PR Campaigns - The Good, The Bad & The Viral

August was an eventful month here at Sunny Bird PR, but we still found the time (between winning new clients and some heatwave beach time) to scour the media for the best and worst PR Campaigns out there.  

This month’s campaigns include health conscious tech launches, a digital treasure hunt, organ donations on Tinder, friends reuniting over pizza, a flying library and a dating app campaign designed to attract more women.

Tech Campaign with a Serious Health Message


The Peruvian League Against Cancer teamed up with tech company Happiness Brussells to deliver one very cool PR campaign. On the Playa Agua Dulce beach, a ‘shadow Wi-Fi’ network was created meaning people could only connect if they were in the shade. The technology was designed to encourage beach-goers to stay safe in the hours when the sun’s UV rays were at their most powerful to both raise awareness of, and help prevent, skin cancer.

The big blue structure installed on the seafront provided free Wi-Fi access for up to 250 people in its shade, possible thanks to a directional antenna. As the Peruvian League Against Cancer explained: “A sensor tracks the movements of the sun throughout the day, changing the rotation of the Wi-Fi antenna. When the sun moves and the shade shifts, so must Wi-Fi seekers.”

The tech company behind the design released access to the software for non-profit use so cancer foundations around the word can set up similar systems without the technical know-how. It’s hoped a series of the networks will soon be launched in San Francisco, New Zealand and Europe.

The campaign gained multiple pieces of national coverage in Peru as well as in the UK, Australia and television coverage in the United States.

Overall the charity’s campaign cleverly harnessed the power technology has over young sun-worshippers to make people think about a serious subject.

“V Marks the Spot”


When researching app and tech launches we looked back at Richard Branson’s fun, treasure-hunt style campaign called ‘V marks the spot’ implemented to launch the new Virgin Red loyalty app.

The epic nationwide treasure hunt was inspired by Sir Richard’s favourite childhood reading book, Masquerade.

The aim of the game was to hunt down some of the one million golden coins (with Branson’s face on them) that were hidden around the web, in the Virgin Red app and across the Virgin Empire. When people found the coins, they were able to unlock awesome prizes.

Nine people also won Upper Class flights to Richard Branson’s estate on Moskito Island and participated in a real treasure hunt!

Virgin worked with numerous agencies to launch the project, which was in development for two years including creative agency Mr President and Speed Communications.

The treasure hunt was open to everyone, but Virgin customers gained extra clues and points through the app, giving them a higher chance of winning. The priority following the launch, was to continue to reward loyal customers across the brand with special offers and competitions similar to the treasure hunt.

The campaign was a fun way to get people to download the app, and reward continuing users.

 Although a creative campaign, it didn’t achieve a substantial amount of coverage, but it did get a mention in the Drum, Campaign Live, Creative Brief, PR Week, and Marketing Week.

Tinder’s Organ Donation


Back in 2015, Tinder partnered with NHS to raise awareness of organ donation. The app is widely known for being used by people to find a good personality match, but for two weeks it became a way to encourage users to become organ donors. People who ‘swiped’ on pictures of celebrities (Jamie Laing, Gemma Oaten etc.)  would be encouraged to sign up to the NHS organ register almost immediately and received an instant message saying: "If only it was that easy for those in need of a life-saving organ to find a match.”

The reason the NHS teamed up with Tinder was because of the younger users; an age group which is in desperate need of organ donors. For an entire decade before this campaign, more than 6,000 people had died waiting for an organ donor.

The campaign successfully raised awareness and is still being talked about to this day, with coverage on BBC News, ITV News, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent.

Christmas in July

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PR’s across the country have been getting into the festive spirit (despite the soaring temperatures) as the monthly publications started writing their Christmas issues in July/August. So, although it was the height of summer, we’ve had our Christmas hats on in SBPR HQ and been researching Christmas PR campaigns.

One of our favourites was this heart-warming campaign from Pizza Express; the popular pizza restaurant chain decided to pull on people’s heartstrings by tracking down friends who hadn’t seen each other since childhood and reuniting them.

We all love a good stat and Pizza Express got some good ones for this campaign, their survey found that only five per cent of Brits are still close to childhood friends with 26% of those surveyed not having seen integral people in their lives for more than 10 years. Using these stats as their springboard, the restaurant group launched the ‘Gather Around Great Food’ campaign in a bid to reunite friends across the country.

Taking four weeks to pull together, eight unsuspecting people headed to Pizza Express believing they were competition winners of a pizza-making experience. There they were met with actors posing as waiters and cameras hidden in Christmas decorations, ensuring each reunion between four different couples were captured on film.

One such example was Danni and Becky, both 33, best friends who last saw each other when they were 16 years old, when they spent the night sitting on the side of the road eating pizza. Their lives have gone in different directions but, after a while, they became aware that they’d been to school together, making for a very teary reunion.

Pizza Express senior marketing manager Timothy Love explains: “Everybody nowadays is connected to thousands of people on social media, but it is a different story in real life.

"With ‘Gather Around Great Food’ we wanted to encourage people to reconnect with their long-lost friends and what a better way than over pizza! Christmas is all about coming together and our aim is to help everyone along the way.”

This was a true heart-warming winner as far as Christmas campaigns go, not only did the brand position themselves as a caring, sharing company but it also achieved national coverage and the video on Facebook saw a 22% increase in followers in just one month.

Easyjet ‘Flybraries’


With July marking the start of the summer holidays, airline easyJet launched a European-wide initiative to get children reading. Carrying out a survey into the British public, easyJet found that almost four in ten parents said that their child has fewer than 10 books at home. In response to this, the budget airline opened 296 ‘Flybraries’ across its aircrafts, stocked with 17,500 children’s books translated into seven languages placed in seat pockets.

An initiative that gets kids doing something wholesome and away from their computer screens is always a great way to get into press. Plus, underpinning their campaign with shocking research, and hosting a launch with our fave Radio One DJ, Greg James, was a sure-fire recipe for success and achieved coverage in The Express, ITV News, The Telegraph, Huffington Post and many more.

‘Miniature Males’


We looked at’s Model Males campaign which transformed some of its eligible bachelors on the dating site into real life miniature dolls to show the range of people using the service.  With the help of 3D printing, the company immortalised in plastic, seven men, each encapsulating a unique type of romance available of female suitors on the site. The company was perhaps hinting that its ‘Male Models’ are of a higher quality than some of the rival services, with allusions to good manners and ghosting in its announcement.

Figurines were featured in individual boxes and had their online dating profile attached to them so that visitors could find out more about their potential dates. They were available for a limited time in a pop-up shop in Marylebone, London. 

‘Model Males’ PR stunt had 3 targets they wanted to achieve: show that their platform is better than the rival dating sites from a quality point of view, prove that men registered with “don’t believe in ghosting but do believe in making a date special” and to balance genders on the app by attracting more women.

Now, we can’t say if those targets were hit, but although the campaign was slightly confusing, and the message wasn’t clear, it did attract lots of coverage, 41 pieces in total, including The Drum, 3D Printing Industry, Engadget, The Times, Telegraph, BBC News and an interview of participants on BBC Radio 5 Live.