Media: Strategy Analysis - Public answer emergency police call

Brand: Home Office - Police Community Support Officers
Clients: Chris Kirby, Lynn Fidler, Richard Bowdery, Home Office
Marketing
Brief: Raise awareness among the public about the role of PCSOs within
the wider police family and how they benefit the community. Encourage
quality candidates to apply to become PCSOs
Target audience: Potential PCSOs and the general public
Budget: Undisclosed

AGENCIES
Media: Andrew Mortimer, David Bratt, Manning Gottlieb OMD
Creative: M&C Saatchi
PR: Blue Rubicon

STRATEGY

The campaign for Police Community Support Officers faced difficult challenges. The media's response to PCSOs was scathing. In addition, recruits had yet to reach visible mass. This was an opportunity to redress the balance, while also ensuring the best-quality applicants.

The brief was to achieve greater awareness and understanding of the role. Research by Manning Gottlieb OMD, however, found that awareness was high and understanding good. The problem was "value"; while many felt PCSOs to be a good idea, the majority were either ambivalent, or considered them cheap/sub-standard policing.

Research from local forces and MG OMD indicated that when PCSOs and the public came into contact, it created a positive impression. However, only 10 per cent of the public had experienced PCSOs first hand. Further research proved that the greater the contact, the greater the value placed on PCSOs, and the greater the value created, the easier it was to recruit. MG OMD's solution was to use communication to re-create this direct contact, and so increase value. The strategy was to "create virtual experiences that bring the PCSOs and community together".

EXECUTION

- AFP: While advertising could play a huge role, MG OMD felt that true value could only be created with deeper virtual experiences in editorial environments. At the heart of this was advertiser-funded TV. Working with MG OMD Fuse and ITV, six episodes of Beat: Life on the Street were aired on ITV1.

- PR: The programme was leveraged through PR, with Blue Rubicon securing coverage in listings titles and local media, taking the stars of the show into local TV, press and radio, as well as live webchats on ITV.com. Content will also be turned into DVDs for potential recruits.

- TV: Broadscale media's role was to accelerate delivery of experiences to the 90 per cent who had not come into contact with PCSOs. Communication was planned around environments that talk about social issues, both real (ie. Tonight with Trevor McDonald) and fictional (ie. Coronation Street).

- Press: Press advertising and PR in local media was used extensively. Case studies were placed in newspapers, and Featurelink was used to highlight the benefits of PCSOs, supported with call-to-action advertising. Radio DJs went out on the beat with PCSOs and ads were targeted around local news. Outdoor was used in areas where recruitment needs were highest - targeting those streets that PCSOs might patrol.

RESULTS

The response has been impressive. The first dip of tracking (before AFP) recorded 51 per cent awareness for TV advertising and 58 per cent overall campaign awareness. Measures of the public's perceptions of PCSOs have improved dramatically. "Beat" has been watched by more than 2.5 million viewers per episode and created seven times the audience value of standard airtime for an equivalent price. Finally, midway through the campaign, 33,120 application packs have been requested, beating the year one target within two months.

THE VERDICT - Mick Rigby, managing partner, Monkey

Anyone prepared to allow a potential competitor to critique their work must not only believe in it, but also risk seeing it shot down in flames, because the reviewer couldn't see how clever it was. So let me get this out of the way: well done to all involved. Like any reviewer, I'm doing this without all the facts, but I think this is a great campaign.

It's always difficult to get a true grasp of the challenges a planning team faces when working on this kind of proposal. Beyond the need to show the value of PCSOs, there are few insights on offer. We don't know if the client was totally collaborative, or how open-minded the other agencies were to the central ideas.

But this is clearly a well-layered campaign, using each medium to its strengths, as well as embracing (oft talked about, but rarely executed) non-conventional activity, such as advertiser-funded programming. It also adopts many engagement-planning ideas, with relevance, interaction and a real emphasis on bringing the whole story to life - all strong principles I wholeheartedly endorse.

It's good to see the PR agency playing an important and effective role, too. In fact, all evidence points to an extremely well-integrated effort. One aspect I particularly liked was the way the TV shows were leveraged. Turning them into DVDs and giving them to potential recruits stretched the investment very well.

The use of social environment TV ad space is great, but maybe they could have added more resonance to the big programmes by tying the copy into the environment - perhaps along the lines of adding a specific reference to the show using the end frames, or bringing a localised element into the TV campaign.

The resultant numbers look impressive, but I'd like to know how many PCSOs have signed up since the campaign started. I'd also be interested to see if the public has fostered a more positive impression of PCSOs, and whether or not the "value" monitor increased significantly.

But, in short, nice one. An awful lot of thought and hard work has clearly gone into this. It's no surprise the results are very strong.

Incidentally, my brother phoned this morning to tell me he's just got a new job - as a PCSO. Now what are the chances of that happening?

SCORE: 5 out of 5.

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