Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book in the series, was to be on sale in Waterstone’s at one minute past midnight on 16th July 2005.
As the launch of the book was long awaited and already firmly in the diary of most media owners even at the beginning of 2005, the challenge was not to secure coverage for the launch per se but to secure coverage which placed Waterstone's at the very centre. This was achieved by splitting the campaign into three phases. The first two phases took place in advance of the launch and examined various aspects of the Potter phenomenon. The opening campaign encouraged stations to think about some of the factors which have led to the incomparable and meteoric rise in popularity of books that cross the parent child divide and indeed of Harry Potter itself. The second phase grabbed the imagination of budding authors by undertaking a “talent search” for the next big thing in Children's publishing (in association with Faber & Faber).
These initial phases helped to establish Waterstone's as central to the event in media owner's minds and as the authoritative voice in the marketplace prior to the launch in mid July. By phase three, stations had become accustomed to seeking comment from Waterstones on “all things Potter”. They saw Waterstones as a key part of the launch as well as being a reliable source for both comment and copies of the new book. Coverage for this final phase was secured using interviews, pre-recorded features, competitions and newsbites. We also arranged one-to-one interviews with local Waterstone's stores and their local radio stations across the country. Competitions included the chance for children in the regions to win the opportunity to be a Very Important Potter person (VIP) and be the first person in the queue at their local Waterstone's store, giving what was in essence a very “national” news event, a strong regional angle.
The campaign secured in excess of 3,500 items of radio coverage with more than 250 stations taking part and enabled Waterstone's to “own” both national and regional coverage.