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The Daily Toad: Proudly disseminating sensationalised rubbish since 1645. 20th July 2008.

Arboreal PR company successfully turns around oak's 'wimpish' image

an old oak tree

An oak - once considered the most woosy of hardwoods

a pub sign that reads 'the royal oak'

Now famous across the land

the mary rose warship

Success not without huge sacrifice

The PR company Aspen & Birch were honoured for their 'Oak revitalisation campaign' yesterday at the bi-millenium Arboreal Advertising awards, narrowly beating Beech & Beech's Pro-Yew strategy which has also won high acclaim.

"Of course, we are delighted," explained a jubilant Mr Aspen yesterday, "and the award rightly rewards the huge efforts that have been expended in bringing the Oak to deserved prominence in the public's eyes and nation's landscape."

Up until 1200 AD the oak was a barely-used timber of little or no significance, and risked being maligned behind the market leaders of the day such as chestnut and elm. All this was to change, however, when a small group of Oak elders secured the services of Aspen & Birch, already famous for turning Walnut from firewood to cabinet-makers best friend.

"It was a tricky challenge," recalls Mr Aspen of those early days, when he and his campaign co-ordinators met to discuss strategy, "we had to not only transform the firewood status of the oak, but make it almost fundamentally linked to the nation's character to ensure a long and unassailable positive attitude in the nation's minds."

Deciding on a twin-prong assault on Church and State, Aspen & Birch secured an early all-inclusive deal to supply the nation's cathedrals with massive oak beams to support the cathedral-building fad then at prominence. A further contract to supply the embryonic ship-building industry for over three centuries at minimal cost was also controversial, but vital.

"It was a tall order," said Mr Birch yesterday in an interview for Campaign magazine, "and one that was not at all popular at the time, since it required the Guild of Oaks to sacrifice vast numbers of their membership, a move that sowed discord with the ranks of oaks, who felt the sacrifice too risky."

Although no-one is quite sure who came up with the 'Hearts of Oak' slogan, Mr Aspen is at pains to point out it was just one part of an aggressive campaign to bring the tree to higher prominence. Coupled with the celebrated but equally controversial move to a simple 'lobed' leaf for easy recognition, the idioms now in the language add much to the public's perception.

There was, however, the element of chance, too, as Mr Aspen concedes: "We were really worried about the Civil War as the Republican forces were always very pro-Chestnut." But when the 'which tree shall the King hide up?' contract was put out to tender, quick-witted representatives from Aspen & Birch clinched the deal ahead of Chestnut and Juniper.

"The Royal Oak" brand was the turning point," concluded Mr Aspen, "after that, everything just slotted into place, and now the oak's position is unassailable in the hearts and minds of the British people. Not even the advent of steel shipbuilding did anything to dent the popularity, and in a recent Poll, 'Oak' was the brand most associated with broadleaf forests in the public's mind today."

Josh Hatchett, reporting for The Toad.

Also in your Arboreal Toad:

Pine blames IKEA and MFI for low self-esteem issues

Burred oak breakaway group branded as 'divisive' by Oak Elders

'New Forest' seeks to change name to reflect ancientness

'Ancientness' not a word, OED reveals

Woody Harrelson, Woody Guthrie and Woody Allen to be made honorary trees in surprise ceremony.

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