CAMPAIGNS: Status Quo's credibility in rock revived - Marketing Communications

Client: Universal Music TV

PR Team: Fifth Element

Campaign: Launch of Status Quo's album Heavy Traffic

Timescale: Ongoing from March 2002

Budget: £30,000

Status Quo have been entertaining their army of denim-clad fans since 1965. Fronted by Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, the rock legends have sold 112 million records and achieved 57 British hits, including Caroline, Down Down, Whatever You Want and Rockin' All Over The World.

Despite this success, the group has taken its knocks over the years, with critics dubbing the Quo a three chord wonder.

More troublesome, however, has been the perception that Status Quo are a back-catalogue act, with Radio One imposing a ban on its music in the mid-1990s.

This September, the group released their first studio album of new material for five years, Heavy Traffic, through its label Universal Music TV.

In August, this was preceded by the release of the new single, Jam Side Down.

Objectives

As well as raising awareness of the new releases, the aim of the campaign was to underline the fact that Status Quo are a seminal British rock act, who have influenced countless other bands and should be taken seriously.

A key challenge, therefore, was to overcome the perception that the band, because of its age, had no new music or relevant contributions to make to the great rock canon.

The PR team was also keen to build publicity and ticket sales for the group's Heavy Traffic UK tour, which kicked off at the end of October.

Strategy and Plan

To propel the band back into the charts, Fifth Element set about targeting mainstream consumer magazines and broadcasters, the showbiz pages of the tabloids and the specialist music titles.

As part of this strategy, the PR team worked closely with the band's manager Simon Porter, who was organising a major launch event on 30 July, chartering the Orient Express down to Portsmouth where the band performed live on the flight deck of HMS Ark Royal.

In advance of this extravaganza, key journalists received album samplers and invitations were sent to media ranging from specialist music title Mojo to the BBC, The Daily Telegraph and IRN.

On the day, journalists were joined by 600 military personnel, 100 Quo fan club members and a clutch of VIP guests - including comedian Harry Hill and a couple of page-three girls, brought along by the Daily Star as 'colour' - and treated to a 12-song set.

A week later, to provide an extra push for the release of Jam Side Down, Fifth Element sent out a press release highlighting that the band had chalked up hits in five decades.

This was backed by a host of interviews with Rossi and Parfitt, in both the national and regional media.

The second single from the album, All Stand Up, was released on 28 October and further interviews are on-going around the 40 UK dates of the Heavy Traffic tour.

The aim of this part of the campaign is to keep awareness of the album high in the run up to the Christmas period, traditionally one of the most commercially important times for popular recording artists.

Measurement and Evaluation

The launch event aboard HMS Ark Royal attracted 35 journalists, securing news coverage from The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC Online and IRN.

More impressively how-ever, the prospect of lunch aboard the Orient Express and a jaunt down to Portsmouth meant that specialist titles such as Mojo attended, generating some heavy-weight album reviews.

The Sunday Mirror and the Daily Express ran double-page spreads highlighting the longevity of the Quo's appeal, while the resurgence of the band was picked up by the Evening Standard and The Sunday Times.

Much of the coverage was timed to coincide with the release of Heavy Traffic, and in September the album and the band featured in Record Collector, Guitar magazine, Classic Rock, and Virgin Trains magazine HotLine.

Results

The single, Jam Side Down, was a Top 20 hit, while the album went straight into the charts at number 15.

Universal Music TV is particularly pleased that the coverage gained has been so widespread across the various media.

This has ranged from in-depth analysis of the new material in magazines such as Classic Rock, through to major features within the nationals and consumer press, TV interviews on Richard & Judy, as well as grassroots interest from titles such as Rock n Reel.

Perhaps most importantly, however, the campaign has successfully chipped away at the prejudices that surround Status Quo. The ponytails and denim may live on, but increasingly the band is being perceived as a British success story.

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