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Economist cat poo subs campaign wins top award.

Sense’s innovative marketing campaign to increase subscriptions to leading business title The Economist, which took consumers out of their comfort zones by offering free coffee made from feline faeces, was named best Direct and Promotional Strategy at The Drum Marketing Awards 2015.


The initial 12-month activity in London, devised and run by Sense, generated a 298% return on investment, and has now been extended into Europe. The judges were particularly impressed with the way the campaign sacrificed volume and breadth of appeal for tightly targeting potential readers and weren’t afraid to turn some people off in order to drive a deeper connection with the right audience.

Targeting business and commuter areas, the activity uses the offer of free coffee as the hook to get people talking about The Economist and taking up a special subscription package. The real hook, however, is that the coffee on offer is Kopi Luwak.

“As consumers request their coffee, our brand ambassadors explain that this isn’t just any coffee brand, it’s Kopi Luwak, made from beans extracted from the faeces of civet cats – that’s cat poo to you and me,” explained Sense account manager Daniel Hennessey. “It’s the most expensive coffee in the world and our brand ambassadors give people a leaflet explaining how it’s made along with information about the subscription offer.”

Commenting on the campaign, Marina Haydn, Senior Vice President, Circulation and Retail Marketing at The Economist, said: “It has been fantastic to see results continually improving through the campaign run-time, and effectively become a new channel that steadily delivers results in the realm of offline marketing.”

The concept for the activity came from the idea of discomfort food. “Brands don’t have to be all things to all people, and The Economist is a singular brand so it should embrace that,” added Adams. “The Economist isn’t easy, it’s challenging. There’s a certain kind of person who likes to rise to that kind of challenge. If we can single them out, then they’ll be easier to sell to.”

Commenting on the award, Sense MD Nick Adams said: “We’re delighted the judges recognised the success of Sense’s campaign for The Economist particularly within this slightly less obvious category. This is great recognition for how live marketing in the real world can fulfil clear commercial objectives.”

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NOTE: We are aware that there are unscrupulous producers of kopi luwak coffee. The Economist has received assurances from its suppliers of kopi luwak used in our promotional campaigns is 100% ethically produced.