Hoffman Relaunches Bell Labs with a BANG

What do you get when you cross creative thinking, succinct storytelling and groundbreaking scientific discovery? Just ask The Hoffman Agency and we’d say, “The Big Bang Bash.”

Global telecoms company Alcatel-Lucent tasked The Hoffman Agency with raising the brand presence in the United States for its innovation engine — Bell Labs — which was in need of a perception reboot.

Nearly 100 years old, Bell Labs was the creative incubator for technologies such as lasers, transistors and wireless communication. However, in the past decade the media tended to treat the research institution as stodgy and outdated — not the budding center for technological innovation that it once was.

Arno and Robert - Big Bang discovery scientists Eager to remind the world of Bell Labs’ glory days, Alcatel-Lucent asked Hoffman to issue a press release commemorating a remarkable feat by two Bell Labs scientists: the 50th anniversary of the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) — AKA, the first solid piece of evidence ever observed supporting the Big Bang theory of the formation of the universe.

Instead of taking the safe (read: boring) route, The Hoffman Agency proposed an all-out media event or, a “Big Bang Bash,” and the Alcatel-Lucent internal PR team enthusiastically agreed.

The event would feature the original scientists who made the Big Bang discovery and provide a platform for Bell Labs to showcase its latest work. The goal? Reignite the Bell Labs image, using its celebrated history as a launch pad for its bright future.

The event would also serve as a platform to unveil the Bell Labs Prize, a research competition aimed at finding the next generation of young innovators from around the globe.

Blinded with Science

Both Hoffman and Alcatel-Lucent knew that Bell Labs needed eye-catching language and visuals to hook media. (Let’s just say “cosmic microwave background radiation” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.) We sent initial save-the-dates, inviting scientists and reporters to Holmdel, New Jersey (Bell Labs’ HQ) to celebrate the anniversary of the Big Bang discovery.

Our personalized pitches and pre-briefings were just some of the traditional PR tactics we used leading up to the event. But because it’s not enough to just tell a great story, the team set about showing it by creating engaging visual content that could be shared and repurposed across channels.

For example, we created a BuzzFeed article, 7 Scientific Discoveries That Happened by Accident, which celebrated the “serendipity of discovery,” ultimately aiming to connect Bell Labs to the youth it was trying to reach. We also designed an infographic that laid out the major scientific milestones leading up to the Big Bang CMB discovery. Cameos in the visual include Doctor Who’s TARDIS and a secret plug for Douglas Adams’ “Life, the Universe and Everything.” (Trust us — the space geeks get it.)

The Big Bang Discovery Timeline

Following relentless media pitching and social media build-up, the Hoffman team secured 14 top-tier media pre-briefings and in-person interviews for the event, as well as 81 pieces of coverage touting Bell Labs’ history — and its subsequent future. Gross impressions for the campaign reached over 222 million.

What’s more, just one day after the announcement, 21 entries were submitted for the Bell Labs Prize, carrying the momentum well into the following months.NPR tweet on Big Bang discovery

This campaign has won the Holmes Report 2014 In2 SABRE Award in the Most Innovative Print and Digital  Media category.

Media campaigns, such as this one, are the sort that PR pros dream of. Nothing was off limits — not even reaching out to “The Big Bang Theory’s” Sheldon. (He said no — but it was worth a shot.)

THAT is the kind of environment that The Hoffman Agency thrives in, and it’s just the right atmosphere for making amazing things happen.