PUBLIC RELATIONS: CAMPAIGN SPIN - Ensuring that your advertising stands out among the competition is no easy task. Juliette Garside looks at how PR has supported four different campaigns




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

with Riseborough.


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

and e-mail.

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

for them.


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

been successful.