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Marketeer of the month

By The Drum | Administrator

September 3, 2003 | 6 min read

What have a giant armadillo and a Polo mint got in common? Not to be confused with the Dime Bar commercials of yesteryear, the answer to this conundrum is far more obscure. For the hard-backed mammal and the popular fresh-breath product are both akin to the campaign launching this month?s opening of Birmingham?s revamped Bullring.

Still none the wiser? Fear not, here to explain all is Allison Ridge, Bullring?s account director at Rees Bradley Hepburn. RBH was chosen last year to create an advertising campaign that would dispel any negative perceptions that may remain from the old building and to launch the new shopping venue as the complete experience.

?People?s perceptions of Bullring are different ? many Brummies probably think of it with some affection, but those from surrounding areas are likely to view it less favourably. Either way, it was evident in the last few years that the area had been in need of a facelift,? commented Ridge.

And who better to strap on the surgeon?s gloves to perform the facelift than RBH? Ridge explains, ?We understood that it was all about shopping, in fact more than shopping, an experience. We held Bullring up in the context of Birmingham to show just how great shopping could be. As an agency with a high percentage of female staff, we had no problem understanding the pull effect for shoppers of the region.?

There is certainly a lot of heritage with which to work. The Bullring, as it was called before it dropped the ?The? as part of the make-over, started as a marketplace in the 1800s and became the biggest shopping mall outside of America in the 1960s. The latest incarnation is courtesy of an investment by the Birmingham Alliance ? a partnership between Hammerson, Henderson Global Investors and Land Securities. It will house over 150 shops, will see a combination of high-street names and high-fashion stores and will offer superb eating and socialising facilities.

So where do you start when building a campaign to promote the new Bullring? This is where the Polo mint comes in. ?We?ve based the strategy on a Polo mint; the hole represents the people who live in the city while the actual mint represents the people living within certain drives to the city. So the people who live an hour away are represented in the very outer part of the Polo, while those living closer are represented by the inner part of the mint,? Ridge explains.

?The campaign is aimed at people who live within an hour?s drive time of Birmingham, like towns as far afield as Shrewsbury, Rugby, Loughborough and Worcester. These towns may not have previously seen Birmingham as their regional capital.

?We\'re confident that Brummies will go anyway. After all, Birmingham is town to them. Our campaign is about attracting people who may have previously rejected Brum,? she enthuses.

The team at RBH are clearly passionate about the project and are confident that what they are working on is no ordinary shopping centre. Far from it, in fact. Ridge maintains that Bullring is more the complete shopping experience. She doesn?t want it to be compared to the likes of the Trafford Centre or Merry Hill; instead, RBH aims to add Birmingham to the list of shopping Meccas that includes Milan, Paris and New York.

?The campaign is different to what many people may have been expecting, because Bullring is a different sort of shopping environment within a cosmopolitan city and the advertising needed to reflect that.?

?Paris, Milan ? even London ? are considered European shopping capitals. With our headline, ?Europe?s new shopping capital ??, we?re simply informing people that there?s now a new one to add to the list. And it?s Birmingham.?

But can Birmingham be the next Milan? Can Birmingham be sexy? Ridge is adamant that the negative perceptions of the second city have faded and that it is now on the map for all the right reasons.

?The perception of Birmingham as an industrial city full of concrete and factories is completely outdated. The new Birmingham is indeed a ?sexy? place, with stunning modern architecture, canalside living, beautiful public spaces and a vibrant bar and restaurant scene. Visitors to the city will soon realise that it is undergoing a change of image.

?Birmingham is a diverse, vibrant and forward-thinking city that deserves to be recognised as such throughout Europe. The advertising campaign asserts Birmingham?s place as a great European city,? she explained.

The main focus of the campaign, which is supported with posters, is the 40-second advert that has just hit screens in the Midlands. The European-style commercial features a series of women who appear distressed. The reason for their misery is revealed in the headline: ?Europe?s new shopping capital ? isn?t in mainland Europe?.

?We?re very proud of the adverts ? we really don?t rate the commercials for shopping centres and wanted to do something very different,? states Ridge.

?Bullring is not a traditional shopping centre and we therefore did not want a traditional advertising campaign to publicise it. The TV commercial and poster campaign have been created to build interest and excitement in order to entice people to visit Bullring and see it for themselves.

?We?re not trying to suggest that Bullring is the one and only shopping capital of Europe. We?re just implying, in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way, that, thanks to Bullring, Birmingham should now be considered a premier European shopping destination. Because, however you look at it, it is.?

So where does the giant armadillo come into play? As with anything new, there is always a group of people who view the glass as half empty. And many who reside within the Polo mint have decided that the new Selfridges store, which is part of the Bullring development, resembles a giant armadillo. Why not make your own mind up? Bullring opens 4 September.

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