Who needs fantasy football when fantasy products can be such
In a celebration of creativity that doesn’t involve goalposts and
sweet-footed midfield maestros, Marketing asked six PR consultancies to
devise innovative and effective consumer campaigns for the launch of
We limited the number of products to three and asked each agency to come
up with just one campaign for one product. As a result, there are
alternative campaigns for each of our fantasy launches. The products
are: a chocolate bar, a Sony PlayStation computer game of a similar ilk
to Tomb Raider and a themed restaurant chain, targeted at a market
roughly in line with that of TGI Friday.
The budgets, which had to cover all costs, including agency fees,
differed for each product: the ceiling on the computer game was pounds
50,000; the themed restaurant chain was up to pounds 100,000 and the
chocolate bar was not more than pounds 150,000.
As a creative test, we allowed the agencies to name and define the
products within the basic parameters we set. The results show that some
of them might do rather well for themselves if they were to switch their
activities from PR to new product development.
The six consultancies to take up our challenge were: Biss Lancaster,
Herald Communications, The Red Consultancy, Jackie Cooper PR, Manning
Selvage & Lee and Charles Barker BSMG.
CATEGORY: Themed Restaurant
CONSULTANCY: The Red Consultancy
’The first rule of doing PR for any restaurant, themed or otherwise, is
to make it a talking point; make it famous for something,’ says Lesley
Brend managing director of Red. ’That might be an unusual dish on the
menu, it might be a quirky aspect of service, or it might be celebrities
who are known to visit.’
Brend opts for a chain of Soviet-style restaurants that play on Cold War
cliches. If, for instance, there was a waiting-list for bookings, the
consultancy would suggest the restaurant introduce a visa system where
consumers would have to apply for admission six weeks in advance.
For the opening night, Red would issue a summons rather than an
And ’obviously’ it would send Ladas to pick up celebrities and
As a play on the usual restaurant souvenir shops, barter stalls would be
set up outside, where deals could be done with ’contraband’ Marlboros,
Levi’s and second-hand records.
There would be cabbage soup tastings involving restaurant reviewers and
vodka tastings with wine writers. Cabbage soup samplings could be
carried out in any place famous for its queues, such as Wimbledon or the
first day of the sales.
’We’d maybe even aim to carve a reputation for ’service without a smile’
- with a free pair of Levi’s to any customer who can make a ’babushka’
smile,’ adds Brend. ’The point is, the smallest detail can make the
biggest news. Smart PR shouldn’t necessarily be expensive PR. Let the
theme largely sell itself.
’The beauty of coming up with a PR campaign for a themed restaurant is
that you have a ready-made creative context in which to work - so you’re
halfway there. The danger of doing a PR campaign for a themed restaurant
is lapsing into the toe-curlingly crass: going larger-than-life and
ridiculing the concept you’re supposed to be promoting.’
CONSULTANCY: Charles Barker BSMG
Charles Barker BSMG turned the brief over to its youth, entertainment
and lifestyle division, SLAM, which was the only consultancy to miss the
SLAM came up with The Last Chance Saloon - The Best Chuckwagon in Town,
a Wild West themed chain. To whet the appetite, SLAM’s Kevin Redfearn
recommended enlisting the help of the Pony Express to round up local and
national media for opening night. ’The ’invitation’ is a special dish,
enveloped in a delicate crust of Smith & Wesson - pull the trigger to
release the tantalising concoction of flavours that will make The Last
Chance Saloon famous all over town,’ says the agency.
For starters, SLAM proposes a photocall featuring a posse of cowboys
riding into town to round up and eliminate the competition. ’But warning
bells are ringing because reports are coming in that a huge tribe of
Native Americans is marching from the west - and their destination is
The Last Chance Saloon,’ reads the campaign brief.
’As tonight is Wednesday, our special main course is ’Poker Night’ -
beat the waiter and your meal’s on us. In case you’re wanting to come
back, some of our other dishes are just as good,’ it continues. ’There’s
’Gold Prospecting’: find the nugget and choose a dessert; ’Wooing
Night’: pursue a brave or squaw by sending illicit smoke signals across
the room; and ’Shootout’, where the quickest draw gets a slug of
moonshine. Don’t forget the weekend is Family Time, all kids get a
sheriff’s badge and practise their future roles in our mock cowboy and
’And for something to wash the meal down, take a look at the Last Chance
discount offers in local media. Keep an eye open for the travelling Last
Chance Stagecoach - where you can sample our world famous dishes
CATEGORY: Computer Game
CONSULTANCY: Jackie Cooper PR
Jackie Cooper opted for what it describes as a multi-tiered campaign to
take the game further than the dedicated games media to exploit all
media sectors, including features, news, pictures, showbiz and
’The intention is to avoid niches and saturate the environment with
coverage opportunities, as we did with Wonderbra, Daewoo and Fanta,’
says Robert Phillips, consultancy managing director.
Jackie Cooper proposed three steps for taking the game beyond ’PR niche
hell’. Step one was to cast the sexy ’lead’ for the game by launching a
nationwide search for each of ’Britain’s best legs, bum, boobs and
These features would be digitised and merged together, creating the
ultimate virtual sex symbol. ’Four real-life sex symbols and a cyberbabe
provide a plethora of powerful editorial ammunition.’
Step two involves the glitz and glamour of an event modelled on a West
End movie premiere to prove ’games really are the new movies’. At a
Leicester Square venue, giant screens, red carpets, searchlights, DJs
and representatives of the media are brought together to celebrate the
launch in true blockbuster style.
The game character becomes a ’real-life’ celebrity via prosthetics. She
is interviewed by journalists and photographed by the paparazzi as part
of the effort to take the publicity outside the games and technology
Step three involves the creation of a new game, Guru, which is used to
fuel the debate on the need for an independent games classification
This is done by leaking ’outrageous spoof developmental visuals’ to the
Staged demonstrations, petitions and comment from official sources
generate reaction against the game. The true nature of the game is then
revealed: the player has to succeed in the publicity world by
manipulating press and public opinion. The PR campaign is now seen for
what it is: the ultimate game demo and post modern irony at its
’The most important thing about our approach to getting coverage is not
to place brands in the niches other people put them in,’ says
’You explode every angle to make it a story.’
CONSULTANCY: Herald Communications
Herald has created a campaign for a computer game called Stone Raider,
featuring ’voluptuous adventurer’ Ruby Stone. The orphaned child of
aristocrats, Ruby travels the world with an armoury of guns and her
loyal dog Gem, plundering precious stones that she sells to raise money
for the needy.
Priced at pounds 44.95, the game has a target audience of 18- to
35-year-olds with a male bias.
Pre-release, auditions are held to find a Ruby Stone lookalike.
Embargoed previews of the game are given to publications such as Arena,
Maxim and Focus. A photo-shoot with the model is arranged for the front
cover of FHM and for a fashion spread in The Sunday Times Style section.
Playable demos are agreed with online sites FHM On-Line and
Previews appear in the gaming press such as Official PlayStation to
support the sell-in to distributors and retailers. Game scores are
included in consumer release information. Selected stars known to like
games are given the product to try out for different media, such as The
Prodigy for Melody Maker. Digital and lookalike pictures of Ruby reading
titles such as Loaded and Marketing are supplied to the publications in
For the launch itself, selected national newspapers and electronic media
are invited ’under guard’ to a photocall at a leading jewellers in
Ruby will be surrounded by millions of pounds of gems, including as many
rubies as possible.
The central London launch takes place at a venue themed as Ruby’s
It is styled to contain Ruby’s finds, world maps, gem books and
Game pods are situated throughout the venue and interviews are offered
to the media.
Details of the campaign are sent to Marketing and there is a story angle
on an exclusive deal with Sony: Ruby Stone is limited to the PlayStation
platform for 12 months.
There is a week-long promotion in The Mirror and a competition supported
by a national retail chain offering as a first prize a trip to Thailand
and a visit to one of its shops to receive a ruby ring. There are
chances to win other jewellery in women’s magazines and a dinner date
with Ruby in men’s magazines. PlayStations are given out to selected
media which don’t usually cover games, to encourage reviews and other
Local media photo opportunities are created with store visits by a
And for the national media, Ruby takes Gem to the first day of the
Crufts Dog Show. There is also the chance for coverage as the first
cheque goes to charity; in keeping with the game’s ’Robin Hood’ theme, a
percentage of sales goes to good causes.
Herald director Amanda Slayton says a small part of the budget could be
set aside by the agency to respond opportunistically to events. ’When
the next major jewel robbery occurs, we could rush out a statement
insisting Ruby Stone is innocent.’
CATEGORY: Chocolate Bar
CONSULTANCY: Biss Lancaster
Biss Lancaster chose to develop a campaign for what director Fiona Noble
styles the ’transportation bar’: a chocolate product with ingredients
such as nuts and caramel infused with herbs, ginseng and zinc ’to help
you relax and take you literally out of this world’. The name the agency
has given the product is Deep Space.
PR would be one part of an integrated campaign including advertising and
sales promotion. Two strands are envisaged for the PR programme: media
relations to generate publicity and an event programme to make direct
contact and generate sampling.
A two-week teaser campaign before the launch creates expectation through
’alien sightings’ around the country at football matches, nightclubs,
shopping malls and so on. An exclusive deal is tied up with The Sun to
run editorial on alien sightings.
Picture stories involving celebrities are set up, such as aliens sitting
next to David Beckham in the Manchester United team dugout. The Sun
coverage includes a Space Sightings Hotline for readers to call,
building coverage to a crescendo so the newspaper eventually calls for
agent Fox Mulder of the X-Files to come and explain these weird
occurrences. (Biss is assuming that David Duchovny, the actor who plays
Fox Mulder, will appear in the Deep Space commercials. As part of this
contract, he has agreed to make a photocall appearance for which the
only payment is his expenses.)
A photocall with Mulder, The Sun and national broadcast media marks
launch day (and all Sun readers are given the opportunity to sample a
free Deep Space). A Video News Release is put together simulating
British astronaut Michael Hoare in space with his gravity-defying
chocolate bar. At the same time, Deep Space releases its Space Cadets
survey, which reveals the public choice of the rich and famous they
would like to see hurtled into deep space.
An event programme coincides with the launch of the movie Lost in
A celebrity-studded premiere party is hosted, with Deep Space
Picking up on the Deep Space (Nine) theme, a month-long series of club
nights is negotiated related to the ’Trekkie’ cult. Club-goers gain free
entry if they boldly go in Star Trek uniforms. Inside, special
transportation areas provide Space Cadet cocktails and Deep Space
product. Promotions are placed in style magazines and listings.
CONSULTANCY: Manning Selvage & Lee
The current ground for chocolate bar marketing targeted at men is
occupied by ’sports’ bars such as Snickers and ’masculine’ products such
as Mars, argue MS&L’s business development director Fiona Cohen and
account executive Jamie Wynne-Morgan. They believe this area has focused
on functionality rather than emotion, while emotional values have mainly
been used when targeting women.
Starting from this premise, MS&L proposes a chocolate product called
Barred. As its name suggests, this is aimed at young men and has brand
values such as irreverence, energy, risk-taking, excitement and maximum
The strategy is to leverage these values using the continuing
newsworthiness of lad culture. Product differentiation is achieved by
focusing on the emotion/values of the brand and celebrities are used to
Pre-launch, Barred merchandise is placed in environments with street
credibility, such as fashion chains Diesel and Ted Baker, clubs, bars
and record stores. The teaser message on postcards and flyers reads:
You will be’. A week before the launch, a giant banner reading ’Ever
been Barred?’ is placed over the Thames and is used to count down the
days to launch.
Virgin Radio runs a teaser competition on the theme ’Get Barred with
Melinda’. The winner is then invited to bungy jump strapped to Melinda
Messenger (or a similar celebrity, such as Emma Noble). The media are
invited to the launch event, held at Adrenaline Village, Battersea
Virgin would broadcast the event live.
Immediately after the launch, there would be a tour of theme nights and
merchandise sampling at student union bars and snooker halls.
Advertorials and competitions would run in men’s consumer magazines and
Themes would include: ’Barred but Why?’ focusing on celebrities and
their antics, and ’Where to go when you are Barred’ on the coolest
places to ’chill out’.
This article was first published on Marketing