The U.K. entertainment industry is adopting a bold, and sometimes humorous, campaign to deter would-be pirates.

As part of a multi-million pound, cross-media initiative, the Industry Trust for IP Awareness will hope to transform consumer attitudes by attaching a social stigma to copyright theft.

The message will be passed down through a fictional character, "Knock-off Nigel", a "shabby" pub-going rogue who buys "knock-off" DVDs, illegally downloads music and entertainment content, and generally grabs what he can for free.

From June 1, the £3 million ($5.94 million) campaign, described as the most expensive anti-piracy project of its kind in Britain, will go wide across the country's media and even into pubs, where slogans will feature on beer coasters.

As a taster, guests last night at the campaign's launch in London each received a mug emboldened with the phrase, "This brew's for knock-off Nigel. He buys knock-off DVDs and never makes anyone a cuppa. The tight wad." An accompanying pack of post-it notes offers, "Knock-off Nigels nick everything, even a post-it note."

Liz Bales, director general of the Industry Trust, admitted that the light-hearted advertising approach was a "slow burn" which would take one to three years to yield results. By that time, it is hoped "Knock-off Nigel" will become part of Britons' vernacular.

"We really need to drive a new message to consumers," Bales says. "We've had some success in raising awareness...but there's still a huge amount that needs to be done. And we know that lecturing and hectoring people can make them switch off, so we hope to connect and involve them through irreverence and humour."

A number of other character names had been considered, including "Cheapskate Charlie," Bales tells Billboard.biz.

Bales was flanked at the launch by Matt Brown, executive VP, international Sonny Pictures Home Entertainment and Johnny Fewings, managing director of Universal Pictures U.K.

The executives used the platform of the press conference to unveil new research, which indicates that copyright theft cost the film and TV industry £460 million ($910 milllon) last year, a figure virtually unchanged from the previous year. Losses to the DVD retail sector were equivalent to 14% of the sector's total value and cinema losses equivalent to 13.5%. Almost one in three people in the U.K. are said to be currently acquiring or viewing illegal content.

"The message is 'we're not giving up'," notes Fewings.

An initial commercial burst will begin in June, and a further, beefed-up ad campaign will roll out ahead of the Christmas trading period. At launch, the audiovisual sector will be the focus of the project, Bales admits. But as the campaign mutates, it will encompass all media and industries hit by piracy.

The industry body will continue pushing for greater enforcement and penalties, and is committed to supporting its integrated marketing campaign with a wave of positive PR.

"There's a huge amount that needs to be done on PR," she says.

The Industry Trust was established in 2004 to lobby on behalf of its pan-industry partners of film distributors and retailers.

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