Behind the headlines: The Dragon

When we got asked to create ‘a visual installation’ for Cadw, it was a bit of a dream come true. After years of asking if we could attach cool things to castles, they finally let us!

From the offset, it was crucial that it became more than just a (pretty good) stunt! It needed to tick lots of boxes – from creating social media buzz and achieving widespread coverage, to driving visitors to site and inspiring an interest in Welsh history.

After meeting with Wild Creations to discuss ideas, we decided on a dragon. But not just any old dragon. It needed to be a lifelike, mythical monster – and boy, did the 15-strong team deliver on this!

Dragon in clay

The Dragon as a clay sculpture

A lot of time went into strategic planning and working out how the installation could fit into Cadw’s wider spring campaign to get the most out of the stunt.

As a patriotic nation, we felt the perfect time to unleash the dragon would be on St David’s Day, and we used the opportunity to launch Cadw’s Historic Adventures campaign – which brings visitors never-seen-before events and experiences during Visit Wales’ Year of Adventure. The last two months have seen us create new, exciting events, including a Six Nations screening and Cwrwfest: Cadw’s very own beer festival, with the aim of driving visitors to sites.

Media reaction

This was an unusual story in the sense that there wasn’t one until the Dragon actually appeared. And by this stage, we might have been too late to get media along.

So we arranged photography of the final stages of the Dragon in workshop and set up a GoPro camera to capture the full build (which was edited into timelapse footage). We spoke to media the day before the reveal and offered up the multimedia content under embargo.

We knew WalesOnline had a hugely engaged community of users on social media and, if they shared the story, it was going to take off, so we worked closely with their team to ensure that the story was live before 9am.

Digital Development Editor, Steffan Rhys, said: “As soon as I heard the idea I realised that it had potential to be hugely popular. And when I saw the pictures and who was behind it, I strongly suspected it was going to be widely shared and read.”

And Steff wasn’t wrong. The channel’s original Facebook post has reached one million users organically and nearly 200k users have read the associated article. We went on to secure blanket Welsh coverage, nationals including BBC Breakfast, Newsround, Daily Mirror and Telegraph online, and even CTV AM Canada!

WalesOnline post goes viral

WalesOnline’s community reacts to Dragon stunt

Public reaction

What started out as a media call ended up as a fully-fledged event as visitors flocked from all over south Wales to see the dragon. And they loved it! Luckily, the Dragon will be staying at Caerphilly Castle until the summer before moving north, allowing visitors plenty of opportunity to visit the dragon, and the castle.

Here’s (a very damp) Zara and I after a crazy day managing the crowds!

Safeguarding the Dragon

Safeguarding the Dragon

Social media

As hoped, we went viral with more than 300k timelapse views (and that’s just the ones we can measure!). Social interaction was brilliant with great public feedback and celebrities even got in on the action too!

Game of Thrones' Iwan Rheon shared his pride!

Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon shared his Welsh pride!

Historic Adventures is off to a flying start and we’re all super chuffed with the results so far! Here I am talking about the campaign…

Leave a Reply