CAMPAIGNS: Events PR - Revving up motoring enthusiasm

Client: P&O Events (now called Clarion Events)

Client: P&O Events (now called Clarion Events)

PR Team: Bell Pottinger Good Relations

Campaign: London Motor Show 1999

Timescale: 1997 - 31 Oct 1999

Budget: Out of pounds 1 million-plus marketing budget

Although the biennial London Motor Show boasts of being the best show of

its kind in the country, it has the challenge of differentiating itself

from being one of a long list of international car shows.

This year it also had to deal with opening amid the raging controversy

over car prices, with the Consumers’ Association exhibiting at the show,

and competition from the Rugby World Cup which appeals to a very similar

young, upmarket male target audience. Shows as a category are facing

stiff new competition from other media, as car buffs can get their

thrills and information from magazines, television programmes and, of

course, the internet.


To establish awareness of the event, and the car manufacturers who were

exhibiting, as well as getting the message across that the London Motor

Show is the biggest and most interesting one-stop car show room in the

UK this year.

Strategy and Plan

Planning of themes and consideration of the competitive environment

started in 1997. Part of Bell Pottinger’s brief was to devise promotions

to add entertainment value to the show. This year the Oxford Union was

invited to stage its first debate outside Oxford on the motion ’this

house would force motorists to use their cars less’.

The PR team started selling the story into the press, particularly

arranging magazine coverage and special supplements, in February. Deals

were set up with the likes of BBC series Top Gear. A graduated programme

of personal networking, news releases and press packs then slid into

gear, shifting up through regional press groups in July to national and

international motoring correspondents in September.

Once the show started with press day on 19 October and opened to the

public on the 20th, the press office of five or more went into

overdrive, answering questions and taking tactical responsibility for

getting the most out of magic moments such as the arrival of Royalty or


Measurement and Evaluation

Press coverage for the show is always weighed rather than counted, but

it will be audited after the event. This year 4,500 accredited

journalists showed up for press day. Audiences as PR Week went to press

were on target for the 400,000 that the organisers hoped and budgeted

for. The Oxford Union debate received regional and some national

coverage, and the car industry came out on top as the motion was



The London Motor Show had a difficult ride in the media this year, and

although you would have had to have your head in the sand not to know it

was going on, it wasn’t always for the right reason of promoting new

cars and manufacturers. The Consumers’ Association publicity may have

raised the profile of the show, but if the coverage damages the

exhibitors, the car manufacturers, then it’s not the kind of publicity

the PR team or the clients want.

Most of the papers carried pictures of supermodels, such as Kate Moss

and Claudia Schiffer, promoting cars at the show, although this also

resulted in a bit of a backlash. However, these are consumer issues

which reinforce the show’s claim to be a consumer show, in contrast to

the National Motor Show which is a trade event.

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