Strumming up support, The Red Consultancy

Campaign: Making 'Contactless' Streetwise with the World's First Cashless Busker
Client: Barclaycard/Barclays
PR team: The Red Consultancy; in-house
Timescale: August 2010
Budget: £75,001-£100,000

The Red Consultancy was called in by Barclaycard to generate mass awareness of its contactless payment technology.


- To help promote contactless payment to consumers and retailers

- To pinpoint Barclaycard/Barclays as the industry leader in contactless payment.

Strategy and plan

Red worked alongside the in-house team to launch a series of news stories, starting with the world's first cashless busker. Professional musician Pete Buffery was commissioned to perform for one day outside one of Barclays' retail partner's outlets, EAT, in London's Soho Square.

The contactless technology was incorporated into his guitar and passers-by swiped pre-paid cards, which raised more than £4,000 for the Help a London Child charity. Photo and video opportunities were provided to the media.

Measurement and evaluation

More than 175 pieces of media coverage were generated, including in the Metro, Daily Express and The Mail on Sunday, on BBC Radio Wales and Radio 2, and on the Mirror, The Sun and The Independent online.


There was an 80 per cent rise in transactions during the campaign, which has been shortlisted for a PRWeek Award.


James Cooke, Head of public relations, Barclaycard

Building a story for the media about contactless payments came with a couple of significant challenges. First, this wasn't new: the cards had been around for a while, so we had to find a fresh way to bring the technology to life. Second, there were several distinct audiences we needed to reach - from shoppers and retailers to the wider payments industry.

Red tackled this by asking the question 'who do we give cash to in a very public way and who would benefit from this technology?' That led to a series of discussions that culminated in the decision to work with a real busker.

We embedded the contactless terminal in his guitar and let him walk London's streets and visit radio stations.

Student Pete Buffery was turned into 'the world's first cashless busker', who accepted only cards, not coins. That gave us our picture story.

Linking this to one of the charities we support (Help a London Child) meant Pete ended up raising £4,000 in contactless donations.

We also needed to tell the innovation story and demonstrate leadership. Commissioned research entitled 'Frustration Nation' revealed that shoppers would wait only two minutes in a queue. A roundtable at an EAT in London gave retailers, analysts and journalists the chance to hear from our experts about how this problem could be tackled, and experience making contactless payments themselves.

The combination of lateral thinking, focused research and a hard-working press office meant we achieved excellent results.

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