London, we have lift-off

Fair-trade company cafédirect gets a boost when Damon Albarn and others perform in the London Eye for a select few.

Having criticised Bob Geldof's plans for Live8, Damon Albarn has found an African-flavoured arts festival that is much more his cup of organic coffee.

Having criticised Bob Geldof's plans for Live8, Damon Albarn has found an African-flavoured arts festival that is much more his cup of organic coffee.

Tomorrow Albarn will climb aboard one of the pods of the London Eye to give an exclusive performance to an audience of no more than 20. During the half hour the capsule takes to complete a single revolution, the Blur singer has agreed to perform songs "inspired by visions of Africa" in order to raise money for the fair-trade hot drinks company cafédirect.

In other capsules, ticketholders will get close-up concerts from Beth Orton and Turin Brakes or an intimate performance from actors with the Royal Court Theatre or a stand-up routine from comedian Jo Brand. In total, 96 performances will take place for the lucky 2,000 people who obtained the £21 tickets.

The extraordinary event, called Flight 5065 (named after cafédirect's instant coffee brand), has been three months in the planning and - as well as breaking new ground in the arts - could revolutionise British marketing. Rather than using traditional advertising platforms, cafédirect is attempting to market its brand through live performance, creating a buzz through word of mouth.

Robin Smith, creative director of the advertising agency Host, which planned Flight 5065 for cafédirect, says: "This would have made a good television commercial but we wouldn't have had any money to air it. We are creating a new media platform for cafédirect."

The success of such an approach is dependent, he says, on providing high-quality content that not only raises the status of the brand but also gives customers a story to relate to friends. He says: "The power of this kind of marketing is that if we do it right it lives with people for a long time. Whereas the average ad does not live with you for much longer than you are looking at it."

Cafédirect, which works with 250,000 growers in 11 countries, enjoys considerable goodwill from celebrity supporters. Nonetheless, it is a commercial organisation that needs to convince consumers that they are getting a high-quality product for what is a premium price.

Helen Ireland, communications director of cafédirect, says: "We've always tried to be a pioneer and do things today which we hope other people will do tomorrow." The London Eye neatly fits the coffee's branding of being "uplifting" and the Flight 5065 event is designed, like the drink, to arouse the senses. "It's important that there's a synergy in what we are doing," Ireland says. "When you do something in a positive way people engage with that. They will talk to their friends about their experiences of being in a pod with Damon Albarn or the Royal Court Theatre."

The event was modestly advertised through the London Calling flyer distribution outfit and emails from Ticketweb. Three ads were placed in The Independent, showing a digitally created image of Madonna as a coffee grower, which in turn generated editorial coverage in the Daily Mirror. The concept for Flight 5065 grew out of an earlier cafédirect project - also devised by Host - called The Lift, in which "audiences" were invited to step into a steel box, the size of a standard elevator, and be entertained by performance artists. The project, initially staged on Brighton beach, was transferred to the Edinburgh festival, where it was critically acclaimed.

The idea of both these projects, according to Smith, was to mirror the close relationship between cafédirect and its tea and coffee growers in the developing world through the intimacy between the performers and the audience in a confined space. "It really is quite intense," he says. "I've read tons of pieces about the holy grail of holistic marketing and that's exactly what we are trying to achieve: to make the idea live in the client."

Host itself is not so much an ad agency as a network that does not retain employees but builds teams of specialist workers for specific projects. For Flight 5065 the team is 300-strong. "We get high-powered people working in short bursts," says Smith.

There is one drawback with the project, he acknowledges. This radical form of marketing is difficult to evaluate. "You just have to watch the heat and look for a lift in sales," he says. "It's hard to measure but much more fulfilling."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Reach Volunteering: Volunteer Trustee with Management, Communications and Fundraising

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission, Benefits, OTE £100k: SThree: ...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada