CAMPAIGN: 'Silent ravers' dancing to the same tune

Dance music record label Apollo RecorĀ­dings tasked retained PR agency Paul Carey PR with getting its Big Bass vs Michelle Narine single, What You Do (Playing With Stones), coverage in the mainstream press.

Campaign Big Bass Flashmobbing Event
Client Apollo Recordings
PR Team Paul Carey PR
Timescale 24 hours on 30 November 2006
Budget Negligible

Carey discovered that there was to be a ‘flashmobbing’ event orga­nised by clubbing website at Paddington Station. A flash mob is a group of people who gather in a public place at short notice, perform an inane activity and then disperse quickly.

By tipping off the press, the event could be turned to Apollo Recor­ding’s advantage. After talking to his client, Apollo marketing manager Ewan Grant, Carey decided the event could be ­‘hijacked’ to tie in with the ­release of the record and came up with the concept of ‘mobile clubbing’ – thousands of people dancing at a ‘silent rave’ at Paddington Station.

To promote the release of a new record at short notice and with minimal expen­diture. To get maximum media coverage outside the music press.

Strategy and plan
Carey called in photographer Danny Clifford from the Hottwire picture agency and explained his idea.

Clifford agreed to cover the event for free as it would generate plenty of saleable ­photo opportunities and he would have exclusive access.

Carey also called editors at The Sun, Daily Star, The Mirror, The Independent and the Evening Standard, as well as other key journalist contacts, tipping them off about the story.

Carey says: ‘The strategy was fairly organic as none of us knew exactly how many people would turn up, but the aim was clear: get some great pictures and spin the story to the papers with the caveat that the ‘ravers’ silently dancing at Paddington Station were all dancing to the same tune.’

No contact was made with the event organisers but Carey gambled that they would welcome the extra publicity.

Carey, Clifford and the team of photo­graphers met at the station at 6.45pm, ahead of the event’s 7.18pm start. On cue, the 1,000 or so massed revellers started to dance and cheer.

Carey was armed with iPods loaded with the track which he loaned to ‘particularly good-looking ravers’. The photographers took pictures of them while they were listening to the song. Carey estimates they got ‘a couple of hundred people’ over two hours.

Having spotted some key journalists who had responded to the tip-off, Carey made sure they were aware of the number of ravers simultaneously listening to the single.

Clifford filed the photos from the station concourse while Carey wrote an accompanying release.

Measurement and evaluation
The following day the story scored ­national press coverage from The Independent and The Times, as well as a page 3 lead story in the Evening Stan­dard, and picture coverage in London Lite and thelondonpaper.

That was followed by radio news coverage including mentions on Radio 1 and Capital and regional stations across the UK. Online, the story was picked up by all of the large news portals including ­Yahoo and Google.

To Carey’s knowledge, the single achieved the greatest amount of coverage a one-off dance track has ever ­received in the mainstream press. It charted at number 27 and stayed on the Radio 1 playlist for several weeks.


Martin Ballantine
(above) is head of experiential at Launch Group and has worked on a number of ‘hijack-style’ activities: Flashmobbing is a genuine social phenomenon and one of those things you just wish you had invented. From worshipping toy dinosaurs to pillow fights, these random ‘happenings’ are fun to take part in and, what’s more, they are (mostly) entertaining for both the participants and bemused observers caught up in them.

The concept was originally dreamt up in 2003 by Harper’s Magazine senior editor Bill Wasik. His first attempt failed after the plan was leaked to the authorities, but second time around 150 self-confessed ‘cult members’ assembled in Macy’s depart­ment store and spent 10 minutes befuddling store assistants by telling them they all lived in a warehouse outside New York and were shopping for a ‘love rug’. A demonstration of the amazing, scary, democracy of the Net at its best. Genius.

And that’s the word that hit me first when I saw this campaign – genius. Hijacking a grassroots event like this by a commercial organisation could have backfired. Attempts by larger brands to use this technique have mostly been ‘flash flops’.

Why did this one work? Two main reasons: the product’s relevance to the event itself and the low-key nature of the brand behind it. Nothing jarred and it all sat together beautifully.

It got name checks and shifted product – the ideal pay-off for any experiential campaign.

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