Making better on-box ads: The invention behind the Paramount+ campaigns

November 23, 2022 | By Dora Wang, Content Marketing Manager

SpongeBob SquarePants in OBA campaign

On-box ads, a form of on-package custom advertising created by Amazon Ads’ Brand Innovation Lab, go places where digital ads cannot. The Amazon delivery box provides a versatile advertising canvas that is both highly visible and mobile.

But how do on-box ad (OBA) campaigns go from conception to physical reality? Let’s go behind the scenes of two recent OBA campaigns for Paramount+ and introduce you to the tool that helped make them so successful.

Meeting new audiences with SpongeBob SquarePants and PAW Patrol

When Paramount+ launched in 2021, the streaming service wanted to find a way to drive visibility and awareness to help grow their audience. To do so, they got a little help from a certain friend who lives in a pineapple under the sea, SpongeBob SquarePants.

The Paramount+ launch OBA campaign brought SpongeBob SquarePants and a few friends to the 3D world with eye-catching designs on brightly colored Amazon boxes. The campaign also used Amazon Fresh bags as an additional form of on-package advertising, which were distributed across areas including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. The boxes and bags also displayed QR codes that enabled customers to watch full episodes from 11 different shows on the streaming service for free.

Later that year, when Paramount Pictures released PAW Patrol: The Movie simultaneously on streaming and in theaters, the brand once again looked to on-box ads to promote the film. For this OBA campaign, they wanted not only to generate awareness but also help customers get excited about the movie, which was based on the popular PAW Patrol television series produced by Spin Master Entertainment and broadcasted by Nickelodeon.

One side of the custom Amazon box featured colorful images of the PAW Patrol characters. Customers could not only look at the illustrations but also cut them out, prop them up, and play with them. Another side of the box showed a backdrop of Adventure City, the setting of the movie. This full scene helped bring to life the plot of the film and provide a more thorough introduction for newcomers who weren’t familiar with the original show.

PAW Patrol: The Movie in on-box ads
Custom landing page

A QR code on the side of the box, connected to a custom landing page that featured the movie trailer, information about the characters, and links to related products, once scanned.

Facilitating a “real world” design

“There’s constant collaboration with brands to ensure our on-box ad campaigns continue to provide the best customer experience through surprise and delight, keep our customers engaged when they see and receive our boxes, and help achieve the advertiser’s vision,” said Kate Kemp, INSITU inventor and Product Manager, Amazon Ads Brand Innovation Lab.

To bring these custom boxes and bags to life, Amazon Ads’ Brand Innovation Lab team needed a way to simulate how the packaging design would show up in the real world and allow for smoother communications across teams internally—including design, approvals, and printing—and with the advertiser.

“We wanted to go beyond trying to explain and understand how Amazon customers would truly experience the box via email and within the limitations of our ‘flat’ images,” Kemp explained. “We needed a tool that would showcase how the box changes when customers turn it, open and close it, or see it in different lighting.”

To solve this, Kemp envisioned a way to make campaign creation and reviews a more seamless process. She teamed up with Senior Design Technologists Scott Thiessen and Joe Brust, who designed and built the web application INSITU, which launched in January 2020.

Creating a better customer experience in both directions

With INSITU, designers can simulate the ads on boxes and bags to see what customers will experience when receiving them at home—INSITU users can rotate the box or bag, open and close the box, and even show it with packing tape. By doing so, they can ensure a quality customer experience where the art isn’t covered by the water adhesive tape or hard to see because it appears on a seam or corner of the box.

The INSITU web application even accounts for acceptable print offset. No printing process can be 100% perfect, so the printed design may be offset by a few millimeters. Even though this is a very small amount of variation, there is the risk that print offset could make images or words difficult to see or read on the box. INSITU simulates acceptable print offset, meaning designers can account for it during the creation process and prevent sending customers a box that doesn’t look good.

INSITU also improves the experience of our other customer, the advertisers themselves. Designers can use the web application to export images or video that show the advertiser the complete design, as well as different angles that show how the ad will appear on the box. Advertisers no longer have to imagine what the ad will look like on the box; they can see it right on their screens.

Positive campaign results with INSITU

The Paramount+ launch campaign was one of the earliest on-package advertising campaigns to use INSITU. Across the bag and box designs, the team went through a few iterations, and INSITU helped them easily preview the options to the advertiser. By using INSITU to simulate print offset, they ensured SpongeBob SquarePants showed up correctly across all their custom boxes and Amazon Fresh bags.

Paramount+ decided to use on-box ads for PAW Patrol: The Movie in part due to the success of the SpongeBob SquarePants campaign. With the additional functionality in this OBA design, it was crucial for Brand Innovation Lab to preview with INSITU and know that the character cutouts would show up correctly in print.

INSITU also improved the PAW Patrol Adventure City backdrop. “Originally we wanted to do a full-bleed design covering the entire side of the box,” said UX Motion Designer Alekhya Polina. “In the INSITU preview, we saw that print offset would make it look like the image was cut off.” To improve the visual experience for customers, the team added a frame to the design.

“We were very pleased at how well the creative turned out,” An Bui, Senior Marketing Manager at Paramount+, said about the PAW Patrol campaign. “The Amazon box was a great canvas that allowed us to showcase innovation and creativity while reaching our audience at scale. PAWsibly one of the cutest campaigns we've worked on!”

The capabilities of INSITU help make the on-box ads that customers see and hold just as eye-catching, interesting, and high-quality as Brand Innovation Lab has envisioned.

“We've been so excited to see these boxes out in the world, knowing that consumers are able to access the whole PAW Patrol universe both physically and streaming-ly with Paramount+ and Prime Video Channels!” said Amanda Garcia, Senior Director of Partnership Marketing at Paramount+. “I have never been cooler to my niece than during this campaign.”