Campaign: Launch of ’Walking with Dinosaurs’
PR Team: In-house
Timescale: Jan 1999 ongoing
Budget: None - part of overall marketing budget
Three years in the making, Walking With Dinosaurs is one of the BBC’s
flagship series of the season and its most expensive documentary
The epic six-parter, which kicked off last week, uses advanced computer
animation to create an impressively credible natural history documentary
The BBC is betting its shirt on the series. It cost pounds 1 million to
produce each episode - twice as much as even the most crinoline-laden
With major export potential, a small fortune rides on its success.
But its significance goes far beyond mere money. The BBC is currently
fighting disgruntlement from those who resent the licence fee, from
those who accuse it of dumbing down, and from those who would strip it
of its special status.
Programmes like Walking with Dinosaurs form a major part of the
corporation’s defence strategy, which is to emphasise the quality that,
it says, only the BBC can produce.
The campaign had firstly to show licence-fee payers that the BBC’s
high-quality programming offers good value for money.
Secondly, to show that, despite this being a potentially dry topic for a
handful of palaeontologists, Walking with Dinosaurs has mainstream
And, lastly, to show that as well as being cracking entertainment, the
series has significant educational merit and real scientific worth.
Strategy and Plan
The potential of this programme was first identified well over a year
ago. In January this year, the nitty-gritty of the campaign was hammered
out as timing plans were drawn up and key audiences - science journals,
family titles, children’s media, national newspapers, the broadcast
trade press and computer graphics press - identified .
In February, the BBC’s Science Desk started selling-in stories to
magazines with long lead times. A 31-page press pack was prepared and a
mailing list of 350 journalists and key opinion-formers was drawn up. In
July, the BBC held a press conference for the broadcast and technical
In mid-September, a press launch was held at the Barbican for
opinion-formers in the scientific world and press columnists. Tapes of
the programme were sent out to television and science writers.
Measurement and Evaluation
The first programme was watched by an unofficial 13.2 million viewers -
a figure more usually achieved by soaps and football matches. The BBC is
still compiling full details of its coverage, but says that it exceeded
its very high expectations. Most of the nationals and many magazines
have covered the series, particularly with ’how did they do that?’ type
By the Tuesday morning after the first episode, newspaper reports of the
programme read as if it were already a part of our cultural
General reaction was astonishment at the quality of the special
However, in some of the quality press, questions were asked about the
cost and quality of the film, and the series’ scientific and
intellectual credentials. On balance, though, it is likely that the BBC
will be able to add the series to its defensive armoury of quality