CAMPAIGN: Consumer PR - Nesbitt helps PR for Bloody Sunday flick

In January 1972, an illegal civil rights protest in Derry, Northern Ireland, became a bloodbath as British paratroopers shot 29 marchers, killing 13.

Bloody Sunday, a Granada Film dramatisation of the event, was shown to mark its 20th anniversary on ITV1 on 20 January.

A week later it began a limited release at UK cinemas. Octagon's PR team reported directly to The Feature Film Company, which distributed Bloody Sunday in cinemas, but also worked with Granada TV, Granada Film and the producer, Portman Films.

Objectives

To publicise the cinema release and TV screening of Bloody Sunday and encourage public debate of the issues.

Strategy and Plan

Octagon targeted the 'quality' print, radio and TV media via interviews with the film's star, James Nesbitt. There were separate screenings, for long-lead magazines and TV writers, ahead of the ITV1 showing. Another was held on 6 January in Derry itself for relatives of the marchers. Sky News broadcasted live from the city all day and Channel 4 News also covered the event.

Nesbitt, who played march leader Ivan Cooper in the film, was used extensively by Octagon.

The role was a marked shift for Nesbitt, best-known for his part in Granada TV's comedy drama Cold Feet. His enthusiasm for the project, and its message, gave Octagon an unusual trump card in its campaign.

No reference was made by Octagon to the Channel 4 TV film covering the same events, written by Jimmy McGovern, which went out the week after Granada's.

Measurement and Evaluation

Nesbitt appeared on BBC radio stations London Live and 5 Live, ITV1's London Tonight and also appeared on ITV1's This Morning and C4's Big Breakfast.

All broadsheets, and most mass-market national papers, carried reviews and comment or feature pieces. Actors who played paratroopers at the march, all ex-soldiers, were interviewed in The Guardian and The Times.

Knowing the film was likely to get a rough ride in the Daily Mail for its political implications, the PR team placed some importance on the reaction of the paper's film critic Baz Bamingboye.

His review - which was largely favourable - appeared the week after Christmas, tempering to some extent the more negative Mail coverage that subsequently appeared.

The comments of Evening Standard film critic Alexander Walker, who saw the film as republican agit-prop, pre-empting the findings of the second official Bloody Sunday enquiry, received coverage in Time Out and on GuardianUnlimited.

Results

The cinema version was screened at the influential Sundance and Berlin film festivals, and has been sold to a US distributor.

The ITV1 showing attracted more than four million viewers - high for 10pm on a Sunday evening.

Octogan is continuing a campaign as the film rolls out around the UK.

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