Ekka 2008 was one of the most important Shows in the history of the RNA. In 2007, a Queensland Health announcement to ‘stay away from the Show’ due to the flu resulted in significant losses at the gate and in revenue. Research also showed the public thought Ekka ‘too expensive’ and ‘not worth the money’.
The 2008 campaign needed to work hard to attract people back. ‘My Ekka’ would build on people’s personal experiences, their memories and sense of ownership of Queensland’s largest event. The aim was to prompt the public into thinking and talking about what they loved about Ekka in the first place. We wanted them to connect with their childhood memories of the Show and those of their family members.
Media story angles were developed and pitched, and information sourced to enable the PR team to rollout the ‘My Ekka’ campaign. Concurrently, the ‘Plan your day’; ‘Ekka value’; and ‘Set your budget’ messages were reinforced through media and marketing, with good results.
Needless to say the ‘My Ekka’ campaign exceeded expectations with a 42% increase on 2007 in paying Ekka patrons.
In 2007 Brisbane reportedly suffered the worst influenza season in six years, with heightened media reporting just days before the start of Ekka 2007. This coupled with public statements by Queensland Health essentially ‘scared’ people away from the Show. Attendances (paying customers) were down by more than 30% and media images showed an almost deserted Showground.
The RNA knew that attracting people back in 2008 after such a hit would not be easy. To add weight to this problem, research undertaken by Colmar Brunton following the 2007 Show revealed the biggest barrier to visitation to Ekka was price (51%) and that ‘lack of value’ was the most common perceptual association (71%).
The communication challenge was to give people a reason to return in 2008 and to convince them to do so. We needed to create in the minds of the Queensland public a connection with and sense of responsibility to the Show.
In recognition of the importance of Ekka to the social landscape of Brisbane and Queensland, the Ekka 2008 campaign needed to build on people’s personal experiences, their memories and sense of ownership of Queensland’s largest event. The ‘My Ekka’ campaign would seek to engender a nostalgic link and encourage a greater emotional connection between Ekka patrons and the Show.
The campaign was designed to highlight everything special about both the traditional and modern aspects of the Show from a personal perspective. To successfully integrate the campaign across each element, all key messages were built around a notion of ownership and belonging encapsulated by the tagline ‘My Ekka’.
The RNA relies heavily on public relations for the promotion of Ekka every year, but PR for the 2008 Show was particularly vital. With revenue significantly reduced in 2007, advertising, marketing and entertainment budgets were cut. There was to be no new entertainment at Ekka 2008.
The PR campaign needed to concentrate on history and tradition, rather than the new and modern, if the RNA had any hope of getting people back to the Show.
Research conducted by Colmar Brunton following the 2007 Show revealed the biggest barrier to visitation was price and a perceptual association with lack of value.
This was felt most by young families and the 25-34 yrs groups. Even so, the 25-34 yr group would be more inclined to pay for entertainment; and the young families segment more inclined to spend on showbags and Sideshow Alley. Established households (no children) were found to be least impacted by price and to have the most traditional perspective of Ekka.
The research showed wide appeal across all segments for purchasing tickets online, with a discount applied and there was a strong increase in stated intent to visit if the price ‘was right’.
There was a general agreement that the Ekka is a tradition and should be maintained. Four in 10 associated Ekka with tradition and a third felt the Ekka to be ‘family orientated’. No ‘one’ element was seen to define the Ekka. Visitors seek variety as part of the Ekka tradition.
The biggest surprise to us was the revelation that ‘the flu’ was not the core reason for the 2007 drop in visitation, but it did give people a final reason not to go to the Show – it tipped them over the edge, if you will. Primarily it was price and a perceived lack of value.
This information was used to define the communication strategy. With no new entertainment on the cards for Ekka 2008, it was obvious we needed to inform and educate the public about the ‘free’ elements of the Show, while appealing to the public sense of nostalgia and tradition.
Research has continuously shown that the majority of people who come to Ekka are from the greater Brisbane area. Colmar Brunton research following Ekka 2007 revealed that young families and young singles considered the Show too expensive.
The 2008 campaign was positioned to meet the needs of the different visitor segments. Ekka is interesting in that it truly does have something for everyone from 5yrs to 95yrs!
The target segments included: Young singles – with a greater event and entertainment focus; Young families – proving value for money and variety; Established households – with tradition, memory and variety in offering; Media - we needed the media to understand and run with the focus of the My Ekka campaign.
THE STRATEGY AND EXECUTION
The My Ekka Campaign
ARC Communication worked with the RNA marketing team to develop the My Ekka campaign. A creative brief was developed for the advertising agency and the visual elements of the campaign created. (Refer Appendix 1)
The essence of the Show is in its competitions. More than 30,000 entries are received for the Show across 25 major categories and hundreds of classes. Quilting, cookery, dairy produce, felting, beef cattle, wine, horses, woodchop and the list goes on and on.
Competition schedules are mailed to thousands of potential competitors across Australia in January (six months before the Show) and from a PR perspective, we recognised the potential in this group to tell the My Ekka story.
Execution: tell us your story form(Refer Appendix 2)
A simple Competition Entrant Media and Publicity form was created and mailed with these schedules. The first form was retuned just two days after the mail-out and was followed by literally hundreds of stories (some good, some not so good!). Responses enabled the media team to develop a massive storybank of personal stories, including great grandmas recipes passed down through generations; the youngest competitor; a family of woodchoppers; and many more amazing stories of friendship, family and a genuine love of the Show.
PR then sorted the stories into competition groups and suburbs/regions of Queensland and was able to start pitching My Ekka story angles to every media outlet in Queensland months before the Ekka would open its gates.
Media Launch (Refer Appendix 5 & 6)
The aim of the media launch was to recreate all the traditional elements of the Show. We wanted the media to have fun, get involved, eat some MSA graded beef, drink Show award-winning wine and go back to their desks with a warm and fuzzy feeling about the Ekka and plenty of information.
Launch Invitation (Refer Appendix 3)
The media were sent a horse shoe, hay and an invitation to attend the Ekka 2008 media launch in the form of a judging score card. We wanted newsrooms to gather around to see what was in the box.
Just over 170 media, sponsors and key RNA staff attended the launch.
The launch was held on the stunning new Showgrounds Main Arena and featured many of the traditional elements of the Show, like farriers and blacksmiths, gum boot throwing competitions, cow milking, horsemanship, as well as colourful entertainment featuring new attractions for 2008.
The media were invited to participate throughout the launch through gumboot throwing, vegetable character making competitions at their tables and cow milking. Each guest was given a sample bag of fresh produce and sponsor material to take home.
Media Information Guide (refer Appendix 4)
An 80 page, well designed and easy to navigate media information guide was produced to highlight absolutely every element of the Show, as well as maps, media centre details, essential facts and contact details of the stewards in charge of each competition section.
Plan your day at the Show
We needed to find a way to educate the public about what they could do at the Show without needing to spend extra money. The Ekka is much more than just rides and showbags. Information and tools were needed for visitors to plan ahead and make the most of their day at the Show.
The RNA expanded its online presence to capture a greater portion of the market. An online itinerary planner was created so people could literally view the ‘What’s On’ for the day of their visit and select, compile and print their own itinerary.
Media messages reinforced the benefit of the online planner to help families prepare, budget and get the most from their day at the Show. Suggested itineraries helped people understand the great variety of activity and entertainment on offer as part of their ticket admission price. Fun online games and competitions encouraged repeat web visits.
An Ekka e-newsletter was developed and online subscriptions to it were encouraged through the offer of competitions and entry tickets. The newsletters provided tips on what to do at the Show and interesting editorial.
Set your budget, plan ahead and save
In addition to helping patrons get the most from the Show for the cost of their entry, we also wanted to help people plan and manage their expenses at the Show.
Media were encouraged to run stories about how families can manage their finances. Parents were supported to ‘say no’ to their children and manage expectations when it came to the purchase of showbags and rides. Packed lunches were suggested and the free activities at the Show were promoted as much as possible.
The media team issued the challenge to Ch 9’s Extra Program to bring a family of four to the Ekka for the day for under $100. We developed an itinerary for the day based on the ages of the family; suggested they buy tickets online at the discounted rate; pack their own lunch and visit the Woolworths Pavilion for free food and drink samples throughout the day; and each child was allowed a ride and a showbag. The under-$100 ($98.85 I think they spent in the end) challenge succeeded and made a great Ekka value story.
First 5,000 online tickets (Refer Appendix 7)
Discounts applied to the first 5,000 tickets purchased online to drive people to the Ekka website and reinforce the tools provided online to help people get the best value from their Ekka experience.
My Ekka Daily Alerts, Shooting Schedules & Media Centre
Throughout the Show, daily ‘My Ekka’ alerts (refer appendix 8) were developed and sent to media the night before the following day. I spoke with key Ekka reporters about the main events for the next day and met with them every morning to provide exclusive stories, good interview talent and help them as much as possible to compile their stories.
Shooting schedules were developed prior to the Show for Ch 9 programming including Mornings with Kerri-Anne; Shak, Today show and Extra, so that when they arrived it was just a matter of pulling all the elements together for a stress-free cross or pre-record.
The Ekka Media Centre had staff on hand to assist reporters to find stories and interview talent. It also provided refreshments, lockers and internet access.
Please refer to the above box 'Communication Strategy'.
(Refer appendices – media clips)
The best result of this campaign can be seen in the thousands of media broadcast and press alerts. Media everywhere reported positively on Ekka 2008, its history and tradition, their memories and what Ekka means to Queensland. Our value message was also reported and much more than just rides and showbags were talked about in the media.
Radio stations were asking listeners to ring in with their Ekka memories – ‘has anyone snogged on the Ferris Wheel!’ There was a wonderful atmosphere on the grounds. Queensland had embraced its Ekka and retuned in droves.
Objective: To increase paying attendances by 20% on 2007
Paying visitors increased by 42% on 2007 figures.
Objective: To educate the public about all the ‘free’ (included in ticket entry price) attractions at the Show
The Interactive Itinerary’s first year was 2008, so we can’t provide comparative figures from 07. However, during August 2008, there were over 224,000 (177,000 in 2007) visitors to the Ekka website (up from 177,000 in 2007) and in total, 1.4 million page views were recorded (up from1.3 Million in 2007). Over 40% of the site visitors came to the Ekka site more than once during this period.
The most popular day for the Ekka site was Thursday 7 August with 21,198 visits (an increase of over 28% or almost 5,000 visits on the busiest day from last year). This equates to an increase of 44% from the busiest day in 2006. Online subscriptions to the Ekka e-newsletter grew from just under 1,500 to approximately 9,000 subscribers.
Objective: To encourage the community to embrace their Show and celebrate its traditions
Widespread, positive and extensive media coverage was achieved across Queensland in press, broadcast and online mediums. The majority of the stories were about people and their experiences at Ekka. Show competition entries increased in many competition categories in 2008. University of Queensland research conducted during the Ekka revealed increased ratings on 2007 for ‘excitement at the Ekka’; ‘atmosphere’; overall cost; and ‘overall experience’.
**The 2008 Royal Queensland Show was a wonderful success and revenue positive for the RNA
** I am aware the PRIA does not consider Equivalent Advertising Value (EAV), however, considering the RNA relies so heavily on free press for Ekka each year, I think it is important to include the following Media Monitors Australia calculation for Ekka 2008.
- Print media (magazines, newspapers, street press): $1,957 733.72
- Broadcast media (television, radio): $5,440,304.00
On-line media (internet news stories on sites such as news.com; Brisbane times, Courier-Mail online etc): $25,000