Record-breaking pants in public

Campaign Launching the UK version of the Guinness Book of World Records 2009 Edition Client Guinness World Records PR team In-house Timescale June-December 2008 Budget £25,000

Pants to Poverty
Pants to Poverty

Guinness World Records (GWR) set out to publish its 54th annual compendium of extremes in September. The GWR team, which brought its PR in-house two years ago, wanted to strike a balance between the more unusual records that have made the headlines in recent years (most Ferrero Rocher chocolates eaten in one minute? Seven, by Jim Lyngvild from Denmark), and the book’s traditional appeal
to children.

This year the book came with3-D photographs and glasses to attract younger readers. The PR team decided the campaign should raise awareness particularly among boys aged seven to 13 and their parents, in the hope of targeting this audience in the Christmas period.


To raise awareness of the book with boys aged seven to 13 and their parents

To increase book sales in the UK and Ireland

To create a launch event that could reach a global market.
Strategy and plan

The hook for the campaign was the Guinness Book of Records 2009 largest ever print run.

In past years the book’s most important sales period was from mid-September to Christmas, so the team decided to launch the new book on 17 September. It targeted long-lead and monthly titles in time for the October issues that would hit shelves in September. GWR also pitched ideas to broadcast shows such as kids’ favourite Blue Peter and The Paul O’Grady Show.

For the launch itself, the team organised a photoshoot featuring two of the most attention-grabbing record-holders: the world's shortest man and the woman with the longest legs in the world. The ‘little and large’ duo then posed for photographers on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery.

The next stage in the promotion campaign was Guinness World Records day on 13 November. The day celebrates the anniversary of the book’s 100 millionth sale, and encourages people worldwide to break records.

In the UK, another eye-catching photo stunt saw the GWR team support Fair-trade underwear company Pants to Poverty as it broke the record for ‘largest gathering of people wearing underpants’ at St Pancras station.

As well as the media relations and live stunts, the World Records team hired Television News Release to produce B-roll footage of both events and secure radio coverage.
Measurement and evaluation

The campaign attracted reams of national coverage, with nine national newspapers featuring the photographs from the launch event. Footage from both live events was featured on BBC News, CNN Europe and GMTV, with radio coverage spanning 60 stations in the UK and Ireland.

Targeting the children and parents demographic was a success, with print coverage in National Geographic Kids, BeanoMax, Hello! and Closer among others.

Worldwide, MSN, Yahoo and the BBC all ran pictures and video footage from the launch day and GWR day on their sites.


The GWR team estimates the AVE for the three-month period tripled from last year’s campaign.

The Guinness Book of World Records 2009 recorded its highest sales figures, despite the shrinking retail market.

Nielsen Bookscan reported the Guinness Book of World Records 2009 had the strongest year ever, with 691,000 copies sold in 2008. That figure equates to a 20 per cent volume increase and 26 per cent rise in the value of sales on 2007. If the chart was ranked by sales value rather than volume, GWR would have been the biggest seller of the year.

Second Opinion

Mark Cooper

Co-founder, Van Communications

When asked to review the impact of someone else’s work, the first thing that I ask myself is whether I remember seeing or hearing about it. I definitely remember both the photo-calls from the Guinness World Records (GWR) team. The second thing that I like to see is evidence of a business result. Did the blood, sweat and tears that went into the project actually help sell more books? In this instance, who can argue with a 20 per cent volume increase?

What I really like about this campaign is the way it was given regional legs. OK, the GWR team has used the World Records Day concept before. But as the old adage goes… if it ain’t broke... Especially when it gives you such an excellent opportunity to sell in really relevant local stories.

For me though, this campaign begs two questions. Firstly, as effective as the photo-calls were, where was the big creative idea to communicate the fact that this year’s edition came with  3-D photos? This seems a bit of a missed opportunity. Secondly, as irresistible as a picture is of a load of people in their underwear, perhaps a concept that school children could try to emulate in their playgrounds might have been more appropriate? The number one objective of this campaign after all was to raise awareness among young boys.

That all said, the campaign still remains an excellent example of maximising PR effectively. The work achieved lots of press, good broadcast pick-up and strong web coverage to help deliver the story to an international audience.

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