Client: Inland Revenue
PR team: In-house, with Ardent Marketing handling the launch stunt
Campaign: Taxback Week
Timescale: September 25, 1995 for one week.
Cost: pounds 12,000 for launch stunt, plus further un-costed in-house
In 1991, the Government abolished composite rate tax paid on bank and
building society accounts, allowing non-taxpayers to claim back tax
normally deducted at source on savings accounts and dividend income.
But, despite three advertising and publicity campaigns between 1991 and
1993, an estimated six million people, eligible to claim back tax on
savings or dividend income totalling an estimated pounds 500 million,
remain inadvertent contributors to Treasury coffers.
To increase awareness levels among those eligible to claim tax refunds
on savings accounts and share dividends.
To increase the numbers of those claims for refunds or future exemptions
in the October to December quarter by 10 per cent, and to boost
helpline enquiries about the scheme.
The campaign was designed to target a wide range of key categories of
potential non-taxpayers including pensioners, unemployed, children,
students, and housewives outside the labour market.
This is a wide audience which, if not necessarily affluent, is expensive
to reach regularly by advertising according to Claire Salmons, publicity
manager at the Inland Revenue’s Corporate Communications Office.
So the Revenue opted to plan a high-profile but modestly-budgeted PR
campaign because ‘we decided that further advertising and paid publicity
would be likely to yield progressively diminishing returns,’ says
The highlight of the week was a TV news opportunity, organised by Ardent
Marketing, in which Simon Crane, a stuntman from James Bond feature film
Goldeneye leapt off the Inland Revenue’s Somerset House headquarters
into a cash mountain of pounds 500 million pounds (fake, of course).
The Revenue also distributed regional and national newspaper press packs
as well as arranging spokespeople for broadcast media, and access to
individuals who have successfully claimed back tax on savings.
The strong visual tag of the campaign paid dividends. TV interest was
clearly shaken as well as stirred by Bondesque stunts at Somerset House.
ITN carried coverage of the stunt, and the Taxback message, through the
day including mentions on News at Ten. The BBC carried the story on
national bulletins throughout the day along with Sky News.
The launch of the week-long campaign was also covered on Radio 1, Radio
4, and IRN bulletins for commercial radio, while a good range of
broadsheet, tabloid and regional papers picked up on the PR-led
opportunity to write about a subject close to most readers’ hearts -
Total media coverage of the campaign was estimated to equate to pounds
820,000 of advertising spend, according to the Inland Revenue’s ad
agency Leagas Shafron Davis.
But what about the bottom line? There too, the campaign appeared to
achieve its objectives. Freephone enquiries rose 500 per cent, and the
number of new claims set up by the Inland Revenue to claim back tax was
up to 17,000 in October and November according to Salmons. Even so, many
of the six million out there still failed to respond to the message.
‘We know we are not everybody’s favourite people,’ she says. That may be
true - for most of the year, but for this particular week, you could
have fooled me.