Code cracker machine is key to public relations campaign for airline

When the airline KLM needed a soaring public relations campaign to announce its new routes to the world, Polymedia gave hundreds of people the chance to win flights on a code machine as part of an integrated campaign.

Our specialists developed an eye-catching, integrated series of high-profile events including visual stunts, broadcast, social media and regional press to create a huge buzz.


The brief

The brief was to let potential passengers in Portsmouth and Southampton and around Hampshire know about new twice-daily flights from Southampton Airport to Amsterdam, from where travellers can easily fly on to anywhere in the world.


The campaign concept

The public relations campaign was built around the concept of IATA (International Air Transport Association) codes – sets of three letters that are used around the world to identify airports.

Based on Southampton’s SOU airport code, the campaign used the social media hashtag #SOclose2U to underline the message that KLM’s flights from convenient locations bring the world to your doorstep.


Push the button

A highlight of the campaign was a huge, live Code Cracker machine developed by Polymedia, which appeared at Portsmouth’s Cascades Shopping Centre and at WestQuay in Southampton.

There, shoppers were given the chance to press a big blue button to win KLM merchandise and the chance to jet off to Dubai and Amsterdam. The events were a huge success with more than 1,000 shoppers taking part over two days, and many more watching the fun unfold.

Radio station Wave 105 also hosted an on-air “Code Cracker” competition in which listeners could win flights to Dubai plus hotel accommodation and spending money.

Previously, under cover of darkness, Polymedia had placed giant 12ft letters in key locations in Southampton and Portsmouth without any indication of what they were all about.

The partnership with Wave ensured that their airwaves and social media channels were alive with chatter about what the letters might mean, while the regional press picked up on the mystery in print and online.

On the second day, the sets of airport codes were switched for new ones, further deepening the mystery.

On the third day, the giant codes were replaced with the letters KLM – and dozens of smaller set of KLM letters also appeared in bus stops, parks, lampposts and fences around the region.

Only then was it confirmed, via a call from KLM’s UK general manager to Wave 105’s breakfast show, that the airline was behind the stunt. People were encouraged to picture themselves with the letters to be in with a chance to win flights to anywhere in the world – prompting a flurry of social media activity over a gloriously sunny weekend.

In the final phase of the public relations campaign, the regional press were engaged in a “reunion” competition, in which readers who are apart from far-flung friends and family members were encouraged to tell their story to be in with a chance to win flights so they could be brought together at Southampton Airport.



The result was more than a month’s worth of public relations activity during which a huge level of awareness of KLM’s new services was achieved via thousands of radio listeners and readers of the regional press, social media buzz and high-visibility stunts seen by thousands of passers-by.


Click to play the Code Cracker for yourself. 


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