CAMPAIGNS: Events PR - Anti-racism ad speaks out for itself

Client: Commission for Racial Equality (CRE)

Client: Commission for Racial Equality (CRE)

PR Team: CRE, Euro RSCG, The Mill and RSA Films

Campaign: Would I ...

Timescale: 18 months prior to December 2000

Budget: material costs

Though not actually a PR campaign, the reaction to the CRE's latest anti-racism advertising campaign - 'Would I ...' - has been massive and has created a PR story of its own.

The CRE in-house department has been inundated with phonecalls and e-mails from parties interested in the strategy behind the ad and requests to use the campaign within other organisations.

The ad takes a handful of celebrities and, using state-of-the-art technology, morphs their features and changes their skin colour to transform them into a different race.

So, Lennox Lewis becomes white and Chris Evans becomes black, uttering the words 'Would I be more annoying?'.

It is a clever concept that highlights the importance of racial diversity while undermining racial prejudice.



Objectives

To generate discussion about race issues, while avoiding a preaching tone.

To ensure that the ad campaign story gained full impact upon its launch.

To encourage media owners and other organisations to give free exposure to the campaign.



Strategy and Plan

In the past the CRE's advertising has inspired reaction right across society. Since Saatchi & Saatchi began providing free advertising services for the charity, which has little funding to spare on ads, it has created controversial campaigns that inject humour into a very serious topic.

The idea is to create something provocative that gets people talking comfortably about a difficult subject. When Euro RSCG took on the account in 1997 both the agency and the CRE were keen to continue in this vein.

'Would I ...' was 18 months in development and production. The ad agency sought out celebrities who would participate and contacted their agents.

However, somebody leaked the story to the press. In November 1999, The Daily Express ran a splash that showed doctored images of celebrities, including a mock-up of an Asian Kate Moss. Subsequently, the rest of the media hounded the CRE, requesting information about the campaign. It refused their demands, explaining it didn't want to lessen the impact of the ad campaign prior to its launch.

The ad was first screened on 1 December 2000. The media was briefed the previous day.

On 30 November the CRE held its 'Race in the media' awards reception at 11 Downing Street, hosted by Gordon Brown. The awards' aim is to raise the profile of the need of the media to perform better in a multicultural and multiracial society. Actors and businesspeople also attended the event.

The ad was shown and received enthusiastic applause.

The CRE contracted broadcast specialists APTN to produce a video news release. This was made available to broadcast newsrooms via the BT tower.

Post-production company The Mill created a broadcast quality downloadable version of the ad on its website.



Measurement and Evaluation

All the national media covered the story, including a splash in The Mirror.

TV news bulletins showed the ad across the UK.

The CRE website has received thousands of additional hits since the launch of the campaign.

Media owners have given the ad free primetime airtime.

Businesses, councils, town halls, local authorities and college course directors want to use the film.



Results

Chris Evans has since opened a debate on Virgin Radio, asking listeners to his Breakfast Show to vote for whether he should be interviewed in his own home by OK! magazine about his participation in the CRE campaign.

Though the CRE doesn't want credit for the publicity surrounding the ad's launch - due to what it says is the strength of the campaign on its own - it irrefutably made an excellent job of dealing with a tricky subject in a unique way.



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