# Cowell Must Pay - CIPR Award entry


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This was the pro-bono campaign that we ran for Rhythmixs music charity who were in a David and Goliath battle against Simon Cowell and his company Simco.

We established a digital and media campaign which created a winning campaign for the charity.

This is a good example of our Social Innovation work.

Published in: News & Politics
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# Cowell Must Pay - CIPR Award entry

  1. 1. #CowellMustPayfor RhythmixTHE CAMPAIGN BRIEFYouth charity, Rhythmix, was quietly going about its The concept ‘Vote Rhythmix’ - a direct play on the show’sbusiness when hit show X Factor created a manufactured voting process - was born, asking the public to vote forgirlband with the same name. Simco Ltd subsequently the charity, rather than the show and – in the case of Xembarked on trademarking the band’s name, despite the Factor fans - divert the funds they would usually spend topre-existence of the charity. a better cause.Publically, X Factor had appeared to have backed-down A hashtag #CowellMustPay was also used to drive social– renaming the band Little Mix to great fanfare – but media support – drawing on a double meaning of askingprivately it was different, with the fight for the trademark Cowell to pay for his mistakes as well as the mountingstill being pursued. legal fees.The result was a crippling legal battle that could have The main Twitter message was:potentially shut it down. It was at crisis point. Following Vote the right thing! Give to @RhythmixMusic &many calls and letters, the charity was being blanked and not to #XFactor #CowellMustPay text RTMX11was forced to spend money it couldn’t afford on legal £1 to 70070support. At the point we entered the fray, the fees werealready in excess of £8k and rising fast. Mirroring the show, we investigated also having a phone vote option – and had even persuaded AlistairIn a last-ditch attempt, the charity published a Facebook McGowan to reproduce the famous voice of X Factoropen letter, calling on Simon to do the right thing. It was announcer Peter Dickson - but the technical costs werethis letter the caught the eye of Team Unity, one cold just impossible and time too tight.Friday in November. As a company we braced ourselves for a busy weekend.Disgusted, we stepped in. And we didn’t mess about.Within four hours of contacting the Rhythmix CEO, Online, we targeted those with large social influencehe’d bravely handed over all social media channels and and saw a huge upsurge in support. The campaign#CowellMustPay was live. With the weekend around the soon became centre-stage in the British public’s minds,corner (when X Factor airs), we simply couldn’t afford to amassing over 700,000 social impressions in just 48delay. hours and generating support from the likes of Paul Epworth, Pearl Lowe, Lucy Rose, Jason Gardiner,OBJECTIVES Armando Iannucci, Adam Ficek, Caroline Lucas MP, LisaOur self-imposed brief was simple - stop Simco Ltd’s Moorish, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, New Young Ponytrademark application whilst securing the payment of the Club & many others.charity’s legal fees. Yet still no word from Cowell.STRATEGY AND TACTICSX Factor is a British institution. To generate public With dogged determination we sought extra supportsupport for a small, unknown charity Unity would have from those with social capital. Stephen Fry steppedto create buzz that would captivate the audience. In up, providing us with a quote that further boosted theaddition to X Factor fans, we planned a duel campaign campaign;that would also target the powerful anti-X Factor groups. “We would love to believe that this is a complete misunderstanding and that he, of all people, will supportTo reach both audiences, we choose to borrow from the the right of this established and hugely respected musiclanguage of X Factor to show that, frankly, this kind of charity to continue using its name without the threat ofbullying just wasn’t acceptable. his power descending and obliterating them.”
  2. 2. Following a different tack, the irony of the fact that such OUTPUTSaction from an industry which so fiercely protects its owncopyright, wasn’t lost on us. And consequently we began Star, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, The Independent,a dual offline campaign, aimed more squarely at the NME and The Sun among those celebrating the successmedia and wider political influencers.Again it caught like fire. The media agreed with us thatfor Simon, it was “TIME TO FACE THE MUSIC” withcoverage appearing on the BBC, The Guardian, The Sun,The Independent, PA, The Quietus, Left Foot Forwardand online via MSN and Yahoo.And our political outreach also gained traction - with MPCaroline Lucas filing an early day motion in the House ofCommons.To put this in perspective, we’d first contacted Rhythmixon the Friday, it was now just the Monday.In order to drive the campaign in the second week –and not waste the McGowan opportunity - we created in two days with four times the amount of ‘Likes’ theya series of sound and video vignettes featuring ‘Simon’ had had before the campaign.and the other judges. We got a mock announcementfrom Louis hosted on SoundCloud, from which we drove OUTCOMEStwitter buzz and intrigue, but the films where never to Simco Ltd not only paid all legal costs, but alsosee the light of day. donated generously and apologised for its actions.The noise created was simply impossible to ignore Coupled with the extra £4,000 raised through text– summed up succinctly by Twitter tour de force @ donations and the thousands of new followersPopjustice: “Fucking hell can’t someone just give generated, the campaign was a resounding success.Rhythmix the eight grand” – and Simon finally steppedin. We’d helped turn the threat of ruin into a public and financial success for a truly wonderful charity thatThe battle was won, we downed tools and our videos helps boost the lives of many young Britons.were filed neatly away for another day. And to think that four days previously, Rhythmix and Unity were perfect strangers. BUDGET Pro Bono