Public Relations: Egg’s story - The resounding success of Egg’s launch was the result of a highly controlled PR exercise. Richard Lamballe on how it was achieved

The launch of Egg was an incredibly exciting project to work on.

The launch of Egg was an incredibly exciting project to work


High profile, a great client and plenty of news value. It was a launch

campaign that has already delivered 250,000 customers with pounds 3

billion in deposits.

Egg employed the services of a multi-agency mix to ensure that no

strategic or creative stone was left unturned. The PR mix included Bell

Pottinger’s First Financial (financial PR), Good Relations (consumer)

and EM.

EM is a division within HHCL & Partners and, as such, was an integral

part of the project team from the time that HHCL won the Egg


The benefits of working as part of the lead agency were obvious: an

ability to contribute and react quickly to strategic and creative


Our brief at EM boiled down to making the celebrity TV commercials and

print ads famous, hyping the launch campaign and building client


By law, there could be no media contact prior to the stock market

announcement on Monday 5 October 1998. Egg would open for business on

Sunday 11 October.

This gave us a strong but short window of opportunity.

As part of the HHCL project team, EM was involved in consulting on the

choice of celebrity, advising on what might make the commercial

newsworthy and what negative impact some choices might make. EM also

wrote the media access clause into all talent contracts, a fact that is

often overlooked in traditional advertising agencies.

Before the launch, The Mirror got a lead that Zoe Ball was starring in a

new ad for the Prudential. A journalist had stumbled on part of the

story by chance - but was not aware of the whole picture. Not only did

this threaten the impact of the launch activity, but we needed to keep

the brand name secret. By a process of fishing, we determined how much

he knew, how he found it out, who else knew about it, and what his

intentions were.

We got to use that immortal line, ’I can neither confirm nor deny that

Zoe Ball is the new man from the Pru’, and tried to convince the

journalist he didn’t have a story. We attempted to prevent him from

running the story with the offer of a full exclusive when the time was

right. Under pressure from his news editor, he remained unconvinced.

Plan B was to suggest that if he was going to go with a story we would

give it to The Sun with all the facts, which would have blown his scoop.

He was worried someone would break it before him and ran it anyway - but

the story was wrong. Egg enjoyed some teaser publicity and the powder

remained dry.

Due to the secrecy and legal restrictions surrounding the Egg launch, it

was impossible to invite the media on-set to interview Zoe Ball or

Linford Christie - a usual source of guaranteed pre-launch publicity.

But a unit publicist was at the shoot to take notes.

The press briefing materials were tailored for each publication and

photography and grabs were selected accordingly. Betas and VHS copies of

the ads were run off once they were approved to distribute to the media

and attempt to get broadcast freeplays.

The aim was to make sure that a blanket of publicity ran in the week

prior to launch, culminating in the weekend papers. City analysts and

finance journalists were briefed at a press conference conducted by

First Financial on Monday 5 October. Quite a feat considering that

journalists could not be invited until that morning.

We identified four areas of focus for the media relations campaign that

would supplement the financial PR activity: consumer media; consumer

marketing media; marketing trade media and general ad hype.

EM ensured there was no mention of the ads at the initial press

conference, holding them back so that the news pieces from the financial

journalists didn’t run with the celebrity photography.

There was more media interest in Zoe Ball than Linford Christie for

three reasons: the controversial elements of the script; it was her

first TV ad and she is an attractive female who sells newspapers.

The Sun was given an exclusive on Zoe Ball to run four days before the

ads broke, largely because 3.5 million Sun readers cannot be


Linford Christie was placed in The Mirror. Then the Egg story around

both celebrities was rolled out to the rest of the national press, news

wires and regional targets. The consumer marketing media - such as the

Media section of The Observer and of The Independent - were approached

with stories, including the launch day when the media strategy was

designed to ’own’ Sunday television.

Marketing, Marketing Week and Campaign were key EM audiences - as

industry publications they needed stories before the nationals as well

as different angles. The trade press is important, often acting as a

feeder to the nationals. But by offering them the celebrity pictures, it

might have jeopardised the core national publicity. As an alternative

the logo, visuals from the press advertising and grabs from break

bumpers were provided.

We looked to the creative idea within the celebrity commercials to

extend the impact of the advertising and create hype. It would have been

possible to go to extremes - the Daily Mail, for instance, wanted to run

a weekly column with a celebrity on the lie detector.

But it was decided that due to the overwhelming success of Egg, any such

activity was unnecessary.

The launch campaign as a whole was so successful that it infamously led

to delays in processing applications. Egg acted quickly and honestly

communicating to potential customers, admitting to ’unprecedented and

overwhelming’ demand while taking necessary action to turn this


Working with First Financial, Egg made every attempt to make sure that

people knew it had hired and trained extra staff to cope with the

demand. In three weeks, it cleared a three-week backlog and kept on

track with new customer applications.

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