Campaign: Welsh Smoking Ban
Client: SA Brain & Co (Welsh drinks and hospitality firm)
PR Team: ENS
Timescale: March – April 2007
To attract non-smoking customers; to reassure customers who smoke that their needs would be accommodated within the confines of the ban; and to promote a brand message of ‘positive thinking’ within and beyond Wales.
Strategy and plan
SA Brain took a number of steps to accommodate smoking customers and encourage new clientele. These included the creation of attractive outdoor spaces and the introduction of new food options, improved wine lists and new beverages such as fair trade coffee.
The company wanted to promote the benefits of visiting an SA Brain pub now that they were smoke-free and fresh smelling, and included an extended range of food and drink options. It was equally important to reassure existing smoking customers that they would not be discriminated against, and that outdoor areas would be as clean and comfortable as possible. Smokers were given the opportunity to ‘borrow a brolly’ from city pubs with no outside premises in order to smoke more comfortably outside.
To position itself as an authority on the ban, SA Brain also worked closely with the Welsh Assembly Government to offer guidance on the legislation.
ENS contacted a range of media with a dedicated, appropriate story for each, ranging from the quirky ‘borrow a brolly’ to more corporate messages that declared SA Brain was the leading authority on the ban in the region. In the four weeks preceding the ban, ENS contacted more than 50 news and picture editors across Welsh and national print and broadcast media. The BBC was invited to film the ‘washdown’ – part of the pub-cleaning process – and Sky News filmed the Old Arcade pub in Cardiff, which knocked through its ceiling to create an inner city beer garden.
SA Brain invested in media training to meet potential media demands. Interviews were held in Welsh and English with landlords, pub managers and sales managers as well as members of the corporate team.
Thirty stories ran across key national and regional media, including BBC One, BBC Five Live, Channel 4, Five, Sky News, BBC Radio Ulster, Wales on Sunday, the Western Mail, BBC Wales and BBC Radio Cymru.
BBC journalist Karle Necke said without ENS it would not have been possible to provide the network with the service they did. ‘We ended up having the story on BBC Breakfast, News 24, the One O’Clock News and the Six O’Clock News,’ she said.
Brain’s ‘positive thinking’ message was reflected in the majority of the coverage. Filming and interviews are expected to continue until the ban comes into force in England.
Chris Hewin, retail marketing manager at SA Brain & Co, said the initial signs following the introduction of the ban were good.
‘Although it is too early to work out a figure on how the ban has affected sales, we prepared well for it, and the coverage achieved by this campaign has helped us build confidence with consumers and other stakeholders in Wales,’ he said.
Mark Cooper (pictured above) is managing director of Van Communications, which works with Regent Inns: The smoking ban was always going to attract editorial attention, so the challenge here was to take ownership of the issue before a rival pub chain could. ENS’s decision to target the media a month before the ban was critical to the campaign’s success.
Looking at the issue from both the smoker’s and non-smoker’s perspective will have greatly broadened editorial opportunities. And stories highlighting the improvements in menu offerings and the pub environment will also have helped to reinforce SA Brain’s reputation for positive thinking.
ENS did well to resist any pressure to put only senior mangers into the media spotlight.
Journalists and their audiences would have wanted to hear real stories from real people, so having a group of landlords trained to talk about the subject will have really hit the mark.
Exposure on most of the major terrestrial TV channels certainly met the brief to promote SA Brain’s business beyond Wales. The campaign was solid and yielded an impressive set of results, though perhaps it could have been more memorable with an extra idea that really got people talking about SA Brain.
It would also be interesting to know how well the chain has done in both keeping its smoking customers coming through the door and enticing non-smokers to enjoy a pint alongside them.