CAMPAIGN: Madame Tussauds scores with Jonny

With its lifelike wax figures of celebrities, Madame Tussauds is not only one of the UK's top visitor attractions but also a recognised ‘barometer of fame'.

CAMPAIGN: Madame Tussauds scores with Jonny

Campaign Doing the Jonny!
Client Madame Tussauds, London
PR Team Freerange communications and Madame Tussauds press office
Timescale October 19 2007
Budget Around £3,500

The figure of England rugby union star Jonny Wilkinson was unveiled in the attraction in 2004, but when England unexpectedly reached the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, its PR agency Freerange Communications spied an opportunity for coverage.

To create ‘noise’ for Madame Tussauds. To help challenge negative perceptions about the attraction (fusty, static image) and communicate its ‘Britishness’. To increase visitor numbers.

Strategy and plan
In 2003, Freerange was behind a piece of guerrilla activity that involved placing David Beckham’s figure on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. When England beat France to book a slot in the final against South Africa, Free-range identified a chance to do something similar with Wilkinson’s waxwork. The agency’s pitch was that, although such a stunt would never normally be rep­eatable, the growth in camera phone technology almost guaranteed interest from both news outfits and the general public.

With five days to the final, speed was of the essence. Freerange planned the activity to take place on the Friday bef­ore the game, giving it prominence in the frenzied build-up before
the final.

In the current ‘high alert’ environment, Freerange recommended that permission be sought from the Mayor of London’s Office. Once granted, Freerange and the Madame Tussauds team worked around the clock to make it happen. On the day the statue was moved, Freerange organised a tightly controlled, very early morning media call. It was hoped the story would gain its own momentum and roll-out, both through other news channels and the internet.

To get the media ball rolling, the agency negotiated live outside broadcasts with both GMTV and BBC Breakfast news and an exclusive picture opportunity with the Evening Standard, as well as producing a viral for YouTube.

Measurement and evaluation
Coverage included more than 570 pieces worldwide, of which 48 were TV including national (ITV and BBC) and local news. Radio channels covered the story with vox pops and mentions on Capital Radio, BBC Radio 2, and Heart FM. The story made the front page of the first edition of the Evening Standard, and almost blanket national newspaper coverage on the day of the match, including the front page of the Mirror, and articles in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Sun.

The campaign is part of an ongoing campaign for Madame Tussauds to drive up visitor numbers.

In-house evaluation estimates that the attraction consistently enjoys a high recall among tourists, and visitor numbers to the attraction, while not made public, have increased year on year. The public’s recall of the ‘Doing the Jonny!’ story will be researched in 2008.


Mitchell Kaye (l), MD, Mischief: Madame Tussauds is a must-see London attraction, but keeping any major tourist venue relevant and newsworthy is a perennial challenge for PR teams.

Meticulous planning is always essential, but so is opportunism, and this campaign is a classic example. The England rugby team went from zeroes to heroes in the space of days, and once the French had been bested on their home turf, England erupted into a rugby frenzy.

Freerange correctly identified the importance of Jonny Wilkinson as the symbol of the team’s spirit. As quickly as the England legend dispatched his drop kicks, Freerange created a PR plan to exploit the news agenda and place Madame Tussauds at the heart of it. By taking a waxwork of Jonny to Trafalgar Square, Freerange guaranteed the photo would become a staple part of the media’s coverage.

Three things impressed me about this campaign: the speed of thought and action – often the difference between a good idea and a great campaign; the sheer mischievousness of taking a waxwork to Trafalgar Square; and the decision to seek and secure official permission from The Mayor of London’s Office, which avoided a security risk.

The results speak for themselves. Broadcast highlights included GMTV and BBC Breakfast news, while the nationals queued up to reproduce what was surely the perfect pre-match picture.

Freerange’s strategy has continually delivered coverage – and rising visitor numbers are testament to its impact. The greater challenge will be giving people a reason to revisit Madame Tussauds, but on this occasion Freerange combined hard work, speed of thought and opportunism. What a pity that the England team didn’t manage to pull off the same in the final.


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