Biting back at the bugs Article icon

Biting

Malcolm Padley, corporate communications director at international pest control company Rentokil Initial, has his work cut out for him. Our interview begins with an apology from me: I’m a lifelong vegetarian. This isn’t normally an issue, but on this occasion I’ve been sent to find out all about Rentokil’s latest campaign, the Global Pestaurant Day.

Rentokil’s Pestaurant was a 24 hour event held on 4 June, where pop-up tents were assembled in 11 countries around the world, serving up an array of pest-related foods for customers to try. Visitors to the event could choose from a variety of free snacks including pigeon burgers, salt and vinegar crickets, plain roasted locusts and chocolate ant rounds.

‘The reason we did Pestaurant was to create a platform where our experts could raise awareness of the pest control issue, engage with customers, generate PR coverage and drive digital traffic and social engagement,’ explains Padley. ‘We’re a people business, promoting our expertise, training and skills. We wanted a way to show customers that, face to face, we could talk knowledgeably about pest control.

‘On the day, we gave practical pest control advice as well as serving up food to customers. We mixed the idea of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! and at the same time highlighted a report by the United Nations which explains how insects could serve as a future source of protein. We showed that we could hold a fun event that had a serious message.’

There have been two phases to the Pestaurant campaign. The first occurred last year when the first Pestaurant Day was held in London, which attracted 3,000 people. And the second brought the unique dining experience to a global audience, in part to highlight the international reach of Rentokil, which operates in 68 countries, while emphasising the local nature of its business. ‘In the UK, Rentokil brand awareness is very high,’ explains Padley. ‘It’s not the same around the world though.’

As many as 13,300 people in countries as diverse as Australia, South Africa, Lithuania, Turkey, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Trinidad and the USA, attended Global Pestaurant Day. But the event proved particularly popular in Belgium, where 3,500 visitors queued up to try the snacks. Londoners missed out this year; the pop-up Pestaurant went to Edinburgh and Belfast instead.

‘It was a really fun event,’ says Padley. ‘Everyone had a go, and we had a very positive reaction from people. The smiles on everyone’s faces come across in all the photos.’

The media coverage of both events was ‘incredible’, says Padley. ‘Last year, we had global coverage even though the event was only in London. There were a total of 450 articles from 20 countries written about it. The initial response was fantastic, and when we took Pestaurant around the world this year, we had even more coverage.’ In fact, Global Pestaurant Day generated 848 online news articles, 21 television interviews and mentions, 21 radio spots and 17 print articles.

On social media, the response was even more enthusiastic. ‘During the day, as we moved through the time zones from Sydney to Washington, we could track the progress of Pestaurant on social media,’ Padley explains.

In the fortnight around the campaign, 3,210 tweets using the #Pestaurant hashtag were sent, 1,184 of which on the event day itself, while the hashtag even trended in third place in Washington DC. A YouTube video to promote the event was produced in-house at no extra cost to the campaign.

This embedded into many of the online news articles written about the campaign, and has had more than 6,000 views so far. Images taken on the day were also uploaded on to Instagram and have received more than 400 ‘likes’.

The event also created more than one million impressions on both Facebook and LinkedIn. ‘We had our biggest social media success on Facebook,’ says Padley. ‘At the events, when people tried the snacks you could see them taking photos and instantly uploading them to Facebook to share with friends. The day really lent itself to good photography and being shared on social media.’ Rentokil’s Facebook page received more than 500 new ‘likes’ over the course of the event, while its Facebook posts were ‘liked’ a total of 1,500 times.

Another aim for the day was to drive traffic to Rentokil’s websites. A new mobile-responsive website specially dedicated to the event, pestaurant.com, was launched, featuring information on the timings and locations of the worldwide events, a video explaining more about Pestaurant, links to social media, a poll where visitors could vote for their most feared pest and, crucially, links to local Rentokil sites. Pestaurant.com received more than 6,000 visits during the campaign, while Rentokil’s local country sites had nearly 13,000 visits in total.

According to Padley, Rentokil teams across the world were able to give the day their own local twist. ‘We provided template materials from what we learnt from the first UK event, and then local teams added their own touch. In Turkey, they served the bugs up with ice cream; in Malaysia they added fruit, and in South Africa they created a wrap. Employees took the core idea and the Rentokil brand and materials and really added their own flavour to it.’

Internally, the event also successfully engaged Rentokil employees. ‘We use social media internally as much as we do externally,’ explains Padley. ‘We used our Google+ channels and our intranet to build up to the event and then to share the Pestaurant story. A terrific community was created with our colleagues around the world.’ The campaign was also covered in employee magazine The Right Way. Local branches were even given the opportunity to take part in Pestaurant themselves, as office parties were held in Germany, Malaysia, Canada and Spain, each of which obtained their own local press coverage.

‘The campaign generated real team spirit. It couldn’t have been done by just one person. We had an amazing internal team across the world working on this. It was a brilliant group effort,’ says Padley.

‘Pestaurant was a huge success. When you generate that quantity of positive coverage, face-to-face interaction and social media engagement, there is undoubtedly a value brought to the brand.

‘The day captured the imagination of people everywhere. The secret to Pestaurant’s success is that, even though pest control is a serious topic, we showed we could bring a fun side to it. It was a great combination of the fun and the practical.’

As for Padley’s favourite snack of the day? ‘I would really recommend the Mexican spiced mealworms,’ he laughs, almost convincing this vegetarian that perhaps I have been missing out on trying the pest-related snacks after all.