Plan turns PNE around

When Grey Advertising was handed the Pacific National Exhibition account, many industry observers felt the agency had taken on a losing cause.The PNE had long been a political football in the province and the 17-day fair was suffering from the poor...

When Grey Advertising was handed the Pacific National Exhibition account, many industry observers felt the agency had taken on a losing cause.

The PNE had long been a political football in the province and the 17-day fair was suffering from the poor image resulting from the internal squabbling among the fair board members.

Decline

A steady decline in attendance and morale had cast a pall on the annual event.

And if that were not bad enough, poor weather in 1991 had seriously hampered attendance. No new plans for the fair were in place when Grey pitched and won the account.

While previous marketing campaigns had focussed on the headline entertainment acts and exhibits at the fair, Grey began with a creative strategy that positioned the fair as an exciting entertainment experience to share with someone special.

The creative was designed to capitalize on the positive emotional responses people felt.

Under the direction of Ron Caplan, Grey creative director, the agency began an integrated marketing and advertising campaign that would generate the impression of the fair as a great place to have fun under the theme of ‘The PNE is you ‘n’ me.’

The campaign was initially presented to pne staff to boost sagging morale. The new graphic theme and jingle were built into a travelling promotional booth and exhibit that travelled the province to promote attendance.

This theme was carried over to new promotional brochures and souvenir guides.

Against a brightly colored backdrop, showing enjoyment of British Columbians young and old, the advertising illustrated the fair as a place for the family.

Media

The ads were carried on transit shelters, radio, tv and in print. Radio advertising featured upcoming performers and events at the fair.

‘We wanted to show that the fair can be enjoyed by people, and we wanted to convey the emotional benefits of participating in the fair,’ Caplan says.

Coverage was concentrated in the Lower Mainland and a newspaper free-standing insert was distributed in the Pacific Northwest.

Media relations, promoting the headliners, were carried out through pne’s internal public relations office.

The Grey campaign may have induced the gods to help in 1992.

The weather was perfect for the fair and attendance rose an overall 10% to 1.6 million, according to Gayle Farrell, the pne’s director of public relations and communications.

What the agency could claim as its own were a series of creative achievement awards for its pne fair campaign, both from Canadian and u.s. fair organizations.

Key corporate sponsorships are up considerably over comparable periods and Farrell anticipates a success on the strength of last year’s promotion.

‘We listened to what the creative team had to tell us and we allowed them to do their jobs,’ Farrell says. ‘They were right.’