CAMPAIGNS: Business to business; Firefox hooks its press targets

Client: Firefox/FTP Merger PR Team: The A Plus Group Campaign: Announcement of FTP Software/Firefox merger Timescale: 16 - 23 January 1996 Budget: Undisclosed

Client: Firefox/FTP Merger

PR Team: The A Plus Group

Campaign: Announcement of FTP Software/Firefox merger

Timescale: 16 - 23 January 1996

Budget: Undisclosed

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

story lines.

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.’

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