When well executed, publicity stunts are a great way to create excitement around your brand and show that you can do something fun as well. They can be feats of creative genius that engage the public and add a little colour to the news cycle.
From FHM projecting a naked Gail Porter onto the Houses of Parliament to Prince changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, the PR industry has found some truly ingenious ways to get people talking.
However, PR teams have occasionally strayed from headline-grabbing creativity towards sheer fabrication and are rightly exposed by the media outlets they are trying to court. Here’s my list of the top three not-so-subtle stunts that test the old adage that ‘all publicity is good publicity’.
When Tom Boddingham ordered his novelty monster slippers in different sizes for his mismatched feet, he was ‘accidentally’ sent one in size 13 and the other in size 1,450. A number of major newspapers ran the story complete with a picture of Mr Boddingham sitting in a bed-sized slipper and an implausible excuse from the Chinese manufacturers saying that they’d they had missed the decimal point in 14.5 (with no explanation of the additional zero).
The company later explained that its factory owner, Mr Xie, had “figured it was a sample for a shop window display, so he thought nothing of it being gigantic.”
A little digging by the Guardian’s Polly Curtis revealed that the chap in question looked remarkably like Monster Slippers’ web manager, Joe Jennings, whose twitter account mysteriously disappeared shortly after.
The budget airline has built its PR strategy around proposing controversial cost-cutting measures and then doing nothing to introduce them. From cheap standing tickets that would contravene aviation regulations to a £1 toilet charge that would breach human rights, the no-frills carrier regularly conjures up unfeasible schemes to show how cheap it is.
Other ‘plans’ have included forbidding staff from charging phones, flying planes with one pilot and banning luggage. And don’t get me started on the yearly debacle over Ryanair’s cabin crew calendar featuring scantily-clad stewardesses…
Thrill seekers were left salivating at the prospect of Thorpe Park’s new £20million rollercoaster after pictures emerged showing test dummies with various limbs snapped off. The damage had been caused as the coaster travelled through the ride’s ‘near-miss’ spots.
Somewhat suspiciously, whilst the ride’s designers were able to propel 28 people at speeds of nearly 100 km/h they appeared unable to operate a tape measure. Even more suspect was the fact that the pictures found their way to newsdesks across the country (with a range of mid-ride shots showing some of the most exhilarating turns).
The Daily Mail was suspicious and brought our attention to a number of other headline-grabbing events including “a contest where the public was asked to donate urine to create a ‘signature stench’ for its horror maze SAW Alive and a ban on rollercoaster riders putting their hands in the air due to body odour.”
A blend of marketing advice, PR know-how and topical news commentary courtesy of the Journalista team. We run successful campaigns and communications strategies for a range of clients including health, communities and social care. Stay up to date with our bloggers by subscribing to our RSS feed or blog bulletin.