THE BOOK for Heathrow Airport

THE BOOK

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Industry Airports
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market United Kingdom
PR Mischief PR
Creative Director Daniel Glover-James
Released July 2012

Credits & Description

Category: Travel, Tourism & Leisure
Advertiser: BAA
Product/Service: HEATHROW AIRPORT
Creative Director: Daniel Glover (Mischief PR)
Head of Public Relations: Cat Jordan (BAA)
Account Director: Charlotte Hutley (Mischief PR)
Account Manager: Seb Dilleyston (Mischief PR)
Media placement: TV (editorial) - BBC Breakfast News - 2,948,000 - 19.08.09
Media placement: TV (editorial) - Sky News - 416,000 - 19.08.09
Media placement: TV (editoria) - CNN - 968,000 - 19.08.09
Media placement: Radio (editorial) - BBC Radio 4: Today - 1,345,000 - 19.08.09
Media placement: Radio (editoria) - BBC Radio 2: Steve Wright - 2,402,750 - 19.08.09
Media placement: Print (editorial) - The Sunday Times - 4,236,232 - 23.08.09
Media placement: Print (editorial) - The Guardian - 1,176,119 - 19.08.09
Media placement: Print - International Herald Tribune & New York Times (front page) - 4,360,644 - 19.08.09
Summary of the Campaign
In the summer of 2009 Heathrow appointed the first ever airport writer-in-residence to tell the story of the airport, its staff and passengers. Alain de Botton, one of the world’s most respected modern philosophers, was given unprecedented access to all areas of the airport and full creative control over the book – a bold move by BAA as Heathrow was effectively opened up for literary critique, but one that gave instant credibility to the project.Much of his residency was spent at a desk in Terminal 5 providing thousands of passengers (and media) with a live brand experience. Social media feeds via Twitter enabled people to monitor the writer’s progress.Over 300 national and international media outlets covered the story including an eight-page feature in The Sunday Times.The resulting book served as its own media and told the real story of Heathrow – humanising the airport by capturing its emotion, the thousands of people who work there, and the 65 million passengers who pass through it each year.A Week At The Airport: A Heathrow Diary reached number 38 in the Amazon book chart. It is being sold in over 50 countries and in all major international (rival) airports.
The Goal
To support Heathrow airport’s “making every journey better” brand proposition and build consumer empathy with BAA, a corporation that is routinely criticised for appearing a secret, unfriendly organisation. Recognising that the reputation of Heathrow is largely formed by “bad” news stories when things go wrong (such as the opening of Terminal 5) the PR campaign had to create a genuine reason for people to reconsider the way they think about the airport.The target audience was anybody who was likely to fly from – and to – Heathrow, so ABC1 Londoners as well as appealing to inhabitants of over 180 international cities.
Results
Over 300 national and international media outlets covered the story including The Guardian, BBC News, CNN, New York Times and an eight-page feature in The Sunday Times.Influential websites such as Trendhunter.com and Springwise.com helped generate thousands of positive branded conversations online about Heathrow and its act of marketing transparency.By telling the real story of the running of the airport, Heathrow has seen a change in sentiment as people begin to appreciate the phenomenal effort and expertise that goes into running Europe’s busiest airport. This understanding has helped create a new sense of respect towards Heathrow – demonstrated through the previously anti-Heathrow newspaper London Evening Standard concluding that Heathrow is finally an airport Britain can be “proud of”."A Week At The Airport: A Heathrow Diary" reached number 38 in the Amazon book chart. It is being sold in over 50 countries and in all major international (rival) airports.
Execution
Mr de Botton met hundreds of passengers and staff – from BAA chief executive Colin Matthews to baggage operators – enabling him to capture the human story of the airport. Much of his time was spent at a writing desk in Heathrow Terminal 5 providing thousands of passengers (and media) with a live brand experience. Social media feeds via Twitter enabled people to monitor the writer’s progress.There were only eight weeks from point of brief to execution. In this time an author had to be recruited, airport access arranged, a publisher found, a route into retail established and a 200 page book written (the average publishing process takes over 12 months).To launch the book – A Week At The Airport: A Heathrow Diary – Mr de Botton returned to the airport as its first ever reader-in-residence reading extracts of the book over the tannoy system.
The Situation
Heathrow is the world's busiest airport handling more than 65 million passengers every year. Despite the huge resource and skill that goes into managing an operation of this scale, its reputation is largely formed by negative media coverage when things go wrong (such as the opening of Terminal 5). With consumer skepticism running high we could not simply rely on relating Heathrow brand messages to the public. Instead we needed to tap into the raw emotion of the Heathrow environment, humanise the brand and create a public two-way relationship with media and passengers.
The Strategy
After much discussion with BAA (the owners of Heathrow), our agency convinced the corporation to appoint the first ever airport writer-in-residence to tell the story of a week at Heathrow. The appointment would generate media headlines around the world, but the resulting book would serve as its own media and tell the real story of Heathrow – humanising the airport by capturing its emotion, the tens of thousands of people who work there, and the 67 million passengers who pass through it each year.Alain de Botton, one of the world’s most respected modern philosophers and essayists, was selected to the writer-in-residence post. Mr de Botton was given unprecedented access to all areas of the airport and full creative control over the finished book – a bold move by BAA, as Heathrow was effectively opened up for literary critique, but one that gave instant credibility to the project.