CAMPAIGNS: Hi-tech PR - Gestetner waves off its old image

Gestetner is a European office equipment company which was set up at the end of the 19th century to manufacture one of the first copying machines, the stencil duplicator of the same name.

Gestetner is a European office equipment company which was set up

at the end of the 19th century to manufacture one of the first copying

machines, the stencil duplicator of the same name.

The company, now part of the Japanese Ricoh group, has moved with

technology and now produces digital fax machines, copiers and scanners.

But according to customer research, Gestetner’s image was still

associated with old-fashioned equipment.

The Communication Group has worked with the company for some years on

initiatives such as the Faxes for Kids project, where businesses were

asked to donate their old fax machines to schools, and was brought in to

run a project to update the company’s image.


To link the Gestetner name in the UK with the cutting edge of digital

technology in the eyes of the public. More specifically, the company

wanted to boost sales by targeting IT managers - a different audience

from its traditional customer base of office equipment managers.

Strategy and Plan

The client and agency decided that a connection with digital art would

be an interesting and creative way to demonstrate Gestetner’s focus on

leading edge technology.

The Communication Group researched the leading digital art experts and

established links with the Royal College of Art, the London Science

Museum, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, all of which have strong

media visibility and a presence on the internet.

It was decided that the campaign would encompass two strands - the

commissioning of a giant work of interactive digital art and a student


The Gestetner Digital Wave, by digital artist Julie Freeman, was a 50ft

long structure made from tarpaulin over copper piping. This was

connected to a video camera at one end and two Gestetner colour printers

at the other. The video camera captured the image of a participant and

four video cameras suspended from the ceiling projected the image onto

the wave.

The image then travelled along the wave and could be transformed by

participants shouting at it or touching it. The image could then be

reproduced on the colour printers, and then on T-shirts, for visitors to

take home.

A variety of media were targeted with news about the wave and the

competition, from arts and IT correspondents to the office equipment

trade press, as well as national newspapers and television.

More than 10,000 of Gestetner’s commercial targets were invited to a

launch event at the London Science Museum to unveil the wave itself.

The wave was then exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts for a

week to launch the second part of the campaign, the Gestetner Digital

Art Experience.

This was a challenge to the students in the computer-related design

department at the Royal College of Art to create works of art using the

latest in digital technology, with the theme of ’information flow and


Ten entries were developed to prototype and five winners selected for a

week-long exhibition at the Royal College of Art. A private viewing was

also organised for select media and customers.

Measurement and Evaluation

The Digital Wave was featured on BBC1’s Tomorrow’s World, Blue Peter and

Radio 5 Live, as well as electronic media, reaching an estimated

audience of ten million. There was also coverage in the Times, the

Express and the Evening Standard, and 30 items in the trade and

specialist media.

During the period of the campaign sales of Gestetner’s products

increased by 25 per cent in the UK, the highest growth ever



The campaign was the winner of the Overall Institutional Award in the

1999 IPRA Golden World Awards for Excellence. The Communications Group

managed to make office equipment sexy by positioning it as a part of the

digital revolution in many areas, including art.

Client: Gestetner

Campaign: Gestetner Digital Art Experience

PR Team: The Communication Group

Timescale: October 1998 to February 1999

Budget: pounds 130,000

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