CAMPAIGNS: Event PR

About eight months ago, when a journalist from Car and Driver called Jeff Corder and said he wanted to do an article about a product mobile, the marketing director for Chicago-based Marketing Werks smelled a bigger PR opportunity.

About eight months ago, when a journalist from Car and Driver called Jeff Corder and said he wanted to do an article about a product mobile, the marketing director for Chicago-based Marketing Werks smelled a bigger PR opportunity.

About eight months ago, when a journalist from Car and Driver called Jeff Corder and said he wanted to do an article about a product mobile, the marketing director for Chicago-based Marketing Werks smelled a bigger PR opportunity.

Part of Marketing Werks' business is managing such road-based promotional vehicles - and Car and Driver is the largest automotive publication in the world, with a circulation of 1.4 million.

By associating with the magazine, the commercial cars might even get some respect.



Strategy

Dan Neil, a contributing editor at Car and Driver, had initially contacted both Zippo (the lighter maker) and Marketing Werks after he came across the Zippo Car on the Internet. At first, Neil thought he would do a piece just on that car. But talking with Corder and others he came up with the idea of putting these massive boat-like vehicles through the same performance tests that Car and Driver uses for more aerodynamic cars.

'Why not whip it into a bigger event?' asked Corder. 'We thought it would be fun and a good opportunity to showcase this niche of mobile marketing.'

Says Neil: 'The comparison itself became a PR stunt, which was not our intention, but we were happy to play along.'



Tactics

Zippo offered its hometown, Bradford, PA, for a location and even organized a parade with the University of Pittsburgh marching band. Finding a date that enough cars could make proved more difficult; these are not the kind of cars that rest in garages on their grease-stained laurels.

Eventually the dates were set for August 22 and 23. The cars were four: the Zippo Car, with two giant lighters on top; the Hershey's Kissmobile, with three giant kisses on top; the BTI Phone Car, a Volkswagen Beetle with a big phone receiver on top; and the Eckrich Fun House, a cartoonish, 22-foot-long house (Eckrich makes sausage, hot dogs and cold cuts).

Most of the media outreach was done by Marketing Werks and Zippo, with help from Hershey's. Neil drafted the original press release, which was augmented by the others with information about their cars, and distributed via PR Newswire on August 15.

On the first day of the event, Neil put the cars through some of their paces at the college by, for example, making them slalom through cones.

That afternoon, the parade was a huge hit with the Bradford residents.

Even journalist Neil participated. 'There was a weird surrealistic moment where I was leading a parade in downtown Bradford,' he says. 'I felt like the Music Man.'

But the next morning - when more testing was scheduled on a closed road outside the Zippo/Case Visitors Center, a museum dedicated to Zippo lighters and Case knives - it poured rain. The tests were canceled.

Instead, Bradfordites gathered around to examine the cars and to accept Hershey's Hugs and Kisses and buy Eckrich hot dogs, the proceeds of which were donated to a local charity.

The companies shot b-roll of the two-day event, which was made available via satellite. They also put out a photo on the wire.



Results

Marketing Werks is still awaiting more results from Video Monitoring Services and Luce, but preliminary hits include several before and after the event in the Bradford local paper, The Bradford Era, and The Times Herald in nearby Olean, NY. Promo magazine's e-zine, Promo Xtra, also did a story.

Eight TV stations - including KNBC Channel 4 in Los Angeles, which did the story twice - picked up the b-roll, for over 1.3 million impressions.

But the real exposure will come (hopefully) when Neil's article - scheduled for the December issue - appears. Corder says the companies involved will probably do a press release at that time.

Says Neil: 'It became apparent to me during the parade why these mobiles work. People, particularly kids, become fascinated with them.'



Future

Corder says some of the people involved are talking about doing an annual event in a larger market to showcase these automobiles - and mobile marketing.



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