Event TV: Behind-the-scenes of National Geographic's T. Rex stunt

Event spoke exclusively to Premier's creative director, Leigh Debbage, on creating the dead dinosaur stunt that grabbed the nation's attention last week.

The T. Rex was created by artist Andy Billet
The T. Rex was created by artist Andy Billet

The 30 foot-long creature was towed around London to promote National Geographic’s new programme, T. Rex Autopsy. Social media users, as well as Transport for London, tweeted the passing dinosaur and speculated what the deceased creature could be in aid of. 

National Geographic, which worked with Premier and Sketch Events to activate the campaign, later revealed itself to be the brand behind the stunt.

'Captivating and engaging'

Debbage told Event that the idea was born out of the agency’s third brainstorming session held after receiving the brief, which asked for captivating and engaging stunts that would capture the media’s imagination on a relatively limited budget.

"All too often half the budget on stunts goes on expensive central London venue hire, so the idea of creating a mobile stunt that could be photographed in front of any landmark we wanted seemed to fit the brief," he said. "Then we decided that it should be on its way to the autopsy, so the mock hospital sheet with blood stains and a toe tag really worked."

He also revealed: "This concept also had the advantage that we only had to create enough of the T. Rex to give the impression of the whole, with the rest covered by a sheet. The budget would never have enabled us to create the entire thing."

The dinosaur began its journey from a warehouse in Croydon. After the event’s two photographers snapped shots in Brixton, the activation then made its way into central London.

Premier had brought along a dedicated team to implement a detailed, pre-planned social content calendar, which built up an air of mystery online. Eyewitness shots were streamed live to the Mirror online as part of an exclusive media agreement.

Towed by a lorry, the T. Rex toured London Bridge, St Paul’s, Westminster Bridge, Trafalgar Square, the Mall and Buckingham Palace. It then travelled on a regional tour via Tunbridge Wells, where its creator and artist, Andy Billet, was interviewed by regional press.

A roaring success

"The success of the stunt continues to grow and grow, but the latest count is a PR value of £18 million from over 90 pieces of media coverage and a total reach of 900 million," said Debbage. "Premier’s social media team were also a key part of the stunt’s success and helped generate 30 million total twitter impressions. Our remit was not international but we secured coverage in a huge number of countries, which was great to see, particularly as T. Rex Autopsy was broadcast internationally."

But while the event was deemed incredibly successful both agency- and client-side, Debbage has no plans to resurrect it again. "Successful PR stunts often breed imitations, but it’s unlikely this exact concept could be as successful again as it really felt like it tapped into the media’s imagination, with many press commenting on its originality," he explained.

"Putting props on flatbed trucks and travelling around London is not a new concept but what we had with T. Rex was a fun story to hook around it, with the concept being that the dinosaur was on the way to its autopsy, and this meant that virtually all of the coverage was highly branded in favour of the show we were promoting."

He added: "We have been thrilled with the success of the T. Rex Autopsy stunt – whilst we always had a feeling we had something special on our hands, few or us imagined it would be quite this impactful. It was a fantastic team effort, with everyone at Premier going the extra mile to contribute, many working around the clock and overnight to ensure every base was covered. 

"We were also incredibly lucky that we had such a collaborative and brave client in Fox International Channels who really supported the idea from the get-go and were a joy to work with."

More: In pictures - National Geographic trails dead T. Rex through London

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