FOCUS: PROMOTIONS AND INCENTIVES; Gift horses to suit corporate courses

PRESS PROMOTION: Freebies may not provide a direct route to a journalist’s heart, but they can create interest GIFT IDEAS: Everything you need to titillate clients, from lighted juggling balls to solar-powered fan hats STAFF INCENTIVES: What’s good for the morale of the staff can’t help but do long-term good for the company

PRESS PROMOTION: Freebies may not provide a direct route to a

journalist’s heart, but they can create interest

GIFT IDEAS: Everything you need to titillate clients, from lighted

juggling balls to solar-powered fan hats

STAFF INCENTIVES: What’s good for the morale of the staff can’t help

but do long-term good for the company

They don’t need to cost a bomb, but well thought out promotional items

can make all the difference.

No PR company wants to think that its message only gets through because

it has a bribe attached, and it seems that this fear is holding back

some agencies from using promotional items in mailings. ‘We don’t find

that we have to do much of that,’ says one account director. ‘Our

campaigns are strong enough to create interest without gimmicks,’ says


Promotional items may be gimmicky at times, but that doesn’t mean they

can’t help create interest and lend excitement to an otherwise standard

piece of activity. Band and Brown has utilised a number of creative

promotional ideas to publicise BT pricing, a fairly dry topic. When BT

introduced by-the-second pricing, the agency sent watches with a penny

face and the BT logo to journalists along with details of the changes.

The agency’s Applevert campaign used stickered Cox’s to publicise BT’s

reduced call prices to the America and ‘the Big Apple’ and picked up

last year’s PR Week award for Best Promotional Activity. Managing

director Gill Brown says this sort of activity lends itself well to

picture stories. ‘Our brief was to extend the life of the story and come

up with new reasons to go to the media.’

GCI made a watch the star of the show for the launch of Irony, Swatch’s

first metal-backed timepiece last August. Journalists received their own

model theatre DIY press conference containing a VNR and a copy of the

watch, batteries not included ironically. Fiona Rollo, associate

director says the activity was well-received because it was imaginative

and office-based at a time of year when many publications are running on

skeleton staffs.

Promotional items need not be expensive. Imagination is more important

than cost. ‘People are always interested in finding out things about

themselves,’ says Pippa Sands, managing director of Sandpiper. For the

launch of Lyons Signature instant coffee, the agency asked journalists

to sign and return postcards which were analysed by a graphologist and

returned. The teaser generated 98 per cent response and enabled

Sandpiper to negotiate coverage in titles such as the the Mirror, Good

Housekeeping, Me, Living and Chat.

For an Andrex promotion, signed boxed sets of Gerald Durrell books were

sent to key contacts in the media. Although they had limited value, they

had tremendous emotional appeal. ‘We triggered more media opportunities

than we were able to cope with,’ says Sands.

Desk top items such as mouse mats are increasingly popular as they are

cheap, easy to mail and tend to stay put. CNBC mailed branded mouse mats

and mini rugby balls to journalists for the launch of the channel in


Promotional gifting on press trips has rules of its own. Since 1991 John

Goss, director of Pilot Communications has been running Arctic Shock, an

intensive series of face-to-face meetings beween European journalists

and Finnish industrialists.

Goss says he emphasises that gifts should be unique and useful. Last

year’s trippers were presented with traditional Finnish ‘four winds’

hats and Finnish drinking cups, Kuuksa. Goss says gifts should be of

personal use during the trip and not end up as a throwaway gift for

someone else. ‘A gift for gift’s sake is wrong. There has to be a

strategy behind any gift scheme,’ says Goss, ‘and imaginative

hospitality is a gift in itself.’

Gill Brown warns that at the end of the day, it is the story which

should be at the top of the promotional agenda. ‘There needs to be a

sanity check with all of these activities. Journalists are not as

receptive to promotional devices as the public. It can backfire if it’s

too trivial.’

Stuart Derrick is deputy editor of Promotions & Incentives

A-Z: Corporate gifts

A is for Awards

Not just for long service or retirement, awards such as individually

designed glass sculptures by glass artist Elizabeth Swinburne for

Everything Corporate, or laser-engraved reproductions of photos in

acrylic from Laser Technics, can make attractive and unusual promotional


B is for Badges

Novelties include Bourne Publicity’s colour-change badge which makes use

of heat-sensitive inks, and big, cheery, 3D rubber badges from The Big

Badge Company, while more refined pins and emblems can be had from

Korporate Kreations, Toye Kenning and Spencer and J Shaw and Company.

C is for Clothing

Clothing specialists such as Things, Pelmark and CDA Marketing can help

you sport your own corporate colours and logos on everything from

baseball caps to T-shirts, also taking in baseball jackets and polo

shirts on the way. (See Z is for Zoot suit).

D is for Desk accessories

You can fill up your desk with the usual pens, blotters, paperweights

and card cases from suppliers like Solo, EMC, and Business Gift

Supplies. Alternately, try the Mind Maze - a range of environmentally

friendly wooden puzzles from Chuft Toys and Gifts to help executives

while away lazy afternoons.

E is for Entertainment

For a bespoke CD, cassette or video, call on promotional entertainment

experts EMI Premium, Sony Music, or Wienerworld. And for something a

little distinctive, The Shaped CD Company can supply you with fully

functioning CDs and CD-ROMs in any shape you like.

F is for Film and photography

Samsung and Fuji are busy in the promotional field, while Concord

Camera’s range of Concord, Keystone and LeClic cameras come in a host of

cheap and cheerful colours and styles. Or go for the so-chic-that-it’s-

painful David Bailey-branded single use camera.

G is for Gadgets

Swatch has produced what it claims to be the world’s first wristwatch

pager, while Betacom’s Voice It can record up to 90 seconds of your most

profound thoughts electronically. Workaholics can remind their loved

ones what you sound like with the Cardvox message card from Tornado


H is for the Home

Instrumental Furniture has been making totally groovy musically-shaped

furniture for years - try a cello-shaped coffee table, saxaphone

cassette rack or a set of musical note hooks for coats and hats. And

what can you get for the man who has everything? The Corby Tie Press, of


I is for Inflatables

No party is complete without balloons: get your bespoke inflatable

supplied and printed up by B-Loony, Festival Balloons, Icarus or Kulim

and have a ball. Or if you fancy a ride in your very own hot air

balloon, ask nicely and the Ascent Balloon Company will give you a lift.

J is for Juggling

The Astro Ball from The Cosmic Ball Co is the juggling accessory for the

hi-tech 1990s. Just whip in a nine-volt battery and your balls and you

can be the envy of your friends with a pseudo pyrotechnic display of

fabulous light trails that will have your audience fooled into

forgetting that you can’t actually juggle.

K is for Kick-off

Euro 96 fever means a host of soccer-related merchandise is on offer,

from the officially licensed Euro 96 badge collection from The Big Badge

Company, to SMT’s nostalgia edition of 12 hard enamelled badges

featuring the original crests of the founder members of the Football

League. Not to mention the special limited collector’s print of England

striker Alan Shearer, signed by the man himself, from Football Heroes.

L is for Luggage and leather

The bells and whistles mobile phone wallet from Mainline Promotions has

compartments for just about everything you could possibly think of,

including the penknife that comes with it. If you’re after something a

bit more compact you could try the attention-grabbing mini attache case

from G Ettinger which is just about big enough to carry your business

cards and a book of stamps.

M is for Money

Cash doesn’t have to be grubby. The Royal Mint (01443 238282) makes

regular issues of commemorative coins, and strikes a number of coins to

celebrate special occasions, such as last year’s World War II pounds 2

peace coin, and the obligatory football-themed coin for 1996.

(See K is for Kick-off).

N is for Novels and non-fiction

The gift of knowledge has never been better value, with publishing

houses like Harper Collins, OUP and Transworld aggressively targeting

the promotional market for books of all kinds from bonkbusters to

cookery guides.

O is for Old-fashioned

Companies like Kingston Collection supply attractive corporate gifts

from hip flasks to handy travelling clocks and photo frames, all with a

well-executed Victorian or 1930s explorer theme. For authenticity, go

for one of Pieces of History’s antique letters, documents or

manuscripts, from 300-year-old Acts of Parliament to prints and

autographs ranging from TS Eliot to Queen Victoria.

P is for Pens

Go psychedelic with Prodir’s new range of groovily fluorescent pens

which come in dayglo pink, yellow, blue and green, or for a more sober

approach try the 1996 limited edition emerald green Edson fountain pen

from Waterman. For an absurd twist go for the Penculator - a fully

functioning ballpoint that produces a flexible electronic calculator

from the barrel.

Q is for Quirky

And that’s just one of the words for Coprom’s solar-powered fan hat.

Yes, you look really stupid wearing it, but there’s more to staying cool

than style - and at least it does work.

R is for Radio

The title may be a bit cumbersome, but Morphy Richards’ R157 FM Radio

Receiver offers crystal clear reception in an impressively tiny package,

while Bourne Publicity’s poptastic custom radio can be programmed to

broadcast up to ten seconds of your own jingle or corporate message

every time it is turned on.

S is for Stress busters

Stress shapes from Gifts for Business can be made in any shape and

colour you want, pounded flat, and bounce right back for more.

Incentives for Less supplies Chinese stress balls made from heavy chrome

steel and packaged in a silk-lined box. Roll them around in the palm to

produce a pleasant relaxing sensation, or just use them as a Zen


T is for Telecommunications

If your budget doesn’t stretch to Geemarc’s novelty InterCity telephone,

or a customised corporate mobile phone from CGT, you could go for the

Media Card - a pre-programmed telephone tone dialler cum phonecard

that’s ideal for world travellers.

U is for Underground

Concord Camera has produced a 35mm London Underground fun camera which

can be customised with the Underground station name of your choice, and

a Snap ’n’ Map single use camera is also available which comes with a

tourist map of 12 of London’s top tourist attractions.

(See F is for Film and photography).

V is for Vouchers

Among dozens of brands on offer, Virgin Vouchers give access to the

company’s entertainment and holiday range, while Whitbread Leisure

Vouchers major on food and drink. Theatre Tokens are accepted by a wide

range of theatres around the country, and Marks and Spencer and Boots

vouchers go great guns in the high street.

W is for Watches and clocks

Olympic Watches has launched an advertising watch which uses images on a

scroll to show a television advertising sequence or storyboard. EMC’s

talking watch promises an easy-to-set time which is related to you by a

voice with a Chinese-American accent and an alarm using the sound of a

cock crowing.

X is for Xmas

Personalise your Christmas decorations with bespoke baubles and crackers

from The RedRof Company or spoil yourself with a hamper from The Hamper

People of Norwich, Spicers or, of course, Fortnum and Mason.

Y is for the Young at heart

The Kiddie Ball is made from squeezable vinyl that is so soft you can

throw it around without risk to your office PCs (Prime Designs), while,

on a more high-minded note, pounds 1 from each sale of Lledo’s charity

model van will be donated to the sales promotion industry’s dedicated

children’s charity, Promoting For Children.

Z is for Zoot suits and fab gear

When a T-shirt just won’t do, why not order up a made-to-measure suit

from visiting tailor Norton & Townsend. Choose from a wide range of

standard cuts, or copy your grandfather’s old 1940s nightclub wear. Bulk

discounts (quantity, not size) are available.

Incentives: Keeping staff keen

Traditionally staff loyalty and incentive schemes have been aimed almost

exclusively at sales teams. Sales is still perceived to be the cutting

edge of many businesses and also the department where results are most


However, companies increasingly realise that their performance doesn’t

begin and end with the sales department. As UK companies have been

restructured into flatter organisations and frontline staff have been

empowered to take more responsibility, recognition and reward have

become key issues in personnel management. Consequently, there has been

growth in the use of motivation schemes in non-sales environments.

The best motivation schemes are closely aligned with a long-term

communication proposition, so that when people are rewarded, they know

why and positive practices are reinforced. Bill Brown, managing director

of Whitbread Leisure Vouchers, says: ‘Incentives that are planned for a

quick fix tend not to be so successful as overall packages where people

know what is expected and why.’

Brown says internal media, such as newsletters are an excellent way of

maintaining the momentum of a scheme, along with face-to-face briefings

and monthly or bi-monthly updates.

Phillipe Gayton, general manager of Argos Premier Incentives agrees that

any motivation scheme has to communicate with its targets on a regular

basis, to ensure that the link is made between behaviour and the reward


The company has carved a niche for itself in the oil industry linking

the communication of safety issues to rig crews. Clients in this sector

include Smedvig, Texaco and Shell. ‘The cost of taking an oil rig out of

operation for a few days can be huge so these safety schemes encourage

teamwork and reward those which eliminate accidents,’ says Gayton.

The message of customer service is one which the Ansells chain of pubs

has tried to instil in employees. Argos produced a motivation scheme

linked to a mystery shopper programme where premises were evaluated and

rewarded with Argos points if they met certain criteria. Gayton says:

‘Many managers have grasped the importance of satisfying customers

through the scheme and have reinvested their rewards into the business

putting their points towards staff training, management consultancy or

promotions nights to stimulate the business.’

Simon Priestley, sales planner at Air Miles, claims its research

indicates interest in extending motivation schemes into other non-sales

areas where objectives may be less tangible. A recent Air Miles client

was Oldham NHS Trust which used Air Miles to reduce absenteeism and

reward good attendance levels. The Trust saved pounds 120,000 in sick

pay over the course of the scheme.

Air Miles has now launched a licensed software package enabling

companies to administer the programme, keep closer control of it and

monitor the recipients. ‘In all motivation schemes, some people will

perform better than others, so it is important to offer more targeted

communications,’ says Priestley.

Capital Incentives offers both paper and electronic reward systems in

the shape of Capital Bonds and Capital Card, a Visa charge card which is

backed by the Royal Bank of Scotland. ‘Incentives are just one part of

how employers can communicate with employees,’ says Graham Povey,

marketing and operations director, Capital Incentives.

Launched 18 months ago, Capital Card allows clients to credit cash to an

individual card which can then be used by the recipient at any Visa

outlet worldwide. Capital has found that senior staff are more

comfortable with the credit card than with vouchers.

At the end of the day however, it is what you can get for your reward

which matters to recipients. Virgin Vouchers launched last year with

clients including Abbey National, Royal Mail and Partco. The lifestyle

nature of the offering means there is something for everyone says Jayne

Howie, managing director of Virgin Vouchers. ‘The operational person who

comes into work after a weekend away is likely to be a better advocate

than the one who comes in wearing a new woolly jumper,’ she says.

Press freebies: Looking some gift horses in the mouth

Apocryphal tales abound of PR promotional exercises gone wrong. There

was the retailer’s agency which sent a corporate birthday cake to

journalists only to make them all ill. Or the vegetarian secretary who

opened a package sent to a food journalist and was confronted with a

tray of glistening offal.

Press trips can offer even greater cock-up potential with different

cultures colliding and the blurring of professional and personal roles.

Freelance travel writer and broadcaster, Gill Williams remembers being

presented with the biography of a notable Sheikh on a trip to Abu Dhabi.

‘I was proudly told that it weighed 4kg which was about a quarter of my

cabin luggage allowance. I kept trying to dispose of it, but it was just

given back. It’s now propping up a table leg.’

Williams suggests that if PR people really want to be your friend, they

should forget the gifts and mail back the pounds of fact packs

accumulated on an average trip.

Health and beauty journalist Jenny Baden says that cosmetics companies

tend to be quite inventive in their use of promotional gifts. For the

launch of its new foundation, Colour Stay, Revlon sent journalists a

white shirt and the product to demonstrate that it doesn’t rub off on to

clothes. ‘Funnily enough it arrived while I was laughing at how cheesy

the TV ad is,’ she says.

Sensique gets bottom marks for a launch of a range of gifts which failed

to live up to expectations. ‘Everyone was presented with beautifully

wrapped presents, but inside was a pair of awful earrings which looked

like they had come out of a Christmas cracker,’ says Jenny Baden.

In the car industry it seems that extravagance still rules. Ian

Robertson of Autocar says manufacturers are renowned for their

extravagance, particularly for launches. The Fiat Bravo launch is

reputed to have come with a pounds 13 million price tag and all 1,100

journalists were presented with a crate of wine and a ceremonial plate.

Robertson plumps for an electronic personal organiser from Mercedes as

his favourite freebie. ‘ I probably use it every day.’ A crystal

decanter from a car manufacturer is described as having no relevance.

Gary Crossing, music editor at The Big Issue says the days of payola for

music journalists have gone. The apocryphal caches of drugs secreted in

inner sleeves of records have given way to cream cakes and sweets

according to Crossing who names a promotional day out to Woking Football

Club for a Paul Weller book launch and disco as his favourite piece of

PR activity. Lizard Records get the thumbs down for sending a lollipop

with an insect frozen inside.

Frances Cottam, editor of the UK’s second highest selling men’s magazine

Men’s Health says press trips can often confirm your worst prejudices. A

press trip to Houston and Dallas to introduce British journalists to US

mall culture ‘proved conclusively that there was a cultural Grand Canyon

to be crossed’. A trip to French Canada left him with a plethora of snow

paper weights and badges ‘I think they had a badge fetish and they were

all stamped ‘made in Taiwan’.

However, top prize for the cringe-inducing mailing goes to the device

designed to help you grow a new foreskin. Which certainly brings new

meaning to the phrase maximising coverage.

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