Campaign: Jane Austen excites online community

On 16 September 2005, UIP/Universal Pictures released Working Title’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice in UK cinemas.

Campaign UK cinema release of Pride and Prejudice
Client UIP/Universal
PR team Way to Blue
Timescale August to September 2005
Budget Undisclosed

Featuring a host of British stars including Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFadyen, Brenda Blethyn and Dame Judi Dench, the story follows the five Bennet sisters and their attempts to find husbands.

Having worked with online press and promotions agency Way to Blue on previous film distributions, UIP/Universal approached the firm to implement an internet-led launch campaign.

To generate early awareness of, and excitement for, Pride and Prejudice and garner positive online reviews. To boost box office sales.

Strategy and Plan
Way to Blue decided to split the audience into two target groups. To attract the younger audience, its aim was to capitalise on the star status of Knightley, while to appeal to older film-goers it positioned Pride and Prejudice as a quintessentially British affair with a renowned UK cast.

To meet the equally important challenge of reassuring Austen fans, the agency also focused on the film's production values and attention to period detail. It identified 12 influential UK internet sites, including iVillage, AOL UK and BBC Film, and distributed preview clips and behind-the-scenes footage to them.

This activity was boosted by interviews with cast members – including Knightley – and by inviting journalists to preview screenings. To create word of mouth about the film, Way to Blue set up promotions with sites including, Matthew MacFadyen Online and, offering users the chance to win tickets to early film screenings around the country.

In addition, the agency sourced two pairs of tickets for the premiere at the Odeon in London's Leicester Square as competition prizes on Yahoo! and Times Online.

Measurement and Evaluation
According to in-house evaluation, on release day Pride and Prejudice dominated film coverage on Way to Blue's 12 target sites.

Comparison with two competing film releases – Wolf Creek and Lords of Dogtown – showed that Pride and Prejudice won over 75 per cent of share of voice.

In addition, target female-oriented websites, such as the Daily Mail's Femail, and, gave space to the film. The movie also achieved widespread coverage on actor fan sites such as KeiraWeb, plus the most popular Austen website, Republic of Pemberley.

As the regional early screening competitions were used for data capture purposes, Way to Blue says it is unable to disclose how many people applied to win tickets. However, the agency estimates that over two and a half weeks, the behind-the-scenes clips and film trailers received over 700,000 viewings.

'The BBC's version of Pride and Prejudice was hugely popular so we
expected lots of interest in this movie. We created a dedicated area on MSN Entertainment filled with content supplied by Way To Blue for users to interact with, including exclusive online clips and movie stills,' says MSN UK group editor Matt Ball. He adds that the site also secured an interview with Knightley.

'This dedicated area enjoyed high visibility and key editorial placements over the MSN network,' Ball says.

Second Opinion
Susie Lawrence is PR director at The JDA Group, owner of Blueprint PR, which has run PR campaigns highlighting DVD piracy

This campaign showed a very clear set of media targets that demonstrated a sound understanding of the intended audience. As the online community often leads the media buzz, it was important to do more than just push out stills and rely on the big names, and thoughtful planning ensured this campaign's success. 

Obviously the team had some fabulous material to work with. Interviews with Keira Knightley, tickets to the premiere, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and previews – this clearly wasn't the hardest story to sell.

But Way to Blue sourced some of these nuggets themselves and matched the right websites with the right content. However, could other media channels have been further explored? Maybe the blogging community was included, but it isn't mentioned.

It is also unclear how the online media campaign was integrated with the other PR and wider marketing efforts. It would have been interesting to know if and how the disciplines worked together.

This campaign was confidently executed for maximum impact. But they did have Pride and Prejudice to promote. I wonder if they would have achieved the same success with Wolf Creek or Lords of Dogtown if those had been the brief.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in