Stunt puts Zoo in the shop window

Last week Zoo magazine's Luke Jones spent 127 hours in HMV's store window on Oxford Street. The stunt marked the launch of 127 Hours on DVD and raised money for cancer charity Everyman. It also helped generate fresh publicity for the seven-year-old magazine.

Celeb appeal: Inside Zoo
Celeb appeal: Inside Zoo

Marooned in the shop window, Jones' 127 hours were spent carrying out challenges such as recreating the new Beyonce video, mixing PR with humour and fundraising.

Instinct PR founder Jonathan Kirkby says: 'The Zoo stunt was right on brand; it was supposed to be fun, almost like reality TV, even though it's not a groundbreaking PR strategy.'

It is fair to say that Zoo is not the most demanding read on the newsstand. Editor Damien McSorley describes it as 'a magazine that doesn't take itself too seriously and that brings our readers the essentials - girls, gadgets, football'.

This means PROs need to have that ethos in mind when targeting Zoo and its readership, which 'works hard, plays hard and pays later'.

'Our perfect story was when we sent a guy to the front line in Afghanistan. He came back a terrified rabbit, but it was a good morale boost for us and we got four big features out of that,' says McSorley.

The Zoo editor is also clear about what does not make a great story or feature item. 'Avoid offering us women's wigs,' he advises. 'Check the magazine brand beforehand.'

It is just over a year since Zoo suffered something of a PR disaster when its celebrity agony uncle, the actor Danny Dyer, appeared to advise a reader to 'cut your ex's face, so no one will want her'. Amid media outrage, the magazine apologised for the comments, blaming a 'production error'.

Since then it has been far smoother sailing in PR terms.

McSorley says experiential activity is a way of moving a magazine brand forward, especially if it also taps into social media: 'It is something we are constantly doing with our readers via our website too.'

Zoo is not alone in this - an issue of More magazine edited by Facebook fans went on sale this week, and Heat, Company and Grazia have all carried out their own stunts, temporarily basing parts or all of the magazine in a location such as a shopping centre or airport.

By taking a magazine out of the office and into the public space, it arguably makes the title less of a simple print product and more of a brand. W Communications MD Warren Johnson says: 'As media owners move towards being brand owners, events such as the Zoo stunt show how these brands are more relevant than ever as they stretch beyond their original printed format to encompass live events, digital and social media and even e-commerce.'

Experiential activity can make the magazine appear more attainable and in touch with readers, but not everyone is convinced. Instinct PR boss Kirkby questions: 'Do magazines like this want to be attainable?'

A MINUTE WITH ... DAMIEN MCSORLEY, EDITOR, ZOO MAGAZINE

- What comms opportunities did your recent stunt offer?

The only way of communicating Luke had was through his laptop. So we tried to get as many celebs to tweet about it as possible. There was also a live webcam in the window that was being streamed through our website. He was allowed out for ten minutes a day, but that was it, so his survival was dependent on PROs. The girls from Lynx came down and brought him some deodorant.

- What would be the perfect partnership and stunt?

Branding wise, it would be something to do with football because that's an essential part of our magazine. Working with a Premier League club would be perfect. Stunt-wise, I'd like to have a Zoo man playing in a friendly match, disguised as a famous footballer, and see how long he could play before the crowd and the press noticed he was an imposter.

- Describe your relationship with PR professionals

We have a good relationship with PROs; they constantly deliver. A good PRO is someone who clearly understands what we have to do and is original. Exciting content goes a long way. The best thing is coming to us with a big name that's respected by the Zoo audience.

QUICK FACTS
Circulation: 68,026 (ABC Jul-Dec 2010)
Readership: 501,000 (NRS Jul-Dec 2010)
Frequency: Weekly
Price: £1.80
Website: zootoday.co.uk
Contact: Editorial assistant Claire.hodgson@zootoday.com

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