Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed was National Geographic Channel’s global exclusive live television event which premiered on September 17, 2002. The program took viewers to Egypt’s Giza Plateau to witness new finds about the pyramids and the people who built them – with leading Egyptologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Zahi Hawass, and American archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Dr. Mark Lehner.
With the help of a state-of-the-art, custom-built robot, viewers could journey deeper into the shafts of the Great Pyramid of Khufu further than anyone had gone. For the first time on live television, armchair explorers would find out what is behind the mysterious blocking stone situated some 65 meters along the pyramid’s southern shaft. In addition, they could join Dr. Hawass to open a 4,500-year old sarcophagus of an Old Kingdom official, the overseer of the pyramid construction.
Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed was a global National Geographic Society-wide initiative integrating National Geographic research and expeditions, channels, magazines, exhibits and online.
Through the Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed live telecast and marketing campaign, National Geographic Channel aimed to excite and involve viewers, and to raise awareness about Egypt and the groundbreaking work of National Geographic’s explorers and grantees. The live program also helped to reinforce the Channel’s positioning as a global TV leader in adventure and exploration.
In addition, National Geographic Channel Asia, having signed on HSBC as a regional sponsor of the Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed live telecast, incorporated HSBC’s branding in all marketing communications related to the program.
In Hong Kong especially, a key objective for the Channel was to implement a fully integrated marketing campaign cost-effectively, combining on-air promotions, on-ground exhibits, on-line promotions, publicity and partnership marketing.
To promote Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed, on-air promotion program spots HSBC tags were placed on heavy rotation in a span of 14 weeks on the National Geographic Channel’s regional and Taiwan feeds. Program spots also ran on the Star network of channels including Star Movies, Star World, ESPN and Star Sports.
On-ground exhibits combining photography and information on National Geographic-sponsored expeditions in Egypt were organized in International Finance Centre (IFC) Mall, Central, in Hong Kong, and in Plaza Singapura in Singapore. To bring the subject matter to life, Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass officially launched both exhibits and interviewed with the press. Also supporting the exhibits were the Consul Generals of Egypt.
In Hong Kong, the exhibit also showcased a 2-D acrylic see-through pyramid centerpiece with pyramid shafts and chambers, and Egyptian artifact replicas from the Egypt Consulate. To involve audiences, TV screens showcasing highlights of the Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed program; computer terminals linked to National Geographic Channel’s Egypt microsite; and interactive games were also incorporated throughout the exhibit. Exhibit visitors could for example print out their name in hieroglyphics at the computer terminal and could participate in a pyramid building block game.
To maximize press photo opportunities and to add a festive flavor at the opening, the Channel incorporated a giant National Geographic Channel 3-D yellow border setup, glamorous and colorful Egyptian-costumed personalities, and Egyptian singers and dancers. Habibi Restaurant partnered with the Channel to provide Egyptian food and drinks at the exhibit opening, and at Egyptian food sampling during selected lunch times.
Striking Egyptian-costumed models paraded the streets in Hong Kong, carrying promotional signage and distributing leaflets to raise awareness about the exhibit.
The Channel worked closely with its cable affiliate Hong Kong Cable TV which arranged the live telecast at the TV wall area of the exhibit at IFC Mall on September 17, as well as at the big outdoor screens at Times Square and Harbour City on September 17 as well as the repeat telecast on September 22. At the IFC Mall, on the day of the live telecast, there was standing room only due to great interest from the general public. All the live telecast venues were promoted via press communications and provided opportunities for non cable subscribers to watch the program.
Other promotions included the airing of the Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed promo and exhibit tags on TV screens housed in public buses in Hong Kong; and a schools awareness program where educational packs on Egypt and the exhibit were sent and faxed to principals and teachers.
Regionally, a viral email campaign implemented in two phases were organized, to promote the exhibits as well as the live telecast. Phase two of the email piece incorporated a short TV footage of the program and a contest to win a grand prize of a trip for two to Egypt. The Channel partnered with Abercrombie & Kent to provide a unique 9-day tour combining the fascinating sights of Cairo with a 4-night cruise highlighting the temples and tombs of Upper Egypt.
A parallel contest was also promoted by IFC Mall, as part of a retail incentive scheme; this contest was promoted via posters throughout the mall and at individual retail shops.
Advertisements to promote tune-in to the program and the exhibit were placed in targeted publications such as cable guides and entertainment sections. Co-branding of National Geographic Channel and HSBC was extended throughout all related collateral and premiums.
National Geographic Channel was the top international cable channel in Hong Kong (as well as other markets including Singapore and Taiwan) on the evening of its Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed live replay telecast on September 17, 2002 from 9pm to 11pm.
The September 17th evening telecast of Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed achieved a reach of 203,000 or 10.7% of Hong Kong Cable TV viewers. The program’s highest rated hourly slot (Tuesday 9pm to 9:59pm) for the whole day beat terrestrial channel ATV World and all other cable and satellite channels.
In Hong Kong, the press coverage results for the entire campaign were phenomenal: 72 print coverage, 13 electronic, and 35 online, with an advertising dollar equivalent of US$1.86 million in PR value. There was a very high awareness level of National Geographic Channel’s Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed program and exhibit amongst cable viewers, the media and the general public in Hong Kong. Across the region, covering Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and China, the combined PR quantity was over 503 coverage pieces, with an advertising dollar equivalent of over US$3.4 million in PR value.
As for the viral email campaign which was sent to a select group, the viral effect was almost 20%. In addition, shortly after the launch of the viral campaign, National Geographic Channel’s website visits to www.ngcasia.com doubled.