When opened 50 years ago Watford Gap, the UK’s first motorway service area, had an aura of glamour about it. Half a century on and this has certainly changed. Storm was challenged to create excitement around the 50th anniversary and get consumers to fall back in love with the motorway service area.
Our approach was three-pronged. An old autograph book of 60s bands and celebrities, as well as an iconic image of The Rolling Stones at Watford Gap, gave us compelling content to create national features on the history of the site, with both The Mail on Sunday and Sunday Express running significant features the weekend before the anniversary. To generate news on the day, we lobbied the Oxford English Dictionary to include the phrase ‘north/south of Watford Gap’ in the next edition and created a signpost to signify the invisible line to add a visual hook for the media on the day. Finally, we held a birthday party on the day itself with guests including stars from the 60s, a Government minister, as well as employees old and new. The media were also invited, and we had both BBC and ITV breakfast programmes broadcasting live from the site, as well as the BBC creating ‘Watford Gap The Musical’ which went out during The One Show that evening.
The anniversary topped the news agenda of the day with blanket coverage including 33 minutes of national TV coverage on the morning, and a feature on Have I Got News For You on the following Friday.