We turned a disastrous celebrity comment on national TV into a major talking point that created positive headlines for our client and promoted their national exhibition like never before.
Picture the scene, a quiet Friday night in front of the telly watching celebrity outdoor survivalist Ray Mears on BBC 1’s Room 101, the fast-moving talk show which sees Frank Skinner refereeing three celebrities as they compete to banish their top peeve or worst nightmare to the depths of Room 101.
Mears had recently been booked by Pelican as the headline personality for the annual Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show at the NEC in Birmingham. The show is the UK’s second largest consumer event attracting just over 80,000 people per year, with over 20% of annual caravan and motorhome sales made at the event, so it’s a big deal for the industry.
Everything is going well until Mears puts caravans into his Room 101. Describing caravans as mobile bread bins, Mears goes on to say: ‘I just think they’re hideous. You go down to Devon and all you can see are cities of these displaced urban people in their ghastly white caravans.”
It turns out that Mears agreed to appear at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show, after he had filmed the episode of Room 101, so it’s were clearly unhappy to pay him his hefty fee after he’s publically bad-mouthed caravans and caravanners.
Rather than sack Mears outright and create a PR disaster we adopted an offensive media strategy with an impassioned condemnation of Mears. We explained that the show couldn’t be aligned with a personality who didn’t agree with our core values and highlighted the offense he had caused to caravaners, who, after all, are outdoor enthusiast.
The approach paid dividends. The story gained major coverage, resulting in the show receiving a massive PR boost with coverage in several national newspapers. In addition, Chris Evans featured the story on his BBC Radio 2 Breakfast show and Jeremy Vine ran a phone-in asking if Mears was right to dismiss caravans, on his BBC Radio 2 lunchtime programme. Caravan users respond in their droves defending their leisure activity and explaining why they enjoy it.
But our story doesn’t end there. We replaced Mears with BBC adventurer Simon Reeve, who helped us generate more editorial and radio coverage.
On the back of the increased media interest in caravanning following our handling of ‘Mearsgate’, advanced ticket sales for the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show increase by 38% compared to the same week the previous year.
• A total of 64 pieces of coverage appeared detailing the sacking of Ray Mears with an audience reach of around 6m
• An additional 25 radio interviews with Simon Reeve were secured, totalling three and a half hours of air time with a broadcast reach of 4.4m.
• Visitor numbers to the show were the highest on record with 86,625 people attending.