November 10, 2022

VSA Partners Wins Multiple Graphis Advertising Awards

The Connections Academy campaign "Invite Knowledge In" received a Platinum award, the highest in the program

VSA Partners is thrilled to announce we received a Platinum, two Golds, and a Silver award in the 2023 Graphis Advertising Awards program.

The Platinum and two Gold awards went to three spots created as part of the “Invite Knowledge In” campaign for Pearson’s Connections Academy.

The Silver award was given to work performed for Affirm B2B’s “Turn Up the Volume” campaign.

VSA is honored to have received these accolades from the 2023 Graphis Advertising Awards program, and deeply grateful to the incredible team members who made it happen.

Read on below for a little more about each of the projects!

Connections Academy: Platinum, Gold Awards

Connections Academy is a tuition-free online educator. They came to us looking to elevate their brand from the sea of sameness that typifies the marketing in their industry–in so many words, “kids in front of screens.” The goal was straightforward: Increase brand awareness, recall, and favorability.

Connections Academy’s approach to online learning brings an inspiring curriculum directly into the homes of their students and their families. Taught by educators trained specifically in online learning, they really do “bring the lessons to life.”

So for our creative approach, that’s exactly what we did. In a series of films, we encouraged viewers to “invite knowledge in” by showing historical figures (symbolizing Connections Academy’s range of academic subjects) brought to life and dropped directly into the worlds of our students. From Cleopatra and Newton on a schoolbus, to a centaur in the hallway, to a medieval knight removing his shoes before heading inside, we created a visual landscape that drove home our clients’ point of difference, and stepped completely outside the creative conventions of the industry.

The finished work was unlike anything else in the category, and the clients were thrilled with the elevated and highly differentiated new look this work gave to the brand.

Graphis Advertising 2023 Platinum Award Winner

Graphis Advertising 2023 Gold Award Winner

Graphis Advertising 2023 Gold Award Winner

Affirm B2B: Silver Award

Affirm is a buy now, pay later (BNPL) platform that offers shoppers the option to pay for their purchases in installments, without the late fees, hidden charges, or fine print associated with credit cards. VSA Partners was engaged by Affirm to develop a B2B Campaign Platform and Integrated B2B Brand Identity that would target small-to-midsize, direct-to-consumer, e-commerce companies and drive adoption. While the B2B program had great numbers on its side (85% average order increase when using Affirm, 50% more conversions, and 7.2 million Affirm users), it lacked a cohesive brand expression system and a clear and unified point of view.

VSA was tasked with moving Affirm from a tactical marketing strategy to a holistic, compelling point of view. We needed to rally the brand around a “big idea,” and unify their marketing efforts into a cohesive platform that tied all their messaging together. To do so, we created an identity, messaging, branding, advertising, and a campaign platform that could be used across multiple channels to drive differentiation in the category. This assignment included the creation of a clear narrative as to why merchants should consider Affirm as their partner, a playbook for how this brand expression system could be carried out into future activations, and direct tie-ins to integrate this new brand system with the existing Affirm brand identity.

Affirm B2B needed a strong POV that could ladder down into multiple applications. It also had to hit the right tone—B2B marketing often suffers from a lack of personality and a feeling of inaccessibility. Considering that this work would target small businesses, our approach needed to buck the trend and instead exemplify warmth, kindness, and a pro-business attitude. It also needed to convert skeptics by positioning Affirm as a trustworthy, professional partner, without losing the bold and approachable personality Affirm is known for.

Our approach centered on educating potential merchants on the possibilities Affirm unlocks, as well as Affirm’s commitment to partnership and merchant success. We also leveraged Affirm’s unique competitive advantage, carrying the optimism, positivity, and energy that competitors lack through our messaging and brand expression.

The central campaign platform rallied around the cry to “Turn up the volume,” which emphasizes Affirm’s ability to increase conversions, customer love, and sales for businesses. This idea was carried out into the visual identity, key messaging, core assets, and a playbook for external and internal partners to work from. Throughout all the materials, we focused on infusing flexibility into our expression system, both in copy and design. The system itself is simple, but allows for a multitude of combinations and mediums. Every design element was thoughtfully crafted to symbolize growth, which builds in a cohesive story while still offering a range of options to the Affirm team. This interchangeability allows for messaging, imagery, and even graphics to easily be swapped in and out for each other—without losing the strong point of view.

The brand expression developed for the Affirm B2B team took the overarching brand identity and housed a new, dedicated expression beneath it that was well-suited for the target audience.

In messaging, we highlighted smart, approachable, optimistic, and bold as the target tones for all B2B branded assets. One manifestation of this tone is that rather than simply write out stats or RTBs, we look for clever, relevant, and novel ways to frame them. This approach was critical to leveraging the compelling statistics that Affirm B2B had about its user base and merchant success, and implementing them into the overall brand identity.

The selected typography straddles personality and functionality, bringing structure and clarity to our message without losing the Affirm touch.

Colors were carefully selected from the Affirm brand identity palette to build a dedicated Affirm B2B palette that felt warm, bold, and optimistic; and photo-editing was designated in line with the Affirm aesthetic, like harsh drop-shadows behind objects.

And, finally, the graphics symbolize various pillars of the Affirm brand. For example, the arch graphic speaks to the volume of sales, conversions, and customers in a playful way; the speech bubble highlights customer testimonials and quotes; and the wave graphic represents the upward mobility clients will see with Affirm, as well as the growth potential and allusion to volume of sales.

The final campaign platform for Affirm was launched across video, social, ebook, and more. We also provided Affirm with a playbook they could use for additional B2B campaigns and branding. VSA continues to apply this campaign wrapper across several B2B campaigns and communications for Affirm B2B; the playbook also offers Affirm guidance on how to leverage the system for their in-house team as well. Our new B2B campaign transformed the way they go to market, and gave them a compelling new value proposition—plus all the tools they needed to bring it to life.

Graphis Advertising 2023 Silver Award Winner