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Forty five Scottish midges had to die in pursuit of our PR dream. But, unlike most midges, they gave up their lives for a good cause.

Not our usual start to a blog post, we’ll grant you! But it’s not every day that a pesky midge provides the inspiration behind an award-winning public relations campaign!

Keep reading to find out how a brief from our client Vango to invite forty five big name journalists to their base on the outskirts of Glasgow, led us to look for inspiration in a very different place….

Vango is the UK’s leading supplier of tents and camping equipment. The company wanted key named journalists from as far afield as Bristol, London, Manchester, and everywhere in between, to make the arduous journey to an unknown and unbranded (for security reasons!) warehouse based on the outskirts of Port Glasgow.

So why the mystery? Why did we need to entice media moguls away from their desks and computer screens?

Well, the warehouse housed the most comprehensive selection of fully pitched Vango tents, all together with colour co-ordinated camping accessories like sleeping bags, airbeds, tables and chairs, in one 3,000 square meter show facility – affectionately known as the Green Room. Nowhere else in the world could you see Vango’s full seasonal collection just in one place.

The problem is, that journalists are a busy breed and time pressures can make it hard for them to travel to the other end of the country. Add to that the fact that, if sending information to them wasn’t enough, they could see pitched tent collections, side by side with competitor brands, in far more centralised locations like the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and the EXCEL Centre in London. They just couldn’t experience one brand’s full collection. But hey, if you don’t know what you’re missing, you don’t miss it.

Anyway, at Karol we knew the cards were stacked against us.

Says Karol’s account director Jenny Dawson who led the project, “Any invitation would have to be underpinned by something special if we were to entice the media.

“We wanted to connect cognitively with our target audience and we decided to play a game of intrigue. We needed to identify something special about Vango, something that journalists, hungry for a story would find irresistible.”

And so began the process of research, looking for interesting facts, something journalists didn’t already know about – or if they did, then presenting these facts in a way that re-engaged.

Some years before, Vango had brought to the mass market, Air Beam, the worlds first inflatable tent. Could this be Karol’s angle? But it was old news! How could we re-fresh it? How could we make it relevant?

Says Jenny, “We began by challenging ourselves to focus on and define the real benefit of Air Beam technology. This might give us an angle, a message around which to hang our communication.”

The answer was simple. Air Beam tents can be pumped up in just minutes. Quick. Easy. Fun. And, very useful if you are being eaten alive by Scottish midges at sun down and need shelter fast!

Hey, here was our theme!  Midges – the bigger the bite, the better!

Karol’s Managing Director Stefan Lepkowski chipped in, “Jenny and I immediately knew we had a creative angle.  But what we also needed was a mechanic that put our message in context.  We wanted an invitation that would be different, one that would make follow up phone calls easier.  One that would lead to conversation and get our client talked about.”

And, so began Karol’s camping themed mystery mailers.

First out of the box was a quirky tomato ketchup (or is it mayonnaise?) bottle accompanied by a Vango orange tent peg and a “not what you expected” message all on a bed of real grass – the stuff you camp on!

A week later, a glass Kilner jar atop yet more turf arrived on journalists desks with a cryptic, hand written note saying that the glass jar contained the two ingredients necessary for speedy tent erection. Air and a midge!

Says Stefan Lepkowski, “The campaign secured editorial features from over twenty journalists and generated over sixteen million opportunities to see and hear the Vango brand. We won a Chartered Institute of Public Relations award for the work and I am very proud of Jenny and her team’s achievement.”

“Most importantly, I believe we have given the much maligned mighty midge a leading role in promoting a truly Scottish Brand – Vango!”