Oui Marketing creates its first international campaign for the British Council


On behalf of the British Council, Oui Marketing is rolling out a global multi-channel communications campaign in some 20 countries on 5 continents. Entitled There Are 1001 Ways to Speak English (portfolio), the campaign marks the 25th anniversary of the IELTS, the world’s leading English test, and targets international students seeking entry into English-language universities, and candidates for immigration to English-speaking countries.

First international campaign for Oui Marketing

Oui Marketing has been working with the British Council in Canada since 2013, first on launching the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) then on developing the brand. Last June, the British Council invited Oui Marketing to enter its competition for a global campaign to promote the IELTS, and the agency won handily, beating out a number of major international players.

It is Oui Marketing’s first international campaign. "We’re especially proud to have won this competition against agencies that are far more experienced in this kind of international sparring," said Oui Marketing President David Proulx. "Montreal has the advantage of being steeped in a mixture of European and American culture, and it’s perhaps this dual sensibility that makes our approach to international and cultural issues so relevant."

A global concept and a multi-channel campaign

First challenge: to put to bed the idea that the IELTS is a British test intended only for international students and potential immigrants to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. With over 2.2 million tests taken per year, the IELTS is the leading English test in the world, and is accepted by most institutions in the USA. Its success is built on the quality of the methodology used to assess candidates' abilities to read, write, understand and speak English, a methodology recognized by the most prestigious universities in the world.

To reinforce this leadership, Oui Marketing has devised a global communication concept entitled There Are 1001 Ways to Speak English, which, through 13 portraits of test takers from around the world, emphasizes the uniqueness of the English language and the multiple ways to interpret it, and, in doing so, shows English to be a true medium of exchange. "We really wanted to play down the differences in accents that can often hinder test takers by presenting them as an asset to the English language and by making command of English a gateway to a world of opportunities," said Oui Marketing Vice President Strategy, Charles‑-Loïc  Danan. "By positioning the IELTS at the heart of the English language’s universality, we’re reaffirming its leadership in the world, the United States included."

The approach developed gradually in the course of a series of focus groups conducted in some of the IELTS’s key markets worldwide. The focus groups confirmed assumptions and revealed new insights—among them that the most resonant common denominator in the campaign was accents.

To create the campaign, Oui Marketing called on Rodéo Productions and the well-known photography duo Leda & St-Jacques. The pair took 13 portraits of test takers in traditional outfits to accentuate their ties to their countries of origin, but its distinctly modern take suggested the energy of youth ready to spread its wings.

The campaign will play out in some 20 countries with a multi-channel package (display, print and digital campaign) and will mainly target students applying to prestigious international universities that require a good IELTS score. Prior to rolling out its multi-channel campaign, Oui Marketing geotargeted pools of test takers to identify the principal key markets.