March 20, 2009
Campaign Review: Polar bear let loose on the Thames.
by Cathy Wallace, PR Week, 18-Mar-09
Campaign: Launching Eden
Client: Eden, the new natural history TV channel
PR team: Taylor Herring
New natural history channel Eden asked Taylor Herring to create a large-scale visual stunt to draw attention to its launch day.
To raise awareness of the channel launch within the UK media
To show the channel’s core idea
To drive traffic to Eden’s website
To highlight the Fragile Earth series being shown on the channel.
Strategy and Plan
The team wanted a unique image that no-one had ever seen before, or a new twist on a familiar theme.
After long debate the team came up with the idea of an iceberg featuring a stranded polar bear, floating adrift on the River Thames. The idea was to link back to the Fragile Earth series as the stranded polar bear was a potent symbol of global warming, to add relevance to the story.
The scale of the project also merited a series of mini-launches around the country to raise awareness in key UK regions. A design team of 15 artists built the 1.5 tonne, 20ft sculpture in just six weeks. A launch press release was prepared and included a quote from Sir David Atten borough, who presents many of Eden’s key programmes.
Dry runs were held to make sure the shoot would work. On 26 January at 6am, the sculpture was winched into place on the Thames, where it began its journey from Greenwich in south east London to the Houses of Parliament.
After the stunt the bear was sent on a tour of UK cities including Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow.
Measurement and evaluation
Within hours, photos of the bear had app eared on every daily national newspaper’s website and that evening it featured in all the London newspapers, including a double-page spread in the Evening Standard. The launch was also covered on 50 separate websites. The following day it appeared in The Sun, Metro, The Times, Daily Star, Daily Mail, The Independent, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph as well as key regional newspapers. The story has since appeared in magazines OK! and Ecologist and in international publications including the New York Post and the Brisbane Times.
Online, 80 per cent of sites running the story carried a link to the Eden website. Behind-the-scenes film footage has had more than 50,000 hits on YouTube.
The sculpture has now been donated to Edinburgh Zoo. It is thought more than one million people will go to see the bear
in its first year.
The campaign reached more than 260million people and the figure is still growing. Following the stunt, web traffic to Eden’s site tripled overnight and viewing figures were up 130 per cent for the programme average. Eden has since risen from tenth in the factual multi-channel rankings to joint fourth in multi-channel homes and joint third in Pay TV homes. The equivalent advertising value for the campaign has been independently evaluated at £2.1m, giving a return on investment of 28:1.
Nina Webb, Owner, Brazen
Simply, I love it. I did not have to read this campaign entry to recall the mass publicity the PR team generated for its client Eden, and therein lies the proof.
Its brief was to create mass awareness in a relevant way for the launch of a TV natural history channel. Its approach can be applauded on a number of levels.
Creatively, although on the face of it a fairly obvious idea (natural history + polar bears + stunt on the Thames), the skill of a great PR agency is in pulling it off. Tayor Herring crafted and created a visual stunt that could not be ignored by busy picture desks.
Logistically, it was a stunt of magnificent proportions. Not only executed nationally on the iconic Thames, but taken on a tour of the UK, potentially presenting many unforeseen logistical nightmares. That it persuaded the client to invest in this is a tribute to the client/consultancy relationship, and the sheer confidence it must have exuded as a business. When a stunt costs £75,000 you do not want to gamble. You must be 100 per cent confident you can deliver.
Strategically, it had many facets. They made it relevant with the global warming/Fragile Earth angle and got a relevant, credible celebrity to comment.
Results-wise, it was undeniably off the chart. Taylor Herring ticked all the boxes on the campaign tracker – website hits, acres of column inches nationally, regionally and online, talkability on and offline, fame. And ultimately, viewing figures. Now where is that remote control?