CAMPAIGNS: JUDGE AND JURY; Cluedo birthday tale had all the ingredients of a good mystery

The PR team at Waddingtons used imagination to generate prolonged press coverage of Cluedo’s anniversary by picking up on the disappearance of its inventor, says Jonathan Shore, a director at Consolidated Communications

The PR team at Waddingtons used imagination to generate prolonged press

coverage of Cluedo’s anniversary by picking up on the disappearance of

its inventor, says Jonathan Shore, a director at Consolidated

Communications



‘Don’t worry about the PR angle - we’ve got an anniversary coming up...’

Words usually guaranteed to induce a sinking feeling in even the most

hardened PR account handler. When the product has sold 150 million

copies in 23 countries over 50 years, it raises the stakes without

making placing the story any easier. With a product as well known as

Cluedo what else is there left to say?



So step forward Antony Pratt (or not, as it ultimately turned out), who

invented the game in the late 1940s and with whom Waddingtons had lost

touch. Here was a story for the amateur sleuth in all of us - where was

Antony Pratt? Could he be found in time for the anniversary

celebrations? A nationwide search was mounted - via press release. The

public were urged to call a hotline number with the gen on Mr Pratt

while company spokespeople proclaimed ‘honestly, this isn’t a publicity

stunt’.



There was especially good coverage for the evolving story of the non-

stunt in the Daily Telegraph - understandable interest from Colonel

Mustard’s paper of choice. The story kept its momentum with the sad news

that Antony Pratt died in 1994, but Waddingtons were able to track down

both Mr Pratt’s daughter and great nephew, who were invited in his stead

to the commemorative party.



Given the irresistible nature of the story (and that unlike many PR

concoctions it was more than a one-day wonder) it is surprising that

they didn’t generate even more coverage. Is the fate of Professor Plum

with a candlestick in the library too whimsical for the 1990s?



The only niggle I can summon up is that some of the PR material could

have had greater confidence in the strength of the story. The press

materials struggled under a kitchen sink of product trivia. Good to know

that the first World Cluedo Championships were held in Torquay (where

else?) in 1990 and that the CD-ROM format of the game was launched in

1994.



But perhaps such a perspective on useful background colour is just the

jaundiced view of a habitual Cluedo loser. The initiative demonstrated

imagination in a way that above-the-line activity rarely can - and no

doubt for a fraction of the cost.



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