CAMPAIGNS: PRIVATISATION; A public display of privatisation

Beneficiary: Romanian government Council for Reform Agency: Dewe Rogerson Campaign: Romanian privatisation programme Timing: September 1995 to April 1996 Budget: ECU 2.3 million

Beneficiary: Romanian government Council for Reform

Agency: Dewe Rogerson

Campaign: Romanian privatisation programme

Timing: September 1995 to April 1996

Budget: ECU 2.3 million



On 1 October 1995 the Romanian government launched a countrywide

privatisation programme financed by PHARE.



This was its second attempt to enlist the Romanian public as

shareholders in newly privatised industry. A previous attempt was made

in 1992, when the government distributed thousands of vouchers which the

public were encouraged to redeem against shares. But the campaign

fizzled out, leaving the public cynical about the whole privatisation

process.



In September last year, the Council for Reform enlisted Dewe Rogerson to

help co-ordinate the second privatisation programme.



Objective



To maximise participation by explaining the privatisation process and to

encourage subscription while marketing a choice of almost 4,000

individual companies.



Tactics



With an initial subscription deadline of 31 December, Dewe Rogerson had

three months in which to generate public interest in the scheme. In

addition to explaining the mechanics of the privatisation and

subscription process, the agency also had to overcome public and media

cynicism about the worth of the companies to be floated.



Having recognised the need to make a direct and personal appeal to the

general public and to create a sense of mounting urgency in the

countdown to the deadline, the agency coined the strapline ‘Use it or

lose it’, underlining the fact that this was a once-in-a-lifetime

opportunity. Working with local agency Plus Advertising, DR generate a

TV, radio and press advertising campaign explaining the choices

available.



In addition to the advertising campaign, the agency worked in

conjunction with local production company Ikon Productions on a series

of four educational TV programmes in which an ordinary family discussed

their queries about the privatisation. Using this informal vehicle the

agency were able to explain the principles of share ownership.



Literature on sectors for investment was made available through the post

office and other subscription points including banks, together with

leaflets explaining the rationale behind the privatisation, and posters

explaining how to fill in the subscription form.



Dewe Rogerson was responsible for international media relations, but it

was felt that the programme could best be explained to a hostile

domestic media by the government’s in-house department.



The agency however produced a series of media packs which were

distributed at weekly government conferences in Bucharest. Information

made available to the media included an explanation on the workings of

the privatisation and subscription process and the rationale behind the

choice of privatised companies, while also drawing with privatisations

in other Eastern and central European countries.



A series of seminars were held in regional centres where the local

prefecture and council representatives answered questions from the

public.



Results



By 1 December 1995 subscription stood at just 10 per cent, so the

deadline was moved to March 1996 and the agency was able to build

subscription momentum in the new year.



The decision to move the deadline was however picked by an almost

uniformly hostile media, to undermine the credibility of the programme.



By March 1996 however subscription had risen to over 85 per cent for the

first phase companies subscription with a further five per cent

subscription for a second phase of subscription to five regional

investment funds.



Verdict



Dewe Rogerson successfully managed to over much public cynicism in a

remarkably short time by bypassing media scepticism and making a direct

appeal to the public. The agency also avoided the problems of slipping

deadlines and loss of public interest by persuading the government to

stick to its March deadline.



One of the keys to its success was its sensitivity to the tenor of

public interest. A previous campaign entitled ‘Good Morning Romania’,

funded by American technical assistant body USAID, which featured rich

fat successful Romanians lying in swimming pools praising the free

market grossly missed the mark, but Dewe Rogerson’s ‘common touch’

approach reinforced the relevance of the economic revolution to the man

in the street.



It is a measure of the campaign’s success that the agency is now engaged

in educating the manager of the 4,000 newly privatised companies in the

art of investor relations.



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