Pseudo protesters woo bargain hunters

The Hatfield Galleria claims to be the only seller of branded clothes at 60 per cent less than high-street prices within easy reach of Londoners.

Campaign Bargain Liberation Front / Client Hatfield Galleria / PR team Primal PR / Timescale April-May 2005 / Budget £10,000-£15,000

It is situated ten miles north of Barnet and is 20 minutes from Brent Cross. To highlight the discount message and increase business, the centre hired retail and leisure specialist Primal PR.

Objectives
To draw attention to the cut-price goods and persuade shoppers to sign up to a protest campaign for data capture and direct mail purposes. To increase footfall and sales at the Hatfield Galleria.

Strategy and Plan
Primal set up a spoof protest group, the Bargain Liberation Front (BLF), to draw attention to the Galleria. It comprised a band of actors with a manifesto demanding better deals from mainstream retailers.
The campaign was also supported by a bespoke website, www.bargainliberationfront.co.uk, initially used for collecting name and address data.

The manifesto was timed to coincide with political campaigning for the general election and a photocall was held outside the Houses of Parliament and Number 10. The campaign then moved to the Galleria's main catchment areas in Hertfordshire, where protesters handed out leaflets and encouraged Hatfield shoppers to sign their petition.

At the start of the campaign in April, the BLF was positioned as independent to the Galleria, but after two weeks the retailer ran a radio promotion on Chiltern FM 'backing' the group and listing the outlet's daily offers. This was run in conjunction with a listener competition offering spot prizes.

The spoof BLF website, to which the Galleria's site redirected registered users, supported on-the-street activity. Those who signed up to the campaign received a 'VIP voucher book', entitling them to further discounts at the Hatfield Galleria.

Measurement and Evaluation
Interviews were set up with the 'leader' of the BLF in regional press, including the Welwyn & Hatfield Times. The BLF frontman (a Primal employee), also featured on Hertfordshire radio stations such as Chiltern FM, Mercury FM and Crush Radio, talking about his aims for the campaign and the number of people who had signed up to show their support.

In addition, in an interview with BBC Three Counties Radio, the BLF mentioned its delight at 'receiving support' from the Hatfield Galleria.
Results
Footfall at the centre for the duration of the campaign increased by five per cent, and this translated into a five per cent increase in sales. According to Primal more than 1,000 people joined the BLF and received discount vouchers, while many more visited the website and supported protesters in the streets.

However, interviews that had been organised with trade publications
Retail Week and Drapers failed to make it into print.

Liz Flower, producer of Stephen Rhodes' Consumer Programme on BBC Three Counties Radio, describes the telephone interview with the supposed BLF leader as 'quite amusing'.

She adds: 'He was a good talker and there were lots of slogans being shouted in the background. But I don't know how that would have benefited the Galleria.'

Second Opinion
Mel Burr, director of retail brands at Brave PR, leads accounts including Bluewater, and Amazon.co.uk

Primal's challenge was not just to achieve footfall but turn a regional story into a national talking point. 

The campaign made effective use of humour and comprised a good balance of 'guaranteed' slots and editorial activity. However, the guaranteed element – leaflets and radio promotions – seemed to be the main drivers of footfall.

The theme was quirky and creative but should have grabbed the media's attention to greater effect. The timing was also good in terms of the general election. London is usually a good place for a photocall, but this time I think the tactic was geographically too far removed from the Galleria's location. Such activity at the height of an election is never likely to make national headlines.

Additional guerrilla activity or targeting a broader catchment area may have put the budget to better use. A news hook such as a 'rip-off Britain' exposé of the mark-up in mainstream high-street stores could have added weight to the campaign and given the Bargain Liberation Front real talkability.

Equally, Primal could have registered the BLF as a genuine political party, entered it into a local by-election and campaigned for the shopaholic vote through fashion pages in the red tops and weekly women's magazines to broaden coverage opportunities.

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