Public Relations: Egg’s story - The resounding success of Egg’s launch was the result of a highly controlled PR exercise. Richard Lamballe on how it was achieved
By RICHARD LAMBALLE who works at EM, a div, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 02 April 1999 12:00AM
The launch of Egg was an incredibly exciting project to work on.
The launch of Egg was an incredibly exciting project to work
High profile, a great client and plenty of news value. It was a launch
campaign that has already delivered 250,000 customers with pounds 3
billion in deposits.
Egg employed the services of a multi-agency mix to ensure that no
strategic or creative stone was left unturned. The PR mix included Bell
Pottinger’s First Financial (financial PR), Good Relations (consumer)
EM is a division within HHCL & Partners and, as such, was an integral
part of the project team from the time that HHCL won the Egg
The benefits of working as part of the lead agency were obvious: an
ability to contribute and react quickly to strategic and creative
Our brief at EM boiled down to making the celebrity TV commercials and
print ads famous, hyping the launch campaign and building client
By law, there could be no media contact prior to the stock market
announcement on Monday 5 October 1998. Egg would open for business on
Sunday 11 October.
This gave us a strong but short window of opportunity.
As part of the HHCL project team, EM was involved in consulting on the
choice of celebrity, advising on what might make the commercial
newsworthy and what negative impact some choices might make. EM also
wrote the media access clause into all talent contracts, a fact that is
often overlooked in traditional advertising agencies.
Before the launch, The Mirror got a lead that Zoe Ball was starring in a
new ad for the Prudential. A journalist had stumbled on part of the
story by chance - but was not aware of the whole picture. Not only did
this threaten the impact of the launch activity, but we needed to keep
the brand name secret. By a process of fishing, we determined how much
he knew, how he found it out, who else knew about it, and what his
We got to use that immortal line, ’I can neither confirm nor deny that
Zoe Ball is the new man from the Pru’, and tried to convince the
journalist he didn’t have a story. We attempted to prevent him from
running the story with the offer of a full exclusive when the time was
right. Under pressure from his news editor, he remained unconvinced.
Plan B was to suggest that if he was going to go with a story we would
give it to The Sun with all the facts, which would have blown his scoop.
He was worried someone would break it before him and ran it anyway - but
the story was wrong. Egg enjoyed some teaser publicity and the powder
Due to the secrecy and legal restrictions surrounding the Egg launch, it
was impossible to invite the media on-set to interview Zoe Ball or
Linford Christie - a usual source of guaranteed pre-launch publicity.
But a unit publicist was at the shoot to take notes.
The press briefing materials were tailored for each publication and
photography and grabs were selected accordingly. Betas and VHS copies of
the ads were run off once they were approved to distribute to the media
and attempt to get broadcast freeplays.
The aim was to make sure that a blanket of publicity ran in the week
prior to launch, culminating in the weekend papers. City analysts and
finance journalists were briefed at a press conference conducted by
First Financial on Monday 5 October. Quite a feat considering that
journalists could not be invited until that morning.
We identified four areas of focus for the media relations campaign that
would supplement the financial PR activity: consumer media; consumer
marketing media; marketing trade media and general ad hype.
EM ensured there was no mention of the ads at the initial press
conference, holding them back so that the news pieces from the financial
journalists didn’t run with the celebrity photography.
There was more media interest in Zoe Ball than Linford Christie for
three reasons: the controversial elements of the script; it was her
first TV ad and she is an attractive female who sells newspapers.
The Sun was given an exclusive on Zoe Ball to run four days before the
ads broke, largely because 3.5 million Sun readers cannot be
Linford Christie was placed in The Mirror. Then the Egg story around
both celebrities was rolled out to the rest of the national press, news
wires and regional targets. The consumer marketing media - such as the
Media section of The Observer and of The Independent - were approached
with stories, including the launch day when the media strategy was
designed to ’own’ Sunday television.
Marketing, Marketing Week and Campaign were key EM audiences - as
industry publications they needed stories before the nationals as well
as different angles. The trade press is important, often acting as a
feeder to the nationals. But by offering them the celebrity pictures, it
might have jeopardised the core national publicity. As an alternative
the logo, visuals from the press advertising and grabs from break
bumpers were provided.
We looked to the creative idea within the celebrity commercials to
extend the impact of the advertising and create hype. It would have been
possible to go to extremes - the Daily Mail, for instance, wanted to run
a weekly column with a celebrity on the lie detector.
But it was decided that due to the overwhelming success of Egg, any such
activity was unnecessary.
The launch campaign as a whole was so successful that it infamously led
to delays in processing applications. Egg acted quickly and honestly
communicating to potential customers, admitting to ’unprecedented and
overwhelming’ demand while taking necessary action to turn this
Working with First Financial, Egg made every attempt to make sure that
people knew it had hired and trained extra staff to cope with the
demand. In three weeks, it cleared a three-week backlog and kept on
track with new customer applications.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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