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The Press’ post-earthquake marketing campaign engages ad agencies for historic renovation

by Grant Torrie        

“Long Lunch Competition” targeted local advertising agencies, encouraging them to create a marketing campaign to rebuild a local theatre damaged in the earthquake. The result: a re-opened theatre and recovering spirit.


Click the image to view a larger versionThe Press is the largest daily newspaper in the South Island of New Zealand and the only paid daily newspaper in Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city. While the city has a vibrant local advertising community, the majority of the nation’s largest agencies are located in the largest city, Auckland, or the capital, Wellington.

In February 2011, Canterbury (in particular, the city of Christchurch) was hit by a significant earthquake, which resulted in death, injury, and widespread property damage. Media coverage of the event was thorough following the earthquake, and no doubt gave many the impression of a city on its knees. 

The truth was that the city quickly moved to recovery mode with businesses relocating and rebuilding. One such organisation was the The Court Theatre, previously located in the historic Arts Centre precinct of the city. Renowned for its world standard live theatre performances, The Court is considered by many to be one of New Zealand’s most successful arts organisations. As a long-term sponsor, The Press considered its re-establishment an important symbol of the rebuilding of the city.

We wanted to leverage the creative power of New Zealand’s North Island advertising agencies to help rebuild The Court Theatre. Besides the obvious benefit to the theatre, this was seen as a great opportunity to lift the profile of The Press to a difficult to reach audience (Auckland- and Wellington-based creative and media teams) and get the message out that Christchurch was into rebuilding mode and the city’s commerce was in good health. Lastly, and equally important, we wanted to create an opportunity to reinforce that print remains an exciting medium to work with and can be used in conjunction with online. 

The Press “Long Lunch Competition” was born.

The task was to motivate creative people in North Island advertising agencies to enter a competition. Their task? To devise a newspaper advertising campaign to raise funds for the Court Theatre rebuild from the general public through a creative campaign using The Press’ suite of products, including print and digital assets. The brief included an A$40,000 media budget to kick-start The Court Theatre’s fundraising appeal, with the winning campaign running in October and November.

In addition to the opportunity to help The Court, the winning team’s work would win a long lunch for two (creative and media people) with The Press and The Court Theatre at a top Christchurch restaurant, plus a helicopter tour over the city’s “Red Zone” so the winners could see what they’re helping rebuild.

A direct mail piece from The Press and The Court Theatre was devised as a packed lunch “in a brown paper bag which included an apple, a box of raisins, the entry forms in the form of a very long restaurant menu, a creative brief, and a brochure on The Court Theatre — all wrapped up in sandwich paper and tied with string. On the outside of the bag was a personalised Post-It note saying: “[Name], you forgot your lunch! Mum X.” This was supported with a digital execution to agencies encouraging creatives to enter.

The choice of prize referenced advertising agency personnel’s well-known penchant for long lunches. The inside joke of offering a long lunch for a prize, and presenting the direct mail piece as a packed lunch, was intended as a motivation for them to enter through a tongue-in-cheek recognition of this predilection.

The competition attracted entries from many of New Zealand’s top advertising agencies, as well as independents looking for an opportunity to showcase their work. The winning campaign was chosen by a judging panel from a Christchurch-based advertising agency, The Press, and The Court Theatre. Independent agency Shirtcliffe and Co. won the day in a very hotly contested final. 

The profile gained for The Press and the rebuild was excellent with great coverage in two of New Zealand’s leading online advertising digests, Stoppress and Fastline.

Most heartening is that The Court Theatre has achieved its goal of re-opening and is playing to record houses and occupancy levels of over 90%. Jeff Clark, communications manager for The Court Theatre, had this to say about the initiative: “Participating in The Press’ Long Lunch promotion was a highly positive experience for The Court Theatre. The promotional campaign triggered people to visit The Court Web site and view details of its new location, facilities, and season. It directly resulted in a number of seat sponsorships being taken up, thus assisting with the fundraising drive. 

“We believe it kept The Court in the forefront in the minds of the public as we worked towards establishing our new theatre in its new home. Ultimately, The Court Theatre was very happy indeed.”






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