CAMPAIGNS: Lomond Audi turns showroom into gallery - Consumer PR

Campaign: Rolf Harris reveals all for Audi Client: Lomond Audi PR team: Clayton Graham Communications Timescale: October-November 2003 Budget: Within agency retainer plus £2,000 event costs

Car dealership Lomond Audi is in the process of building the world's largest Audi showroom at Braehead in Scotland. The £15m Audi Experience Centre is due to open in June 2004, and 90 per cent of the Scottish population will be able to reach it by car within an hour. The centre aims to offer more than a conventional car dealership, and will be a venue for art exhibitions, fashion shows and film premieres.

Objectives

To inform the media and the target audience about the new Audi Experience Centre by giving them a taste of what it would offer. To establish the link between Lomond Audi and the arts. To bring customers into the Lomond Audi showroom and generate sales.

Strategy and Plan

As part of its planning and research into events to hold at the new centre, Lomond Audi's retained agency, Clayton Graham Communications, developed a relationship with Glasgow art dealer Park Gallery as a long-term partner for the new initiative.

Art and Audi were deemed to work well together, not only due to the light and space a car showroom can offer exhibitions, but also because the car brand is targeting the same high-income customers as art galleries.

The plan involved Park Gallery holding an exhibition of artists such as Mackenzie Thorpe and Lawrence Coulson in the new centre. But the gallery had been planning to host a new exhibition of Rolf Harris's work, including a £50,000 original that had never been displayed before. So, as a taster for what visitors could expect from the new Audi Experience Centre, the PR team convinced the gallery to hold the Rolf Harris exhibition at the existing Lomond Audi showroom in November.

The whole event had to be put together in just over a month, with help from Park Gallery and its backers, who produced marketing materials including banners and glossy brochures.

The exhibition took place over the weekend of 22 and 23 November, with a VIP preview evening on the Friday before. The PR team sent out invitations to key Audi and Park Gallery clients. Press packs including releases about the exhibition and the new centre, as well as a brochure and an invitation to the preview evening, were sent out to the national and local press, motoring and arts publications, such as Homes and Interiors Scotland, Auto Express and Scots Autoscene, plus broadcast media.

As the VIP opening coincided with the night of Children in Need, the PR team organised an auction to raise money for charity Cash for Kids.

The auction lots included a limited edition Rolf Harris print and tickets for an exclusive meeting with the artist in London at the official UK launch of his collection.

In order to demonstrate the showroom's acoustics, the PR team arranged an opera performance by members of the Naked Opera group.

Measurement and Evaluation

The event attracted media attention in a range of national and local publications, including The Scotsman and Glasgow's Evening Times, plus art and motoring publications. The exhibition was also covered in publications that Lomond Audi had previously been unable to reach, such as the Uptown lifestyle magazine for Scotland and the North East of England.

The event garnered a number of mentions on radio stations, including BBC Radio Scotland, QFM and Clyde 1.

All press and broadcast coverage was positive and mentioned the new Audi Experience Centre.

Results

The PR campaign had a direct effect on the bottom line for the dealership, as Lomond Audi's sales manager reported sales had increased by 40 per cent during the weekend of the exhibition. Sales were also up by a similar percentage the following weekend as people who had visited the exhibition returned to buy cars.

The auction raised £2,500 for Cash for Kids and almost all the paintings on display were snapped up, with 26 being bought over the weekend - Park Gallery's most successful exhibition launch to date.

With the blueprint for a successful art exhibition in place, Lomond Audi plans at least two more art exhibitions before next summer, plus a launch event for the new centre.

'The exhibition in a car showroom was certainly of interest to us as a story, particularly as Rolf Harris is rarely in Scotland,' said BBC Scotland Arts Show producer Mark Crossan.

Scots Autoscene managing editor Tony Wood agreed: 'Dealerships are usually quite dead spaces, but can easily be used for exhibitions, parties etc, which is why we covered the event,' he said. 'Everything put together by the PR team made it a nice story, and they were very helpful throughout.'

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