Q&A with Donna Sanker: A good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from

On Tuesday, October 25, I hosted a panel on Earned Influence & the Power of Integration at the Holmes Report's Global Public Relations Summit 2016 in Miami. The panel included Donna Sanker, Chief Marketing Officer for BP Fuels North America, an Ogilvy PR client and a pioneer of BP's digital mobile and social media strategy on the west coast.

I had the opportunity to speak with Donna about the process behind the launch of a new integrated marketing campaign for BP North America. The plan was sparked by a challenge Donna issued to Ogilvy PR and its other agency partners [such as Mindshare], when she said, "I don't care where the idea comes from, but I need solutions that will work!"

Below Donna and I explore the process that kicked off that challenge, which will culminate with the launch of a bold campaign that integrates earned PR, advertising and marketing and will take BP North America into new and unexpected places.

JEN: What made you embark on this journey?

We were ready to launch a new fuel that was several years in the making and had millions of dollars of investment. We wanted some PR behind it so we originally spoke to Ogilvy PR about a PR event. After a series of discussions, we decided to shift away from a traditional launch event to focus instead on unexpected and exciting consumer experiences that would garner attention. We've picked two ideas [first idea to launch in a couple of weeks - with another that is being actively pursued] that we're excited about!

JEN: How would you define success for the campaign?

First of all, we want to create positive buzz and energy around our brand with consumers. We want people to recognize that BP is looking to change the game and to see that we're showing up differently than other fuel brands. Success will be for people to find BP in some unexpected places. We want to win and be different from the others [in our product category].

JEN: Why was an integrated campaign the best fit for this work?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So, we took this project on as an experiment that felt different and we knew we were onto something as opposed to the traditional approach. As a supplement to our fuel launch campaign, we sought something more interactive and engaging. Consumers are changing and we need to change how we play and engage with them.

JEN: What was the internal appetite?

The team is really energized and excited to tackle something different. Innovation is sometimes hard to bring to life in large corporations but this has been relatively easy to sell in from the very beginning because we all recognize that fueling is a routine activity and that this idea will deliver something unexpected in a new and different way.

JEN: Why Ogilvy and Mindshare? How are they working together?

We have a long relationship with both Ogilvy and Mindshare as our agencies of record. Together they bring new ideas and new creativity to the table. When I first met with [Managing Director at Ogilvy Chicago] Michele Anderson from Ogilvy PR, I knew I'd found the team that I wanted to work with. We spent a lot of time talking about the business issue we were trying to address and what she said about needing to have open and frank discussions made me want to work with her. The way she thinks made sense and I wanted to make it work.

JEN: What's most fun/most rewarding and what can people learn from it?

It's been contagious! There were lots of hurdles to overcome, and lots of reasons not to do it. But I don't like to be told "no" - instead, tell me how to find a way to make it work. Yes, we had questions: will it work, can they pull it off? But, it's amazing what people can do if you believe in them. In the end, we are pleased and proud of what's about to be launched as the team has created something engaging and different.

JEN: Do you think PR can drive an integrated account?

It doesn't matter where an idea comes from, a good idea is a good idea. We had all of our people at the table from the beginning. You tap into your resources and identify all the interesting ideas around you to bring to market. There is no limit to what is possible when you have a good idea and a good team.

I am excited about the partnership that we formed. We intend to do planning for next year in a different way with Ogilvy PR at the table, where they haven't been in the past, because they have something to add. Ogilvy PR is optimistic and brings a new way of doing things. We're more powerful as a result and our outcomes will be better. It's very exciting! We can't wait to see what's next.

Dave Rosenthal of Ogilvy PR contributed to this piece.