'It hit the sweet spot of a cultural moment' – behind the Wrexham/Hollywood sign campaign

Lewis Davey, founder and creative director at Idea Farm, discusses the recent high-profile campaign that brought a bit of Hollywood to north Wales.

'It hit the sweet spot of a cultural moment' – behind the Wrexham/Hollywood sign campaign

What was the campaign in a nutshell?

National League title sponsor Vanarama kicked off the new season with a big PR stunt. Focus has been on Wrexham FC since Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney became owners. Vanarama erected a giant Hollywood-inspired WREXHAM sign in the town. Unbranded, the sign sparked a major 'Whodunnit?!' among the public and media. Ryan Reynolds even tweeted it. At the peak moment, Vanarama claimed the stunt with a massive banner, generating heaps of coverage.

How did the idea come into being?

The stunt was devised by the brilliant team at Dark Horses. A huge amount of effort went into finding a location and getting the sign built – then organising a giant banner to be unfurled above it. The branded banner was important to Vanarama, to maximise eyeballs on its logo and distinctive orange branding. We had initially planned for a helicopter to fly over and do the reveal, but willing pilots were hard to come by! We did get some amazing drone footage though, which we then served up to media.

What ideas were rejected?

The idea ticked so many boxes, and matched Vanarama's big ambition to activate a real showstopper. The team knew straight away it was going to be a story worthy of a Hollywood film…

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process

Dark Horses brought us (Idea Farm) in to consult on the media strategy to make sure this one went up in bright lights. It fitted into the 'old skool PR stunt' bracket, but we know cutting through the media landscape is increasingly difficult with this sort of activation. We advised to erect the sign unbranded and tease a 'Whodunnit?!' narrative through the week, before Vanarama claimed ownership at the perfect moment. This made it an irresistible story for media, and when we got to the reveal stage there was an obligation to report on the story again. We had a seeding plan to work with influencers, and a few other tactics up our sleeve to get people talking – but it took on a perfect narrative on its own.

What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was having balls of steel to keep it under wraps and reveal it at the right moment. Collaborating with Dark Horses and the team at Vanarama needed to be efficient. We had a morning call throughout the week – and a WhatsApp group, which was great for reacting fast and making important calls. It was stressful at times, but lots of fun.

How did you measure the results and what were they?

We're still measuring the results, but it's going to be one of the most successful campaigns we've all worked on. When you get daytime TV talking about your stunt, and the BBC reporting it as a 'PR stunt', you know it's done well. It hit the sweet spot of a cultural moment around Wrexham and its celeb owners, and the sheer scale of the sign. One thing I loved is we made the local paper, The Wrexham Leader – a big part of our media strategy, which was an authentic platform for the nationals to pick it up. It was a great week for them too, I hope.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

Be brave. And challenge each other constantly. There were multiple occasions when different viewpoints on how and when the reveal should happen were brought to the table. This helped us get the big calls right.

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