Client: Firefox/FTP Merger
PR Team: The A Plus Group
Campaign: Announcement of FTP Software/Firefox merger
Timescale: 16 - 23 January 1996
Computer software firm Firefox was set up seven years ago in the West
Midlands and became one of the first British enterprises to commercially
exploit the Internet. By May 1995 it specialised in corporate network
and Internet security products, employed 100 people and was floated on
the US Nasdaq exchange, placing its owners among the first UK Internet
At the beginning of 1996 Firefox underwent a ‘merger by acquisition’
with California-based Internet giant FTP Software. A Plus - the PR
agency for both companies - was given just 14 working hours to set up a
press conference and announce the deal to the UK media.
To communicate the Firefox/FTP merger in a way that would continue to
enhance both companies’ corporate profiles and products. As the smaller
player, Firefox in particular was concerned with wider exposure.
A Plus was told on 16 January that its clients were to merge at 9pm
(British Standard Time) the next day.
The agency organised a press conference at the Meridian Hotel in central
London hosted by John Kimberley, vice president and chairman of Firefox,
and David Zirkle, the president of FTP.
A Plus also set up a tele-conferencing facility for those journalists
who couldn’t physically attend. An on-line announcement was made
simultaneously via the CIX bulletin board, popular among hi-tech
At the conference and in the following days, A Plus set up face-to-face
and telephone interviews with three television stations, three national
journalists and more than 20 trade magazines.
Since its appointment by Firefox in March 1995, the agency’s brief has
been to expand awareness of the company and its products from technical
publications to the bigger trade and national press.
During last year’s flotation it had flagged the personalities behind the
company as ‘Britain’s First Internet Millionaires’, and this time
developed new hooks to interest its press targets. For example, the
agency highlighted one of Firefox’s more controversial products - a
filter to prevent access to child pornography on the Internet - to gain
coverage in the Sun.
A Plus’s effort achieved coverage on the front page of the Independent,
a full page in the Sun, a small piece in the FT and an item on Channel 4
Regionally the story appeared on BBC Midlands Today as well as in the
big Birmingham dailies. Trade coverage was equally impressive. Major
computer titles Computing and Computer Weekly gave good space to the
A Plus held the considerable advantage of being the PR consultant to
both the merging companies, perhaps lessening the potential rivalries
that often arise.
That said, the agency responded efficiently in a tight time-frame and
maximised coverage by feeding the national press the more imaginative
Julie Hewitt, marketing manager at Firefox, said: ‘We did get a lot of
coverage. It goes to show that if you’re not afraid of being a little
controversial, you can achieve a great deal in PR terms.’