1/ Hay Festival stunts set news agenda

Campaign The Hay Festival Client The Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye PR teams In-house and Deliberate PR Timescale April-June 2008 Budget Undisclosed, but believed to be in the region of £30,000

Ice cool: name the iceberg contest
Ice cool: name the iceberg contest

The Hay Festival, which celebrated its 21st anniversary in May this year, has long been seen as a prominent arts, political and cultural fixture. Every year, thousands of people travel to the picturesque Brecon Beacons National Park to hear 300 speakers talk on a variety of subjects from global terrorism to James Bond.

It is also the UK’s leading event for publishers and authors to promote new titles.

Deliberate PR was asked to come up with unique projects to put the festival on the international stage.


To promote news stories generated from speeches and debates

To gain coverage in media titles that do not traditionally cover the event

To increase web hits to the Hay website

To draw attention to charity partner The Woodland Trust

Strategy and plan

Much of Deliberate’s work during the festival was media relations. The newsworthy parts of key speeches were turned into releases as soon as they were prepared, and immediately farmed out to news agencies and journalists. However, the creative projects took more planning.

The first idea was named ‘Antarctic Chess’ or ‘Rook to Penguin’.

Chess Grandmaster Boris Spassky was playing a simultaneous game of chess against 19 opponents in person at the festival, so Deliberate found a 20th player: Ian McNab, a field technician with the British Antarctic Survey located in the Rothera Ice Station in Antarctica, who would play Spassky over the internet. The ‘chess without borders’ idea provided an international news angle, and McNab managed to secure a draw against Spassky.

The second stunt involved biographer Anna Beer’s talk. Codenamed Paradise Regained, it aimed to mark the 400th anniversary of poet John Milton’s birth and link with The Woodland Trust.

Deliberate persuaded Christ’s College, Cambridge to allow a sapling to be taken from The Milton Tree (planted by the poet and located in the college’s garden). The sapling was entrusted to The Woodland Trust and planted near the festival.

The final and boldest scheme was a competition for a British child to name an iceberg in the Antarctic. Deliberate approached the National Ice Center in the US and asked it to provide images of an iceberg.

The Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge and children’s author Jacqueline Wilson were asked to judge the entries. Six year-old Max Dolaris was crowned the winner after coming up with the name ‘Melting Bob’.

Measurement and evaluation

The longest-distance chess match ever played gained coverage on BBC News online, national coverage in the Manchester Evening News and Liverpool Daily Post, and appearances in more than 150 blogs.

Paradise Regained was featured in The Independent and on the BBC website, followed by appearances in the Welsh, Herefordshire and Cambridge media.

Melting Bob was given an exclusive front cover splash in The Independent. It then ran on BBC News online, BBC Radio 4, BBC South Today and in the Hampshire Chronicle and the Southern Daily Echo. International titles included The New York Times, USA Today and Sydney Morning Herald.


There was a five-fold increase in UK media coverage stemming directly from speeches, compared with the previous year.

The iceberg nomination page within the Hay Festival’s website received more than 4,000 unique visitors in the 48 hours after its announcement, which led to extensive blogging. Cumulative unique visitors to the website also rose by four times on the previous year.

The extra publicity from the campaign was credited by organisers as having helped boost attendance figures from the previous year, from 143,000 to 162,000.

Laura Davies

Second Opinion

Emma Draude
Deputy MD, Midas PR

Hay started life in a tent with 50 speakers.

Twenty-one years later and the 2008 event featured 477 events with a diverse range of speakers including Gore Vidal, Alan Greenspan, Jimmy Carter and Catherine Tate.

Any arts and literature journalist worth their salt knows about Hay and the in-house team would have been well equipped here. But what I liked about this brief was its careful targeting and focus on setting the news agenda.

Providing timely transcripts of events and speeches is nothing new, although delivering something quickly under pressure is no easy task.

The creative events were innovative, but didn’t always deliver the strongest of results. The Paradise Regained event cleverly linked literature and the environment while focusing attention on the Woodland Trust, but the media coverage secured didn’t do the idea justice.

The most successful element of the campaign was undoubtedly ‘Melting Bob’. The idea emphasised both the academic and the environmental credibility of Hay, and actively engaged children. This created a truly international story.

There was undoubtedly a strong increase in attendance at Hay this year, but how much this can be attributed to this campaign is debatable. The Guardian’s sponsorship of Hay is incredibly active, as is that of Sky. More could have been made of the 21st anniversary too. However, the events were imaginative and ‘Melting Bob’ has given the festival a lasting legacy.

2/ Online

eBay changes
are just the ticket
Campaign eBay charity tickets strategy
Client eBay
PR team In-house
Timescale June 2007-March 2008
Budget Approx £10,ooo

In the past, event organisers have proactively promoted stories about concert tickets selling out in seconds with high prices paid for them on eBay. Over the past three years, however, the tide had turned and eBay and other secondary ticket businesses have faced increasing criticism for allowing the resale of tickets, especially for charity and free-ticketed events, on their site.

The House of Commons Select Committee had questioned the resale of tickets for free events.


To neutralise negative PR coverage and defend the principle of ticket resale

To use the resale of tickets to raise more money for good causes

To demonstrate to the Government the benefits of self-regulation

Strategy and plan

The in-house team reviewed eBay’s policies for ticket resales and banned ticket sales for events that are exclusively free-ticketed events. For events where 50 per cent or more of the proceeds go to charity, ticket re-sellers are now required to donate 20 per cent of the sale price to charity.

Measurement and evaluation

Media coverage included pieces in the Financial Times, Channel 4, The Guardian, Evening Standard and thisismoney.co.uk.


Before the campaign, negative coverage for January 2008 stood at 65 pieces. In March 2008 that figure stood at two pieces of negative coverage with 29 positive pieces.

3/ Film

Film outfit shows naked ambition
Campaign The DVD release of Lady Godiva
Client Jewson Film Productions
PR team Bottle PR
Timescale May 2008
Budget £2,900

In May 2008 Bottle PR was contracted to promote the release of Lady Godiva, a modern retelling of the Coventry legend.


To secure national media coverage for the release of the Lady Godiva DVD
To drive DVD sales

Strategy and plan

As a low budget, independent film with very little marketing spend, the Lady Godiva campaign needed to attract the attention of consumer magazines, national press, lifestyle publications and bloggers.

So Bottle came up with the idea of emulating the film’s eponymous hero and organised a naked horse ride in Hyde Park on 19 May. Women horse riders were invited to take part in aid of cancer charity Maggie’s.

Picture agencies and London-based broadcast media were brought along.

Measurement and evaluation

Approximately 30 press photographers attended and the story was covered by the Daily Mail, Daily Star, Daily Express, The Times, The Telegraph, Oxford Mail, Horse & Hound, Naturist, thelondonpaper and Metro.

Broadcast coverage included Fox FM, ITV Thames Valley and ITV West Midlands news, along with Sky’s Wedding Breakfast.


Twenty-five women took part in the ride and by the end of the first week DVD sales were 23 per cent higher than expected.

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