YOU’VE seen P&O Ferries‘ new posters, read the ads, and you’ve probably been targeted by the rather saucy viral e-mail.
When P&O wanted to breathe new life into its business, it decided to call on the expertise of Designate, a young, forward-thinking Brighton-based marketing company.
The result was a ground-breaking campaign that helped changed the staid image of ferry travel. But how did the idea get to the billboards?
“The whole objective was to re-invigorate P&O Ferries’ marketing campaign to help it fight off competition from low-cost airlines, Eurostar and the Eurotunnel,” explained Designate account director Damian Musgrove.
“Ferry travel had become a bit old fashioned. Well, that was the perception anyway, and P&O Ferries’ existing campaign was very traditional, very price-lead and with pictures of ferries. It was crying out for a new approach.”
A brief was issued to Designate and three other companies were invited to compete for the account.
It outlined P&O Ferries’ business objectives and included background information on the current creative campaign and results of extensive customer research recently completed by the company.
Designate pulled together a pitch team of 10 people. As well as the creative brains, this initial group included staff dedicated to account handling. At some point in the process the entire company got involved.
“We put lots of resources into it for two months,” said art director Fiona Lomas.
“It really helped that we had the research from the client.”
The creative team originally came up with four or five rough ideas, including copy lines and visuals.
“Creatively we spent a whole month, including Saturdays and Sundays, and worked 12 hours a day. It was a huge process. We were lucky that we came up with the P&Ople idea in the first week.
“It was our creative writer, Jim Ferron, who came up with that and we knew straight away it was a winner. The main thing was that the customer is the focus of their business, so this worked well.
“Sometimes you can go into a pitch with a few different ideas, but in this case we went in confidently with one.”
The creative team took over the entire boardroom, covering all the walls in scamps (mock-ups of posters and ad ideas).
The pitch was presented a week before Christmas. A key Designate team, including Lomas, creative director David Bee, client services director Craig Hanna, and chairman Adam Hill travelled to Dover to meet with the P&O Ferries board of directors.
“Adam went in and set the scene with a top-and-tail presentation, then Craig recapped on the brief and told them about our own research,” said Lomas.
Finally, Bee presented the creative work for the proposed campaign, which was going to incorporate TV, radio, billboard posters, classified and display press ads.
The whole process lasted about two hours.
“Then we came back to Brighton and got drunk!” Lomas said. “We had all been working so hard we had missed the company Christmas party.
“There’s so much that goes into putting a pitch together and it’s such a relief when everything is finished.”
“It was quite a long time before we heard we’d won the account,” said Musgrove.
“P&O Ferries spent January researching the ideas with focus groups and got it down to two agencies. They then came back to us and asked us to do a bit more work.
“For example, they wanted to see the ads translated into French and German. At the beginning of February they made a decision and we knew we had been successful,” said Musgrove.
“Everybody in the company had worked so hard on the project. We have a tradition at Designate that we blow a wooden whistle when we win new business, so we blew it and everybody went to the pub to celebrate!”
Once Designate had got the research findings back from P&O Ferries it was just a case of fine-tuning the campaign.
“A lot of the time campaigns get changed quite a bit at this stage, but with this one not an awful lot changed, except that TV dropped off the schedule,” said Lomas.
Next, the campaign had to be approved by the Advertising Standards Authority.
“You have to be very clear about things such as pricing or knocking the competition too much. This campaign was pretty straightforward so we had sign-off within a week, and the campaign went live on May 22,” said Musgrove.
There was an extensive outdoor media campaign, plus a radio campaign across the likes of Capital, Heart, and Magic FM for four weeks.
Alongside this, there was a national and regional press campaign, with adverts, classifieds and features in the travel sections of publications ranging from Travel Weekly to The Times to the Yorkshire Evening Post.
The P&Ople campaign achieved the highest levels of consumer brand awareness ever recorded by leading research company Millward Brown.
According to customer research commissioned by P&O Ferries four weeks into the campaign, 85% of 400 people questioned said they would ‘definitely remember’ the advertisements were for the P&O brand.
On average, poster campaigns only achieve 49% awareness, while press campaigns generally reach 40%.
Designate’s 85% figure puts the campaign in the top 1% of all press campaigns studied by Millward Brown, and in the top 3% of all poster campaigns.
The research also found that Designate’s creative campaign was rated much better than normal at being ‘clever, striking, distinctive, informative, direct, and straightforward’.
“That’s just the beginning,” said Musgrove. “P&O Ferries has to have a constant presence, nationally and regionally, across Europe.”
Designate’s account management team liaises with the ferry operator on a weekly basis, placing ads and working closely with the production and creative teams. Production traffic controller Rachel Curry makes sure every ad is booked by the deadline and is the right size.
The agency is also helping to update and improve P&O Ferries’ website and is developing e-mail-based campaigns.
It has recently carried out a viral e-mail campaign to tie in with the World Cup.
A saucy 60-second clip invites people to win a van by guessing how many football fans (all gorgeous girls) can fit into a VW Camper van.
It is designed to appeal to a younger, lads’-mag-type consumer, which is a new departure for the ferry brand.
“P&Ople is such a strong concept but we are constantly coming up with more creative copy lines and ways of reaching new markets,” said Musgrove.
“There are five people still dedicated to this account on a day-to-day basis, with the backing of the whole creative team. We are now looking at data capture and building relationships with consumers by e-mail.
“Customer relationship management is key to any successful campaign. It’s vital to keep the campaign fresh and look at different ways of developing it.”