Category Archives: Marketing Communications

The ark as a channel in PR?

In my last post, I celebrated one of my favourite PR campaign’s, the Elephant Parade.  While I warned against the dangers of over exposing a new idea, I was particularly drawn recently to what had been done in a similar way with painted donkeys.

What I had not quite been prepared was was quite how much of an industry there now was in ‘painted animals’ as a channel of communication in PR.  Towns and cities using art in the template form of the painting of a sculpted animal by celebrities, artists, designers and local opinion leaders, to do something for their profile and reputation.  In the process, they also do something for the profile (and fundraising) of a charity, usually related to the animal involved.

For Southampton, try rhinos, supporting three charities.

A painted rhino in Southampton

A painted rhino in Southampton

For Norwich, try gorillas, raising money for the Born Free Foundation, and Break.

One of Norwich's gorilla's with local celebrity Jake Humphrey.

One of Norwich’s gorilla’s with local celebrity Jake Humphrey.

For Bristol, try local canine celebrity, Gromit.  Here, the idea brought 1.8 million people out to see the sculptures, is estimate to have brought  £75 million to the city, and raised £2.3 million for the Bristol Children’s Hospital – as reported by the BBC.

One of Bristol's many popular Gromits.

One of Bristol’s many popular Gromits.

Berlin has its bears, promoting peace and tolerance on its behalf around the world, and children’s charities at home.

Berlin's painted bears celebrate the city around the world.

Berlin’s painted bears celebrate the city around the world.

And cities around the world compete for the right to host the annual ‘Cow Parade’ – this year stopping off in both Valenciennes in France, and in Hong Kong.

One of the cows in the Cow Parade

One of the cows in the Cow Parade

The technique has become such a phenomenon that there are now even dedicated specialist animal casting companies, offering animals including goats, buffalo and horses too, ready to be painted.

A great example of PR increasing our involvement with an issue by promoting the public’s following of a city’s animal trail, initiatives such as painting workshops for children, and ultimately, the auction.

A great example of engaging opinion leaders and celebrities in designing their own versions of the particular animal.

A great example of linking the cause to the tactic involved – and embedding the technique in, and benefiting from sense of ‘place’, or local pride.

I’m looking forward to the animals continuing to stream on board the PR ark!


Bad smell

The recent campaign by Andrex has left me a little bemused.

I don’t think I can be accused of being a prude.  And as the theme of this blog will testify, it has not been unknown for me to have an unnatural interest in toilet health.


This campaign appears to think it is extremely clever.  It toys with one of those last areas of taboo in modern life that has otherwise been turned over to exhibitionism.  By attempting to generate a debate on how, not to put too fine a point on it, we ‘wipe our backsides’ it goes somewhere that we just do not want to go in public.

Andrex wants to know how you wipe your bum

Andrex wants to know how you wipe your bum

Conventional marketing communications theory would say, “brilliant!”  The implication is that the shock value of seeing people talking about how they wipe their bum will grab our attention, watch the advert, and buy the toilet roll.  And by engaging us in social media, by asking us to choose whether we ‘fold‘ or ‘scrunch‘, it deepens our relationship with the brand.

For some time, I’ve reflected on whether advertisers may be forced to abandon the traditional ‘message effect’ of the persuasion tools of humour, guilt and fear, in favour of the more physiologically grounded effect of disgust, whether moral or physical.  In an increasingly noisy environment, such effects are less easy to avoid than the traditional ones more grounded in psychology.  I’ve had Kelly, D (2011) by my bedside, but never seem to get the guts to read it.  Maybe the Andrex campaign is the excuse I need.

Apologies for the imagery (Andrex planted it there), but am I the only one for whom this argument leaves ‘skidmarks’?  If they needed to grab your attention, I could understand, but they don’t.  As a loyal Andrex customer, I’m left bemused, and feeling as if I should switch to another brand.

If the campaign had been run with a PR element to it, I would have been much more sympathetic to it.  Do we really believe Andrex ‘give a shit’ whether we ‘fold‘ or ‘scrunch‘?  If they did, and it was a genuine conversation, perhaps it would work.

A genuine cause, rather than just getting the tills ringing

A genuine cause, rather than just getting the tills ringing

Maybe if the effort had been linked to something more substantial, such as an awareness raising campaign in conjunction with Beating Bowel Cancer, or another charitable campaign on sanitation, I would have been a lot more sympathetic to it.  There could have been much more active media relations and social media activity on the basis of this charitable ‘CSR’, and what is often called the ‘managed controversy’ discussed earlier that would help secure column inches, as well as people talking, for the right reasons.  There are links to charities on the Andrex website, but nothing above and beyond their usual work, and nothing tied in with this campaign.

Instead, I’m left feeling like this is a cheap stunt on Andrex’s part, and as such, it leaves me with a bad smell.  Here endeth the toilet humour.

Kelly, Daniel (2011) “Yuck! The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust”, Massachusetts: MIT Press