The Science Museum's Lord of the Rings exhibition followed on from its successful James Bond and Titanic events, and was its only European stop before it was taken to Singapore, the US and Australia.
It included hundreds of props, models, armoury and costumes from all three Lord of the Rings films, plus demonstrations of the technology that was used by director Peter Jackson to bring the story to the big screen.
The exhibition opened three months ahead of the UK release of Return of the King, the final film of the trilogy.
To create a buzz around the exhibition well in advance of its opening and pre-sell as many tickets as possible. To attract additional and new visitors to the Science Museum. To raise funds for upgrading existing galleries.
Strategy and Plan
As the installation of large-scale temporary exhibitions is an important part of the museum's strategy, the in-house team believed that a new approach to the Lord of the Rings exhibition was required. That meant putting an emphasis on the sort of audience that would attend the films - a mass audience with a seam of hardcore fans.
In addition, it wanted to sell tickets in advance. Fans from Europe were also targeted, as they were extremely likely to book in advance before arriving.
Research showed that Lord of the Rings fans make significant use of online resources for news and gossip, so the PR team identified 20 core websites - both official and unofficial - and developed relationships with the editors, supplying them with information from the appearance of actor Viggo Mortenson to the opening times.
Retained agency Mission 21 secured a feature on the exhibition on Film 2003, and an exclusive was given to The Sun that generated a whole page, which in turn led to coverage from other national newspapers and broadcast outlets.
The museum also worked with the Foreign Office and the Foreign Press Association to ensure that representatives of the foreign media were able to attend the press launch. Particular attention was given to journalists from France, Germany and The Netherlands.
Rather than opt for a glitzy launch, the in-house team and Mission 21 opted for strong picture and broadcast opportunities. A large chunk of the PR budget was spent flying over actor Lawrence Makoare - the seven-foot Uruk-Hai Lurtz - and Richard Taylor, the film's special effects guru to transform him into the monster. Makoare was then pictured dangling a four-year-old child and stepping out of a phone box.
Measurement and Evaluation
Assisted by the huge interest in the film, coverage of the exhibition appeared across the world, picked up by the BBC, CNN, The Sun, the Daily Mirror, Sunday Times, FHM, ABC, TVNZ and fan websites, among others.
After the story appeared in The Sun the museum pre-sold £100,000 worth of tickets, more than the Bond and Titanic exhibitions put together. By the time the exhibition opened the first two weeks were almost sold-out.
It comfortably beat its target of 200,000 visitors by 57,949. The half-term in October was its busiest ever, with almost 300,000 people visiting the museum overall. The exhibition proved to be the museum's most popular in terms of visitor numbers over a given period.
Sue Evison, The Sun chief feature writer, says: 'The Science Museum has really got it together when it comes to popularising exhibitions. Our readers are really interested in Lord of the Rings so covering this story was a natural extension of that.'