Lakeside's Living Christmas Fairy


Confronted with a difficult economic climate and an expectation to wow customers throughout the Christmas season, in addition to the planned 2011 arrival of a large competitor in Lakeside's catchment area, Christmas 2010 needed to be bigger and better than ever before. Our brief was to:

• Increase awareness of Lakeside in the run-up to Christmas
• Obtain coverage in the media with a total PR value exceeding that of 2009’s switch-on
• Drive customers into the centre and drive retail sales Strategy


With one-off Christmas light switch-on events generally delivering a poor return on investment, celebrity appearance fees continually rising and the dilemma of containing large, excitable crowds, Lakeside needed to do something to differentiate itself from other centres, deliver real value for its retailers and delight its shoppers. We opted to produce a strong editorial image instead of hosting a launch event with the aim of securing local press attention and the hope of attracting some national/consumer interest too.


Creating an image that would present the right impression of Lakeside, whilst being impactful enough to interest the media, was always going to be a challenge. A shot of a celebrity standing outside the centre simply wouldn't cut it, so boundaries had to be pushed to deliver something that had never been seen before. The decision was taken to go for impact rather than a big name and money was saved by not going for a higher profile celebrity. We carefully chose Chantelle Houghton (ex Big Brother, Essex girl) for her superb gossip magazine profile and a cost that fit within our budget. This decision (to not go with a higher profile celebrity) meant however that the photo had to be outstanding. With a 50ft artificial Christmas tree perfectly positioned outside a main entrance, we recommended suspending Chantelle from a crane to pose as Lakeside's Living Christmas Fairy.

The concept would deliver a family-friendly image to complement Lakeside's "feel-good" message, as well as an opportunity to include heavy branding with an unmistakable Lakeside sign in the background of every shot. The involvement of a specialist crane hire company was vital to ensure Chantelle's safety and stunt feasibility; a second 60ft hydraulic platform was also required so the photographer could ensure branding (there would be no way for Lakeside to be edited out of the coverage). Working with Lakeside's retailers, a princess-style pink prom dress was selected to heighten the magical feel of the image. We considered whether to publicise the photo shoot to attract a big crowd on the day but decided this posed possible safety risks. It was also possible it would increase the likelihood of unofficial images being leaked via social media, reducing the impact of the official photos. The shoot took place on 1st November, just before dusk so that the photographer could capture the tree's illuminations as the light levels fell whilst still capturing the branding and the model perfectly.


This campaign delivered vastly increased awareness. Wherever you were, Lakeside’s Living Christmas Fairy was the hot topic of conversation. In the annual Peak Research study conducted by Experian in late November, recall of Lakeside in the local media (advertising, PR, etc.) showed a 21% increase on 2009. The event paid real dividends to retailers. Lakeside’s retailers commented:


“Rather than rolling out another light switch-on, this gained the centre high-profile attention at an important time of the year.” Marks and Spencer.

 “Lots of my customers were talking about Lakeside’s Christmas Fairy and marvelling at the originality of the idea. I’m sure we’ll see other shopping centres trying to copy this one in years to come.” Next.

It also created buzz on the social networks. Tweets from the Sunday Mirror’s celebrity and entertainment columnist (Dean Piper), OK! Magazine and Chantelle herself ensured that Twitter carried the story far and wide too.

The media response was phenomenal and coverage exceeded all expectations. 48 clippings were generated, reaching a total 49,018,525 people. 100% included Lakeside branding due to the carefully planned location for the photograph. Eight regional publications covered the story in print and it even worked for the national media, with coverage secured in The Times; The Telegraph; The Sun; The Daily Star; Daily Mail; The Metro and the Guardian. Consumer magazines also responded encouragingly, with a double-page spread in Heat and full pages in OK, Star and Now magazines. The stunt also translated well for broadcast, with a name check for the centre and its location on ITV1’s Daybreak. Heart FM also broadcast the story. The press coverage would have cost £177,482 to buy, translating to a PR value of £532,446 (AVE x 3), far surpassing the original target (and last year’s total of 3 cuttings; PR value £8,568). With a total spend of £15,345 this resulted in a ROI of 32:1.

The campaign’s success also directly translated into footfall and sales for Lakeside’s retailers. Total November footfall was 2.5% better on the year than October’s comparison. In the Peak Research study conducted by Experian in late November, average spend was up 33% on 2009. The proof that the stunt translated directly into sales was provided by Lakeside’s retailers who commented:

“This photo launched Christmas at Lakeside with a bang. It lifted shoppers’ spirits and genuinely made them feel good about the centre. It sent more customers into our store and consequently pushed up our sales.” Boots.

“Not only did the photograph appear in practically every newspaper and gossip magazine, it actually drove customers into the store as well. Who wouldn’t want to shop in a centre that can pull off something as innovative as that?”  House of Fraser.

“Lakeside’s Living Christmas Fairy was the most successful festive PR campaign Lakeside has seen in its 21 years”  Lakeside

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