CAMPAIGN: Cake mounts turf war for Visit London

Visit London - the official visitor organisation for London - is always looking for new ideas and wanted a campaign to help British people discover London's ‘villages', such as Wimbledon and Hampstead. Read on...

Campaign: Turfing Trafalgar Square
Client: Visit London
PR team: Cake Group
Timescale: May 2007
Budget: Undisclosed

Visit London works with Cake Group on special projects and called in the agency to create a spectacular visual idea that would appeal to news editors.

To raise awareness of London’s villages and green spaces. To drive people to the website.

Cake set out to create a ‘must-have’ photo opportunity at a village green in the centre of London and dreamt up the radical idea of turfing Trafalgar Square for two days. Cake had organised last year’s Scissor Sisters’ Red Square gig in Trafalgar Square, so knew the logistics of hosting events in the central London landmark.

Visit London wanted an environmentally friendly project, so Cake sourced organic turf. It also arranged to move it to Bishops Park in Hammersmith and Fulham, to help repair grass trampled at this year’s Oxford vs ­Cambridge boat race. Cake organised a turf transfer photocall to reinforce the scheme’s environmental credentials.

Two weeks before the event, the agency sent out a release with a computer-generated image of what the square would look like to the national media, along with details of the launch.

Cake took a time-lapse video of the turf laying and posted it on YouTube and set up a group on social networking site Facebook called ‘I’m loving Trafalgar Square’. A new section on Visit London’s website was dedicated to London’s villages.

There were four photo opportunities on the day: the empty square, a young couple in deck chairs, a Tai Chi display and the general public. The team set up a number of outside broadcasts with TV and radio stations throughout the first day, making Visit London bosses available for interview and helping to arrange vox pops with people in the square.

It worked exclusively with ITV’s London Tonight and set up interviews with local people at four village locations, as well as at Trafalgar Square, resulting in a week-long focus on village life to promote the campaign.

Coverage of the event was 100 per cent positive, with articles appearing in nat­ional newspapers including the Evening Standard, FT, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Independent and The Sun.

Broadcast media coverage appeared on BBC 6 O’Clock News, BBC News 24, London Tonight, Capital Radio, LBC and Heart. More than 300 images were posted on photosharing website Flickr and the concept featured in 152 blogs. The YouTube video received 5,000 views.

Trafalgar Square was much busier than normal during the two days and Visit London was pleased with the coverage the campaign generated. While the number of hits to the website have yet to be counted, an Evening Standard comment labelled it a ‘brilliant idea’. Thirty per cent of the search results for ‘Trafalgar Square’ on Google’s image search feature the turf being laid.

Damien Steward, head of features at ITV London, says: ‘I’m always looking for London feature stories and this was a nice combination for us – both as an event and a bit of history. I ended up doing three pieces on it that week.’


Susie Aust (l) is an associate director at bgb communications. She represents Visit Wales: Picture stories and stunts are two-a-penny, so creating an original idea that has an impact both with picture editors and the public, while portraying the key message, is an ongoing challenge.

Converting a non-village area to highlight the London’s villages campaign provided a surprising scene popular with media and a hit with London’s residents and army of tourists.

The buzz around the event helped the cam­paign to be sustained over more than one day, and it ended up being a succ­essful word-of-mouth initiative, too.

The decision to source organic turf and re-use it after just two days limited any negative comment and ensured the campaign did not tire. Coverage was also cleverly exten­ded by the re-laying of the turf. Public interest was still held, so the media was happy to run follow-up pieces.

Cake should be congratulated for resisting the temptation to place a London celebrity on the grass, instead making Lond­oners the personal focus for the campaign. This added to the community feel of the coverage.

But the absence of focus on regional titles should be questioned. This is a key market for Visit London to draw domestic visitors to the cap­ital, encouraging them to explore beyond the obvious attractions.

But in terms of raising aware­ness in the national and London media, the campaign cannot be faulted.

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