When Iceland Express (IE) launched flights between London and Reykjavik, its PR team had a task that stretched far beyond promoting the airline.
It had to convince British tourists that not only was Iceland an affordable destination thanks to the airline's low fares, but that it was the place to go for everything from adventure sports and beauty treatments to nature walks and a buzzing nightlife.
To highlight the reasons for going to Iceland. To drive passengers to use IE flights, and to encourage them to book online.
Strategy and Plan
The first stage of the campaign was education, to get people talking about the destination. Frank & Earnest director Brett Gregory-Peake says that while many British people said Iceland was a place they'd always wanted to visit, most had never got around to it, either because it was too expensive or their understanding of what Iceland had to offer was limited.
A series of five press trips were planned for journalists from trade and consumer magazines, the travel sections of regional and national papers, and from radio and TV. For IE's launch of services to the UK, 30 journalists were flown over and shown around Reykjavik, then taken to the Miss Iceland contest where the PR team had arranged for journalists from GQ and Front to be judges.
On another trip, the PR team organised for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, author of the River Cottage Cookbook, to accompany journalists to one of Iceland's leading fishing locations, where he caught and cooked salmon for them.
Other reporters, from titles including Tatler and The Times, were given massage therapy and spa sessions in Reykjavik's premiere 'wellbeing' hotel.
An England v Iceland cricket tournament was then set up. A Transworld Sports film crew followed the England team - among them Iron Maiden singer and pilot Bruce Dickinson - as they played surrounded by fog and huskies late into the night. BBC commentator Henry Blofeld was brought in to follow the game and provide the media with another celebrity hook.
Throughout the year, fare promotions were run in the national media, on TV and in key magazines to tie in with the coverage resulting from the press trips.
Measurement and Evaluation
At the end of 2003, more than 150 pieces of coverage resulted from the campaign across a wide range of media. While almost all of them focused primarily on Iceland as a destination, IE regularly had details of its fares or website included.
Features on the cricket match appeared on Channel 4, Sky Sports and in Metro and The Times. Other titles giving coverage resulting from the campaign included many regional newspapers, Travel Trade Gazette, The Daily Telegraph, GQ and Harpers & Queen.
There was, however, negative coverage from journalists who said that while they enjoyed their trip, Iceland was an expensive destination. News stories also resulted from the technical problems of some IE planes.
The PR campaign contributed to a 42 per cent rise in traffic between London and Reykjavik, and helped IE generate an average fill rate of 94 per cent. About 90 per cent of bookings with IE were conducted online.
A price war with Iceland Air resulted from IE's entry to the market, and the huge response to the campaign from passengers has enabled IE to double the number of flights out of Stansted to 14 a week.
For 2004, the campaign is switching its primary focus from the destination to the airline itself. Metro features editor Kieran Meeke was sent to Iceland on a private trip co-ordinated by the IE team and Iceland's tourism board. With Metro's readership including young ABC1s who take two or three city breaks a year, Meeke says reader interest in Iceland as a destination is strong.
'The whole trip was fantastic. They organised exactly what I wanted, which was to see the North and the second city. It was one of the most memorable trips I've done in the last few years,' he says. Two features in Metro resulted.
Transworld Sports production assistant Alison Castle says that the novelty of the cricket match led to a seven-minute piece on Iceland and the country's cricket.
'It just seemed like a really bizarre concept to have something so English being played in an environment that was clearly not,' she says. 'It was very well organised. The standard of cricket wasn't great, but it was more the taking part that counted.'