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.
To familiarise the 300 million citizens of the 12 euro-adopting states
with the currency and ensure a smooth transition for both businesses and
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
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
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.
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
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.