As icons go, Rolls-Royce is up there with the best of them, and the new version of one of its most famous models - the Phantom - was eagerly awaited.
This quintessentially British brand has in fact been owned by German companies since 1998: Volkswagen manufactured its last of the marque at the end of 2002, leaving BMW to take up the name at the start of this year.
This did nothing to dampen UK interest in the event, since BMW had been embroiled in an unholy furore less than two years before over its plans to sell another venerable British brand, Rover.
The Phantom was launched in two stages: in Europe at the company's UK manufacturing facility in Goodwood on 3 January, and on 5 January at the Detroit Motor Show for the rest of the world.
As with all top consumer brands, purchase is restricted by wealth rather than geography, which meant the company was keen to maximise coverage in key international markets - especially the UK, Germany, Asia and the Middle East.
Bulletin International, which has worked with the brand on several projects, was approached to handle press and broadcast PR for the launch.
To maximise broadcast and online coverage for both launch events. To communicate the brand's independent position within the BMW group. To emphasise the cutting-edge technology and engineering expertise of BMW - along with the quality, heritage and iconic status of the Rolls-Royce brand.
Strategy and Plan
For several weeks before the launches, Bulletin worked closely with the Rolls-Royce PR team to determine the production requirements and PR strategy.
Bulletin directed its media relations push towards broadcasters, positioning the story on a number of angles. In addition to being a top-rank business piece in its own right, the Phantom launch was a time to assess the influence of another foreign owner on a British icon.
For the websites, Bulletin presented it as a consumer story about a recession-proof luxury brand for a niche market. An interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme put the event firmly on the news agenda on the morning of the launch and, on the basis that business programmes want to question senior figureheads, one-to-one interviews with chief exectuive Tony Gott were arranged on-site for national and regional broadcasters.
In addition to running the interviews on the ground, the agency was in charge of distributing multi-media content, although pictures were embargoed until the afternoon.
To maximise the impact in Europe, UK and German crews were invited to the Goodwood manufacturing plant for the initial unveiling on 3 January, and B-roll footage was made available to supplement broadcasters' own event pictures.
Filmed by Bulletin and Rolls-Royce, these featured production line shots and various static images of the car. Bulletin liaised closely with camera crews - particularly the BBC, which was there all day feeding back regular live reports for BBC News 24 and The Six O'clock News.
Key websites including BBC.com and CNN.com were given pictures of the new car and sound bites from Gott. Live interviews in front of the newly unveiled car were arranged as part of a news package, produced by Bulletin, that was distributed via satellite and also thenewsmarket.com.
A sister company to the agency, thenewsmarket.com is a web-based news video archive and distribution channel which allows broadcast-quality video content to be downloaded on demand as a cost-effective way of widening distribution to newsrooms.
The PR team had been concerned that the Goodwood launch should not be allowed to overshadow the Detroit event, which was scheduled to happen just two days later.
Bulletin offered the Middle East and Asia markets something different, integrating Rolls-Royce launch pictures into a general news package from the Detroit Motor show.
Included in this, crucially, was moving footage of the car for the first time. To further tailor the story to both markets, an interview with an Asian dealer was filmed weeks in advance and edited into the news feed.
Provision was made for those media outlets which were unable to take this feed: hard copy tapes were distributed to them from Bulletin offices in London, Singapore and Shanghai.
Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign generated nearly nine hours of coverage in over 280 TV, radio and online reports in all target markets. Near-blanket exposure ranged from live reports from Goodwood on the BBC Six O'clock News to live interviews on CNN, CNBC and Sky.
All the German networks ran the story using footage supplied by Bulletin as did major broadcasters in China, Singapore and the Middle East. The tone was generally positive, helping to position the car as one of the most desirable in its sector.
Unlike PR for some luxury car brands, Rolls-Royce's investment in PR aims to affect the company's bottom line for the better by driving sales.
Within 30 minutes of an interview on CNN, the company said that five US dealers had received enquiries for the new Phantom. Rolls-Royce is considering extending the broadcast campaign through 2003.