2008 PR News Platinum PR Issue Winner: Event Marketing

The winners and honorable mentions in this year's PR news Platinum PR awards issue exemplify the most innovative approaches to redefining traditional PR with anything-but- traditional strategies. From a marketing communications effort that united a country over the search for the stars of a 1950s TV commercial to an event that landed a flock of pink flamingos around the windy city, the following winner confirms that the PR profession has indeed stepped out from the shadows to take a front-and-center role in delivering business results to their own organizations, and to their clients. Below is the winner of the 2008 PR News Platinum PR award for event marketing.

Airtran Airways & CKPR

Airtran Airways Gets Chicagoans to FlaminGO to Florida

In February 2007, Airtran Airways launched a new flight service to five destinations in Florida from Chicago's Midway Airport. To compete with the multitude of choices available to Windy City travelers, Airtran wanted local residents and media to become aware of this recent addition to their flight schedules.

Think Pink

Enlisting the services of CKPR, the team decided to think big and think pink--in the form of flamingos. The team agreed that placing 10,000 pink plastic lawn flamingos around high-traffic chicago landmarks would get people to thinking about venturing to Florida while whetting their curiosity about who was behind the flock of flamingos. Passersby would learn that the culprit was Airtran Airways through branded items tied around each bird's neck. But before this plan could take flight, the team had to get approval from the city of Chicago.

"A promotion of this scale had never been attempted, so we were breaking new ground for the city," says Rob Merritt, SVP and director of CKPR. "Our promotion followed on the heels of the cartoon network marketing campaign in Boston, when light-up devices placed across the city were mistaken for bombs, so going through the proper channels and getting the permission we needed was the most time-consuming aspect of the program, and the most important."

Scavenger Hunt

Once city officials signed off on the pink plastic flock, the team organized an on- and offline scavenger hunt, in which a consumer who finds a "lost" flamingo would be given a special reward. Airtran Airways rewards members could log onto a flamingo page on the AirTran Web site to get clues to the bird's whereabouts.

The event was so successful in engaging media and consumers that, after the flamingo invasion, airtran's florida service garnered print coverage in every major chicago publication. What's more, traffic to airtrain.com during the week of the flamingo launch increased by an average of 55% as compared to the same week in 2006.