Client: International Meat Trade Association
PR Team: Warwick Corporate
Campaign: To win compensation for British beef exporters and dependent
businesses following the BSE crisis
Timescale: 4 April - ongoing
Estimated Cost: pounds 10,000 per week for first three weeks, retainer
of pounds 2,000 a week for monitoring and political advice, specific
projects costed separately
The European Union’s decision on 26 March to halt sales of British beef
threw the meat industry into panic. Under pressure from the National
Farmers Union, the Government came up with a compensation package for
beef producers worth some pounds 118 million. But it soon became clear
that beef exporters would not qualify for a slice of this cash, despite
being among the worst hit by the ban - they work on profit margins of
one to two per cent and are holding 35 million pounds worth of beef,
approved for human consumption by British Government scientists but
banned from sale internationally. Meanwhile established businesses are
closing down with more than 5,000 jobs being lost across the industry
To persuade the UK and European governments to compensate British beef
exporters and dependent businesses with an emergency package of pounds
Warwick Corporate was given 24 hours to come up with a strategy. The
approach initially focused on the IMTA’s 28 per cent export membership
but within five days the brief had been expanded and Warwick was asked
to represent the entire membership.
Key journalists and opinion formers were the target of the campaign,
according to account director Martin Minns, formerly of Conservative
Central Office. The team organised a series of political and legal
briefings, the climax of which was a public meeting in the House of
Commons on 23 April. Angela Browning, Parliamentary Secretary to
Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, was invited to join top
brass from the IMTA but she failed to attend.
Meanwhile in front of the Commons, Warwick organised a beef give-away of
a tonne of prime steak. Throughout the five-week campaign, news stories
highlighting individual examples of IMTA-members’ situations, were fed
to the press.
Warwick also staged a stunt outside Conservative Central Office
featuring a take-off of the Tory’s ‘Double Whammy’ ad from the 1992
election campaign entitled ‘Hogg’s Double Whammy’, drawing attention to
the lost exports and job losses that the Government’s failure to address
the export issue will lead to.
IMTA chairman Jenny Burt and export committee member Martin Richardson
gave interviews to GMTV, World at One, Today and Newsbeat among others.
The beef give-away was used as a photo story in every national paper and
picked up by Channel 4 News, Newsnight and generated valuable regional
coverage. The ‘Double Whammy’ stunt generated photo-pieces in the
Financial Times and the Guardian plus coverage in the Times, Sunday
Business, regional press and spots on Newsnight and GMTV.
Within an hour of the launch, Warwick received a briefing request from
Tony Blair’s office, and at Prime Minister’s Question Time, John Major
was asked if he was aware of the criticism levelled at the Government by
British beef exporters.
Martin Richardson is satisfied no one in Government can now say they
weren’t aware of the exporters’ plight. In media terms the campaign is
an undoubted success with the languishing export trade now reported
alongside the more publicised plight of farmers and abattoirs. However
Warwich face an uphill struggle lobbying for a reversal of the
Government’s stance on compensation for exporters.
But as Minns points out: ‘They’re making noise about having the ban
lifted, when the reality is that without pounds 12 million, a piddling
amount, the export sector will no longer exist by the time confidence
returns to the market. Something’s up.’