Lakeside asked Clarion to arrange a live event that would set it apart from other shopping centres and increase retail sales.
Christmas lights switch-on events generally generate a poor return on investment, celebrity appearance fees are rising and containing large, excitable crowds can be a challenge.
Instead of a traditional lights event, Clarion decided to stage a stunt to produce a strong editorial image that would represent Lakeside's family-friendly appeal, but have enough visual impact to interest the media.
Opting to save money rather than secure a big-name celebrity, the team chose to use ex-Big Brother contestant Chantelle Houghton as Lakeside's 'Living Christmas Fairy'.
Houghton was suspended above a 50ft artificial Christmas tree outside one of the centre's main entrances. A second 60ft hydraulic platform was also used, so the photographer could capture the centre's branding and ensure Lakeside's iconic sign could not be edited out of the coverage.
The image generated 48 pieces of coverage including stories in The Times, The Sun, the Daily Mail, on ITV1's Daybreak and Heart FM. All included the Lakeside branding. The stunt also created buzz on social networks. Tweets from the Sunday Mirror's celebrity and entertainment columnist Dean Piper, OK! magazine and Houghton herself ensured that Twitter carried the story far and wide.
The campaign's success translated into footfall and sales for Lakeside retailers. November footfall was up 2.5 per cent on October and average spend was up 33 per cent on 2009.
'This is a beautifully simple idea – a real-life fairy on top of a giant Christmas tree that delivered exactly what the client wanted,' says PRWeek's chair of judges DJ Collins, vice-president public policy and comms, EMEA at Google. 'It took real ingenuity to come up with something so simple and clean. The coverage was amazing and I expect they had a very happy client.'