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Dec 20, 2018

Lights, Camera... Action!

by Mike Benns - Managing Director

Lights, Camera... Action!

Even though I give the impression of being a bit 'bah humbug' about Christmas, secretly I really do enjoy the family time and the festive food and drink (yes, even sprouts).

But when I ventured out on to Oxford and Regent Street this week to do a bit of shopping, I soon lost my festive spirit, shuffling along, tripping over tourists and day trippers standing in the middle of the road taking selfies of the Christmas Lights.

Looking at the lights brought back memories of 1998, the year when Toucan was successful in signing up one of its own clients, Birds Eye, to become the headline sponsor of the Oxford Street lights. The Traders Association had spent their entire budget that year on a new CCTV system and there was a very real danger of no festive lights whatsoever. But Birds Eye came to the rescue with some funding and Christmas cheer returned to central London.

As far as media opportunities went, this was big. Four huge Birds Eye logos, made from thousands of coloured lights, were strung at either end of the street and at Oxford Circus. Lamp posts were draped with hanging banners carrying images of Santa Claus and sayings like ‘Peas On Earth’ and ‘Cod Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’. We even got tickets to stand next to Zoe Ball at the big switch on!

Apologies for the tiny picture but digitial photography was in its infancy!

All was going so well and then… Bang!

Articles started to appear in the press condemning Birds Eye of commercialising Christmas. Newspapers began carrying pieces on how the brand was taking things too far and even Marketing Week joined in with an article headlined ‘Public Outcry Threatens Xmas Lights”.

Westminster City Council could take the pressure no more and asked The Oxford Street Traders Association to “seek alternative methods of funding in the future”.

That was it. No more sponsorship, no more marketing partnership, no more twinkling logos and definitely no more humorous slogans ever again!

Well, that’s what I thought until 2012, the year that Marmite sponsored them..!

Many had hated the idea of brand endorsement back in the late 90s but fast forward 14 years and it seemed the powers that be fell in love with the idea again.

Off the beaten track of the two busiest shopping streets in London, I love what Carnaby Street and Soho have done this year... Bohemian Rhapsody took centre stage on Carnaby St with a pop-up shop to support the launch of the movie and then themed neon lights all down the street.

Meanwhile in Soho, the streets are minimally lit by smart red SOHOHOs... genius!

Have a great Chrismas and New Year from the Toucan team and all in the Once Upon A Time family.



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