It was March 2020, and Glim, director of brand marketing for Walgreens, was running point as the company prepared for a Red Nose Day unlike any other in the history of Walgreens’ partnership with Comic Relief US – one taking place against the backdrop of the beginning of the pandemic.
“At the time, CDC guidance was very robust around hand washing, covering your mouth to sneeze and, of course, avoiding touching your face,” says Glim. “And as a healthcare company, we were telling people actively not to touch their face, so how could we sell something to people that they put on their face? We knew that wasn’t going to work.”
So Glim and her team had to pivot – fast. With just a few weeks before the campaign was set to kick off, they knew that whatever plan they came up with had to not only be innovative and creative, but feasible to pull off within a very condensed timeframe.
First, in alignment with Comic Relief US, the nonprofit organization behind Red Nose Day, Glim and the team recommended Red Noses not be sold in stores, a first in their previous six years of partnership.
For a moment, 2020 looked like it would to be a year without the iconic Red Nose.
“We knew that if we weren’t selling Red Noses, then a lot of our team members and customers would really feel that loss since it’s such an important symbol this time of year,” says Glim. “And it would also result in far fewer donations to help end child poverty, at a time when it this cause was more important than ever.”
The team knew there had to be a safe way to make it possible for customers to enjoy the Red Noses safely, so they approached their agency partner team at WPP, with a simple question: Is it possible to digitally create the Red Nose?
The answer was yes, with the help of a filter on social media.
“When a client and creatives approach me with an idea for something like a TV commercial, a video or, in this case, a social media filter, it’s my job to figure out how to make it happen,” says agency producer Amanda Erinc.
With only three weeks to go until the campaign’s launch, the creatives, Bruno Pieroni and GeRee Anderson, along with Erinc, got to work figuring out how they could get the iconic physical Red Nose to translate to the consumer digitally.
“When you create a filter, you have to start with a good storyboard,” says Erinc. “It’s just like with a video in that you need certain actions to happen at certain times. So the creative team came up with the idea for how it would work, what would trigger the action and what it would all look like when it came together.”
Soon, the team had come up with an idea for a digital filter – a first for Walgreens – developed and made available for use on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook once a customer donates to the campaign online.
Walgreens raised over $15 million for Red Nose Day in 2020, which was close to the amount raised during other non-pandemic years – and the digital version of the campaign raised more than 10 times the amount of past online campaigns.
“We ended up seeing a lot more customers take to the online donation, versus just doing it in-store, which was what we’ve relied on almost entirely in the past,” says Glim. “But to hit a number that we’ve never even come close to before in the digital space was special and proved that there was value in this digital version of the Red Nose.”
Because of the success of this first-of-its-kind online campaign, Glim and her team felt even better about the decision to build a charitable giving function into the new myWalgreens customer loyalty program that launched later in the year, allowing customers to directly donate their cash rewards to various charitable partners, the first of which was Red Nose Day’s Full Plate Project this past holiday season. The project had already been in the works, but the high turnout for Digital Red Noses reinforced to the team that this would be well-received.
“With the COVID crisis having a disproportionate impact on children and youth, funds raised by Red Nose Day during the pandemic have been more important than ever,” said Mary Corigliano, SVP brand and marketing at Comic Relief US. “Even under the most challenging of circumstances, it has been amazing to work in true partnership with the Walgreens team to bring the iconic Red Nose to life digitally, and create new and exciting ways to engage with consumers around such an important cause.”
With the success of year one under their belt, Glim and her team are now well into year two of the digital Red Nose, with team members Carrie Fox and Kayla Kreklow leading the charge alongside the Comic Relief US team – and with a little more time this go-around, meaning more room for improvement.
“One of the big changes this year is that we’ve worked with the social platforms to have them create a feature adding a second Nose within the filter,” says Glim. “Last year we heard that parents wanted to include their kids in the Digital Red Nose photos, so we were happy to add in more Red Noses for more faces!”
Even with the success of the digital filter, Glim admits that physical Red Noses may make a comeback next year – but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the digital version.
“The digital filter will continue to be a very important piece of the campaign,” says Glim, “even if the physical Red Noses eventually come back.”
From now through May 31, customers can get their Digital Red Nose by donating online at Walgreens.com/RedNoseDay. Customers may also donate in-store or, new this year, myWalgreens members can donate their Walgreens Cash rewards through the Walgreens app. All donations will go to Red Nose Day, to support grantee partner organizations that help underserved children stay safe, healthy, educated and empowered through nutritious meals, educational services, safe shelter and more.