CAMPAIGN: Dr Who regenerates to boost TV ratings

After handling its own publicity for the previous two series of BBC One’s Dr Who, the BBC decided to hire its first outside agency for the 2007 run.

Campaign Dr Who Series Three
Client BBC
PR Team Taylor Herring Public Relations
Timescale August 2006–June 2007
Budget Undisclosed

Taylor Herring was appointed following a four-way pitch with a brief to maintain the show’s strong position in the Saturday night TV ratings and bring new fans to the programme.

Objectives
To maintain the show’s profile amid a competitive prime-time Saturday evening TV audience. To promote ser­ies three of Dr Who among children and adults – particularly 16- to 30-year-olds. To boost the profile of the series’ stars, including its monsters.

Strategy and plan
Crucial to PR activity was to create a buzz ahead of, and during, the series, which aired between April and June 2007, and a Christmas Special screened in December 2006 guest starring Catherine Tate.

Taylor Herring treated the series as if it was a Hollywood blockbuster. First a red carpet preview of the first two episodes was staged at the Mayfair Hotel’s Crystal Room. Then, two weeks before the Christmas Special, a press screening with the show’s writer and executive producer Russell T Davies and its stars was staged.

As with a movie release, the stars of the show, in particular David Tennant, who plays The Doctor, and Freema Agyeman, who plays his new companion Martha Jones, were a key focus. Tennant even interviewed the Kaiser Chiefs for the NME.

Agyeman gave more than 100 interviews with tabloid newspapers and glossy women’s magazines. Online media interviewed both stars and a MySpace page was created for Martha Jones, which included a blog re-telling each episode from her point of view.

Measurement and evaluation
Print coverage included 30 national magazine covers, including the Radio Times and the Times T2 section, 150 interviews with cast members including Tennant and Agyeman and 60 int­erviews with behind the scenes staff.

Dr Who cast, technical staff and writers were interviewed around 30 times on TV and around 100 times on radio. Online coverage included a video interview with David Tennant on MSN and interviews with Agyeman on AOL and The Sun Online.

Agyeman’s print coverage included photo shoots in Glamour, In Style, Company and Marie Claire as well as interviews with The Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Star.

Interviews with Russell T Davies also appeared in, among others, The Sunday Telegraph’s Seven magazine and the Independent on Sunday.

Results
Evaluation by Taylor Herring found 99 per cent of all coverage to be positive and Doctor Who retained its high viewing figures from the first two series, averaging 7.5 million viewers over the 13-week run.

The climax of the series achieved the best ratings for a final episode of Doctor Who so far with more than 8.5 million viewers tuning in. Martha Jones’s MySpace page attracted 100,000 visitors.

SECOND OPINION...


Simon Avis
(l), head of communications, Entertainment Rights:
 
Cult television show Doctor Who has become a significant part of British culture. Therefore, you could argue the show’s mainstream popularity and ability to connect with a younger audience, as shown by the 2005 relaunch, means the brand cannot fail to attract viewers.

Taylor Herring had an enviable list of assets with which to work, such as a line-up of talent including David Tenant and newcomer Freema Agyeman and the staying power of a brand that is firmly established as ‘must see’ television.

This said, challenges still presented themselves. A rapidly declining TV market coupled with a high-profile relaunch for the first series meant Taylor Herring had to step it up a gear if it was to maintain interest.

Two things really stood out for me. A fantastic job was done leveraging the talent and thinking up angles to appeal to an incredibly diverse and wide-ranging media.

No genre was left untouched: even the music specialist and gay press were targeted, both of which had never covered the show in previous years. Using a life-size Dalek to stop the London traffic was a clever stunt too.

The real jewel in the crown was the digital component. What better way to create a buzz and reach out to an incredibly fickle younger generation than by creating a MySpace page for Martha Jones. 

The site allowed more than 100,000 users to connect with the show and its content off-air, creating a deeper and loyal brand connection.

Series three averaged 7.5m viewers over its 13-week run. After 44 years of time travel in the Tardis, Doctor Who is a long way off being exterminated. 

 

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