OPINION: Mail campaign has green lobby in the bag

The battle to win environmental hearts and minds (and, of course, circulation) was stepped up a couple of notches recently with the attention-grabbing campaigns of the Daily Mail and London's Evening Standard.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

The Mail is campaigning with every fibre of its moral and commercial being to banish plastic bags. The Standard, with equal vigour, is urging its far smaller pool of readers to abandon bottled water because of the wastefulness of its packaging.

Both campaigns perfectly capture the zeitgeist and the slightly guilty mood of readers, as well as earning plaudits for the titles and their backers from a far wider community.

At the very heart of these green campaigns is PR. The image of each newspaper is polished among those usually sceptical about their caring qualities. In the case of the Mail, a brilliant commercial branding opportunity was created and exploited by offering six million readers a free Daily Mail-branded shopping bag. In one fell swoop the newspaper takes ownership of environmentally friendly shopping. Sheer caring genius!

The chance to join in the campaigns offers an endless stream of opportunities for brands and political parties quick to recognise the roll of an easy bandwagon. And, of course, no hearts-and-minds newspaper campaign would be complete without its pantheon of celebrity endorsers. For PROs representing stars of showbiz, sports, business or fashion, there is the easy opportunity to gain profile for their clients simply by giving their backing.

We can only imagine how many showbusiness stars were astonished to hear their publicists utter the words: 'You must speak to the Daily Mail.' In other contexts, the publicists might well have been fired for even thinking the thought.

The Standard's battle to ban bottled water has been joined by dozens of top London restaurants and by the Prime Minister and Chancellor, all of whom have pledged their commercial troth to tap water. Why, even as Alistair Darling delivers his Budget tax hikes in the name of greenery, he will be sipping a glass of tap water.

The manner in which Marks & Spencer surfed the crest of the Mail's campaign smacked of PR genius. Plainly, Sir Stuart Rose and his team had been on board pre-launch and were thus guaranteed the second-day splash treatment, plus two pages inside - an editorial bonanza of publicity that no advertising budget could have bought.

Gordon Brown, too, exercised his pre-agreed PR options in the campaign, while other supermarkets swiftly hoovered up secondary tranches of PR rights.

Do we really care? You bet we do - especially when everyone's a winner.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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