Shortlisted 2016

Corporate Brand Promotion



Lead Agency


The Challenge

Created by AXA in 2008, the AXA Research Fund is the Science Philanthropy Initiative of leading insurer AXA, dedicated to supporting independent, academic research that contributes to the understanding of risk (environmental, life, and socio-economic). The AXA Research Fund is endowed with €200 million until 2018. It has a very broad scope with €149 million committed across 492 research projects in 33 countries, carried out by researchers representing 51 different nationalities as of January 2016.

The AXA Research Fund rapidly developed credibility within the academic world, through its ability to attract and select best-in class researchers, as evidenced by the award of The Nobel Prize for Economics
in 2014 to one of their first grantees, Jean Tirole. However, this awareness hardly extended beyond the academic sphere.

The AXA Research Fund wanted to get better recognition beyond the strictly academic sphere within which it operated. It wished to enhance awareness of the great contributions of its grantees to key societal issues, while establishing AXA Group’s support to farther understanding of key risks, in an enlarged vision of its mission of protecting people and goods. The AXA Research Fund had recently initiated a communications strategy to transmit the scope and excitement of the initiative to a broadbased non-academic public, and wished to push it further with a transformative step.

The Strategy

Seeking to align with its business strategy, AXA decided that the best way to tell the story of the AXA Research Fund and its work was to bring the story of research to life through featuring the work of some of their grantees and making it accessible and relevant to an educated and interested consumer audience. AXA Research Fund needed a partner who had the relevant expertise to transform complex, scientific and academic subjects into compelling stories that would resonate with a broad audience. They wanted to work with a partner who had legitimacy in the scientific environment, a reputation for storytelling excellence, and could also provide a global media platform to drive traffic to watch the content. They required a media partner with a global reputation for journalistic integrity and excellence so that the programme would resonate with AXA’s teams on the ground across all their markets. They wanted the partnership to go beyond content creation and media, also involving the participation of National Geographic journalists at AXA events for exchange of ideas and dissemination of scientific information to a broad audience, alongside AXA grantees and AXA experts.

In National Geographic, AXA found a partner with significant expertise in being able to communicate science-based stories to a large consumer audience and translate how important academic studies had direct relevance to people’s
lives. An initial partnership in 2014 was reconducted in 2015. AXA commissioned National Geographic to create shortform, highly polished, documentary style videos that would showcase the work of selected researchers and highlight the importance of the AXA Research Fund’s contribution to researching risk and ultimately protecting people. The videos
would live on AXA Research Fund’s YouTube channel and feed the whole AXA ecosystem of owned and social media. A robust media plan incorporating cutdown versions of the videos would drive traffic there from
Tactically placed blog posts from the researchers featured in the content incorporating the videos would be used during
the campaign. Kaitlin Yarnall, editor responsible for the National Geographic Food initiative would be present at the launch
of the campaign in Paris and then take part in a major AXA seminar in Milan Expo 2015.

The Implementation

National Geographic worked closely with AXA right from the start of the project, from the initial recommendation through to short lists and final selection, checking suitability of the stories in terms of resonance with the public and underscoring AXA’s communication needs at all times. National Geographic recommended featuring a trio of researchers whose work centred on nutrition which would tie in with a major National Geographic editorial strand: food, taken in its broadest sense, from the standpoint of how to feed a worldwide population of 7 billion — which has been a priority for National Geographic since 2014.

National Geographic selected grantees who could best articulate how research impacts risk that affects us all.
• Dr. Rod Wing, works on how rice is key to solving world hunger;
• Dr Esther Aarts, investigates motivation behind risky and irrational eating behaviour;
• Dr Sophia Hansson, looks at legacy pollution entering the food chain.

The diversity among the three researchers in terms of personalities, career stages, and locations created variety and different visual landscapes. The spread between Europe and Asia gave more relevance points for AXA as a global company with offices across the world. The subjects reflected the engagement of the company towards protection of people and the planet, particularly in relation to health and climate change. The videos would be hosted on the AXA Research Fund website and YouTube channel in English, and subtitled versions in 10 languages would be made available to AXA offices worldwide for local promotion.

Each researcher was featured in one video. On-location filming, interviews, graphics and stock footage were all used to create stories that would really engage with the National Geographic and AXA audience. Each video was created in a three minute version and then cutdown as a 30 second version used as an interstitial in a media campaign on The campaign ran across 22 countries in Europe, Middle East and Asia, from November 2015 through January 2016. In January blog posts written by each researcher were posted on The Plate in over a 3 week period.

The content was launched at AXA HQ in Paris at the end of October in the presence of National Geographic editor Kaitlin Yarnall. Yarnall also participated at an AXA Forum held in Milan in conjunction with ANIA and Action Aid to debate the Future of Food with leading members of Italy’s NGO community.

The Result

The desired outcome of increasing traffic to the AXA Research Fund YouTube Channel to watch the videos was achieved with over 42,000 views of the three 2015 videos produced in collaboration with National Geographic by
end of January. To put this number into perspective, the channel (launched in 2013) had overall generated 72,000 views before the start of the 2015 campaign. The campaign running across was deemed a success with CTR 10.5% higher than the industry average and 2.17% better than the NG average, showing a very high rate of engagement of the NG audience with the creative (along with a completion rate of 84% as of mid-

The association with National Geographic was well-perceived within AXA’s internal channels and the content was broadly used in local markets. Engagement with the campaign at a senior level was strong with the AXA Deputy CEO using one of the videos as the subject of a personal LinkedIn post.The three videos were the focal point of robust social media activation including videos, articles and infographics in multiple channels across 15 countries further enhancing the reach of the content and the audiences engaged. Additionally, the material’s internal and external activation will sustainably continue on AXA channel after the campaign.

In summary, the content created in collaboration with National Geographic was considered to have been an extremely useful tool to expand awareness of the work of the AXA Research Fund. Working with a brand that has a
worldwide reputation for storytelling not only guaranteed the quality of the work produced but allowed the AXA Research Fund to open up to a broader audience and achieve its goal of extending the awareness of its work.