Client: Royal Mail National (Stamps Marketing Division)
PR Team: QBO
Campaign: Millennium stamps launch
Timescale: November 1998 ongoing
Before millennium-hype took hold, the Royal Mail commissioned research
into how people wanted to commemorate the occasion. One-in-four
respondents said they would consider buying stamps as a keepsake.
In response, Royal Mail produced a millennium collection of 25 sets of
commemorative stamps. Each set celebrates major UK achievements over the
past 1,000 years in different sectors, including inventors and
The stamps were created by well-known British artists such as David
A new set of stamps will be issued every month throughout 1999, 2000 and
To generate awareness of each set of stamps and the collection as a
whole, and make them an essential way of marking and remembering
Strategy and Plan
The Quentin Bell Organisation (QBO) and Royal Mail launched the concept
of the millennium collection in November 1998. Actress Joanna Lumley, a
keen art collector, led the celebrity photocall, accompanied by 36
artists of 1999’s stamps.
The event took place on the Meridian Line at Greenwich Observatory,
which was featured on the first of the January stamps.
QBO set up a Talk Radio promotion on the Scott Chisholm Show, which ran
from November through to February. Each of Chisholm’s 12 one-hour
programmes focused on one of the stamp sets and relevant experts were
brought in to talk about the subject area.
For example, clockwork radio inventor Trevor Baylis discussed the
challenges he faced in bringing his invention to the market for the
A competition to win the set was incorporated into the show and response
data was fed through to Royal Mail for fulfilment of requests for
For added media interest, research was commissioned to ask the public
who were considered the most influential figures of the past 1,000
years, and what people were planning to do on New Year’s Eve. The study
was used to generate extra stories.
In January, Tomorrow’s World presenter Phillipa Forrester fronted the
launch of the inventors set. Research on travel in the 21st century was
used to launch the traveller’s collection in February. Since then, QBO
and Royal Mail have launched stamp sets covering patients, settlers,
workers and entertainers.
Measurement and evaluation
BBC Radio Five Live, Classic FM and a host of regional radio stations
covered the story. Talk Radio’s competition generated 2,000
Mantra evaluated coverage from the initial launch, using a system based
on position of editorial, key messages and cost of advertising. It
showed a good return on PR spend.
The Times, Mirror, Express, Evening Standard, Saturday Times magazine
and Daily Mail are among the newspapers in QBO’s cuttings book.
Research agency RSL Capibus recorded an awareness level of 18 per cent
before the radio campaign and 56 per cent after. As QBO’s campaign is
just one part of an integrated advertising, sales promotion and direct
marketing effort it is, as ever, difficult to evaluate the impact of the
The two-pronged approach of publicising the collection as a whole while
tackling each set in a new way has kept the subject alive for
By focusing on newsworthy stamp sets and running promotional campaigns
rather than just sending out updated press releases each month, QBO also
avoided overkill with journalists in the first months of the
It remains to be seen whether the stamps will sustain media and public
interest through the rest of this year and the next two, or will be lost
in the clamour of millennium fever, and possible millennium fatigue.