The Australian Film Institute (AFI) was established in 1958 as Australia’s peak film and television industry body, dedicated to developing an active film and television culture in Australia and celebrating this industry through the annual AFI Awards.
The AFI engaged Mango Communications to devise a public relations campaign for the 2007 L'Oréal Paris AFI Awards. This activity included general media relations to promote the AFI and media management for three events; the Nominations Announcement, the Industry Awards and the Gala Awards.
Our remit was to raise the profile of Australia’s most prestigious awards across all media channels. Particular emphasis was on increasing the television viewing audience for the awards broadcast on the Nine Network.
Our execution of the strategy generated over 1,300 press cuttings, including two front page articles in the Melbourne Herald Sun. Our proactive approach to media generated coverage above and beyond the typical, and enabled an unforeseeable crisis to be managed with ease.
The Australian Film Institute (AFI) is devoted to developing an active screen culture in Australia by engaging the general public with the screen industry, and promoting Australian film and television. The AFI is responsible for celebrating this industry through Australia’s most prestigious film and television event – the annual AFI Awards.
In late September 2007, Mango Communications was assigned the task of devising and managing a national public relations campaign for the 2007 AFI Awards over three months, which would encompass the Nominations Announcement, the Industry Awards and the Gala Awards.
Previously the AFI Nominations and Awards events have generated interest from film specific media only and despite the AFI Awards being broadcast on the Nine Network, audience figures were declining year on year. The challenge was to deliver campaign results beyond the normal expectations with an emphasis on increasing the television audience.
Another obstacle we faced going into the campaign was access to nominees. With limited access to presenters and international guests and many artists working overseas and not willing to commit to conducting telephone interviews it was difficult to place feature stories. Mango had to think creatively to proactively secure coverage opportunities with the talent we had.
The AFI had minimal advertising spend for the awards and therefore PR was considered to be an effective medium to communicate this campaign to key target publics.
Briefed at the end of September with work to commence in October, we were faced with a short turnaround time to put together the strategy
Preliminary evaluation involved assessing previous coverage reports to identify weaknesses in previous campaigns and determine additional media avenues.
Mango implemented a media audit to determine current journalist perceptions and media trends relating to the Australian Film Institute and its major events. This enabled the campaign team to ascertain who were champions and the challengers of the AFI brand (refer to Appendix A1)
In addition, we reviewed the nominated films and investigated the key talent associated with each category including actors, directors and cinematographers to map out availabilities and creative PR opportunities
Mango also ensured that the existing AFI media contact list was extended to include not only film journalists but also entertainment writers, feature editors, editors of television pages, celebrity columnists and other key media from print, television, radio and online media outlets
Mango identified key audiences as essential for the campaign, including:
- Media: to secure editorial coverage for the awards, we identified key national, state and regional journalists. Specific sections and supplements were also targeted, including gossip pages, arts and film and trade
- AFI Award Sponsors and AFI Staff: as key investors in the awards, this priority audience required all relevant information about the awards, to ensure successful event operation and future support
- General Public: to increase awareness, maintain excitment around the event, the general public were a target to receive exciting and breaking news about the awards
In order to reach the target publics, we devised a three-tiered PR strategy that would be realised through media relations. The strategy was broken down to:
- COMMUNICATE: communicate to target audiences that the AFI Awards were taking place and drive brand awareness for the AFI
- CONNECT: use campaign activities to foster a relationship with target audiences and allow them to connect with the AFI through the awards celebrations
- EXCITE: incite interest and excitement in the lead-up to the AFI Awards
The first stage of implementing the campaign was an initiative to establish a ‘look and feel’ for the 2007 L’Oréal Paris 2007 AFI Awards. Mango worked closely with integrated arm DDB, the AFI and key sponsor L’Oréal Paris to develop a ‘Hollywood Comes Home’ theme which was revealed as an exclusive with media partner News Ltd.
The 2007 theme featured a classic Hollywood image of 2006 AFI Award winner Emily Barclay taken by top photographer Justin Smith, and immediately set the standard of coverage above previous achievements. This image was used for all branding, for the Awards events (refer to Appendix A2)
This ‘Hollywood Comes Home’ release was strategically timed to be distributed before the 2007 AFI Awards Nominations Announcement event in late October to ensure the brand was front of mind for consumers and media alike
The nominations announcement took place in Sydney on 23rd October and Mango was required to manage the media attending this event, including sponsor and media access to nominees. With nominations highlighting key films and a small number of expected talent attending, the challenge quickly emerged as to how effective publicity could be generated.
Mango capitalised on the two nominees we did have access to – Sybilla Budd and Kodi Smit-McPhee – and AFI CEO James Hewison to conduct several press interviews in the media room following the announcements. This generated 72 pieces of coverage the following day in state and national media outlets (refer to Appendix A3 & A4)
Post nominations announcement, the AFI required general publicity to further promote nominees and connect with target audiences about the upcoming AFI Industry and Gala Awards in December. Mango explored interview opportunities for nominees across all media, from national and state-based outlets through to local newspapers. The quick turn around time meant medium and short leads were the only options, and restricted access to and confirmation of talent meant a drip feeding approach was required (refer to Appendix A5)
Working with agents and managers, Mango pitched creative feature and interview angles, strategically placed news stories and drip fed gossip to relevant outlets which raised awareness and excited audiences about the upcoming events and the AFI brand. Creative examples of coverage achieved included a fashion spread with nominees Sibylla Budd and Irene Chen, a careers page feature with the set designer and a whisper campaign about having planes on hold to bring Australian A-list celebrities home for the awards
The decision to move a small number of AFI award presentations off the broadcast event night and onto the industry night created a storm for the ABC. Declaring a ‘lack of respect to the television nominees’, the ABC quickly issued statements regarding boycotting the awards events. Mango immediately worked with AFI CEO James Hewison and created a responsive statement which was issued to media on behalf of the AFI. Mango gave advice on responding to media enquiries, managed all media calls during the crisis and assisted the ABC winner backstage at the AFI Awards event knowing media would question her decision to attend (refer to Appendix A6)
At the awards evenings on 5th and 6th December, Mango were required to manage the media room including photographers, press journalists, broadcast journalists and talent upon arriving after their win and/or presenting experience. The challenge was to ensure a smooth process for talent and VIPs, together with fulfilling requests of national media covering press, radio, TV and photographers. Mango developed and implement a seamless experience for talent upon entering the room. Over the two award nights, 160 media attended the media room (refer to Appendix A7 & A8)
The management of the 2007 AFI awards PR campaign generated over $14 million worth of PR coverage and exposed 131,455,885 people throughout Australia to the AFI campaign messages (figures exclude coverage achieved on the ABC)
The outstanding coverage included two front page articles in Melbourne’s Herald Sun and a total of over 1,300 press cuttings for the entire campaign – a significant increase on 2006. 72 pieces of national press coverage were received the following day of the nominations announcement event, and more than 60 journalists and photographers attended the Industry Awards, while over 100 attended the AFI Awards
In order to assess the success of this campaign, we evaluated our outcomes against the original objectives:
Raise the profile of the 2007 L’Oreal Paris AFI Awards by generating extensive press coverage across all forms of media for the three events
- The coverage results exceeded expectations and a significant increase on 2006. Our strategic approach to media relations generated over 1,300 pieces of coverage and reached over 130 million people. The campaign was deemed successful in meeting the objective
Publicise to a much wider audience than just the film and television communities
- By targeting journalists beyond film specific media, we were able to publicise the Awards to a much broader audience. The resulting coverage covered gossip and entertainment pages, general news, television supplements, careers pages and fashion which successfully resulted in a diversified audience
Effectively develop and sell in a great variety of media angles that have broad scope and audience appeal
- By initially developing a coherent and creative media plan, we were able to map varied feature angles to proactively pitch to media. This resulted in a plethora of coverage that spanned across gossip and entertainment pages, general news, television supplements, careers pages and fashion
Increase audience figures for the television broadcast
- The ratings figures showed that the audience peaked at 841,000 viewers during the Red Carpet Arrivals and the overall viewers for the broadcast was a marked increase from the previous year, which achieved the objective
Work with the event media partners (Woman’s Day, Movie Network, Channel 9 and News Limited) to maximise coverage
- Using the media partners to secure editorial coverage proved extremely successful. We used a drip fed approach to seed gossip information about celebrity guests and hosts, and always offered this to News Ltd as an exclusive. Mango set up exclusive interviews for A Current Affair, the Today Show and National Nine News (leveraging the solid relationship with media partner Channel 9) and provided a PR staff member to escort winning talent to an interview with Movie Network at the awards event. We worked closely with Woman’s Day to secure a double page spread that featured on 3rd December and a double page fashion spread in the following issue. By developing close relationships with event media partners, we were able to maximise coverage