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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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