Lead Agency


The Challenge

Microsoft Lumia smartphones have been designed and developed with the ambition of becoming technology leaders in smartphone photography, with superior imaging capabilities, and seamless connectivity and functionality with all other devices and services in the Microsoft product family. Since their launch, Lumia smartphones have responded perfectly to the growing evolution of mobile devices becoming an extension of their owners’ personalities and
memories and increasingly a personal, handheld, integrated device that they can use to do great things and stay connected to the world and people that matter to them most.

To land the Lumia technology story in a credible way, Microsoft Lumia sought a content partner to showcase the breakthrough in smartphone photography and the integrated productivity and connectivity features. National Geographic was the perfect fit. As a world-renowned benchmark of photography  xcellence, the partnership with the Microsoft Lumia series would lend credibility to a key product differentiator.

But does Lumia smartphones take photos and video good enough for National Geographic? Microsoft wanted to leverage National Geographic’s reputation for imaging excellence and ambition and really put Microsoft Lumia devices through their paces. Give the device to a National Geographic photographer and videographer and send them on an assignment. A real one.

The partnership would leverage National Geographic’s talent, knowledge and technological expertise and its proven craftsmanship in visual storytelling to create high quality, compelling content. It would also bring a global footprint of affluent technology savvy consumers used to engaging with National Geographic across multiple channels.

The Strategy

National Geographic photographers are considered by professionals and amateurs alike as masters of photography, not only for their skill in capturing breathtaking images, but also their ability to go on assignment under difficult conditions in rugged, remote and wild places.

The theme of the programme had to be appropriate to the editorial content of the magazine and appeal to an audience of discerning and knowledgeable photography lovers. The Seven Natural Wonders of the World were chosen because of the resonance of the theme with the National Geographic
audience and because they offered the opportunity to Microsoft to demonstrate their capabilities through diverse terrains of
magnificent landscapes across several continents. Visually challenging, the theme offered great photo opportunities as well as a variety of compelling narratives. The theme also allowed the programme to have longevity over a period of time and develop a real relationship with National Geographic.

Starting in July 2013 and running through to Q1 in 2016, Microsoft was able to use each of the Seven Natural Wonders to showcase the latest devices, and provide a snapshot of the evolution in mobile photography. Photographer Stephen Alvarez and videographer John Burcham were selected to take on this assignment. Both were highly experienced and interested in smartphone imaging capabilities, but neither had ever an assignment where the only camera (for stills and video) they had access to was a smartphone.
Their challenge was to shot everything with the Lumia devices, treat each assignment like an editorial assignment and come back with pictures and videos good enough for National Geographic.

The project output was ambitious. Varying from assignment to assignment it encompassed stunning print units, interactive tablet insertions, ad units driving to an engaging multi-level microsite, video and images to be used in earned and non-earned media in multiple markets across the globe to support Microsoft product launches and campaigns. The project also developed deep
engagement with the National Geographic photography audience through sponsorship of their incredibly popular Your Shot Photo Assignment (http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/assignments-stories/).

The Implementation

The Images that came back from each assignment were stunning and the photographer and videographer were genuinely impressed by the capabilities of each successive device. This enthusiasm and the creativity they showed in using the devices where fully leveraged for each resulting campaign.

In campaign year 2015, the Natural Wonders covered were Paricutin volcano (Mexico) and the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) with the seventh and final Natural Wonder, The Aurora Borealis, being planned to be shot and run Q1 and Q2 in 2016.

Co-branded online advertising drove traffic to the Seven Natural Wonders bespoke microsite (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/
microsoft/sevenwonders/) with extensive sharing features which brought the assignment to life through: video, an assignment journal, interactive maps, themed photo galleries, “tips from the pros”, zoomable images and product information.

An interactive ad created using hero shots from the assignment featured in the National Geographic worldwide interactive edition. Two bespoke videos from the Mexico assignment was placed on the Microsoft Cube at 11 Time Square in New York and LA Live in Los Angeles, providing an opportunity to attract millions of people who frequent Time Square and LA Live every day.
Alvarez used his own and National Geographic Instagram hero accounts to post images from the assignments, supported by other National Geographic and Microsoft accounts.

In the campaign year 2015, Alvarez also curated two National Geographic Your Shot Assignments, sponsored by Microsoft, on “What’s in a Frame” and “Low Light” and presented and led Your Shot Community photo walks in Seattle and Washington DC on the same themes. These themes were devised to engage the audience with specific themes relevant to the Lumia devices and
consumers were given the opportunity to engage with the devices at the photo walks and get imaging tips from the experts at Microsoft.

In addition, Alvarez was present in an ambassadorial capacity at several press and consumer events organised by Microsoft where he talked about the assignments and demonstrated the devices. He is also signed up as Skype in the Classroom guest speaker to talk about his career as a National Geographic photographer and the Seven Natural Wonders of the World assignments with

The Result

A robust media campaign on nationalgeographic.com was planned around key partnership points from June 2015 onwards.

June 2015 – Your Shot Community Photo Assignment “What’s in a Frame” and Seattle Photo Walk
July & August 2015 – Seven Natural Wonders of the World Paricutin Assignment goes live
November 2015 – Your Shot community Photo Assignment “Low Light” and Washington DC Photo Walk.
December 2015 (ongoing through January 2016) – Seven Natural Wonders of the World Great Barrier Reef Assignment goes live

The media campaign delivered a total of 47,625,859 impressions representing an over delivery of 7.25% of the 44,176,898 booked. This was tactically reinforced with an insertion in National Geographic magazine’s interactive edition in July.

The Your Shot Community Photo Assignments were incredibly successful, each one garnering a high level of entries. The “What’s in a Frame” Assignment generated 22K entries, which is the highest number of entries generated by a sponsored assignment.

Visitor engagement and enthusiasm for the assignment was high.
Powerful social media promotion through photographer’s own account and on the National Geographic hero accounts pushed the images taken on the Microsoft devices out to a vast global audience. For example, five images posted on National Geographic’s Instagram account (26.8M followers) during the Paricutin assignment generated 1.7 M likes. An image of the bluemoon taken with a Lumia and posted by Alvarez generated 673K likes putting it up among the most liked images posted by National Geographic.

Further promotion on other official National Geographic and Microsoft accounts increased reach globally as did promotion within National Geographic magazine on our Your Shot page.

Numbers aside, the campaign in its totality has been a unique opportunity for Microsoft to record, through the lens of a National Geographic photographer, the advances in technology and smartphone photography over the last three years, for generations to come.