It’s a truth universally acknowledged that this was a challenging brief to crack – to come up with an original, shareable story about a Jane Austen season that everyone has seen, within a cluttered news agenda around Valentine’s Day. The idea to uncover what Mr Darcy would really have looked like was inspired, challenged perceptions and really resonated with the female target audience. Authenticity came from Professors of Literature and History and an original artistic rendering of the ‘actual’ Mr Darcy. The cultural talkability of the campaign, even to those who weren’t familiar with Jane Austen, meant it achieved impressive results both on and offline, driving viewers to the channel. The judges felt that there’s a real legacy to leverage here and this was a brilliant campaign.


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Brief and objectives:

TV channel Drama required a PR campaign to promote its Jane Austen season, on 12 February.

The objective of the campaign was to devise an original, shareable and news worthy story that would resonate with the channel’s core audience of 35+ women. The creative needed to drive fame and viewers for the season on both Drama and the catch-up service UKTV Play.


Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

The brief gave us several challenges; the Jane Austen season featured a compilation of archive programming so creative ideas featuring acting talent would clearly not work.

Moreover, the campaign needed to give equal billing to Drama, UKTV Play and the Jane Austen season – complex messaging and branding to weave into news copy.

We started by working with UKTV to examine both the season programming and Austen’s literature in search of a hook. This led us to ‘Mr Darcy’ – arguably literature’s most iconic romantic leading man and the star of Pride & Prejudice, the lead show of the season.

We knew our launch date was in close proximity to Valentine’s Day and whilst we didn’t want our story to be banded together (and get lost) with the tsunami of Valentine Day news, we believed a story which centred around an iconic romantic leading man could play well both with both our target audience and the media given the time of year.

We worked closely with UKTV’s in-house PR team to devise and execute a creative news story that would put the fictional character of Mr Darcy at the centre of a national debate.


Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:

Our core insight for our campaign was based upon Austen’s lack of descriptive prose around Mr Darcy’s appearance. In fact, there is a mere line in the book, (‘he soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features’.) which gives very little away.

This gave us the basis for our creative – TV and Hollywood casting directors had always (without exception) cast Mr Darcy as tall dark, chiselled and handsome but, this was not Austen’s Darcy.

This begged the question; what would Mr Darcy have actually looked like in Jane Austen’s imagination? Could we work with a team of academics and historians to uncover the ‘real Mr Darcy’?

The creative was designed to ensure that Colin Firth, (regarded by many as the definitive ‘Mr Darcy’ and the star of the Austen season’s lead show), would be pictured alongside our new historical recreation. This ensured the lead show of the season was integral to our story.


Implementation of tactics:

We commissioned two of the UK’s leading academics, Professors John Sutherland (literature) and Amanda Vickery (history), to uncover what Mr Darcy could have really looked like at the time Austen was writing Pride & Prejudice.

They embarked on a month-long research project which delved into all the existing descriptions and illustrations of the character, along with Austen’s known suitors and the socio-economic and cultural factors of the time that would contribute to Darcy’s background, appearance and lifestyle.

We then worked closely with illustrator Nick Hard castle to bring the research to life, creating two new portraits featuring a detailed bust and a full-length picture of the ‘Real Mr Darcy’.

A video was created to support the news story and research paper, featuring behind the scenes clips of the illustration process, interviews with a Drama Channel spokesperson and the key findings from the academic research. The video was optimised for social channels and served to amplify the research news story and imagery for online media.

We released our story under embargo to the British media three days before the season launched to give the story time to grow. Our Professors served as spokespeople on the day of launch.


Measurement and evaluation:

The news story generated over 400 pieces of fully credited editorial coverage which linked back to Drama’s Jane Austen season and UKTV Play. The story trended on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day generating 153 Million social media impressions within 48 hours and the ‘Real Mr Darcy’ became the talking point of the day generating 273 broadcast items including the likes of Radio 5 Live and coveted ‘and finally’ pieces on the BBC News at both 6/10pm.

Every British national paper (except the Star) featured the story as a page lead story, all of the titles who carried the story embedded the accompanying campaign video.

The campaign led to a 63% uplift on slot for Drama viewers and helped UKTV Play to record its highest ever day for Drama viewership.

Results included:

  • 63% uplift on slot for Drama
  • UKTV Play enjoyed its highest ever day for Drama viewership
  • 153 million social impressions
  • 400+ pieces of branded print coverage including Metro, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, The Times, I, Daily Express, The Sun, The Guardian etc.
  • Target audience hit directly via key pieces in Good Housekeeping, Woman + Home, Mail online, Red, Elle, Marie Claire, Hello, OK! Harper’s Bazaar, Country Living, Female First
  • Broadcast pieces included BBC News, Sky News, BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio 2
  • UK Circulation/reach 1,208,404,563
  • International coverage included New York Times, Vogue Australia and Daily Telegraph Australia.


Budget and cost effectiveness:

  • Budget of £23,500 in total (Inc. agency fees, research, video etc.)
  • Cost of reach (based upon UK adult population only) 0.05p per person
  • The Real Mr. Darcy was the lead strategy/creative to promote the Austen season – as such the uplift in viewers can be directly attributed to the campaign.

“This was an incredibly creative and well-structured campaign that delivered on every level. People tuned into Drama – the channel was up on slot average – and we saw the highest ever day’s views for Drama on @UKTVPlay. This was a great example of cost effective PR Work that really works.” – Justine Bower. Head of Consumer Communications, UKTV.