility to make that happen. As the old adage goes, this is just the beginning.

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