Baby You Can Drive My Car…Environmentally 

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 cause-related marketing.

Lexus, Ferris Communications & Scholastic

The Lexus Environmental Challenge

Last year, Lexus partnered with Scholastic to develop a national program entitled "The Lexus Pursuit of Potential" under the auto brand's newly created philanthropy umbrella. The program not only had an educational component, but it also sponsored a contest that awarded more than $1 million in grants and scholarships to middle and high school students, teachers and schools that are making a positive impact on the environment. Further supplemented by a survey of 133 Lexus dealers and focus group findings with Lexus owners in seven cities, the seeds were sown for the "Lexus Environmental Challenge." Ferris Communications came on board to promote and publicize it.

Masters of the Game

The details were as follows: Student teams were invited to participate in four initial challenges addressing land, water, air and climate. Lexus encouraged the teams to communicate their environmental messages via social networks, web sites, legislative outreach, media outreach and event. The hope was the ideas would spread virally.

Winners from these challenges were then eligible to compete in the final challenge for a chance at two $75,000 grand prizes and 14 $50,000 first place awards.

Driving Awareness and Media Coverage

The goals of the program were twofold:

  • Successfully launch the Lexus environmental challenge with at least 250 teams participating; and
  • Secure media coverage in markets where winners are located.

It's all in the Details

The Lexus Environmental Challenge launched in September 2007 and concluded with the announcement of the winners in April 2008. Throughout this period, a variety of tactics were used to communicate with students, teachers, Lexus dealers, customers and the media. They included the creation of teacher/student pamphlets; a Web site; a dealer launch kit that educated Lexus sales people about the program and invited them to participate; news releases/media outreach; videos posted on YouTube; and audio news releases.

Greenest of Them All

More than 3,500 students and teachers took part in the challenge, exceeding the program's original goal by 40%. Feedback was excellent with Lexus hearing from participants that the program inspired them to learn about the environment and develop ways to improve it. Media coverage was secured in 18 markets, including the grand prize ceremony location, Honolulu.