TV is more popular than ever as a source of news for UK
More than 70 per cent cited it as their preferred world news source in a
survey conducted by the Independent Television Commission. Added to the
proliferation of online channels, it is no surprise that broadcast PR,
one of the youngest arms of the industry, is increasingly important in a
client's marketing armoury.
For the first time, PRWeek has taken a look at which VNRs have achieved
the most coverage in terms of viewing figures from some of the UK
market's major players.
Broadcasters themselves showed a marked reluctance to comment on their
use of VNRs and wouldn't go on the record. The BBC, for instance, states
that it doesn't use them, though in many instances, especially those of
entertainment and sport, it obviously does.
We contacted all the major broadcast specialists and in-house units
within PR consultancies, for their Top 10 from June 2000 to June 2001,
and PRWeek has showcased each of their top scoring VNRs based on the
agencies' viewing figures and reach.
Some names you might expect to see in the chart aren't there. For
example, PRNewswire cannot provide us with viewing figures because of
There are also questions raised about the rise of VNRs and the formal
Of the bigger in-house units, Edelman broadcast manager Emma Hart says
it has not been running long enough to provide an annual Top 10. She
says, however, that the traditional edited VNR is losing favour and have
been largely replaced by live-to-air interviews or a presenter intro and
an 18-25 second soundbite.
Two of the in-house teams PRWeek contacted - Weber Shandwick Broadcast
and Fleishman-Hillard - say they cannot provide us with figures because
VNRs are only a single tool in their broadcast service. They believe the
success of a broadcast campaign cannot only be viewed in terms of VNR
At Weber Shandwick Broadcast and Interactive, head of visual
communications Dagmar Schluter, who has a background in broadcasting,
confirms the new breed of broadcast PR is not always and not only about
providing pictures, but increasingly about 'providing opportunities for
broadcasters' to film and interview. Moreover, she says the company
would never recommend a straight promotional VNR, or A-roll, for
broadcast purposes but simply a B-roll of loosely edited footage that
would be hard for the broadcaster to organise themselves and may be
useful background to the story.
As a former BBC and ITN journalist, F-H associate director Jonathan
Hawker says there's increasing reliance on the phenomenon known as
This is when the reporter is seen asking a question or on the location
of a story beyond the normal piece to camera.
It is a way of showing viewers that this channel's reporter is in the
thick of the news, even if they are only doing an interview to wrap
together with agency footage.
Like many of the companies whose work is profiled here, broadcast
specialist Bulletin also says it does not produce VNRs, but 'multi-media
Managing director Chris Foulerton says, 'The service offered to
broadcasters does need to get better, more focused and tailored. VNRs
can't do the job on their own.'
Despite debate, the sheer quality of work featured, and its considerable
reach, shows that there is still considerable life left in VNRs yet.
Consultancy: APTN Productions
Client: Campaign for Racial Equality
Campaign: Would I?
Audience Reach: 21 channels
(no viewing figure available)
Key UK channels: All
When the Campaign for Racial Equality, launched its latest TV
advertising campaign 'Would I?' it wanted to ensure maximum exposure by
producing a VNR to accompany the groundbreaking ad, featuring
celebrities such as Chris Evans, Mel B, Peter Stringfellow and David
Seaman undergoing a skin colour metamorphosis.
APTN produced a 15-minute VNR feed with celebrity interviews and the
creatives used in the campaign, from post-production house The Mill,
which is well known for its special effects, featured in the film
The tape was one of the few UK-only VNRs produced by APTN in the past
year. It was officially unveiled at 11 Downing Street in the presence of
Tony Blair and generated a great deal of interest from broadcasters,
with across the board coverage by most UK channels.
APTN had to organise two other local feeds to deliver the material, and
the topic even slipped into the press, with The Mirror asking for a copy
of the VNR for its front page.
Assignment manager Bart Stobart says the VNR worked well for a number of
reasons: 'Broadcasters were keen to show the ad anyway, and part of the
package was giving them access to it. But we also provided footage of
the production companies involved and the techniques used behind the
scenes.' Small broadcasters in particular were happy to use the VNR as
they could not have filmed the background material themselves.
Consultancy: Arnold Broadcast
Client: Port of London Authority
Campaign: Twinning with Spanish port
Audience Reach: 6,500,000
Key UK channels: London Tonight, Meridian Tonight
This VNR was produced by Arnold Broadcast to cover the twinning of the
Port of London (PLA) with the Spanish port of Algeciras, near Gibraltar,
in March this year. The partnership represents the port's attempt to
improve its position in the global market. It contained pictures of the
Port of London and the Thames, as well as a tape of the handshaking
London Tonight and Meridian used the first part and covered the ceremony
themselves, but for the likes of Sky and Spanish TV, the second tape was
A VNR was used for this story because it was very visual, with very
strong pictures. It was also to do with the big story of the
revitalisation of the Thames in general.
One of the obstacles to the success of the story was that the
regeneration angle of this part of the Thames had been announced six
months previously, and footage was already in broadcasters' libraries,
so Arnold positioned the story as being about a tangible step closer to
Having the PLA as a client was an advantage for the consultancy, since
head of port promotion Geoff Adam is a former journalist, so knows
exactly what he wants and there are no communication problems.
Sky was especially pleased with the package, as the VNR enabled them to
cover an event which they did not have the resources to send a crew to
The Spanish broadcaster even telephoned to check that they were able to
use the pictures for free, as they were such high quality.
Arnold has the advantage, like many of the most successful consultancies
in this sector, of being run by a former broadcaster. Managing director
Tim Arnold was a the first news anchor on Sky, and a BBC reporter in
As a result of the coverage on London Tonight, and Meridian the BBC
picked up the story and ran it with its own archive footage, whereas the
UK national press ignored the story.
Client: Motorola CeBit 2001
Campaign: Motorola at CeBit 2001
Audience Reach: 50,000,000
Key UK channels: BBC, Channel Four, ITV, Sky News
Bulletin carried out the Motorola CeBIT 2001 broadcast project in March
2001. IT involved broadcast support for mobile phone manufacturer
Motorola at CeBIT 2001, one of the biggest annual world telecoms
Its aims were to help the client dominate share of voice from the event,
since all its competitors would also have news announcements at the same
time. Specifically, Motorola wanted to raise awareness of its leadership
in GPRS, the next generation of telecoms technology, by bringing out a
mobile handset ahead of the competition.
The broadcast package was used in 20 TV reports in the UK and across
Europe, totalling 60 minutes' coverage.
Bulletin put together background material and pictures of products at
the show, along with interviews with senior executives about the client
and the new technology, which was fed from the show.
The consultancy went beyond the obvious use of a broadcast package,
turning the material into an internal communications campaign by
streaming the video onto Motorola's intranet so the company's employees
worldwide could see what it was doing at the show. The future
technologies material was also sold into in-flight entertainment
Bulletin MD Chris Foulerton said the package was a success because the
topic was very visual, and as well as providing background material it
made sure senior staff were available for broadcasters to shoot their
own coverage during the show.
Client: ICL Census
Audience Reach: 6,242,000
Key UK channels: BBC, ITN, Sky, Carlton, Granada
Firefly's broadcast department was set up in February this year by
former broadcast journalists with 30 years' experience behind them. Head
of broadcast services Keren Haynes says the team does not often
recommend the use of VNRs, but the tape it produced for leading IT
service company ICL was an exception.
It featured a demonstration of a scanning machine the client was using
to process the information from this year's census. Footage included
forms being processed, the handwriting technology being used, and client
The consultancy predicted that although the census would generate
enormous broadcast coverage, broadcasters would not have the resources
to go all the way to Widnes to film the machine themselves.
Haynes used a cameraman she used to work with at ITN, Paul Keating, to
ensure the tape was perfect TV news material, and used the cameraman's
name to help with the sell-in to broadcasters.
The tape was used on at least 11 TV stations in April and has been
repeated since. The UK channels included BBC Breakfast, One O'Clock
News, and regional news; ITN's lunchtime, 6.30, News at Ten and regional
bulletins; Sky; GMTV; and Channel 5.
Apart from the viewing figures, the VNR can be judged as a success
because the subject matter was not a classic broadcast story. It was a
very dry technical story, and yet managed to hit all the national TV,
and many regional radio, stations.
PR manager ICL Daniel Bausor says of the VNR: ' ICL's work is often not
seen by the general public. By dovetailing our work on the processing of
the Census forms with the actual Census Day, we estimate that the
publicity we received was quadrupled and we were, therefore, exposed to
a much larger audience.'
Campaign: Launch of Ericsson T20
Audience Reach: 408,958,350 (Europe/Asia)
Key UK channels: Sky News, CNBC, CNN
Ericsson's T20 mobile phone was the first phone to use Bluetooth
technology, and offered a whole raft of technological features,
including enhanced WAP capabilities and wireless applications. The
launch of the product was aimed primarily at the burgeoning Asian
market, due to its hunger for all things technological, and the product
was therefore launched in Singapore.
Footage was shot both in Asia and Europe, with the focus in the former
on Asian respresentatives of Ericsson and featuring Asian people using
The European aspect to the launch was filmed in Europe and featured
people getting on commuter trains making calls and using their laptops
to access the internet. While in Europe the VNR generally hit the
business news, in Asia lifestyle and general news, as well as business,
broadcasters picked used the story.
The VNR was Medialink's most successful ever, due in main to the massive
pick-up of the story in China. The client's branding featured heavily in
THE TELEVISION CONSULTANCY
Consultancy: The Television Consultancy (TVC)
Campaign: Mastercard/MOBO Awards
Audience Reach: 32,650,000
Key UK channels: BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News and MTV
The MOBO Awards were held on 6 September 2000. TVC were commissioned to
create and distribute a two-part VNR, one announcing the nominations and
the other the event itself, including footage of the winners. Channel 4
was to broadcast the event as if live on the 8 September, so TVC's job
was to get as much coverage on other channels leading up to and
following the programme.
Key moments of the event were filmed for distribution by two
This included coverage of celebrities arriving at the event, footage of
the performers and interviews.
At midnight on the night of the ceremony the footage was rushed to the
editing suite and edited furiously to be ready at 3am for breakfast TV
usage. All broadcasters had been contacted prior to the event to
establish when their deadlines for footage were. Some broadcasters asked
TVC to personalise comments - such as Craig David greeting viewers of
Following the initial news coverage, programmes with longer lead times
were provided with footage.
Consultancy: World Television
Campaign: MTV Europe Awards
Audience Reach: 16,000,000 (UK)
Key UK channels: BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Sky.
World Television specialises in global distribution, with an exclusive
partnership with Reuters and a multi-lingual media relations team.
The MTV Europe Music Awards were held in Stockholm in November 2000, and
World Television produced a preview VNR as well as a tape of the main
show. The tape featured edited highlights of the awards ceremony for use
on TV programmes.
It was particularly successful because it covered a popular and very
visual event, but the broadcast PR team also made things easy for
broadcasters, as the event was sold in before it happened by the media
relations team at the consultancy.
The speed of delivery also won the VNR substantial coverage, as edited
coverage was made available during the evening awards thanks to World
Television having full broadcast facilities on the site, as well as an
option for a live satellite feed.
The company often supplies copies of tapes to clients' in-house comms
teams so they can distribute them to contacts, but on this occasion it
sold the story in and managed the satellite service direct to