Buying a used car privately has always been fraught with risks. To
make the process less stressful for buyers and sellers, Lloyds TSB and
car supermarket Car Group formed a joint venture, White Knight, offering
the first warranty for private car sales where the seller gives a
legally binding written commitment describing the condition of the
To educate the public about the White Knight warranty and position it as
a trustworthy product offering clear benefits.
Because warranty products are not easily understood by the public,
Paragon set up a nationwide tour giving private briefings to key
journalists and opinion formers in the motor trade so that they would be
able to explain the benefits.
During the tour the brand name was not disclosed, heightening the sense
of expectation. Two teaser press releases were sent out. A City version
highlighted the strong corporate backing behind White Knight, while a
news version heralded the launch of an innovative warranty product for
the private car market. Research commissioned from MORI produced the PR
line that people commonly get warranties for products like washing
machines costing a few hundred pounds but rarely for cars bought
privately costing several thousand pounds. The research also proved
there was a huge demand for reassurance when buying a used car.
Because September is a very busy time for motoring journalists, Paragon
decided not to have a formal launch. Three versions of an embargoed
media information kit were tailored to different audiences. The front of
the kit featured a picture of soccer hardman Vinnie Jones with the line
’Would you buy a used car from this man?’, followed by a picture of a
sweetly smiling Jones and the words ’You will now!’ A tabloid release
focused on the fact Jones had bought his sister a White Knight warranty
to help her sell her car. The broadsheet release explained the need for
the warranty and its benefits, while a City release announced the launch
of the joint venture between Lloyds TSB and Car Group.
The day before the public launch a photocall was held with Jones, his
sister and White Knight managing director John England. England and Auto
Express news editor Lydia Aydon were also available for radio
interviews, and a syndicated audio feature produced with radio
consultancy The Market Tiers was distributed to radio stations.
As a result of the pre-launch tour three opinion-formers, including
motor industry guru Professor Garel Rhys, were happy to give quotes to
This groundwork paid off when Radio 5 Live turned independently to Rhys
for comment. The teaser release was covered by six nationals including
the Times, the Guardian and the Express, around 20 regional and three
trade publications, gaining a total of more than 17 million
opportunities to see.
The launch was featured in the Mirror, the Express and the Mail on
Sunday, 41 regional papers, and three motoring magazines. Twenty-two
radio interviews were conducted and the syndicated tape was used by over
30 stations. Working Lunch on BBC2 ran a two-minute piece on launch day.
Paragon hopes to have an item featured on motoring programme Top Gear
Taking the time to brief key figures face-to-face in order to help them
understand quite a complex product has resulted in excellent media
coverage, particularly at a regional level. Paragon identified eight key
messages, and average message delivery for the teaser release was five
The choice of Vinnie Jones, presenter of Granada TV’s Men and Motors, to
front the campaign was apt. He has a reputation for not being a man to
mess with, yet with the addition of a White Knight warranty he becomes a
knight in shining armour.
Radio opportunities were well exploited by using The Market Tiers’
studio and ISDN link, but TV coverage has so far proved more elusive.
Perhaps more could have been made of the Vinnie Jones link.
Client: White Knight UK Ltd
PR Team: Paragon Communications
Campaign: Launch of White Knight Warranty for Private Car Sales
Timescale: June to October 1997
Cost: pounds 65,000