Client: Vauxhall Motors
PR team: In-house team, Spectrum Communications and Media Enterprises
Campaign: To launch the Vauxhall Vectra, which replaces the 20 year-old
Cavalier in the UK
Timing: Six months prior to the London Motor Show (18 - 29 October)
Cost: PR budget undisclosed
Vauxhall wanted to maintain its number two position in the overcrowded
‘upper/medium sector’ or ‘reps car’ market in the UK and Europe. Its
biggest rival Ford, which is the market leader in this sector, had
successfully launched the Mondeo in 1993 and to remain competitive
Vauxhall needed a replacement to its ageing Cavalier - enter the
Vauxhall - which claims it takes pounds 50 million to get a new car on
the road - wanted to ensure maximum public and media awareness of its
new Vectra range. With the aid of outside PR agencies and its in-house
team Vauxhall created a six-month strategy to grab the nation’s
The launch of a new car is always the industry’s worst kept secret,
largely due to the astronomic development costs and the demanding
engineering and design strictures of manufacture. Rivals and journalists
will know a new car is coming on to the market up to a year in advance.
However, they won’t know what it will look like or what gizmos it will
have. That is the PR’s big advantage.
In March, Vauxhall’s in-house team began a teaser campaign with the
press and motor magazines. This was followed by VIP briefings in June
with Vauxhall Motor’s engineers, designers and managing director Charlie
Two months later, motoring writers and correspondents from UK nationals,
were invited to a weekend test drive of the Vectra in Germany.
A second round of test drives was organised in the Cotswolds for the 250
or so regional UK motoring journalists. The in-house team used Spectrum
Communications to arrange a test drive for retailers at the famous
Millbank racing track in Bedfordshire, as part of an ongoing campaign to
ensure the dealer’s marketing was up to speed.
Over a six-month period special advisers visited retailers in their
showrooms to help guide marketing activity, with support from regional
PR agencies, Mason Williams, Julian Beresford Associates and GCAS
In October, a consumer campaign organised by Spectrum and Media
Enterprises, kicked in, as mysterious 20ft high, V-shaped balloons
appeared above the nation’s motorways. Media Enterprises arranged for
Virgin Radio DJs to talk up these sightings and run a listener
competition to win a Vectra. This teaser campaign culminated in the
official launch of the car at the London Motor Show on 19 October.
The night before a spectacular firework display heralded the arrival of
the Vectra in London. The car was flown up the Thames estuary by
helicopter, a V-shaped light emblazoning the way to its drop site at the
Design Museum just south of the Tower Bridge. Public interest was
drummed up by Virgin and Capital Radio DJs. Brighter Pictures produced a
VNR of the event which was distributed to local TV stations.
The launch received coverage on London Tonight/Today, Anglia TV,
Business Breakfast and Working Lunch. Radio 1, Capital and GLR also
covered the event. The Vectra generated cover stories in the marketing
press, extensive coverage in national dailies and Sundays and specialist
car titles such as Fleet News.
Vauxhall Vectra’s launch received positive, but not ecstatic comment.
There were complaints from some motoring correspondents that the models
available for test driving were not up to the standard of the on-road
models which would be on sale to the public.
But the overall verdict was that Vauxhall had done a professional job;
the various elements of the marketing mix, for once, all driving in the