The Fame Game: Tea with her majesty, birthday flights and a new dawn

Special PR’s Head of PR & Influence, Kelly Grindle, selects five of the most attention-grabbing campaigns that made a difference this month.

Industry submissions for the column are welcome:  [email protected]

The last photo will move you to tears

An installation of smiling portraits in London held a heart-wrenching secret:  despite the joyful images, each snapshot was the last photograph taken of a real person who had taken their own life.

The UK-wide campaign was created by the suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) which aimed to address the ‘image’ of suicide that we hold in our minds.

When we hear that word, we think of someone who is reclusive and outwardly depressed, but as the haunting installation of smiling faces shows, this is often not the case.

The stunt was supported by a one-off TV spot and tactical out-of-home advertising that shone a spotlight on the stories of real people.

After so long in this industry, I sometimes think a bit of my soul has withered away, and it’s rare to find something that genuinely moves me.

But this did.

You hear all too often from friends and family that they simply “didn’t see it coming”, and as this campaign shows, depression and mental health issues can be harder to spot than you think.

While this idea is immensely powerful, credit must be given to the charity for the nuance and empathy with which they have executed this – asking people to share photos or video footage of a loved one could be highly triggering.

This is one of my favourites, going in the top drawer for campaign of the year.

Have you heard what Bruce did?

If you haven’t heard what Bruce did, then you haven’t been paying attention.

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation has relaunched as Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, and they managed to turn a corporate name change into a social movement – paying tribute to their new namesake Bruce Burnett.

Bruce was one of the original HIV and AIDS activists in New Zealand, advocating for change at a time when it was still illegal to be gay in Aotearoa.  One of the last things he did before he passing away was co-founding the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

Fast forward four decades and the battle against AIDS is very different, with infections at the lowest point in two decades and the disease no longer considered a death sentence. 

To mark their transition to Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, the charity turned to its community to spread the word, asking a simple question: “Have You Heard What Bruce Did?”

It was plastered everywhere – billboards across the country, media placements in newspapers, and shared by what seemed like hundreds of influencers.

A tease of this format is a hard thing to pull off, and while I would arguably be the target market for this, it’s something that I saw repetitively.

The biggest challenge with a tease is executing a reveal to the same standard, ensuring that messaging is linked – and the New Zealand AIDS Foundation delivered in spades.  

Newshub, Breakfast, Stuff, Re:News, The Spinoff, Radio New Zealand, Today FM – a quick google search throws up dozens of headlines and a blanket hit across our media scene.

What we’re really talking about is a new logo and a name change: so, the team at Burnett Foundation Aotearoa deserve credit where it’s due.  

A knock-out.

Jetstar’s birthday buddies

Okay, you can’t hate a PR for loving a gimmick, but this is a simple execution that appeared to work its socks off.

Instead of receiving the gifts, Jetstar decided to dish them out for their 13th birthday. 

Anyone who shared the airline’s birthday of June 10th was eligible for a free flight.  That’s every single New Zealander, with no strings attached.  All they needed to do was show valid identification via a digital landing page, and a free flight voucher was sent electronically.

It may seem old-school to use that ghastly term ‘viral’ – but there isn’t a better word to describe what occurred.  

The news was published by almost every major website, including the social channels of the highly-influential radio stations, and generated tens of thousands of engagements.

The best bit?  

Most people who saw the offer weren’t even eligible to redeem it, but they were certainly eligible to redeem the low-cost fares offered in the public sale.

Maximum impact, minimal investment, and pretty smart use of social-led PR from our favourite low-cost carrier.

Ma’am…mmalade with Her Royal Highness

Now, this is how you use branded IP!

Paddington Bear has reinforced its position as one of Britain’s best-loved children’s characters after a surprise cameo with Queen Elizabeth at the Platinum Jubilee concert.

The BBC released a two-and-a-half-minute clip where Paddington sits down to have tea with the Queen and they share their appreciation for marmalade sandwiches.

As a branded content spot, this had immediate social – and PR generating – momentum.  

But the broadcast integration into the live event was slick, with the content blending seamlessly into the start of “Party At The Palace” – a live concert held outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.

This isn’t the first time this technique has been used by the broadcaster – it was first executed for the 2012 Olympics where a mix of broadcast and live-event staging made it appear as if The Queen had parachuted into the Olympic Stadium with James Bond.

While some of the cynics out there may roll their eyes at this – “of course it’s a PR winner, you had Paddington Bear, The Queen, and the biggest annual event in Britain” – it was executed flawlessly.

And as a staunch monarchist myself, how could you not get the pang of emotion, when Paddington concludes with “Thank you, your Majesty… for everything.”

Does Matariki herald a new dawn for PR?

Stacey Morrison.

Matariki left PRs with a conundrum:  is this something they should engage with, and if so, how can you do so with respect?

Special Wellington’s Lead Business Partner, Mereana Beconcini – Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahununu ki Wairoa, Ngāti Ruapani, believes there’s a role for consumer marketing if it’s true to the spirit of the occasion – a time for celebration with whanau, remember those who have died, rejuvenation of our traditional practices, and a look forward to the year ahead; or if it is designed to increase the understanding and knowledge of the Kaupapa.

A quick scan through this year’s offerings shows some tentative first steps from brands that keep this purpose front of mind.

My Food Bag worked paired Māori chefs with media personality Stacey Morrison to create a series of dishes for Aotearoa to cook and come together.  

While this had a heavy commercial component, it was tastefully executed and focused on a clear sense of togetherness.  It celebrated key ingredients from Aotearoa such as Horopito and Moemoe Potatoes, expanding the palette of everyday Kiwis and contributing to the resurgence of Māori cuisine.

Meanwhile, Fullers 360 offered a one-off, educational star-gazing sailing experience at dawn – inviting Aucklanders to come together with their family and learn more about the star cluster and the Māori lunar calendar.

At the other end of the scale was international vape company Relx which offered free engraving of New Zealand motifs – including a ponga leaf(!!) – on devices purchased during a Matariki-themed sale.  

Honestly, that’s almost as bad as 2020’s horrendous #WhiteNightIn promotion from Colgate, using all-white influencers.

We’ll see what next year brings, but in my opinion, those events and occasions that are designed to celebrate and educate New Zealanders will undoubtedly help Matariki’s establishment as a cultural moment we can all be proud of.

Let’s just be careful not to turn this into the St Patrick’s Day of New Zealand, where our kids pick up a Matariki Happy Meal at McDonald’s.

Submissions for July’s column are welcome – PR, influence and activation case studies can be sent to [email protected]

About Author

Kelly Grindle is Head of PR & Influence at Special PR.

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