What a wonderful world of PR campaigns

JAMES HIBBS  •   AUGUST 21, 2018  


I have recently returned to Pearl Comms after taking five months out to travel around Australia and New Zealand. Along the way I saw some incredible sights and met some amazing people. However, no matter how far I travelled, the world of PR never truly left my mind.

I couldn’t help but notice some weird, wonderful and winning instances of organisations using innovative methods to capture new audiences, successfully convincing them of a new course of action or marking their brand with a positive aura in the minds of their consumers.

Here are just a few which I found particularly compelling:

Furry Film Friends

Throughout March I was based in Sydney, and one night attended a screening in the park of the new Wes Anderson film, Isle of Dogs. Earlier that day, I had received an email from the organisers, telling those who’d bought tickets that they would “love to see your furry friends at the venue tonight.” Sure enough, when I arrived at the park there was a whole host of dogs in attendance. From Spaniels to Labradors, Retrievers to Pugs, people had brought all manner of dogs from all over Sydney to appreciate their animated counterparts being showcased on the big screen. While I may have been surprised by this high level of canine interest, the event organisers and the advertising teams behind a number of companies clearly were not. Not only had they managed to successfully bring in a new audience of dog owners, but every single advertisement shown was in relation to some dog-related product or service, from treat manufacturers to vets, with not a movie trailer in sight. A captive audience of dogs (and perhaps more importantly, dog owners) clearly did not go unnoticed.

Gold Coast Getaway

In April, I was fortunate enough to attend the Commonwealth Games, held this year at the Gold Coast. After appreciating the sandy beaches and the iconic pine trees, the next thing that struck me was that while the Games themselves were packed out, the rest of the city seemed strangely quiet. On a taxi ride along a long, open highway to one of the events, the driver informed us that in a bid to free up transport routes for incoming tourists, the state Government had done such a thorough job of convincing people to leave the city for the month, that they had in fact gone too far, leaving the city far quieter than it would usually be. While it can often be tricky getting a wide-reaching campaign to take hold in the minds of the public, in this case the organisers and politicians may have underestimated the persuasiveness of increased rush-hour traffic to make people just pack up and leave.

Furniture Shop Food

In May, I ventured further afield towards Melbourne, where a friend of mine had recently emigrated. One day I made my way over to visit him with the promise of a casual catch-up, only to realise I had been duped into helping him with his furniture shopping and DIY construction. While this wasn’t exactly how I had imagined spending my afternoon, my mood suddenly turned when, upon reaching the shop counter, I realised they sold incredibly cheap food, with a hot-dog and drink selling for only $2 (£1). Where I once would have left the shop tired and irritable, I instead left with a full belly and a positive memory of my experience there. While I am well aware that this shop is in no way one of a kind, I couldn’t help thinking - if only all businesses would employ this tactic, customers would surely be happier, the companies’ profits would be higher, and the world would be a better, less hungry place. Or maybe that’s just me.

Movie Set Magic

After 4 months of travelling across Australia I decided it was time to head East and brave the far chillier climates of New Zealand. I took a bus tour from Auckland down to the bottom of the South Island and managed to stop off along the way to visit Hobbiton, the film set used for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. While there, our tour guide told us that when he was location scouting, the director, Sir Peter Jackson had spied a farm he deemed perfect for the set he was looking to build. However, when he approached the landowner, Ian Alexander, for his permission, he was immediately told to leave, having interrupted the rugby final. Mr Jackson was persistent however, returned at a more convenient time, and managed to persuade Mr Alexander to let him build his Hobbit Holes, as long as the set was made open to the public once filming was completed. With a little foresight into consumer habits, Mr Alexander and Mr Jackson made an already lucrative exchange into a goldmine for both themselves and New Zealand tourism, providing the entire country with an enormous boost to their biggest industry.

Fergburger Feeding Frenzy

In July, I made it to my most southerly destination on my bus tour, Queenstown. As you drive into the popular resort town, there is no mistaking that while it is certainly not a quiet place, there is one outlet in particular which draws the crowds: Fergburger. Widely hailed as one of the best burgers in New Zealand (if not the world), Fergburger’s reputation speaks for itself. All one has to do is look at the crowds, willing to wait hours for this almost mythical burger, and you will see how much of an effect the strong word of mouth has made to this small, one-location burger joint. Travel sites regularly proclaim the restaurant as a ‘must-do’ and the burger as a ‘must-eat’. An article from American news site CNN compares it to “checking out the Eiffel Tower in Paris.” And earlier this year, Ed Sheeran posted on Instagram that the Fergburger is “by far the best burger in the world”. With 24.8 million followers, that’s an audience of potential burger-eaters that money can’t buy.

Benjamin Thomas