Campaign: Whispering Windows/Virtual Reality Holiday
Client: Thomson Holidays (TUI UK)
PR team: In-house
Timescale: January 2004-January 2005
The number of holidays sold through websites is on the increase. So when TUI UK rebranded 700 high-street travel agents from Lunn Poly to Thomson Holidays, it decided to refresh the travel retail experience for customers in a bid to encourage them to book through agents. Objectives
To achieve publicity for the brand in the crucial January booking period.
To use new technology to create a media talking point about the future of holiday bookings. To increase footfall in shops and generate bookings.
Strategy and Plan
Research had shown that more than 80 per cent of passers-by are not attracted by shop windows. To lure customers, Thomson worked with retail technology firm Remote Media to turn shop windows into a speaker.
A sensor triggered emotive messages, such as 'Hello... you would look great on a fabulous, sunny beach... let us find the perfect holiday for you', to passers-by.
As TUI wanted to target a widespread audience interested in both budget and luxury holidays, the PR team invited a range of media, from trade journals to broadsheets and tabloids, to the London launch of 'Whispering Windows'. A similar event was rolled out nationwide throughout 2004.
The team then launched Thomson's Virtual Reality Holidays to coincide with the January 2005 booking period. A headset, also created by Remote Media, took customers through a computer-generated Egypt - a growing destination for the agency - in 3D, while authentic aromas were pumped out. Before launching to print media, the team sent the story to the Press Association and radio stations. Radio 5 Live picked it up and presenter Nicky Campbell experienced the virtual-reality set live on air.
Print media were then invited to an open press day at TUI's London head office, recreated to resemble a Thomson store. Each of the 25 journalists in attendance were invited to experience the virtual-reality holiday.
Measurement and Evaluation
In-house evaluation - using Newsmetrics for national coverage and Romeike for regional - showed that more than 50 radio, press and online articles covered the Whispering Windows campaign.
In addition to Radio 5 Live, regional BBC stations covered the virtual-reality holiday launch, as did newspapers The Sunday Times, the Daily Star and The Guardian. Regional coverage included the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Shropshire Star, while trade journals such as Travel Trade Gazette and Travel Weekly also ran articles.
All coverage mentioned campaign messages about the future of holiday bookings.
In the first week after the Whispering Windows launch, Thomson customer footfall increased by 42 per cent year on year. Customer footfall was 30 per cent higher in shops with Whispering Windows. During the same period, there was a 32 per cent increase in bookings. Footfall data as a result of the virtual-reality campaign has yet to be collated.
'This was an interesting story for our readers,' says Travel Weekly senior reporter Sarah Thomas. 'The PR team was well organised and got straight to the point.'