Campaigns case study: Day to remember for fans of Bowie

The Outside Organisation was charged with announcing David Bowie's first album for a decade, The Next Day, after it was made in complete secrecy.

Next objective: David Bowie is flanked by actress Tilda Swinton (left) and model Andrej Pejić in one of his launch videos
Next objective: David Bowie is flanked by actress Tilda Swinton (left) and model Andrej Pejić in one of his launch videos
Campaign    The Next Day
Client           David Bowie
PR team      The Outside Organisation
Timescale    January 2013
Budget        Less than £10,000


Objectives
  •  To relaunch Bowie’s music career
  •  To set up the release of the album and its first single Where Are We Now? in the UK media without revealing its existence in advance


Strategy and plan
Agency founder Alan Edwards was asked by Bowie’s team to travel to New York for a meeting, where he was given just a few days to plan for the launch of the first single on 8 January, Bowie’s 66th birthday. The single would be going up on iTunes at just after 5am UK time, while the video for the new single would be posted on Bowie’s official website.

Bowie stressed he would not be doing any promotion other than appearing in videos, including no interviews, with secrecy ahead of the launch of the utmost importance. Even within the PR agency only Edwards, special projects director Julian Stockton – who works on the Bowie account – and MD Megan Carver were aware of what was to happen. 

The team was keen to present Bowie as a modern renaissance man. Instead of running a major media relations campaign, the team selected carefully a list of key media people including Caitlin Moran, Jonathan Ross and GQ editor Dylan Jones. An email was sent to those on the list the night before the launch, telling them to set their alarm clocks for 5am.

Conversations were held with high-level contacts on an off-the-record basis, revealing nothing specific about what would actually happen the following morning. This included persuading Sky News presenter Kay Burley that the story was important enough to warrant top billing at 6am the following morning without revealing what the story was about.  An off-the-record conversation with the head of BBC Vision secured a slot on BBC Breakfast.

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme was seen as pivotal to setting the news agenda and ensuring the release was seen as far more than an album launch. A contact in the team – known to be a huge Bowie fan – was also told that something big would be happening at 5am, and at 7.25am the release was not only reported on, it was played. The release was backed by social media, with an announcement made on The Outside Organisation’s Twitter account and Bowie’s Facebook page.

Measurement and evaluation
The story was covered in all UK national newspapers, including The Financial Times and on the front page of The Independent. There were multiple page pieces in The Sun and Daily Mirror, among others. Other coverage included Sky News, BBC News, ITN and Channel 4 News. The launch was also mentioned in the Houses of Parliament.

Results
The Next Day is the UK’s biggest-selling album of the year to date, with the ann­ouncement getting 104,000 likes on Bowie’s official Facebook page. The campaign has been shortlisted for a PRWeek Award in the Culture, Media and Sport category.

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