Media: Strategy Analysis - Did First Choice's 'supernova' work?

Brand: First Choice

Client: Sam Turnbull, UK marketing director

Brief: Raise brand awareness and reposition First Choice for all holiday

needs, while driving footfall through stores and customers to the


Target audience: BC1 adults with families

Budget pounds: 4 million


Media: Walker Media

Creative: Phoenix

Sponsorship: SPP

STRATEGY The conventions of travel advertising dictate an up-weight at the turn of the year, with television and national press selling a free children's place or 50 per cent discounts.

Walker Media felt that the leading protagonists in this "face off" were simply neutralising each other's investments in a market that is changing dramatically, as the internet becomes a mainstream medium and retail destination.

Front-of-mind awareness and trust become even more important to established brands in this sector. But beyond this, First Choice needed to find a media solution that would drive traffic to its high- street outlets, to its website, and finally its call centre. It also wanted to find a vehicle that was capable of demonstrating the breadth of offering, from cruises to flights, available through First Choice.

A multi-tiered, multimedia communication strategy at a national level to the mass market, with traditional creative solutions, would have been cost-prohibitive. Broadcast sponsorship, of the third and fourth series of I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!, was seen to be a vehicle with many potential applications, capable of providing "stereo sound with a mono investment".


PTV sponsorship The sponsor idents used families of animals in a jungle environment to act as mouthpieces for First Choice to promote its range of holidays. Viewers could vote via the red button, online, via phone and SMS. All responses were branded: "Sponsored by First Choice."

PPress A joint promotion was developed with a specially created DVD, which was designed to be marketed after the series via retailers and an insert in The Sun newspaper.

PIn-store The animals theme was carried through online and into the shops, where all 320 First Choice shop and hypermarket windows were dressed in the jungle theme. In the stores, there was jungle foliage, tapes of jungle sounds, and programme references on the in-store plasma screens.

There were eight prizes of a trip to the Australian jungle for both First Choice staff and consumers. Money-off prizes and promotions via SMS for redemption in-store were also offered. Store managers created their own Bushtucker Trials and Australia Day celebrations for their customers in-store.

POnline Web pages on the official programme site featured direct links through to the First Choice site. Characters within the break-bumpers are being used as part of First Choice's ongoing online presence.


Of regular viewers, 31 per cent were spontaneously aware of the sponsorship, with a total awareness figure of 74 per cent. Some 72 per cent of viewers thought that First Choice was a "very good fit" with I'm a Celebrity and 68 per cent enjoyed the way it was shown.

More than 1.4 million people voted interactively and there were 3.5 million branded "bounce-back" messages. More than 28,000 people entered the holiday competition.

Referrals to from accounted for 15 per cent of traffic to the First Choice website.

Hall & Partners said the campaign has resulted "in a good level of improvement for the brand, and it is now in the healthiest position we have seen to date".

THE VERDICT - Jon Gittings strategic communications director, Manning Gottlieb OMD

After four series of I'm a Celebrity ... I've yet to make it through a full episode. I love the idea of C-listers mating with jungle grubs in a bid to reinvent themselves, but somehow I never acquiesced. Maybe the Bushtucker Trials just weren't tough enough. A genuine threat to life would have helped.

First Choice, however, saw it differently and became the proud sponsor of the past two series. The cache and synergies must have made it a mouth-watering prospect. Applause must go to First Choice for making the leap in such a convention-heavy market. Having recently unified all of its brands, a property of this scale and fame seems a smart decision.

The timing of series three allowed it to launch the year with fun, energy and differentiation. It caught the programme at its peak and got lucky with the casting. The integration applied from online to the high street also looks well executed. However, I would question the claim of being "virtually unique"; more a case of good practice. Another benefit must be the effect on First Choice employees. I can imagine they felt good about being part of the Celebrity phenomenon.

A few niggles: did it sustain the impact beyond the transmission window?

In many ways, Celebrity is a media supernova ... it burns fast and bright but fades quickly. The tracking is impressive but expected, and ultimately doesn't tell me much. I would prefer evidence of financial payback, immediate and long-term.

The package holiday model is fairly knackered and the market demands more flexibility and agility. Does Celebrity root it too firmly in one place at one time? Is around 60 per cent of its annual budget too much?

Niggles become misgivings with a rescheduled series four. Banking pre-Christmas ratings made commercial sense for ITV, but none for First Choice.

It's too late for decent winter sun business, too early for 2005; and expecting to regain the Celebrity momentum post-Christmas is optimistic.

The show depends on the talent, so until the next series, there is little left for First Choice to exploit but the name itself. As a result, its current "Get Me Out of Here Giveaway" looks borrowed rather than owned.

SCORE: 3/5.