TOP CONSUMER PR CAMPAIGNS OF ALL TIME: Consumer classics - Our eight panelists had a tough task deciding on the top 20 consumer. PR campaigns, as Mark Johnson reports

3. Opening of Tate Modern

John Mahony likens our number three choice to the phoenix rising from the ashes: 'It emerged through a very negative cloud surrounding the whole millennium,' he says.

The secret of this success was a truly integrated communications launch that focused on making the former Bankside Power Station friendly and accessible to all.

Built with grants of £50m from the Millennium Commission and £6.2m from the Arts Council, Tate Modern reached media outlets of which other art institutions can only dream.

A string of special supplements were secured in advance from titles including The Observer, Vogue and Time Out. Tate Modern's PR agency, Bolton & Quinn, also negotiated a four-part documentary with Channel 4, while the launch itself was broadcast live on BBC1. GMTV used the converted building to host its breakfast show.

However, the campaign won Trevor Beattie's vote for its common touch and sense of responsibility to the local community. 'They took 2,000 taxi drivers to the gallery and that said two things - it's a real gallery for real people,' he says.

Indeed, Tate Modern inspired a chorus of approval worldwide, dissociated itself from the controversies of other millennium projects, such as the Dome, and outstripped expectations.

In its first six weeks, more than one million people visited the gallery, with 5.25 million in the first year, more than double the expectations.

4. Oxfam

Founded in Oxford in 1941 to help famine-struck Greece during Nazi occupation, Oxfam changed the concept of charity from institutional benevolence to one of mutual self-help. 'It was the first charity that had a real brand, a charity version of the Oxo cube - less prim and proper than other charities,' says Lynne Franks.

Oxfam gained international status in 1960 with its role in the UN's Freedom from Hunger campaign. When, in the 1970s, it became clear that many of the problems associated with poverty required government and global action, Oxfam stepped up its lobbying of policy-makers on behalf of the people it worked with.

A strong part of the charity's proposition is its retail success, with Oxfam Fair Trade campaigning for improvements in international trade rules and workers' conditions.

Likewise, the charity has worked to address the structural causes of poverty, for example joining Jubilee 2000, which campaigns for developing world debt relief.

But its greatest achievement lies in joining hands around the globe.

With its mission to tackle Pol Pot's legacy in post-1979 Cambodia to more recent appeals on behalf of those devastated by floods in Bangladesh and the wars in south Sudan and Kosovo, Oxfam has set the standard for enabling ordinary people to make a difference.

Today it is one of the most recognised charitable brands in the world, marrying the concepts of emergency relief and rehabilitation, with lobbying for change.

5. Malcolm McLaren - the Sex Pistols

Forget Pop Stars and Pop Idol, the greatest manipulation of the general public orchestrated by the music industry was the Sex Pistols, the brainchild of Malcolm McLaren.

Fronted by public enemy number one Johnny Rotten, the band looked awful, couldn't sing, were hated by parents and were banned by everyone from town councils to Radio 1.

It now seems hilarious to realise how much grief could be caused by some lads in slashed T-shirts, safety pins, spiked hair and foul mouths. But in the late 1970s, McLaren's timing was perfect and the band's punk image - put together with Vivienne Westwood in the shop Sex on London's Kings Road - was truly shocking.

However, it was McLaren's handling of publicity and press that rocketed the Sex Pistols to worldwide fame. In 1976, he got the group spots on national TV news shows to hype their debut single Anarchy in the UK, where Rotten and Sid Vicious duly swore live on air.

Similarly, he arranged a string of spectacular stunts, including the signing of contracts with A&M Records outside Buckingham Palace in March 1977 and a live performance of the single God Save the Queen on the Thames on Jubilee night.

But while the media judged the Sex Pistols to be a threat to society, the band made money, most notably with a £75,000 pay-off from A&M just days after being signed. For his achievements with an act that only just scraped three years together, McLaren's legacy is awesome.

6. Coca-Cola - the early years, including WWII

Although best known these days for its ad campaigns, the big break for Coke came from a PR masterstroke during World War II.

Thanks to a canny Washington lobbyist, Ben Oehlert, and the foresight of then company president Robert W Woodruff, Coke managed to survive the potential disaster of wartime with a brand that became a national icon.

Not only that, the company also piggy-backed the US government's war-chest to sow the seeds for future global domination.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Woodruff persuaded the US War Department that Coke was crucial to the war effort. He announced that the company 'would see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents wherever he is and whatever it costs'.

Since it was an alternative to alcoholic beverages, the US government agreed to pay most of the costs for shipping Cokes to American GIs around the world and forked out for the parts needed to build bottling plants for frontline troops. Coke became a morale booster, representing a slice of American life that US soldiers introduced to new territories in Europe and the Pacific Rim.

The benefits were unprecedented. When the US entered the war, Coca-Cola was bottled in 44 different countries. By the end of the conflict, US troops had consumed more than five billion bottles of the stuff and helped to set up 64 new bottling plants overseas.

Thanks to Uncle Sam, Coca-Cola reached new markets it may have taken years to conquer by other means.

7. Greenpeace and its GM foods campaigning

Greenpeace began campaigning against genetically modified (GM) foods more than a decade ago. In 1999, however, the organisation was at the forefront of shifting public opinion away from cheap food at any cost to a position in which the supermarkets were forced to capitulate to consumer pressure and remove GM foods from their shelves. The charity campaigned on various fronts, including direct dialogue with supermarkets, manufacturers and consumers.

In 1998, Greenpeace began conducting GM supermarket tours in which volunteers took shoppers around, highlighting the GM ingredients on sale.

Likewise, the organisation created a traffic-light referral system to food retailers on its website, where 'red' indicated supermarkets selling and using GM foods, 'amber' those using or selling GM foods but trying to get out of it, and 'green' retailers who were GM-free.

The campaign caused great concern among supermarkets, which saw it as potentially damaging to their reputations - and their profits.

In 1999, the public was roused by the arrest of 28 protesters - including former Greenpeace chief executive Lord Melchett - for destroying GM crops on a test site in Norfolk.

That was the turning point for the debate. Supermarkets reacted by competing to be the first officially to get out of GM food.

Two high-profile trials the following year showed how far British opinion had shifted - all the activists were acquitted of theft and causing criminal damage.

8. Calvin Klein

Consumers have been the target of some of the most ingenious PR campaigns in history, so the task of selecting the 20 best was a daunting one. It was not without its share of controversy either.

Although Calvin Klein the man is renowned for his minimalist yet sophisticated designs, he is not nearly as famous as the clothing giant that bears his name. From the 1960s to the present, the brand has reinvented itself through jeans, underwear, perfumes and homeware, and is now at the forefront of the lifestyle agenda.

'CK was first to use celebrities in ads and then drive editorial campaigns that made us question whether a fragrance can be for a man and a woman,' says John Mahony.

The marketing breakthrough came in the late 1970s, when CK introduced designer jeans at affordable prices. When Brooke Shields declared that nothing stood between her and her Calvins, women were hooked.

The brand transformed men's underwear from the practical to the sexy, with campaigns featuring the likes of Marky Mark in a pair of CK boxers.

Since then, the brand has gone on to drive the dialogue in the male grooming debate and led the fashion industry into the realm of home style.

Issues such as men's grooming had seldom been covered in magazines until the CK brand emerged.

However, CK has been criticised for its models, not least Kate Moss, whose posters were defaced with the words 'feed me'. But this and the so-called 'kiddie porn' controversies simply pushed the editorial buttons further.

By not extending the brand to Tommy Hilfiger proportions, Calvin Klein has kept its kudos and, with its stable of nine fragrances - including Obsession, Eternity and the unisex Ck One - is one of the most enduring in fashion.

9. 'McLibel' trial against McDonald's

The 'McLibel' trial, in which former postman Dave Morris and ex-gardener Helen Steel, took on the might of McDonald's, was dubbed 'the biggest corporate PR disaster in history' by Channel 4 News. Our judges chose it because it demonstrates the power of the individual to upturn a multinational organisation.

Since the era of 1920s US pioneer Edward Bernays, whose new techniques, based on Freud's psychoanalysis, made consumers form emotional ties with brands, the consumer PR field has blossomed and matured, producing a rich variety of campaigns.

The wisdom or otherwise of the burger giant to take on two people living on income support to secure damages and an injunction has been discussed widely.

But the success of the defendants in winning the PR war, if not the court battle, was awesome. By refusing to be bullied, Morris and Steel won the approval of the public and spawned a Channel 4 documentary and a book - McLibel: Burger Culture on Trial.

The McLibel Support Campaign raised more than £35,000 to fund the pair's legal costs during the three-year trial. As it pumped out press releases, handed out leaflets and maintained a blow-by-blow account of the trial on the McSpotlight website, the campaign set the standard for protest organisations the world over.

Within one month of its launch in 1996, McSpotlight generated more than one million hits. By the trial's end, this had grown to 2.2 million visitors in one day, all with access to 21,000 files on McDonald's corporate policy and legal actions around the globe.

10. Rescue of the Perrier Brand

As Perrier proved 12 years ago, contamination scares prompting product recalls are the stuff of nightmares, but not necessarily the end of the world.

Perrier's troubles started in 1990, when scientists found traces of carcinogenic benzene in its bottles in the US. Although not a significant health risk, the media jumped on the problem and the brand's reputation for quality and purity came under fire.

Initially, the situation was handled badly, with Source Perrier in France dismissing the problem as 'a little affair which, in a few days, will all be forgotten', while in the US sales plummeted and Perrier's shareprice sank.

After four days of prevarication, Perrier eventually decided to withdraw its 160 million bottles worldwide at a cost of £150m.

Into the breach stepped Burson-Marsteller, with crisis teams in Paris and New York, to co-ordinate both the media effort and the conflicting interests of Perrier's management teams on each side of the Atlantic.

Down the years, tactics have ranged from brash publicity stunts (who can forget the various publicity coups of Malcolm McLaren in the 1970s as he manipulated the press to build the notoriety of the Sex Pistols?) to word-of-mouth crazes, such as that which swept the world when Erno Rubik created Rubik's Cube, his almost impossible puzzle in 1974. In fact, some argue the history of consumer PR is almost a history of PR itself.

Focusing on the product's re-launch, the recovery plan included a media drop of 'Nouvelle Production Perrier' to all press rooms in Paris and the announcement of a $25m US re-launch programme to a packed press conference in New York. In the US, the product's reintroduction was accompanied by 'Perrier Day' events, a media tour by group president Ron Davis and sampling sessions, at which 275,000 bottles were distributed free.

Within the space of a few months, Perrier had regained its brand dominance.

11. BRMB - radio wedding

Described by some as the ultimate cynical publicity stunt, the wedding between Carla Germain and Greg Cordell, staged by BRMB in 1999, achieved exactly what the Birmingham-based radio station intended.

For a regional broadcaster to gain national and international coverage, controversy was clearly the way to go.

'We spend our lives searching for a life partner and more often than not, we fuck it up. This was a comment on marriage and it should have been entered for the Turner Prize,' says Trevor Beattie.

Created by Mike Owen Media and launched on air just after Christmas 1998, the PR campaign centred around a competition for two listeners to marry each other on a blind date, with a free Bermuda honeymoon and a free flat and car for a year.

On 25 January 1999, the nuptials were due to go out live on air on BRMB, but were delayed for 30 minutes after the registrar complained of a 'media circus'.

A press conference and a documentary ensured the newlyweds were plastered everywhere, from The Guardian to the Daily Star, Radio 4 and BBC TV. There were even approaches from the David Letterman and Jay Leno talk-shows in the US.

The marriage did not last, but BRMB's brand gained exposure and a powerful reputation beyond its locality.

In acknowledging this view, PRWeek assembled a panel of eight judges drawn from the top of their respective fields - PR, marketing, advertising and the media - to nominate their personal favourites and to subject their selection to a critical round-table analysis.

12. Brylcreem Boy

The Brylcreem Boy won the judges' vote for introducing the concept of direct-to-consumer activities into the PR mix.

'It was the first example of successful guerrilla PR, which also bolted fashion onto men's haircare products,' says Mark Borkowski.

Popular with grandads everywhere, Brylcreem died a death with the Beatles and was flagging by the mid-1980s. To revitalise its image with a new breed of 16 to 24-year-old males, the Beecham's brand created a hip ad campaign.

To maximise impact, Lynne Franks PR came up with the concept of the Brylcreem Boy, a competition whereby handsome but intelligent young men could win the chance to appear in Brylcreem's ads.

In a tie-up with Boots, candidates queued up around the country in their thousands for the chance to take part in regional finals in local nightspots.

This generated posters, local media interest and a magazine, featuring all the latest clubs, bands, gadgets and music.

The national winner was unveiled at a photocall in London, accompanied by England cricketer Dennis Compton and a montage of the changing style and image of the Brylcreem Boy over the years.

The PR team was lucky to be allowed by the client to go as far as it did, but by hitting the major retailers, local nightclubs and the national media at once, the results it achieved were incredible.

13. 'Tell Sid' campaign for British Gas privatisation

Our panel included consumer PR specialist and legend Lynne Franks; TBWA/London chairman and creative director Trevor Beattie; Borkowski PR managing director Mark Borkowski; Freud Communications director Oliver Wheeler; Financial Times media correspondent Sathnam Sanghera; Edelman Public Relations (UK) chief executive John Mahony; Virgin brand development and corporate affairs director Will Whitehorn; and PRWeek editor Kate Nicholas.

The share offer for British Gas in 1986 sparked general consumer interest in the concept of privatisation more than any other government sell-off of its era. 'The slogan "Tell Sid

became synonymous with Thatcherism and ignited privatisations around the world,' says Will Whitehorn.

Set against the backdrop of the sale of British Telecom in 1984 and the TSB Group's flotation 18 months later, the idea of widespread private investment in the stock-market was not new. But with utility ownership un-sexy and retail demand for the public offer crucial, the Department of Energy needed a strong selling point.

'There was a very powerful desire for members of the public and customers to be owners of British Gas, as there was a huge question over whether there would be sufficient institutional support to get proceeds,' says Incepta executive director Tony Carlisle, who, as chief executive of Dewe Rogerson, headed the communications team at the time.

With sharebuying a risk investment, all communications to consumers came from an information base rather than a persuasion base. The ad campaign by Young and Rubicam focused on creating awareness, while the PR push enabled participation by outlining the timetable and reasons to get involved.

The 'If you see Sid, tell him' slogan assured the public that the share-offer was huge and millions approached the British Gas Share Information Office for application forms.

14. Cancelling Third-World debt - Bono meets the Pope

The Pope was among the first to link the year 2000 to the eradication of developing world debt. As far back as 1994, he said that the marking of the new millennium would be a good time to 'reduce substantially, if not cancel outright' the threat such repayments posed.

Similarly, U2 singer Bono has taken a high-profile stance on the issue since Jubilee 2000 - the coalition of more than 90 UK organisations, including the TUC, Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth - was launched at the Brit Awards in February 1999.

However, despite the claims of many that the campaign was simply too ambitious, Jubilee 2000 won the hearts of the public and achieved real change.

In December 2000, chancellor Gordon Brown announced that all debt payments to the UK from 41 countries - many of which had borrowed and squandered in the 1970s - would be stopped or held in trust.

One of the most pressing issues for the panelists was to balance the sheer variety of consumer PR, as well as recognising the historical significance of each campaign in its time.

A significant factor in this £1bn government write-off was the image of Pope John Paul II meeting Bono and his Jubilee 2000 colleagues in Rome in 1999. Realising the value of publicity, U2's frontman gave the pontiff his rock-star shades and the Pope tried them on.

The image rocketed around the globe, accompanied by a plea from John Paul II, that the world's most powerful nations drop developing world debt.

As a worldly wise Bono commented afterwards: 'People have a short attention span; you need a picture of a pop star and a pope together - that usually gets their attention.'

15. Suffragette movement

The Suffragette movement shows the pros and cons of adopting militant methods for a political campaign. Sure, the objectives were achieved, but historians still remain divided on whether the Suffragettes advanced their cause or set it back.

Nevertheless in 1906, after 40 years of fruitless campaigning for women's right to vote, it is easy to understand why the Suffragettes' originators, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, felt that militancy against the Liberal government of the day was justified.

The judges selected the Suffragettes for their ability to drive national debate. By chaining themselves to railings, heckling politicians and refusing to pay taxes, the protestors pushed women's suffrage up the political agenda. The Suffragettes gained much public sympathy in the wake of heavy-handed police treatment and legislation that allowed imprisoned women on hunger-strike to be freed, then arrested again once they had regained their health.

The more dramatic gestures such as fire-setting, window-breaking and suicidal Emily Wilding Davison - who threw herself under the King's horse on Derby Day in 1913 and was killed - alienated many non-militant women and pro-suffrage MPs.

Also, the Suffragettes failed to mobilise the working classes. Without their support, it took the outbreak of World War I and the suspension of militancy to win the feminist cause.

In 1918, 8.4 million women were granted the vote and, by 1928, suffrage was extended to all women over 21.

In order to do that, the basis for selection was defined as 'consumer-facing' campaigns. So, for instance, Oxfam's campaign to bring awareness of developing countries' poverty to the attention of the developed world charts at number four.

16. Labour Isn't Working

In the 1979 general election, following the 'Winter of Discontent' and Labour PM Jim Callaghan's 'Crisis? What Crisis?' denials of industrial strife, the Conservatives - led by Margaret Thatcher - romped to victory.

A significant factor in this success was Tory director of publicity Gordon Reece, who from February 1978 helped the Iron Lady win over the media. In an election campaign dominated by TV as never before, Thatcher was seen drinking tea in a factory, swinging her shopping bag and cuddling a new-born lamb.

The other crucial factor was Reece's commissioning of the Saatchi brothers' now famous 'Labour Isn't Working' poster, depicting a dole office queue. Dennis Healey denounced it in Parliament, claiming the people in the ad were actors.

As public awareness of the Saatchi image grew, the Tories won loads of free publicity.

More significantly, however, the rows gave Tory spokespeople a platform to discuss Labour's unemployment record and explore their own manifesto promises to control inflation and the unions, resulting in the ultimate political prize.

17. Rubik's Cube

In the early 1980s, the sound of frenetic clicking and fevered sighing usually meant someone was trying to solve Rubik's Cube. While a 16-year-old from Los Angeles won the 1982 world championship by unscrambling a cube in under 23 seconds, for most consumers, the puzzle was the source or enormous frustration.

For the puzzle that was often solved with a hammer or by peeling off the coloured stickers, the question is: 'Why did millions of us, from geeks to grannies,buy one?'

The answer lies in the cube's roots in Hungary and the buzz created by word-of-mouth.

Each campaign has also proved itself as relevant to the brand and somehow possesses that distinct quality of being a 'classic'.

Invented by Erno Rubik in 1974, the 'Magic Cube', as it was originally called, did not take off in the West until British toy expert Tom Kremer and the Ideal Toy Corporation got their hands on it in 1979. After placing an order for one million cubes, they took Rubik and his creation to the international toy fairs in London, Paris, Nuremberg and New York.

From here, demand outstripped supply. With mathematicians writing newspaper articles and scientific papers on the cube, by 1981 consumers couldn't get enough.

Fan clubs were set up, enthusiasts developed 'Rubik's Wrist' and more than 60 books were published offering help and solutions.

Saturation point was eventually reached, but not before the Rubik's Cube had graced New York Museum of Modern Art and won an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.

18. Wonderbra

Who can forget the vision of Czech supermodel Eva Herzigova purring 'Hello Boys' from billboards and newspapers in 1994?

Up and down the country men gawped, while women smiled smugly at how gorgeous they could look.

Behind the media frenzy, the relaunch of the Wonderbra, when its licence was transferred from Gossard to Playtex by Canadelle, was a sophisticated piece of integrated marketing.

'Wonderbra came about when PR came of age in the 1990s,' says Will Whitehorn.

'The fuddy-duddy brands thought about different ways to do things and they chose fusion.'

What stood out in the debate was the role PR has played in the range of campaigns discussed. The political landscape and the environmental movement have been shaped by PR. Similarly, the most unlikely of successes - such as Trivial Pursuit - were made because of clever use of a PR technique.

Created by the triumvirate of Jackie Cooper PR, TBWA's Trevor Beattie and former Playtex managing director Brian Duffy, the campaign positioned the Wonderbra as a lifestyle accessory rather than just another bra. It was more than just an ad campaign supported by PR - the two worked powerfully together.

Herzigova, and later the supermodels Caprice and Adrianna Sklenarikova, created headlines in the news, features, business and celebrity pages, with both images and stories, while the fashion writers were left to figure it out for themselves.

In the first 12 weeks, the product was the subject of 95 national newspaper features and 167 minutes of dedicated airtime on TV.

From something of a mumsy brand, evoking memories of 'lift and separate', Playtex and its Wonderbra was transformed into a sexy and humorous brand, with sales peaking in 1995 at 47,000 units a week.

Jackie Cooper PR set itself the aim of putting Wonderbra into the vernacular within five years of its launch.

The campaign certainly had that effect and the judges felt the campaign was a classic example of how PR can do just that.

19. PlayStation 2 launch

The launch of Sony's original PlayStation was a phenomenon in itself. But the arrival of PlayStation 2 (PS2) in the UK earned the games console an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest selling games console ever.

All 170,000 available units sold out ahead of the official PS2 launch, well before the unveiling of the David Lynch-directed ad campaign.

However, the reason this campaign was rated highly by PRWeek's judges was the sustainable presence the PR gave the brand - something that exists to this day.

The nomination process set out to capture the range of historical examples - from the power of individuals such as Calvin Klein, who 'drove editorial dialogue on male grooming' in the 1990s, as Edelman's John Mahony argued, to great products that launched and maximised impact through canny timing.

'If you look at sales of the product, the attendance at events and whether the brand made a positive impact, then PlayStation 2 achieved all three,' says Oliver Wheeler.

The product arrived in the UK in November 2000 and was a must-have item for Christmas.

This in itself created a massive expectation problem - and an unpopular pre-order system - whereby the hype had to live up to the reality.

However, the product was given mass-market appeal, featuring in the tabloids, the men's style press and special supplements such as the Mail on Sunday's Night & Day, while also maintaining popularity with hardcore gamers.

A multi-layered approach, whereby Sony and its PR agency Jackie Cooper PR sponsored unusual and creative events, including football competitions and the B-boys break-dancing championship, ensured PlayStation maintained its all-important cool.

In the space of a few months, PS2 proved that, contrary to popular wisdom, youth PR can be both big and bold.

20. Trivial Pursuit

The cause of many a family bust-up and fisticuffs at parties, Trivial Pursuit changed the way that game-makers do business.

The brainchild of two Canadians, photo editor Chris Haney and sportswriter Scott Abbott, the 'boardgame with the cheeses' was transformed into a global craze by US PR consultant Linda Pezzano.

Bucking the trend towards launching games using TV ads, Pezzano settled on the cheaper option of creating word-of-mouth.

Among the phenomena that fitted this category was the craze for Rubik's Cube.

In 1983, in the run-up to the New York Toy Fair, she sent 1,800 top games buyers a series of marketing teasers.

In addition, a major part of her strategy was giving the game away free, including hand-outs to movie stars who featured in the trivia questions.

This resulted in Hollywood-style Trivial Pursuit dinner parties and a number of thank-you letters from the likes of Gregory Peck, James Mason and Larry Hagman, all of which were fed back into the publicity machine.

In the knowledge that people would only want the game if they had suffered the frustrations of trying to win a piece of wedge for themselves, Pezzano also staged game-playing events. In parks, bars and restaurants, consumers got to prove the depths of their useless knowledge and pit their grey-matter against their friends'.

The end result was sales of more than 30 million in 18 languages and 32 countries, and a host of alternative versions, including a Young Players Edition, Baby Boomer and Star Wars.

'It was pure PR and stole so much ground against Monopoly and Scrabble,' says Mark Borkowski.

Some of them are also a part of an integrated campaign.

But in broadening the definition to include consumer-facing campaigns, the panelists pulled some surprises. For example, Sathnam Sanghera sent an e-mail to some of his FT colleagues asking for their suggested nominations.

The FT deputy editor proposed the campaign to raise awareness of genetically-modified foods. After consideration, our panelists deemed it worthy of our chart.

Much discussion also surrounded the need to recognise the power of the individual. This has taken several forms. Richard Branson (ranked number two) was chosen for his ingenious positioning as a consumer champion.

But by including the two individuals who took on one of the world's biggest corporations, McDonald's, in the McLibel trial, there is also recognition of the power of individuals to use PR as a weapon against the greatest odds. The 'McLibel' trial comes in at number nine for this reason.

But there was no shortage of controversy in the debate. Some panelists were keen to acknowledge that the definition might necessitate the inclusion of some unpalatable stuff. One panelist said: 'If we are debating impact, surely some would argue we must consider 11 September as the biggest publicity stunt of all time.'

In that light, Adolf Hitler's minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels was also suggested. But both ideas were dismissed on moral grounds.

The most controversial campaign to make the list - and it comes in first place - is that for the Labour Party.

Accused and berated in the press for an over-reliance on 'spin', particularly in recent months, some will say Labour's nomination is confirmation of critics' claims that the party's success owes more to spin than substance. But one of the judges anticipated the point: 'The fact their use of PR is so well documented and debated speaks for itself and says "Yes, they're doing a damned fine job of it".'

Whitehorn made the point that John Major's government suffered for not heeding the PR lessons learned by the Thatcher administration. He said: 'New Labour took ideas that the Tories were using in 1979 and did it a lot better. Major was dragged down by sleaze - and the fact is that he was probably one of the most responsible prime ministers we've ever had.'

Less controversial, perhaps, was the choice of Coca-Cola. But the decision to deny recognition to Coke's recent marketing caused controversy. It was felt that the early years of Coca-Cola created some excellent examples of PR, but that today the corporation had shied away from PR as 'too risky' and this was to its detriment.

Trevor Beattie, one of the UK's leading creative minds in advertising, outlined where his own career had courted controversy when using above-the-line techniques in conjunction with PR.

'I got vilified, coming from advertising and going into PR,' he said.

'I was regarded as being a bit grubby. They said "the work isn't good enough, so you're using PR to make up for it.

But PR is about making money go further. And I soon realised that you don't need to get it on TV to get the message out.'

The list of 20 classic consumer campaigns in the list offers the best confirmation of his point and even shows why PR is so often the best way to communicate with consumers.


1. Labour Party since the mid-1990s

The transformation in the Labour Party's PR and its success in securing two general election victories meant that our judges were almost unanimous in their number one choice.

'The Labour Party has refocused how media relations work,' says Mark Borkowski, a view echoed by Trevor Beattie, who adds: 'Even now, people criticise it as all spin and no substance - that's the best measure of its success.'

Peter Mandelson is widely credited with creating the New Labour brand, which in the mid-1990s sought to shed the image of a spendthrift, inflationary and union-dominated party, and create one that suggested it was in touch with the people. More ominously for some, he is also reputed to be the driving force behind the injection of Washington-style tactics into the party's PR and Labour's relatively united front. Alastair Campbell's influence also towered over the campaign.

In advance of the 1997 election, Mandelson installed a computerised rebuttal unit in Labour's press office, which enabled the party to jump on bad press. Likewise, the setting of agreed daily themes and the development of relevant case studies ensured that a slick campaign team steered Labour to a landslide victory.

Labour's Millbank communications HQ is now known as a finely tuned PR machine. One commentator described the approach of the team as 'a war-room mentality'.

Some of the sloganeering of the campaign included 'A Better Britain' and 'Britain Deserves Better', themes that struck a chord with the electorate when they returned Labour to power after years in the political doldrums.

One of the most notable achievements of the New Labour campaign was the success achieved in winning the support of the country's two highest-circulation newspapers, Rupert Murdoch's The Sun and the News of the World, for the first time.

'Sleaze' and the high profile of the likes of Campbell have encouraged accusations that Labour puts style before substance. But the fact that the Conservatives have used Millbank's PR machinery as a blueprint to restructure their own speaks volumes about Labour's success.

2. Sir Richard Branson

It may seem strange to have the man himself, rather than the Virgin brand, at number two, but as Trevor Beattie says: 'The brand is Branson - there's no-one better.'

Since launching his mail-order record company in 1972, Sir Richard has mounted a mission to champion the consumer, bust perceived cartels and deliver customer service, all topped with a healthy dollop of fun, innovation and anarchy.

When punk arrived, he was the man willing to sign up the Sex Pistols when others found the band too hot to handle. Similarly, in 1984, he took on the mighty British Airways and other trans-Atlantic air carriers to win the public cheaper airfares.

However, what is most remarkable is that any business disappointments or personal failures seem to endear him to the public further. Despite his ballooning exploits, his inability to secure the 'People's Lottery' and the poor performance of some of his companies, Branson's 'at least we tried' philosophy enables the Virgin brand to remain strong. From planes, cars and utilities to music, finance, mobile phones and bridal-wear, the promise remains the same.

The only dent in the Branson record is the trains. Since 1997, when Virgin Rail successfully bid to operate the InterCity West Coast line, Sir Richard has lost some of his shine. But 'the grinning pullover' - as former BA chairman Lord King once described him during the 'dirty tricks' trial - remains friendly, idealistic and informal: a personification of his brand.

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