Campaign: 999 Nudes
Client: Aer Lingus
PR team: Golley Slater
Timescale: March 2009
Aer Lingus wanted to launch its first base outside of Ireland, at London Gatwick. The airline would be flying to eight destinations from April 2009 including Nice, Malaga and Vienna. However, there was limited awareness of the Aer Lingus brand in London and the South East except for travel between London and Ireland. To create interest and counter the impact the recession has had on overseas travel, Aer Lingus launched a £9.99p all-inclusive offer to raise the profile of the brand and get people travelling.
- To raise awareness of the £9.99 offer
- To highlight Aer Lingus' launch at Gatwick
- To drive traffic to the website
- To increase sales
- To create hype and excitement among consumers and the media
STRATEGY AND PLAN
The PR team decided a high-impact stunt would position Aer Lingus as a fun and innovative airline and generate maximum coverage.
The team came up with the idea of inviting 999 members of the public to parade through central London in the nude. The idea was to bring to life the 'no hidden extras' side of the £9.99 offer. A recruitment campaign was launched via social networking sites and anyone registering at a specially created unbranded website was offered free flights to one of the eight new destinations as an incentive.
The media picked up on the recruitment campaign via social media and this helped generate a buzz. A small number of models were hired for the stunt to guarantee interest among the red-tops.
Although several newspapers got wind of the stunt and contacted the PR team in advance, the media were not informed of the stunt location until the morning of the event, to ensure it was not intercepted by the authorities. The Evening Standard wanted to write a pre-event feature but the decision was made to keep the stunt a secret.
The 999 nudes were given shamrock bikinis using the Aer Lingus logo.
MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION
Coverage of the recruitment campaign appeared on The Times and Metro websites. The PR team was then contacted by news and picture agencies that wanted to cover the event. Several reporters registered to take part in the event, including from thelondonpaper.
On the day of the stunt, a photographer from every national tabloid and London newspaper attended along with the Press Association, Getty Images and other news and picture agencies. Capital Radio, XFM and Absolute Radio interviewed participants and several TV crews including London Tonight attended. A video was uploaded on to the BBC website and YouTube.
In total more than 1,400 people signed up to take part in the stunt. Aer Lingus' website received its highest ever number of unique users in the weeks following the stunt and sales took its flight capacity up to an average of 90 per cent within the following three months.
SECOND OPINION - FIONA MCFADDEN, Head of PR, GyroHSR Manchester
Guerilla PR can easily backfire, but Aer Lingus' campaign generated a high level of media coverage and word of mouth around its £9.99 flight deal.
The campaign itself brought the personality and spirit of the brand to life, and its use of a variety of media channels to promote the stunt highlighted the impact a truly integrated PR campaign can have.
The way Aer Lingus tapped into social networking sites to encourage people to participate in the 999 nudes stunt demonstrates the extent to which digital can be used to engage a brand's target audience. Having 1,400 people volunteer to walk naked through central London in return for a free flight is a great response by anyone's standards. The fact the media also picked up on the campaign through this social media recruitment drive reinforces the importance of the channel as journalists increasingly turn away from traditional media releases.
As with all guerilla PR tactics, however, there is always a risk of losing the message within the stunt. Although Aer Lingus generated coverage, the fact the initiative was tied into the launch of the airline's first base outside Ireland at London Gatwick doesn't come through. Aer Lingus' objective was to position the airline as offering a superior experience to its Gatwick competitors and the stunt failed to communicate this.
Overall, though, Aer Lingus' campaign achieved some good coverage and led to some great sales results.