CAMPAIGNS: Arts PR - Dial-a-Cab campaign is pure poetry

Client: Dial-a-Cab

Client: Dial-a-Cab

Campaign: National Poetry Day

PR Team: Marketeer

Timescale: July to October 1999

Budget: within retainer fee

When you think of London cabbies, poetry is not necessarily the first

thing that springs to mind, but agency Marketeer felt that National

Poetry Day would be the ideal vehicle to promote its client Dial-a-Cab -

precisely because of the unusual link. It wanted to get away from the

stereotype of London cabbies and highlight Dial-a-Cab’s drivers as being

interesting and different from others.

The agency approached The Poetry Society following the appointment of

the official Poet in The City, John Mole, and commissioned him to write

a poem specially for Dial-a-Cab and its 1,700 licensed London cab


This was published in the drivers’ magazine, Call Sign, together with an

invitation to enter a competition to write a poem for National Poetry

Day on 7 October.


To raise awareness of Dial-a-Cab and its involvement in National Poetry

Day among the target audience of City corporations which form a

significant part of Dial-a-Cab’s accounts.

Strategy and Plan

The competition in the drivers’ magazine was tailored to reflect the

theme of Poetry Day - song lyrics - by asking entrants to choose a line

from a song as the title of their poem. The winning driver, Paul Tully,

was asked to recite his poem on several occasions as part of the

National Poetry Day celebrations, which also included a search for the

’e-poet laureate’ by event sponsor BT.

Marketeer worked with the Poetry Society prior to the day to make sure

the Dial-a-Cab poet would be able to play the biggest part possible.

He appeared at various events - including a Poetry Breakfast with Poet

Laureate Andrew Motion; at readings by Minister for the Arts Alan

Howarth; with John Mole and George Staple QC at the Royal Exchange in

the City; as well as at recitals at the Bridewell Theatre.

Dial-a-Cab provided cabs to take schoolchildren to a release of balloons

at the Royal Exchange to celebrate the day, and also for the Poet

Laureate for several of his functions throughout the day.

Measurement and Evaluation

The Dial-a-Cab poet was interviewed on Capital Gold on the Saturday

before National Poetry Day. The competition was also mentioned in the

Times in its preview of the event.

Tully was filmed by the BBC for the One O’Clock News the day before

National Poetry Day, and part of the Poetry Breakfast was broadcast on

the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

He was also interviewed on the day by BBC Radio 5 Live Drivetime, LBC

Drivetime, and BBC News 24. Telephone interviews and photo sessions were

arranged for his local papers: the Islington Gazette and the Highbury

and Islington Express. No formal evaluation of whether awareness of

Dial-a-Cab was increased among the target audience was carried out.


The coverage for Dial-a-Cab and National Poetry Day was undoubtedly

affected by the focus on the Paddington rail crash two days earlier.

Nevertheless, while National Poetry Day is a credible event in its own

right, the unusual angle of a taxi driver writing poetry certainly

attracted attention, and may even have been timely light relief for the

media at a time when the news was dominated by the Paddington


It was the first time that Dial-a-Cab had been involved with this type

of event, and it is now planning to get involved in similar ways with

other arts events in the future.

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