The unveiling of the Rover 75 last year was the most significant car
launch in the UK for some time. Rover’s owner, BMW, was not prepared to
support a failing brand and the future of its Longbridge plant was in
doubt. The 75 was billed as Rover’s ’last chance saloon’.
The PR launch, handled by Ketchum Life, and the first TV ads, by
Ammirati Puris Lintas , were timed to coincide with the first day that
the cars would be available to pick up from dealerships.
The PR agency was briefed to generate mass awareness and positive
coverage, which wasn’t easy as the launch had been extensively previewed
in the press.
APL’s TV, press and poster ads were based around the slogan of
’extraordinary drive’, which Ketchum adapted under the theme of great
British performance. The agency commissioned Dave Stewart to write a
piece of music incorporating 75 car horns. It was played on the launch
day by the violinist Vanessa Mae and trained musicians on the horns of
75 red, white and blue Rover 75s at the foot of Tower Bridge.
An estimated pounds 15 million was spent on advertising the Rover 75
from June, with around pounds 100,000 on the launch PR. NOP surveyed 500
car drivers and found pre-launch awareness of 7 per cent leapt to 51 per
cent after the event. Awareness among upmarket drivers was 63 per cent.
The event provided Rover’s first positive media exposure in months,
generating 23 national newspaper stories, 89 TV items, and extensive
radio and regional coverage.
Commercially, the launch was a success. Since June last year, the Rover
75 has outsold all other saloons in its class in the UK. The PR launch
was eye-catching, but told us nothing about the car. Tower Bridge and
the red, white and blue colour scheme reminded us of Rover’s
Britishness, while Dave Stewart added credibility to the event. But the
real achievement was generating positive coverage in a hostile media
Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s ’bet on black’ campaign for Guinness, which
features a snail race, broke on 2 December. The client was spending
pounds 5 million over three months on the advertising. To maximise
coverage, the Red Consultancy organised the Guinness Gastropod
Championship on 10 December at an Irish bar, the O’Conor Don, in London,
where competitors attempted to break the world 13-inch sprint record of
two minutes and 20 seconds.
The agency found Britain’s top snail trainer, Neil Riseborough, the
British Snail Racing Association president, and asked the racing pundit,
John McCririck, along to provide some commentary. The pretext for the
event was to lobby the sports minister, Kate Hoey, and the British
Olympic Association for official recognition of the sport, which Red
claims is enjoying an upsurge in popularity thanks to the Guinness
For a budget of pounds 10,000, the event generated seven items of
branded coverage in the national press, extensive regional press
coverage, including consecutive days in all editions of the Evening
Standard; five television items, including Newsroom SouthEast, London
Tonight, BBC News 24 and Newsround, which all filmed at the event;
features in Maxim and Front magazines and more than 40 radio interviews
The danger with organising events that have a life of their own is that
the event gets reported but the client doesn’t get a mention. Red
avoided this pitfall and ensured the tone of the event chimed with the
humour of the advertising. The coverage in Maxim and Front ensured the
message reached the ad’s 18-to 34-year-old target audience. Red failed
on one count, however. Snail racing is, tragically, still not an
officially recognised sport.
The task of marketing Open, which launched last year as the UK’s first
interactive TV channel, involved educating the end-user about the new
medium and the brand itself. Ogilvy & Mather was brought in to create
the ads and Consolidated Communications to handle consumer PR. Both
elements of the marketing were designed to convey the key messages that
Open makes life easier, particularly when it comes to shopping, banking
The first part of the PR campaign ran from May to August and involved
briefing consumer journalists on the medium and the brand before the 12
October launch date. The second step was to target regional media and
involved taking a 20-foot sofa around Britain’s shopping centres and
allowing shoppers to product-test the Open service.
On 12 October, Consolidated set up interviews with Open’s chief
executive and organised media product demonstrations. Two specially
commissioned reports were published: one comparing shoppers’ heart rates
while on Oxford Street and using Open at home, and another proving that
digital TV, not the internet, was the mass medium of the future.
To accompany the pounds 20 million adspend, Open spent around pounds
400,000 on PR for the launch. In the national media, Consolidated’s work
generated 115 national news items and 43 regional ones. The key
messages, however, did not always get across. Fifty per cent of national
media articles did not pick up on them. Though with broadcast and local
media, nearer 80 per cent of items actually explained what Open was.
Although Consolidated addressed the confusion around interactive TV and
the internet, it couldn’t single-handedlydispel it. But five stars to
the PR campaign for avoiding a glitzy, celebrity- studded launch for a
product which is, when all is said and done, a practical tool for the
When Channel 5 appointed Walsh Trott Chick Smith to its ad account 18
months ago, it was understood that any ads would have to work hard to
compete with Sky’s and the BBC’s much larger media budgets. The
broadcaster only spends between pounds 4 and pounds 5 million a year on
advertising, but Walsh Trott has worked closely with Channel 5’s
in-house PR team to ensure that the money goes a long way.
The ads are intended to be irreverent. When the channel moved its
evening news from 7pm to 6pm, trade and poster ads were rushed out
stating that Channel 5 news at 6pm would be repeated on ITV at 6.30pm.
And when Ruud Gullitt brought his sexy football to Newcastle, Walsh
Trott paid David Batty to have his head and upper body photoshopped on
to a pair of fishnet and suspender-clad legs.
Integral to the advertising’s success is that Channel 5’s marketers run
ads past the press office to check whether they can generate publicity
Last year Channel 5 was the only terrestrial station to grow its
audience share. It attracted 5.4 per cent of viewers in 1999 compared
with 4.3 per cent in 1998. There is no proof that the ads and their
associated PR coverage played a part in this growth, but awareness of
the channel is high given its size. The station has not measured the
column inches generated by the ads, but their success can be measured by
the fact that many became news stories in their own right.
The ads and the publicity generated for them successfully convey the
image of a ballsy, fast moving organisation. But brand awareness isn’t
everything. In order to tune in, viewers have to be told what’s on the
channel. The challenge for the in-house PR team was to ensure that
viewers find out what Channel 5 has to offer and, on the whole, it has