Free fivers grab headlines at the Elephant

Since launching in 1993, Oakmayne Properties has invested more than £40 million in the construction and renovation of offices and flats in London’s Elephant and Castle area – by reputation a ‘down-at-heel’ region of the city.

Campaign The £5 Giveaway
Client Oakmayne Properties
PR team Complete Media Group
Timescale 1-30 November 2005
Budget £15,000

Last year the company embarked on a £20m redevelopment of the South Central East building – as part of the wider £1.5bn regeneration programme for the region.

Oakmayne's portfolio consisted of flats costing between £250,000 and £400,000, for a target audience of first and second-time buyers and those who buy properties on a buy-to-let basis. The firm brought in Complete Media Group to provide PR support and promote the properties as an attractive investment opportunity.

To create a splash of editorial coverage in one hit that would present Elephant and Castle as an up-and-coming area of London and a good place to buy.

Strategy and Plan
Working with ad agency BLAC, Complete Media chose a site on Walworth Road, a main road through the area, to cover a 48-sheet poster site in £5 notes, which passers-by could take for free. Once the money was plucked from the poster, it would reveal the message: 'Want to make some real money? Invest in Elephant & Castle.'

The media were alerted to the story by a press release which had a £5 note stapled to it. It was made clear in the press release that the £5 note, while genuine, was simply an illustration of the promotion, and not  a bribe.

On the day of the stunt, leafleting took place 20 minutes beforehand to alert people that if they wanted a fiver for nothing they could walk across the road and get one. While a total of £1,540 in fivers was attached to the poster, Oakmayne also donated £1,000 to St Mungo's, a local homeless agency and housing association, to illustrate that despite the PR stunt, it was serious about investing in the area.

Measurement and Evaluation
Coverage included ITV's London Today and London Tonight, Metro, The Sun, The Times, The Independent, Financial Times, South London Press, Capital Gold and BBC Ceefax.

Trade press mentions included Campaign, Planning and PRWeek.

Websites carrying the story included and BBC Online. The stunt also generated global coverage, with the likes of Queensland's Gold Coast Bulletin and the Chicago Sun Times carrying reports. In total, the stunt generated an estimated £160,000 worth of media coverage.

Oakmayne was clear in its objective to raise awareness and sell property as a result. However, it would not specify transaction numbers, saying only that it had achieved its aims with 'a number' of sales confirmed after people heard of the event.

As for the money-grab, this began with an orderly queue as organisers tried to ensure only one note per person. But within minutes, dozens of people were pulling down as many notes as they could lay their hands on.

One lucky recipient, graphic designer Rob Holmes, 28, said: 'I'll spend my fiver at the local cafe, so you could say I'm investing in the area.'

South London Press reporter Paul Rhys found the visual angle suited the paper's needs. 'It was quirky, and a chance to get pictures of kids with fistfuls of £5 notes. It might have been a publicity stunt, but it worked. I gave my £5 to charity, honestly.'


Elisabeth Lewis-Jones is director of Liquid PR which helps promote regeneration in Birmingham

This was quirky, fun and, above all, brave. To hand out £5 notes blatantly in the name of a PR stunt leaves the organisers open to moral outrage. However, you can't deny the press coverage and awareness it generated both locally and nationally.

In campaign planning it is important to consider all stakeholders –  from potential buyers and property investors to the local community – and how messages translate for each audience. For many at the grass-roots level the stunt may have been seen as frivolously 'throwing money' at a problem. The real message of social investment and serious long-term community regeneration would have been better for the buy-to-let market and community relationships.

That said, we must remember this was a one-off stunt – and it delivered. It would be interesting to see how this campaign has been followed through and the feedback it has created – how many hits there have been to the Oakmayne Properties website, the requests for further information, the sales off-plan and the footfall to site offices/show homes etc.

Taking into account the charity donation and the careful execution of the campaign to avoid any negative backlash, the stunt was creative and generated the one-off media awareness the client wanted.

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