A good advertising campaign sticks in the mind. You see it, you remember it, and its narrative or creative element becomes a cultural reference point.
But the advent of YouTube and consumer generated content means people want to see behind the modern-day ad, and the PR industry is taking advantage. Savvy companies are finding ways to package ‘the story behind the ad’ as editorially viable content. If done well, everybody wins. The company gains coverage for its product via independent editorial, and the ad agency takes a bow at the front of stage rather than just in the pages of Campaign.
Take the four case studies on these pages as examples. They all had stories in the press about their creation. But the hype surrounding these was no accident. PR is key to creating a well-loved ad, and if allowed into the creative process early, it really can make people’s ads famous.
Nick Dudley Williams, director at The Media Foundry, says fame brings awards and drives sales: ‘If ads are award-winning and selling products, businesses grow, marketing budgets increase and everyone’s happy.’
As clients try to squeeze everything out of their advertising budgets, PR is only going to become more important, says Graham Goodkind, chairman and founder of Frank PR. Advertising agencies are starting to realise this, but there are still ad agencies that come up with an idea, give it to PR agencies and say ‘promote that’, explains Goodkind. However, recent successes are becoming hard to ignore.
One of the first ads to make headlines was the infamous ‘Hello Boys’
Wonderbra ad in the 1990s. Eva Herzigova’s pneumatic cleavage led to reports of car crashes around the billboard ads. The notion that an ad could be the story took off from there, and PROs have been refining the process ever since.
Karina Wilsher is MD and managing partner of advertising agency Fallon, the agency behind some of the most talked-about ads in recent years – the Sony Bravia ads, and Cadbury’s drumming gorilla.
‘Traditionally, the ad has been an end in itself,’ she says, ‘but now you can create a ripple effect, which could be the beginning or part of a much bigger campaign.’
Do not make the mistake of thinking amplifying an ad is easy, explains The Media Foundry’s Dudley Williams. Get the angle wrong, and no-one will touch it: ‘Sometimes the story has to be about the way it was made, sometimes it’s about the director, and sometimes it’s about the celebrities involved.’
But Tim Lindsay, chief executive of advertising agency TBWA, which created Hello Boys, sounds a note of caution: not every client is convinced of the benefits of promoting their ad.
‘Sometimes clients just want to keep control,’ he admits.
But if PROs can convince cautious clients to give them a little leeway, then the extra fame generated for their brand will make using PR a no-brainer.
Hovis ‘Concept’ case study
Ad agency Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
PR agency Frank PR
Timescale September 2008-ongoing
Hovis’ two-minute commercial had a narrative feel about it, and it was a deliberate part of Frank PR’s strategy to look at the whole concept of the ad.
‘While the ad was being developed, it was talked about as epic, says Graham Goodkind, chairman of Frank PR. ‘We loved the idea, so that became the strategy. We thought about it as if we were launching a movie epic, so we got the gossip going before it went on air about who was going to be the new boy on the bike in the Hovis commercial. There were even rumours of Wayne Rooney being brought in.’
The ad was launched as if it were a movie – with behind the scenes footage and extra scenes. Hype also surrounded the little boy starring in the ad. ‘We did previews and features the week before the ad was launched. Most people knew about it before it had aired,’ says Goodkind.
‘We thought of it like a Bond film. Even before the new Bond film comes out you feel you already know it.’
Stories and features about the ad and an accompanying ‘Great British Moments’ survey appeared in national press, including the Daily Mail, The Independent, the Daily Star and the Daily Mirror, and regional press including the Scottish Daily Mail and Daily Record, Metro, Eastern Daily Press, Yorkshire Post and Liverpool Echo.
The ad was also mentioned on ITV’s Loose Women and covered on more than 300 national and regional radio stations. Online, it achieved more than 150,000 views on YouTube and the trailer was seeded on more than 60 websites and blogs.
Skoda ‘Creative’ case study
Ad agency Fallon
PR agency The Media Foundry
Timescale May 2007-April 2008
Fallon wanted The Media Foundry (TMF) to build hype around the launch of its Skoda Fabia commercial, which showed a full-sized replica car being made entirely from cake ingredients. TMF was also charged with raising Fallon’s profile as the agency behind the ad and gaining recognition for its creative team, client list and reputation.
The PR blitz focused on building interest in how the cake car was created, and press releases were sent out detailing exactly how many gallons of treacle, pounds of icing, litres of jam and other ingredients were used to make the cake. Behind-the-scenes photography showing how the car was built was released.
Nick Dudley Williams, director of TMF, says: ‘The focus was centred on the ad’s craft. We realised early on that we had to answer one core question – how? We knew the public would be fascinated by how many tons of flour, miles of icing, dozens of eggs and litres of jam it took to create the car. So all press releases were written like recipe cards – it was a simple but effective way to get the media and the public engaged.
‘Skoda benefited from the national acclaim that the PR campaign delivered and Fallon was praised for being the creative force behind it – so everyone won.’
Media coverage included ten national newspaper features, two BBC Radio One slots and the consumer, lifestyle and trade press. The coverage focused on the creativity and innovation of the commercial.
It also made waves online, with 15 videos posted on YouTube and nine Facebook groups. In total more than £700,000 worth of editorial coverage was generated through the campaign, and Fallon was named advertising agency of the year by PRWeek’s sister magazine Campaign.
Scottish Dairy Marketing Company ‘Celebrity’ case study
Ad agency Merle
PR agency Trimedia Scotland
Timescale March 2008
Media Billboard and print
As part of its ongoing campaign promoting the benefits of milk, the Scottish Dairy Marketing Company worked with advertising agency Merle and Trimedia Scotland, using celebrities posing with a ‘milk moustache’. The PR challenge was to find new ways to engage key stakeholders, and promote the celebrities who would be appearing.
Ugly Betty star Ashley Jensen (pictured) was signed up to appear in ads to target a female audience. Research had found women were not typically milk drinkers and more likely to suffer illness through a lack of calcium.
‘We discovered early on that a good relationship with the celebrity’s agent is vital,’ says Martin Allen, senior consultant at Trimedia. ‘We needed to get them involved in the PR process as quickly as possible and understand what we had to work with. In Ashley’s case we knew that timing the release would be vital. We needed a carefully co-ordinated campaign targeting women’s pages and features.
‘The ideal response from the agent is that the star has another agenda to push such as a new book or film, but Ashley was in LA filming.
‘Knowing this would be an issue, we worked hard to get the agent to approve a release that contained all our key messages. We knew if the ads appeared in public before the press release went out there would be no PR coverage. This is why getting a release signed off by the agent well in advance is vital to the success of PR when supporting celebrity-led advertising activity.’
Working with the advertising agency, Trimedia Scotland co-ordinated the launch of the ad so it could target the press just before the ads went ‘live’, creating maximum impact and gaining a wide range of coverage. Articles and pictures appeared in The Scottish Sun, the Daily Record, The Scotsman, The Herald, the Daily Star, the Metro and other national, online and trade publications.
British Heart Foundation ‘Concern’ case study
Timescale Nationwide November 2006; London
Media Billboard and print
The British Heart Foundation’s ‘Doubt Kills’ campaign centred on a dramatic advertisement highlighting one of the most common symptoms of a heart attack – chest pains.
The image showed a man with a belt made of flesh tightening around his chest and was accompanied by the slogan ‘A chest pain is your body saying call 999’. The ad featured in national press, online and on billboards to tap into the public’s concerns about health.
Research found 40 per cent of adults would not call 999 if they suspected they were having a heart attack and the British Heart Foundation played on British stoicism as the reason, with a survey showing doubt, embarrassment and fear of being a burden as barriers.
PR for the launch of the campaign focused on the survey and the ad. Articles appeared in the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the News of the World, The Independent and The Guardian as well as consumer magazines, national broadcast media and local and regional press, radio and TV.
In the first week of the campaign the London Ambulance Service saw a 25 per cent rise in chest pain calls, and other ambulance services reported a similar rise.
To keep momentum going, the British Heart Foundation placed stories in national and local media about people who had suffered a heart attack and called 999 as a result of the ad.
Charmaine Griffiths, head of press at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘We’ve met the core objective to save lives. We’ve heard ten inspiring stories of people who say the campaign saved their lives, but this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg.
‘It’s impossible to put a price on that kind of effectiveness.’
She added: ‘Creative use of case studies and careful planning are sustaining the campaign’s presence after the posters have come down.’