Stella builds film cred via cult screenings

For nine years, Stella Artois has screened classic movies in unusual environments. Previous highlights of the campaign include An American Werewolf in London, which was shown in a disused London Underground station, and Quadrophenia, which was screened on Brighton Beach.

Campaign Stella Artois Screen 2005
Client Stella Artois
PR team Exposure
Timescale March-September 2005
Budget Undisclosed

Exposure, Stella's retained consumer agency since 2003, was handed the lager company's Screen Events account earlier this year.

To reinvigorate Stella's long-running Screen Tour and promote the events to a broad audience. To achieve national and regional media coverage and win the interest of previously untapped upmarket media.

Strategy and Plan
Exposure decided on two ticketed outdoor screenings of cult films in
'aspirational locations': Donnie Darko in Royal Kensington Gardens on 6 August and Pulp Fiction at Manchester's Heaton Park on 4 September.

To provide a unique experience, each event was preceded by exclusive, film-inspired entertainment. At Kensington Gardens, 10,000 visitors saw a live performance of the Donnie Darko score, with a special guest appearance by composer Michael Andrews and a recorded introduction from director Richard Kelly. In Manchester, 10,000 revellers experienced a Pulp Fiction-themed musical performance by the Fun Lovin' Criminals.

Exposure targeted national and lifestyle press, TV and radio with a
media relations campaign to build anticipation for the screenings and drive ticket sales. The agency also negotiated competitions and ticket giveaways with The Times, Total Film magazine and, which generated  further editorial.

To emphasise the events' exclusivity, all ticket purchasers received screening notes, while journalists enjoyed VIP hospitality.

Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign generated 76 items of coverage, including articles in quality national titles, such as The Observer, Harpers & Queen and Vogue. Regional media, including the Evening Standard and Manchester Evening News, also featured the events.

News items and interviews with the live entertainers ran on TV and radio, such as BBC London, Xfm, Channel 4 and Manchester's Channel M.

A ticket deal with The Times, in which readers could buy four tickets for the price of three, resulted in 11 slots in the paper's T2 supplement, while Total Film ran two full-page features.

Both screenings sold out in less than three weeks, with tickets swapping hands on eBay for more than £100 in the run-up to the shows. More than 50 media outlets, including The Sun and Marie Claire, requested tickets to the Donnie Darko screening, which The Independent hailed as 'one of the summer's hottest [events]'.

The Independent ran three articles inspired by the screenings, including a double-page spread on the cult of Donnie Darko and an interview with the Fun Lovin' Criminals.

'Exposure came up with different angles and was quite persistent. There was a real effort to brand the screenings this year,' says The Independent arts editor David Lister.

Tim Pearson, account director at Cake, has worked on numerous outdoor campaigns
Stella Artois has 'lived' the film space for many years now and the synergy of a beer and a movie works well for it. Exposure faced the challenges of keeping fresh a nine-year-old idea and delivering 'on brand' while still appealing to a mass market. 

The heroes of the event were always going to be the films, and the movie choices were appropriate assuming that the target was 18 to 25-year-old men. While they both enjoy cult status, the films have a sufficiently high mainstream appeal. However, I feel that the selection has been more creative in previous years – specifically when marrying location and movie.

Past events (Quadrophenia on Brighton Beach, An American Werewolf in London at Aldwych Tube station) still generate spontaneous recall of Stella Artois screenings – but I am sceptical as to whether Pulp Fiction in Heaton Park will do so in years to come.

By securing broad coverage, the brand communicated the 'reassuringly expensive' line to the high-brow media – important in the face of 'Lotto Lout' Michael Carroll seemingly becoming an unofficial spokesperson for the brand.

Overall, this was a well-executed idea that built on being 'just a film screening', and high-level media coverage ensured that sufficient word of mouth was created to both sell the events and the brand.

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