Campaigns: Corporate/Technology - 'Beautiful' dating site whips up a storm

Campaign: Festive Fatties
Client: beautifulpeople.com
PR team: Golden Goose PR
Timescale: November 2009-January 2010
Budget: £10,500, plus $20,000 for PR Newswire

Last October, Golden Goose PR launched beautifulpeople.com, a dating website for those who pass an attractiveness rating, to a worldwide audience covering 190 countries. Following a successful launch, the team wanted to create a campaign to maintain momentum, fuel global controversy and establish the site as a global brand, with no-one less than perfect featured on the site. With Christmas coming, the PR team came up with the idea of Festive Fatties.

Objectives

- To provoke media attention with a controversial press release

- To spark debate and enable the company founders to defend their brand and represent their core values

- To attract more hits and applications

- To generate extensive global media coverage

Strategy and plan

The idea was to highlight members who had overindulged during Christmas. A migration system was introduced to the site, which instantly transported members with unsatisfactory new photos back to the rating stage. Photos were deemed unsatisfactory if they were given a low score by existing members.

Once back in the rating stage, members whose new photos had scored low ratings were made to go through a re-application process, where members of the opposite sex voted them in or out based on looks alone.

The migration system was introduced after Thanksgiving in the US and before Christmas and New Year. By January, more than 5,000 formerly beautiful members of the site had been booted off for 'letting themselves go' during the Christmas period. PR Newswire was provided with a press release and global translations were released on the morning of 4 January. Beautifulpeople.com's founder, MD and US MD all made themselves available for media requests following the release.

Measurement and evaluation

Within the UK, coverage appeared in the Daily Mail, Daily Star, The Sun, London Evening Standard, The Independent, The Times and Daily Express, as well as Scottish and Irish titles. Online content appeared on telegraph.co.uk and the BBC News website, and the story also appeared on Loose Women, CNN, Absolute Radio and Capital Radio among other broadcast outlets.

Globally, the story featured in print, broadcast and online media including the New York Post, Washington Post, Fox News, ABC Australia, USA Today, Global Times, Canada Post and New Zealand Herald. Coverage appeared in Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Indonesia, China, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Serbia, Australia, South Africa, India and Russia.

Results

Within 24 hours, there were 48,000 new applicants to beautifulpeople.com. During peak times, the site experienced 700 applications a minute. It received more than 2.2 million hits in the days following the story. Independent traffic monitoring website Alexa rated beautifulpeople.com as having an overall world ranking of 9,345.

SECOND OPINION - BENJAMIN WEBB, MD, DELIBERATE PR

Setting aside any thoughts on the dubious morality of acting for a club that brazenly promotes latter-day eugenics (and would almost certainly not have me as a member), Golden Goose is to be commended for hatching an angle that succeeds in achieving that elusive media quality: beneficial controversy.

The timing was everything: a relatable theme of seasonal overindulgence providing fresh fluffy fodder at a time when tabloid newsdesks are often reliant on archived, pre-filed news features. That the site's online filtering occurred over the festive period, and the story was effectively over by the end of the first working week of January, will have served to contain the controversy: had this idea been launched for Valentine's Day, fully staffed comment desks would have turned this into an even bigger splash, but the general attitude towards beautifulpeople.com would have become as ugly as those poor unfortunates being turfed off the site are meant to be.

Then again, this is a site that doesn't give a damn about criticism. But Golden Goose proved shrewd in ensuring that while the brand remains as arrogant as ever, it has not been fatally compromised by a journalist having the time or inclination to dig too deeply into what the expulsions revealed about the genuinely unattractive aspects of human nature. Beautifulpeople.com emerges stronger than before, and, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the site, Golden Goose must be congratulated.

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