2008 PR News Platinum PR Issue Winner: Marketing Communications

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 marketing communications.

Pulse Communications and Kraft

The happy little Vegemites: Where are they now?

If you've never heard of a Vegemite, then you've probably never been to Australia. The yeast-based food paste is widely considered to be the national food of the land down under; the Kraft brand is so popular that a commercial from the 1950s featuring eight children singing the "Happy Little Vegemites" jingle is still among Australians' top-five favorite ads.

And, Action

But times have changed. Those who remember the original ad are middle-aged or elderly, so Kraft needed to introduce a new generation of consumers to the Vegemite brand. The only catch? Kraft execs approached Pulse Communications to help create buzz around a new tv ad for Vegemite just six days before the commercial would air. And the challenges didn't end there.

"We faced an uphill battle with media given the commercial nature of what we were trying to communicate," says Jacquie Fegent, account director at Pulse Communications, in reference to the "news hook" being a new ad campaign, not a new product. "Therefore, it was of paramount importance to build a campaign for Vegemite that told stories about people, not ads."

The communications team homed in on the perfect human-interest hook: the eight original "Happy Little Vegemites" who, by 2007, were well into their senior years. Since Kraft's archives didn't have any information about the identities of the then-children, the team mounted a nationwide "Happy Little Vegemites: Where are they now?" search. Kraft's customer service hotline became the de facto search headquarters, where an issues management plan was put in place to vet false claims and to media train cast members once they were identified. Then, it was just a matter of issuing the call for vegemites.

Calling all Vegemites

The news of the "where are they now" search was picked up by newswires immediately after the March 13, 2007 announcement, and a proverbial tidal wave of interest ensued. By day two, reporters were demanding daily progress reports, including facts and figures on leads and confirmed identifications. All of this buzz coalesced for the launch of the new ad campaign, not to mention the press conference in which all identified original Vegemites appeared (seven were present; one was deceased).

"We empowered our key stakeholders--the Australian public--to be part of the search," says Fegent. "What differentiated this call-out was that we drew on the history and nostalgia associate with Vegemite, and put the search in [the public's] hands."

By doing so, the team's efforts and subsequent media coverage generated an advertising value of more than $AU 688,000 for print and TV alone, and a PR value of more than $AU 2 million.

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