PUBLIC RELATIONS: From concept to customer - We invited six public relations consultancies to create three fictitious brands and devise their launches. By Robert Gray

Who needs fantasy football when fantasy products can be such fun?

Who needs fantasy football when fantasy products can be such


In a celebration of creativity that doesn’t involve goalposts and

sweet-footed midfield maestros, Marketing asked six PR consultancies to

devise innovative and effective consumer campaigns for the launch of

fictitious products.

We limited the number of products to three and asked each agency to come

up with just one campaign for one product. As a result, there are

alternative campaigns for each of our fantasy launches. The products

are: a chocolate bar, a Sony PlayStation computer game of a similar ilk

to Tomb Raider and a themed restaurant chain, targeted at a market

roughly in line with that of TGI Friday.

The budgets, which had to cover all costs, including agency fees,

differed for each product: the ceiling on the computer game was pounds

50,000; the themed restaurant chain was up to pounds 100,000 and the

chocolate bar was not more than pounds 150,000.

As a creative test, we allowed the agencies to name and define the

products within the basic parameters we set. The results show that some

of them might do rather well for themselves if they were to switch their

activities from PR to new product development.

The six consultancies to take up our challenge were: Biss Lancaster,

Herald Communications, The Red Consultancy, Jackie Cooper PR, Manning

Selvage & Lee and Charles Barker BSMG.

CATEGORY: Themed Restaurant

CONSULTANCY: The Red Consultancy

’The first rule of doing PR for any restaurant, themed or otherwise, is

to make it a talking point; make it famous for something,’ says Lesley

Brend managing director of Red. ’That might be an unusual dish on the

menu, it might be a quirky aspect of service, or it might be celebrities

who are known to visit.’

Brend opts for a chain of Soviet-style restaurants that play on Cold War

cliches. If, for instance, there was a waiting-list for bookings, the

consultancy would suggest the restaurant introduce a visa system where

consumers would have to apply for admission six weeks in advance.

For the opening night, Red would issue a summons rather than an


And ’obviously’ it would send Ladas to pick up celebrities and


As a play on the usual restaurant souvenir shops, barter stalls would be

set up outside, where deals could be done with ’contraband’ Marlboros,

Levi’s and second-hand records.

There would be cabbage soup tastings involving restaurant reviewers and

vodka tastings with wine writers. Cabbage soup samplings could be

carried out in any place famous for its queues, such as Wimbledon or the

first day of the sales.

’We’d maybe even aim to carve a reputation for ’service without a smile’

- with a free pair of Levi’s to any customer who can make a ’babushka’

smile,’ adds Brend. ’The point is, the smallest detail can make the

biggest news. Smart PR shouldn’t necessarily be expensive PR. Let the

theme largely sell itself.

’The beauty of coming up with a PR campaign for a themed restaurant is

that you have a ready-made creative context in which to work - so you’re

halfway there. The danger of doing a PR campaign for a themed restaurant

is lapsing into the toe-curlingly crass: going larger-than-life and

ridiculing the concept you’re supposed to be promoting.’


Charles Barker BSMG turned the brief over to its youth, entertainment

and lifestyle division, SLAM, which was the only consultancy to miss the


SLAM came up with The Last Chance Saloon - The Best Chuckwagon in Town,

a Wild West themed chain. To whet the appetite, SLAM’s Kevin Redfearn

recommended enlisting the help of the Pony Express to round up local and

national media for opening night. ’The ’invitation’ is a special dish,

enveloped in a delicate crust of Smith & Wesson - pull the trigger to

release the tantalising concoction of flavours that will make The Last

Chance Saloon famous all over town,’ says the agency.

For starters, SLAM proposes a photocall featuring a posse of cowboys

riding into town to round up and eliminate the competition. ’But warning

bells are ringing because reports are coming in that a huge tribe of

Native Americans is marching from the west - and their destination is

The Last Chance Saloon,’ reads the campaign brief.

’As tonight is Wednesday, our special main course is ’Poker Night’ -

beat the waiter and your meal’s on us. In case you’re wanting to come

back, some of our other dishes are just as good,’ it continues. ’There’s

’Gold Prospecting’: find the nugget and choose a dessert; ’Wooing

Night’: pursue a brave or squaw by sending illicit smoke signals across

the room; and ’Shootout’, where the quickest draw gets a slug of

moonshine. Don’t forget the weekend is Family Time, all kids get a

sheriff’s badge and practise their future roles in our mock cowboy and

indian battles.

’And for something to wash the meal down, take a look at the Last Chance

discount offers in local media. Keep an eye open for the travelling Last

Chance Stagecoach - where you can sample our world famous dishes

absolutely free.’

CATEGORY: Computer Game


Jackie Cooper opted for what it describes as a multi-tiered campaign to

take the game further than the dedicated games media to exploit all

media sectors, including features, news, pictures, showbiz and


’The intention is to avoid niches and saturate the environment with

coverage opportunities, as we did with Wonderbra, Daewoo and Fanta,’

says Robert Phillips, consultancy managing director.

Jackie Cooper proposed three steps for taking the game beyond ’PR niche

hell’. Step one was to cast the sexy ’lead’ for the game by launching a

nationwide search for each of ’Britain’s best legs, bum, boobs and


These features would be digitised and merged together, creating the

ultimate virtual sex symbol. ’Four real-life sex symbols and a cyberbabe

provide a plethora of powerful editorial ammunition.’

Step two involves the glitz and glamour of an event modelled on a West

End movie premiere to prove ’games really are the new movies’. At a

Leicester Square venue, giant screens, red carpets, searchlights, DJs

and representatives of the media are brought together to celebrate the

launch in true blockbuster style.

The game character becomes a ’real-life’ celebrity via prosthetics. She

is interviewed by journalists and photographed by the paparazzi as part

of the effort to take the publicity outside the games and technology


Step three involves the creation of a new game, Guru, which is used to

fuel the debate on the need for an independent games classification


This is done by leaking ’outrageous spoof developmental visuals’ to the


Staged demonstrations, petitions and comment from official sources

generate reaction against the game. The true nature of the game is then

revealed: the player has to succeed in the publicity world by

manipulating press and public opinion. The PR campaign is now seen for

what it is: the ultimate game demo and post modern irony at its


’The most important thing about our approach to getting coverage is not

to place brands in the niches other people put them in,’ says


’You explode every angle to make it a story.’

CONSULTANCY: Herald Communications

Herald has created a campaign for a computer game called Stone Raider,

featuring ’voluptuous adventurer’ Ruby Stone. The orphaned child of

aristocrats, Ruby travels the world with an armoury of guns and her

loyal dog Gem, plundering precious stones that she sells to raise money

for the needy.

Priced at pounds 44.95, the game has a target audience of 18- to

35-year-olds with a male bias.

Pre-release, auditions are held to find a Ruby Stone lookalike.

Embargoed previews of the game are given to publications such as Arena,

Maxim and Focus. A photo-shoot with the model is arranged for the front

cover of FHM and for a fashion spread in The Sunday Times Style section.

Playable demos are agreed with online sites FHM On-Line and


Previews appear in the gaming press such as Official PlayStation to

support the sell-in to distributors and retailers. Game scores are

included in consumer release information. Selected stars known to like

games are given the product to try out for different media, such as The

Prodigy for Melody Maker. Digital and lookalike pictures of Ruby reading

titles such as Loaded and Marketing are supplied to the publications in


For the launch itself, selected national newspapers and electronic media

are invited ’under guard’ to a photocall at a leading jewellers in


Ruby will be surrounded by millions of pounds of gems, including as many

rubies as possible.

The central London launch takes place at a venue themed as Ruby’s


It is styled to contain Ruby’s finds, world maps, gem books and


Game pods are situated throughout the venue and interviews are offered

to the media.

Details of the campaign are sent to Marketing and there is a story angle

on an exclusive deal with Sony: Ruby Stone is limited to the PlayStation

platform for 12 months.

There is a week-long promotion in The Mirror and a competition supported

by a national retail chain offering as a first prize a trip to Thailand

and a visit to one of its shops to receive a ruby ring. There are

chances to win other jewellery in women’s magazines and a dinner date

with Ruby in men’s magazines. PlayStations are given out to selected

media which don’t usually cover games, to encourage reviews and other


Local media photo opportunities are created with store visits by a


And for the national media, Ruby takes Gem to the first day of the

Crufts Dog Show. There is also the chance for coverage as the first

cheque goes to charity; in keeping with the game’s ’Robin Hood’ theme, a

percentage of sales goes to good causes.

Herald director Amanda Slayton says a small part of the budget could be

set aside by the agency to respond opportunistically to events. ’When

the next major jewel robbery occurs, we could rush out a statement

insisting Ruby Stone is innocent.’

CATEGORY: Chocolate Bar

CONSULTANCY: Biss Lancaster

Biss Lancaster chose to develop a campaign for what director Fiona Noble

styles the ’transportation bar’: a chocolate product with ingredients

such as nuts and caramel infused with herbs, ginseng and zinc ’to help

you relax and take you literally out of this world’. The name the agency

has given the product is Deep Space.

PR would be one part of an integrated campaign including advertising and

sales promotion. Two strands are envisaged for the PR programme: media

relations to generate publicity and an event programme to make direct

contact and generate sampling.

A two-week teaser campaign before the launch creates expectation through

’alien sightings’ around the country at football matches, nightclubs,

shopping malls and so on. An exclusive deal is tied up with The Sun to

run editorial on alien sightings.

Picture stories involving celebrities are set up, such as aliens sitting

next to David Beckham in the Manchester United team dugout. The Sun

coverage includes a Space Sightings Hotline for readers to call,

building coverage to a crescendo so the newspaper eventually calls for

agent Fox Mulder of the X-Files to come and explain these weird

occurrences. (Biss is assuming that David Duchovny, the actor who plays

Fox Mulder, will appear in the Deep Space commercials. As part of this

contract, he has agreed to make a photocall appearance for which the

only payment is his expenses.)

A photocall with Mulder, The Sun and national broadcast media marks

launch day (and all Sun readers are given the opportunity to sample a

free Deep Space). A Video News Release is put together simulating

British astronaut Michael Hoare in space with his gravity-defying

chocolate bar. At the same time, Deep Space releases its Space Cadets

survey, which reveals the public choice of the rich and famous they

would like to see hurtled into deep space.

An event programme coincides with the launch of the movie Lost in


A celebrity-studded premiere party is hosted, with Deep Space


Picking up on the Deep Space (Nine) theme, a month-long series of club

nights is negotiated related to the ’Trekkie’ cult. Club-goers gain free

entry if they boldly go in Star Trek uniforms. Inside, special

transportation areas provide Space Cadet cocktails and Deep Space

product. Promotions are placed in style magazines and listings.

CONSULTANCY: Manning Selvage & Lee

The current ground for chocolate bar marketing targeted at men is

occupied by ’sports’ bars such as Snickers and ’masculine’ products such

as Mars, argue MS&L’s business development director Fiona Cohen and

account executive Jamie Wynne-Morgan. They believe this area has focused

on functionality rather than emotion, while emotional values have mainly

been used when targeting women.

Starting from this premise, MS&L proposes a chocolate product called

Barred. As its name suggests, this is aimed at young men and has brand

values such as irreverence, energy, risk-taking, excitement and maximum


The strategy is to leverage these values using the continuing

newsworthiness of lad culture. Product differentiation is achieved by

focusing on the emotion/values of the brand and celebrities are used to

create news.

Pre-launch, Barred merchandise is placed in environments with street

credibility, such as fashion chains Diesel and Ted Baker, clubs, bars

and record stores. The teaser message on postcards and flyers reads:


You will be’. A week before the launch, a giant banner reading ’Ever

been Barred?’ is placed over the Thames and is used to count down the

days to launch.

Virgin Radio runs a teaser competition on the theme ’Get Barred with

Melinda’. The winner is then invited to bungy jump strapped to Melinda

Messenger (or a similar celebrity, such as Emma Noble). The media are

invited to the launch event, held at Adrenaline Village, Battersea


Virgin would broadcast the event live.

Immediately after the launch, there would be a tour of theme nights and

merchandise sampling at student union bars and snooker halls.

Advertorials and competitions would run in men’s consumer magazines and


Themes would include: ’Barred but Why?’ focusing on celebrities and

their antics, and ’Where to go when you are Barred’ on the coolest

places to ’chill out’.


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