PUBLIC RELATIONS AWARDS 2000: Campaign - Best Public Affairs Campaign

WINNER

WINNER

Stop the Clock

AOL UK and Regester Larkin

In the past, internet users in the UK had to pay for access on a metered minute-by-minute basis, unlike counterparts in the US who enjoy unmetered internet access. Internet company AOL UK's Stop the Clock campaign sought to highlight this apparent injustice.

In an on-line poll of 11,000 members, AOL found that 92 per cent said metered phone rates were the only barrier preventing them from spending more time on-line. As 98 per cent of UK internet service providers at the time were delivering 'free' services and deriving their profit from a slice of the revenue from per-minute phone calls, AOL initially had to deliver its message alone.

The message was that metered rates severely penalised UK consumers and jeopardised the UK's future economic potential, rendering meaningless political visions of a future wired economy. Five key audiences were targeted - political, regulatory, the internet industry, consumers, and the media.

BT, as the organisation at the root of the internet charging structure, needed to be persuaded to respond to calls for reform.

Briefings were conducted with parliamentarians and advisers at UK and European level, and with contacts at UK telecoms regulator Oftel. An alliance was formed with grassroots consumer action group, the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications. Every media interview was positioned as a call on behalf of UK consumers for an end to BT's unjust pricing structure. Journalists were soon persuaded, with the Times leading its editorial with the headline 'Free the Net'.

In November 1999, BT changed its stance, announcing its intention to offer its first unmetered internet access service. But its proposal proved unworkable, and AOL prepared to escalate its campaign. Telecoms operator MCI Worldcom initiated the regulatory process in December by asking Oftel to require BT to provide an unmetered service. Other ISPs jumped on the bandwagon and attempted to offer unmetered services, while still being obliged to pay per-minute charges to BT.

On 26 May, Oftel published its ruling, forcing BT to offer wholesale unmetered internet tariffs to its telecoms competitors. Media coverage indicated the leading role AOL had played in bringing about the change while gaining a dominant share of voice.



COMMENDED

Great British Car Rip-Off

Consumers' Association

The Consumers' Association used a combination of political lobbying, media activities, consumer action and direct intervention to campaign for lower car prices in Britain. The lobbying campaign led to 100 MPs signing a motion congratulating the association, and the chair of the Trade and Industry Select Committee backing the campaign. This April, the Competition Commission ruled in the interest of consumers and in June the Government acted to enforce the recommended changes. The car industry has now cut prices by nine per cent.



FINALISTS

Make the Air Fair

BSMG Worldwide



Rip Off Britain

BSMG Worldwide



Putting Beef Back into Schools

PPS (Local and Regional).



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