CAMPAIGNS: CONSUMER PR; Bertie Bassett bid boxes clever

Client: Trebor Bassett PR Team: Sandpiper Campaign: Bertie Bassett bid for box at Sotheby’s auction Timescale: 18 September 1996 Cost: pounds 1,000 plus pounds 5,900 donated by Trebor Bassett to buy the box

Client: Trebor Bassett

PR Team: Sandpiper

Campaign: Bertie Bassett bid for box at Sotheby’s auction

Timescale: 18 September 1996

Cost: pounds 1,000 plus pounds 5,900 donated by Trebor Bassett to buy

the box



Sandpiper was recruited by Trebor Bassett in November 1995 to build a PR

presence around the ‘Bertie’s gone missing’ and ‘Bertie’s back’

integrated campaign in which the Liquorice Allsort ‘mascot’ was

apparently kidnapped.



The campaigns were nearing their end when, in September 1996, Sandpiper

and Trebor Bassett spotted an article in the Times announcing a

Sotheby’s auction of rock and pop memorabilia at which a 1963 Bassett’s

Liquorice Allsorts box, signed by all the Beatles, would be for sale.



Objective



Sandpiper recommended that Trebor Bassett should attempt to buy back

its box. The agency saw the auction as the perfect way in which to

conduct a one-off publicity campaign for Trebor Bassett, by bringing

Allsorts and their ambassador, Bertie Bassett, back into the public

arena and ensuring that the message of the previous campaign - Bertie’s

back - was reinforced.



Tactics



Sandpiper had to make sure that the media’s attention was focused on the

Bassett’s box, rather than on the other memorabilia at the auction,

much of which was very rare and highly desirable. Working closely with

Sotheby’s press office, it decided to stage a publicity stunt, securing

a bidding place for Bertie Bassett himself.



The next stage was to make the media aware that a life-size, walking,

talking liquorice allsort would be bidding at the auction. Advance

notices entitled ‘Bertie wants his box back’ were sent out to PA and

national press and particularly to northern media - Sheffield being

Bassett’s birthplace. Faxes were sent to radio news desks with boxes of

liquorice allsorts. Contingency press releases were prepared pending the

result of the auction. On the day itself Trebor’s marketing director and

Bertie’s ‘manager’, Sandpiper executive Bill Hunt, were interviewed on

radio stations around the country.



Results



Bertie did not get his box back. He was outbid by an anonymous American

bidder. But in media terms, the stunt was a success, capturing the

imagination of the press and the audience at the auction. When Bertie

reached his limit and dropped out of the bidding, Hunt was publicly

booed for not allowing him to continue.



The ‘Bertie’s Beaten’ story led the Evening Standard’s report on the

auction and was included in the Daily Telegraph. It was broadcast on

Capital Radio, Viva Radio, BBC Radio Sheffield and Radio Five Live,

among others. The story was covered in 22 regional papers and the trade

press.



As well as securing publicity for Trebor Bassett, the stunt had an

unexpected result. The anonymous buyer of the box contacted Sotheby’s to

say he had been so moved by the coverage that he would sell the box to

Bertie for the amount he was able to pay. This story development led to

a third round of press coverage.



Verdict



The stunt was judged to be an unprecedented success by Trebor Bassett

and the media. It captured the imagination of the media, fitting in well

with the requirements of news desks for light stories.



A spokesman for BBC Radio Sheffield said that the stunt was ‘an

excellent piece of opportunism, showing an originality usually lacking

in PR companies’. The idea to hold live radio interviews with ‘Bertie’s

manager’ was particularly praised as being: ‘in a different league to

press releases.’



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