AT&T: SummerBreak



If told they had to choose between their cars and their smartphones, the majority of teenagers today would choose the latter. That’s right. They would pick silicon over steel. LTE over RPM. Snapchat voyeurism over cruising the strip. Truly the concept of “mobility” has changed.

While teenagers may love their mobile devices they are largely indifferent towards mobile carriers. It’s a simple story as to why: over 80% of them are still on their parents plan as they graduate from high school. However, their indifference quickly evolves to high involvement as they get off daddy’s dime and start making their own payments. By age 22, the majority will be choosing and paying for their own mobile data plan.

Every carrier recognizes this statistic, and yet they all have historically used the same old tactics to reach this audience. More media weight. More superlative claims. More youthful imagery (hipsters on Vespas). What they fail to understand is this new generation – a post-Millennial generation – consumes media far differently than even their older brothers and sisters let alone their parents.

In an effort to help AT&T connect with this audience on different terms, we uncovered and harnessed an important human truth: every teenager obsesses over the right of passage that comes when graduating high school and heading out into the world (or college). Moreover, this life stage is not an individual journey but a collective one. It is the moment in time when a mobile carrier – and the signal it provides – is most essential.


With this in mind, we chose to follow and broadcast the lives of 10 teenagers. But rather than broadcast it on TV, we created a transmedia reality show broadcast only on social media. This came complete with an array of guidelines to ensure the AT&T brand was more than just a disruptive logo in the background. Here are a few (imagine the dialogue we had with our Boomer clients in selling this in):

  1. Content integration rather than media interruption. In order to reduce the friction and obstacles between the narrative and audience, we avoided microsites and invested heavily in 3rd screen social media. We also ran a real time newsroom to constantly optimize the content based on viewer feedback.
  2. Harnessing the Digital Hollywood. We worked with stars of this generation like Grace Helbig,Alexis Kian Lawley & Ricky Dillon (1.9MM, 2.1MM and 1.8MM subscribers on YouTube) to drive awareness of and engagement with our content. This ranged from simple shout outs to their fans to taking over our Snapchat account and bringing new fans into our ecosystem.
  3. Zero distance relationship with fans. SummerBreak cast members were challenged to reply to fans and did so early and often. We also adopted fan-created hashtags and rewarded loyal fans with nearly 2,000 additional pieces of branded merchandise. We even hosted an impromptu cast meet up where fans could meet the stars.


Success for a campaign like this is hard to measure, but we were determined from the start to show how this type of digital-first campaign can be effective for a digital-first generation:

  • With less than $2MM for production and media, we delivered 45MM branded video views. A recent J&J web series (#seetherealme) targeted a similar age group with similar budget and only garnered 10.5MM views.
  • Importantly, we lifted AT&T brand perceptions among an age group that is still building consideration and preference before they are forced (by their parents) to purchase their own plan. When asked about their perceptions of AT&T, those 18-22 years of age currently using a competitor carrier indicated our brand was more innovative and cool (+25 and +21 pre/post exposure). For existing AT&T customers, exposure to the campaign increased intent to recommend by 41% shifting disenfranchised customers to potential advocates.
  • The most important statistic of all was that we lifted brand consideration by this cohort by 39% quarter over quarter. This bodes well for our chance of being the brand of choice when they enter into adulthood.

The clients are already onboard for another season, and I’m pushing for them to expand this into a franchise. Winter break? SummerBreak NYC? We’ll get there if we can maintain momentum, and in doing so we will continue to push AT&T into a new era of marketing.

%d bloggers like this: