Tactical launch sees i fly off the shelves

The i launch: proprietor Evgeny Lebedev
The i launch: proprietor Evgeny Lebedev

Campaign: The i launch campaign
Client: The Independent
PR team: W Communications
Timescale: October-November 2010
Budget: Less than £50,000

W Communications was asked to launch i, the UK's first quality daily newspaper in almost 25 years. The campaign had to generate immediate awareness, strong sales figures, and position i as an innovative newspaper designed to reinvigorate the industry, rather than cannibalise the current national newspapers' readership.

Objectives

- To build awareness of the first new national newspaper in 25 years

- To boost initial sales of i

- To create a positive story

- To reshape TV newspaper reviews.

Strategy and plan

The campaign had to be developed secretly to prevent competitors from running spoilers. It was also developed against a background of speculation about the future of sister paper The Independent. So the agency worked closely with the editorial and circulation teams at i and The Independent.

It was agreed that most forms of print coverage would generate negative sentiment from competitors. So the agency created a broadcast-based story to run throughout the launch day. It kicked off with a strong visual image - the very first issues of i rolling off the press into the hands of proprietor Evgeny Lebedev. Lebedev was positioned as the saviour of The Independent, having already turned around the fortunes of the London Evening Standard.

The PR team offered exclusive interviews with senior i figureheads to key outlets on the morning of launch.

By adopting a market-growing message to competitors, negative national news coverage was minimized.

Following the launch of i, the W Communications team targeted key media influencers over a two-week period by making sure outlets from the BBC and Sky to members' clubs were supplied with copies.

The PR team also lobbied TV shows that include UK newspaper reviews to amend their graphics system to include ten national newspapers.

Measurement and evaluation

In total, the campaign generated more than 1,075 items of coverage. Of these articles, nearly 100 per cent contained positive sentiment.

Broadcast coverage ran in 27 national TV slots including on BBC News and Sky News. More than 20 national radio pieces ran, including Sky News Radio, BBC Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live, alongside 550 regional radio, 20 trade print and 391 online pieces.

The launch of i was covered in 13 national print titles, including positive coverage in rival publications. Within a week i had gained 2,000 followers on Twitter.

Results

i sold almost 180,000 copies in its first week - close to The Independent's circulation figures, which did not drop.

The latest ABC circulation figures for i have remained high, at 175,714, giving The Independent and i a combined circulation greater than that of The Guardian.

All TV news programmes featuring the next day's national newspaper front covers have changed their graphics systems to enable them to feature i.

SECOND OPINION - MARGOT RAGGETT, CEO, LEXIS PR

The launch of i in a time of diminishing newspaper sales was always going to be a strong news story and generate debate. The key task - to develop angles, manage access to spokespeople and provide visual hooks, in a way that would generate positive coverage - needed to be immaculately executed.

Easier said than done, however, and W Communications should be commended for having done its job well in this regard.

The lobbying of TV news shows to include the masthead and content within reviews was also a smart touch, as was the targeting of key influencers in their London hang-outs.

If budget had permitted it would have been great to see an additional creative layer. The work FT did a few years ago recruiting London cabbies to be ambassadors for the paper on Budget day (briefed by editorial, with their cabs branded) is a great integrated example of how the launch might have been made to work just that bit harder.

All in all, however, W Communications generated some great results.

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