Client: Scottish Tourist Board
Campaign: Exploitation of ‘kilt’ movies.
Timescale: Autumn 1994 onwards.
Cost: pounds 250,000 per year plus additional trade, local and national
tourist board support.
An overhaul of the Scottish Tourist Board’s marketing activity in 1994
led to a reappraisal of its PR activity and a decision by the STB to
double its spend on press visits and establish a dedicated two-strong
specialist press visits unit.
The decision to push ahead with the new PR unit in Inverness coincided
with a crop of ‘kilt’ films, kicking off with the European premiere in
Edinburgh of Rob Roy in spring 1995, the autumn premiere of Mel Gibson’s
Braveheart in Stirling and most recently the world premiere in Inverness
of Loch Ness on 3 February 1996.
In its first full year of operation, therefore, the unit faced both the
challenge and the opportunity of leveraging Hollywood movie marketing
spends to present Scotland as a holiday destination.
The narrow aim of the unit has been to increase the numbers of
journalists attracted to its press visits programme from the beginning
of 1995 and again in 1996. The broader aim has been to quantify the
boost to editorial coverage in a bid to justify the increased commitment
to PR spend as part of the marketing mix.
According to press visits manager Caroline Keith, around a quarter of
the visits laid on by the STB last year piggy-backed on the Rob Roy and
Braveheart film releases.
The 1995 press visitor programme was supplemented by Rob Roy themed
trips and visits to the haunts of William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson
in Braveheart. The STB also appointed American travel PR Lou Hammond
Associates to tie in a North American promotional campaign.
To coincide with the Inverness premiere of Loch Ness, last month the STB
arranged for a small number of visits by travel writers with themed
tours planned later this year.
The American campaign which piggy-backed on the studio-funded publicity
surrounding the release of Rob Roy netted the STB and Lou Hammond the
American travel industry Gold Bell award. The film-themed visits helped
the STB exceed its own target of handling just over 500 journalists
visits from the UK and abroad during 1995. But Graham Birse, director of
PR at the STB, believes that the ability to entertain more journalists
does not necessarily result in increased coverage. ‘Competition for
journalists is stiff as they have the choice of holiday destinations
around the world,’ he adds.
Evaluation of coverage generated by press visits to the unit during 1994
suggests that an equivalent to around pounds 7.5 million of advertising
was achieved - according to an evaluation formula worked out by the
STB’s auditor, Price Waterhouse which included anticipated coverage.
Although according to Birse the measurement of anticipated coverage has
actually proved to be conservative. The value of press coverage achieved
in the first nine months of the 1995/6 financial year was pounds 14.5
million, well up on Birse’s target of pounds 11.8 million for the whole
In simple press visit numbers and volume of coverage, PR activity is
clearly moving in the right direction. Birse accepts that using
advertising equivalence figures is an inexact science, and measuring the
real bottom line - increases in visitor figures prompted by PR - is more
difficult. And his target of achieving pounds 12.1 million of publicity
in 1996/7, according to the established formula, looks tough.
Given that the latest wave of ‘kilt’ movies is coming to an end. the
question now is whether the unit can keep the momentum going in the
right direction. That remains, along with the issue of the existence of
the Loch Ness monster, an open question.