Media: Strategy Analysis - Codes, clues and rich-media monks

Brand: Eurostar
Client: Vicki Anstey, advertising and media manager, Eurostar
Brief: Use the global partnership with The Da Vinci Code to increase
UK-based leisure trips to Paris
Target audience: Londoners with an interest in The Da Vinci Code
Budget: £1.3 million

Media: Jenny Howard and Cordelia Muir, Vizeum
Creative: Ben Wilkinson and Michael Stern, TBWA\London
Brand experience: Alex Shepherd, Space
Online creative: Serena Nutting, glue London
Online media: Michelle Pearson, Diffiniti
Website development: Dan Douglas, Deconstruct


The Eurostar team's key challenge in the leisure market is increasing the volume of trips between London and Paris. There is no need to encourage people who are already travelling to Paris by Eurostar.

The aim must be to expand the total market and find ways to encourage people to return to the city they have already "ticked off", or which they have never got around to visiting again.

The global partnership with Sony and the film The Da Vinci Code provided the perfect opportunity for Eurostar to piggyback the hype and capitalise on the reinvigorated interest in a different side to Paris.

The fact that Dan Brown's best-selling book was the item most frequently handed into Eurostar's lost property offices suggested the potential sales effect of the partnership.

However, Eurostar needed to capitalise on this phenomenon in a way that would differentiate and create stand-out for the brand.

The strategy was to take all the mystery, intrigue, clues and code-cracking of the film and translate them into an actual experience for people. The team would develop the ultimate quest for the ultimate prize, which would follow a trail across Paris via a series of fiendish clues and codes.

The clues would require Robert Langdon-style skills and determination to crack them.

As they tried to solve the quest, people would also be discovering new aspects of Paris, thus helping push it to the top of their consideration list for that next weekend away, as well as creating and deepening a relationship with Eurostar.


A microsite with the unbranded URL was designed to maximise curiosity and intrigue. Requiring people to register enabled the capture of valuable data for relationship marketing purposes at a later date.

The challenge was to get as many people as possible to join the quest.

Media were used to deliver the first clue and solving the series of codes and puzzles wouldreveal the URL.

- Online: Rich-media monks beckoned people to follow them through a series of fictional websites before revealing the purpose of the quest. Screensavers were created that looked as though the URL had managed to infiltrate the screen like a virus.

- Outdoor: Tube car panels sat in pairs with the URL upside down or coded for people to puzzle over on their journeys.

- Ambient: Actors dressed as monks and wore sandwich boards while chalking the URL on pavements across London. Polaroids were "accidentally" dropped in bars and cafes around London with the URL scribbled across the middle. Coffee-cup wraps appeared with the URL scribbled across as if in Biro.

- Press: Metro handed out 100,000 mini tile puzzles to solve on the morning commute, while folding the paper's pages or lifting them up to the light revealed the URL.

- TV/cinema: After the various clues had aroused curiosity, a concentrated burst of TV and cinema spots screened before The Da Vinci Code helped people relate all the clues back to the Eurostar quest.


The campaign is still running but it has already smashed its unique-user target, with 630,000 people visiting the site in the UK. It is early days in terms of sales, but the first week of the campaign coincided with a 7.5 per cent year-on-year increase in weekly revenue for the Paris route.

THE VERDICT - Mark Holden executive planning director, PHD

If you view this from the angle of our industry, it is likely to be seen as a great case-study that demonstrates integration around a big idea.

Judged, however, from the perspective of an investment-minded outsider, it could be seen as a poor marketing investment.

So which view is correct? Perhaps it should be reviewed from both angles.

Let's start with the industry view: this is a great example of a modern piece of communications planning, where agencies have collaborated to create a big idea. This has then been communicated through innovative and impactful media experiences. This groundswell of awareness was then linked to the film in cinemas, resulting in an impressive 630,000 unique users to the site.

OK, now for the view from an investor: the most impressive element of this campaign is the link with The Da Vinci Code, but this was already in the brief. The thing the agencies added was a treasure-hunt competition.

But this kind of promotion is unlikely to have sufficient consideration-weight to encourage enough people to book a break in Paris. It might be enough to affect the choice of confectionery product, but not a several-hundred-pound decision. And it appears that much of the money available for communicating this promotion was invested in high-cost-per-thousand channels, which the task did not justify.

Moreover, a lot of the channels ran without any Eurostar branding. Are we sure that the value of this space was successfully attributed back to the brand? As for results, how many unique users came there via the Eurostar homepage? Anyway, surely unique users is not the criterion for judging success?

So which view is correct? Sam Dias of OMD Metrics draws a parallel using the language of fund managers as they build a portfolio of shares based on different categories of risk. You might, for example, invest 10 per cent of your money in high-risk shares, where there is a chance of a significant upside. Perhaps this activity should be considered a high-risk investment alongside the ongoing low-risk media activity that Eurostar runs. From that perspective, it's not bad, but it ain't no Leonardo da Vinci.

Score: 3 out of 5.

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