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Media Planning for Channel 4 FourDocs

Media Planning for Channel 4 FourDocs

OMD UK case study 


FourDocs (channel4/fourdocs) is a revolutionary user-generated broadband documentary channel from Channel 4 that launched in January 2006.

FourDocs shows four minute documentaries, made by ordinary people, as well as providing a platform for anyone with a camera to upload a documentary they’ve created, on any subject they want.

Crucially, because of Channel 4’s Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) remit, it was essential that FourDocs engaged a mainstream audience beyond film-makers and students and made them feel like it was easy to do, and relevant to them.


The objective was simple: Create excitement around the launch of FourDocs and get people using it, on a modest budget of £100,000.

We also needed to make it accessible and clearly communicate that it was a separate entity to Channel 4 and available online rather than TV


There’s no simple way to explain FourDocs to people who’d never heard of it. The challenge was: create a desire to check it out as well as telling them where to go.

Therefore, in a way the solution was simple. Don’t try to persuade people to go a channel they’d never heard of. Take the channel to them.

We identified two target audiences and it was essential that the strategy that balanced scale and efficiency:

1. The Creative Class: Creative, open-minded and always on the look out for new forms of creativity and innovation.

2. The Mainstream Entertainment Audience: They may not be as receptive to the message but there are large numbers of them.

Ideas: Every Corner Has A Story:

Our idea was to capitalise on the burgeoning appetite for user-generated content by publicly broadcasting FourDocs to people in the middle of mundane, everyday routines through imaginative and pioneering use of digital technologies (web & bluetooth) enabling them to view one of eight relevant 4min docs, there and then.

Each FourDoc could take up a minute to download, therefore, we needed to deliver it in environments with enough dwell time for the consumer to find and request it.

Wherever possible we wanted to allow people to experience full length FourDocs (not just a clip).

We also chose to weave FourDocs into the editorial of the regional newspapers by presenting it as a way of telling local stories. This fulfilled our PSB objectives by engaging an audience beyond the stereotypical urban, creative communities.  

The Plan: Blue-casting:

We wanted to surprise people and make it freely available to a mainstream audience as well as finding more niche environments to target the ‘creative class’.

We created custom built outdoor sites that enabled us to broadcast entire 4min FourDocs, via blue-tooth, to mobile phones of people who opted in. The service was communicated to people through three different formats.


We employed digital transvision screens at major mainline train Stations (six in total).

Transvision screens are similarly sized to a 48 sheet billboard poster and offer a mix of news content and advertising.

They’re a trusted source of quality information and positioned by the departure boards meaning high dwell times and visibility.

Essentially they offered C4 a relatively captive audience. To take full advantage of this we ran 30” spots at high frequency as a call to action.

The consumer was greeted by an impactful branded message instructing them to turn on their blue tooth so that the film could be sent

This represented an easily accessible route to the ‘mainstream entertainment audience’. It was the first time that film had been sent to phones via this format.

London Underground:

Using the same principles as we did with transvision we inserted the Bluetooth technology within 6 sheets at fifteen prominent central London Underground stations.

We were the first advertiser to use Bluetooth technology on London Underground. The posters were all positioned in areas with high dwell times such as ticket offices and platforms.

Despite mobile phones being unable to receive signals underground the technology that was developed overcame this hurdle. The impactful creative again worked as a call to action for commuters, resulting in high levels of successful downloads.


To specifically appeal to our ‘creative class’ we built 50 standees that were positioned in the foyers of arthouse cinemas. As with the other formats we recognised not only the mind set of our consumer but also the dwell times in the foyers.

This offered the most relevant environment and produced the most effective results. This was also a media first that has been successfully taken on by other advertisers since.

Other media:

In support of the outdoor innovation, bespoke, animated formats were created on a range of targeted websites and portals that enabled us to play FourDocs immediately to anyone who interacted with them.

The on-line presence was further supplemented with direct communication through blogs and on-line film making communities.

We also used the syndicated Featurelink package in 70+ regional newspapers to create an editorially endorsed competition encouraging people to suggest local stories they wanted to tell via FourDocs.

Each of the papers ran an independent feature that was relevant to their readership/community.


18,500 FourDocs were successfully Blue-cast to mobile phones, an average of 260 per site.

3,379,529 people interacted with ads to watch a Fourdoc on-line. At 30% the interaction rate was over 6 times higher than industry norms. 40,286 then clicked through directly to the FourDocs website

Over 900 people responded to the competition in regional newspapers.

Daily site traffic for FourDocs increased from 4,132 impressions to 15,338 with a corresponding fourfold increase in the number of films contributed.

Aside from quantifiable results the campaign delivered groundbreaking innovation with media firsts in cinemas and on the London underground.

As a result there were high levels of talk-ability – consumer and trade PR (Times, Time Out, Brand Republic)

“Much the best thing I saw at the cinema was the 4minute Channel documentary that was beamed onto my mobile phone on the way in” - Dan Sabbagh, The Times.

How the team made it work:

This was a real team effort, working very closely along side the client, M&B, Posterscope and the media owners.

Being the first time that much of this had been undertaken, we agreed to run some tests prior to the campaign to check the technology etc.

The result was very successful campaign with fantastic PR and a very happy client.

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