CAMPAIGNS: Public Awareness - PR ensures euro switch goes to plan

Client: Eurosystem - European Central Bank and national central banks of

the euro area

PR Team: In-house, with Publicis Consultants network

Campaign: Launch of euro currency

Timescale: 1999 - ongoing

Budget: 80m euros (approximately £50m)



For the citizens of 12 European nations, the dawn of 2002 signalled the

arrival of euro cash and a mental arithmetic challenge fit to befuddle

any New Year's Eve reveller.



The physical logistics of creating a single European currency have been

astonishing. It has taken five years to mint 52 billion coins and

distributing the cash has involved the computer tracking of armoured

vehicles and purchasing of bulletproof vests.



But while the politicians hail the arrival of the euro as a uniting

force for Europe, fears of economic collapse, price hiking and

counterfeiting have arisen in the media and among both the business

community and consumers.



To navigate the complexities of the world's biggest currency changeover,

Euro-system - the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national banks of

the 12 European Union euro-adopting member states - worked with a

bureaux of communications agencies, including Publicis Consultants and

its European network, on PR.



Objectives



To familiarise the 300 million citizens of the 12 euro-adopting states

with the currency and ensure a smooth transition for both businesses and

consumers.



Strategy and Plan



A partnership programme formed the backbone of this campaign, mobilising

firms Europe-wide, into using ECB-designed materials to train and

familiarise staff and consumers with the currency. This initiative

involved 3,000 organisations, including the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and

was supported by a dedicated ECB website.



To further familiarise consumers and businesses, the ECB team undertook

a direct mail campaign, targeting the 200 million households affected by

the changeover with a leaflet outlining the design of the seven new

notes and eight new coins.



This was accompanied by a year-long roadshow, featuring a month of

conferences and events in each country.



Other pan-European activity was designed to inform families. To reach

eight to 12-year-olds, the PR team organised a 'Be a euro Superstar'

contest through schools, which saw two winners from each country invited

to Frankfurt for the big euro celebrations on New Year's Eve.



With forgery and fraud a major worry, special attention was paid to

those in rural areas, the elderly and the blind. In far-flung parts of

Spain, some church sermons included information on the euro.



To get the media on board, Publicis and ECB issued press packs, video

news releases and organised a series of milestones and editorial

countdowns.



On 30 August 2001, for example, the PR team created an event showcasing

the designs of the new banknotes on huge banners across the front of the

ECB building in Frankfurt.



At a national level, much effort was put into convincing consumers that

a new currency was not a smokescreen for price hikes. Banks and

businesses in Spain handed out special calculators, while bankers in

Germany handed out euro samples.



Measurement and Evaluation



At the start of the campaign, Publicis undertook a comprehensive study

of consumer attitudes across different countries and varying audience

profiles.



Media analysis was conducted throughout, revealing a certain amount of

polarisation, particularly in France and Germany. Many journalists

criticised the new currency for its 'boring' design, but more than

300,000 children participated in the euro Superstar competition.



Results



The euro launched on New Year's Eve, to fireworks and champagne across

the eurozone. Despite fears in France and The Netherlands that there may

not be enough of the new currency to go around, the initial phase of the

changeover has gone well.



Reactions to the euro have ranged from enthusiastic through indifferent

to antagonistic. But just three days after its introduction, 50 per cent

of cash transactions in the eurozone were in euros - ranging from 75 per

cent in The Netherlands to 25 per cent among the more sceptical

Italians.



National governments and ECB president Wim Duisenberg have done their

bit to reassure the public that organisations are not using the

changeover to mark up prices, but many remain unconvinced. Likewise, it

seems that the currency is not immune to attempted frauds or robberies,

with the first fake 50 euro note being handed to police by a 12-year-old

girl in Germany on 3 January.



However, as the EU contemplates future challenges, the ultimate test for

the euro will be whether it can survive potential economic disaster by

one of its member states.



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