From PR stunts to product launches, 2019 has been an eventful year for public relations. With the never-ending shift to digital PR, and growing trends in brand activism, we took a look at the businesses who got it, oh so right.
HEATHROW EXPRESS: THE FLOWER EXPRESS
Passengers boarding the Heathrow Express on May 21st and May 22nd were greeted by over 3,000 flowers in a stunning display to celebrate the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower show.
PR agency 72Point worked with the dedicated airport railway service to create a striking, relevant campaign that would showcase their quick journey time between Heathrow Airport and London Paddington, just a short tube ride away from the flower show. The display, aptly-named “the flower express”, was designed by London-based florist Jamie Aston and featured 1,850 hydrangeas, 220 wisterias and 1,000 stems of fresh sea lavender covering 23-metres of carriage. It took a team of eight people over four hours to install the surprise display, and the company also had train representatives handing out free flowers for passengers to take home.
To maximise reach, the Heathrow Express ran a competition to give passengers a chance to win two tickets to the flower show on the 25th by posting their snaps and tagging @HeathrowExpress and #FlowerExpress. Overall, the campaign gained 57 pieces of coverage with a reach of 3.68 million including articles in the Independent, Metro and Daily Mirror, along with a social media reach of 197,000.
MCHIVE: THE SMALLEST MCDONALD’S IN THE WORLD
May 2019 saw fast-food giant McDonald’s smallest restaurant open its doors to an unlikely clientele. Instead of serving up its usual array of burgers, fries and soft drinks, the McHive aims to provide a quirky but fully-functional home for earth’s most important pollinators: bees.
The hive consists of five frames that sit inside the to-scale model of the restaurant, complete with a drive thru and outdoor seating area. Built initially as a tribute to McDonald’s Sweden, where specific branches of the restaurants have installed beehives on their roofs and wildflowers in their greenspaces to help combat falling bee numbers, the hive was sold at auction for $10,000, and all proceeds went to the Ronald McDonald House charities.
News of the chain’s efforts have been noticed in many green publications including Organic Formulations, Enviro. Media Association and inhabitat, and has caught the eye of architects and designers globally.
CARLSBERG: NOT THE BEST BEER IN THE WORLD
Despite advertising its beer as “probably the best beer in the world”, Danish brewer, Carlsberg has admitted their famous slogan may not be completely true. Falling into the trap of being one of the biggest, but not the best, the brewery decided to rebrew to create a new, better Pilsner.
In a world of craft beer, Carlsberg accepted its beer would always be considered a mainstream choice and decided to completely redo their recipe. The £20m campaign was conceived in collaboration with creative agency Fold7 to reinvent the brand and add honesty to the brands policy.
Coverage came easy for this bold statement, with Sky News, the Metro and The Independent being just some of the media sources who picked the news up. And the campaign performed well on digital too. The campaign began with a series of videos featuring Carlsberg workers reading out “mean tweets” which collectively made almost 10 million views on Twitter alone.
The feedback from customers has been generally positive, with many consumers commending Carlsberg for their honest approach. According to YouGov BrandIndex, brand awareness rose by three percentage points through advertising, and almost the same through word of mouth exposure.
THE D-DAY STORY: SOLIDERS OF SACRIFICE
One campaign that should be recognised for its graceful approach towards raising brand awareness is The D-Day Story museum’s touring sculpture. The Portsmouth museum asked PR agency, Frank, to help them raise awareness of the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the result was truly moving.
The campaign aimed to capture individual stories of soldiers fighting in the first 24 hours of the battle. After extensive research, they decided that the statue was to be modelled on the first man killed in combat, Denham Brotheridge. He is captured throwing a dove in place of the grenade, to signify peace, and surrounded by around 4000 bullets in memory of all the lives lost.
After touring the piece around the country and generating a total of 82 media pieces, visits to the museum increased by 80%; proof that not all campaigns need to cause controversy to see results. This tasteful gesture, quite literally, went a long way.
PADDY POWER: BREXIT BUNKER
The subject of Brexit joined queue jumpers and traffic wardens on the list of things most likely to annoy Britons. In March, Paddy Power teamed up with creative agency Officer & Gentleman and football legend Eric Cantona to provide a solution: the Brexit Bunker. With “Britain’s best import”, Cantona as the face of the campaign, the bookmakers offered one lucky Brit and a guest to spend two nights in a bunker, somewhere between England and France, free from any mention of Brexit.
The campaign ran throughout March, with Paddy Power creating the Brexitbunker.eu domain and showcasing Cantona’s “Brexit survival videos”. The lucky winners reached the bunker on March 29 (the original Brexit date), and were greeted with champagne, British food favourites and a games room, alongside all the necessities to enjoy a trip free from Brexit.
Earning coverage from news sites globally and gaining over a million views on YouTube, the whole campaign places Paddy Power firmly in the public eye for satirical and relevant PR.
GREGGS: VEGAN SAUSAGE ROLL
Highstreet bakers Greggs started the year off strong with a campaign that used reactive marketing, and a vegan sausage roll, to surge its reach and brand popularity. On January 2nd, consumers were hit with the news that Greggs’ new addition to the menu – a sausage roll made of vegan Quorn – was starting to be rolled out in stores across the UK.
Alongside the twitter and YouTube adverts, which gave a clever nod to the latest iPhone adverts, Greggs also sent journalists the new product, packaged like smartphones.
Generally, the response was good, a mix of vegans celebrating the news and meat eaters welcoming the expansion of choice. However, what really made this PR campaign a viral hit was the brand’s willingness to engage on social, even in the face of negative feedback. When vocal anti-vegan Piers Morgan tweeted his opinion about the new release, Greggs didn’t shy away from engaging.
What began as a clever parody of Apple adverts ended as a fantastic example of how to correctly use reactive marketing to launch a product. In the month after the release of the vegan sausage roll, shares at Greggs went up by 7% to an all-time high of £17.13, and sales rose by 10%.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: FAMILY-FREE ZONES
Usually when we think of PR stunts, we think of brands trying to gain audience reach, drive sales and inevitably raise profit margins. However this year, human rights organisation Amnesty International teamed up with creative agency VCCP once again to shed light on an important issue.
Aiming to bring attention to the UK law that separates refugee families, the organisation cordoned off a zone in the Southbank and had security guards patrolling to ensure that families were not passing through together. If parent’s insisted on passing through the area, they had to leave their children behind in the care of the guards. This is the second installation Amnesty International has created in the Southbank for this issue, with the 2018 Mothering Sunday stunt featuring families in a glass box managed to inspire 13,715 people to email their MP’s, resulting in 131 MP’s voting in favour of the Family Reunion Bill. However, since then, the bill has not progressed, prompting the organisation to bring it to public attention once again in a stunt that shows that PR is not just for commercial interest.
UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has transformed their Bath store into a sign-friendly centre, in order to celebrate diversity and support deaf customers. From the 18-21 July, ‘Signsbury’s’ will include visual guides and smart technology to encourage customers to sign basic words and phrases with employees. Over 100 members of staff have undergone training in British Sign Language, and Sainsbury’s has released a video helping those wanting to use sign.
Staff will also be encouraging children to “Sign for a Snack”, where a free piece of fruit will be given to those who successfully master basic words.
The initiative comes as part of a 150 days of community service scheme, launched by Sainsbury’s on their 150th birthday. Store manager Paul Robertson and his team, including deaf colleague Sam Book, suggested Signsbury’s as a way of making their store deaf-friendly to help the deaf and hard of hearing community. The campaign was devised by Gravity Road in partnership with PR agency Hope & Glory, and has been covered in many major media outlets including Metro, LadBible, The Independent and The Mirror.
GILLETTE: THE BEST A MAN CAN BE
One campaign that certainly sparked conversation was Gillette’s The Best Men Can Be advert. In the hope for a progressive outlook on toxic masculinity, Gillette bravely altered their tagline to call out harmful, stereotypical masculine traits.
It had all the ingredients for a successful campaign, including a hashtag, viral video and a clear message, but – somewhat ironically – the ad was lambasted by some of its audience.
Although it did alienate some existing customers, the razor giant decided that the message was worth dropping a few sales for. to the campaign was aimed to ‘advance a more modern, positive vision’, a tactic that a lot of brands have jumped on this year.
Regardless of the negative impact on the brand for some of its consumer base, the debate went worldwide. As some might say, no press is bad press.
If you’re looking to create a PR campaign that grabs attention, for all the right reasons, we’re here to help you every step of the way from creative ideas and strategy to execution and reporting. Take a look at some of the work we’ve done for client, Camelot.