By Rachael Barthelmes, Intern
20th Century Fox recently took the hype around the film Prometheus to another level with their eerie installation in the Saint-Martin subway station in Paris. The installation was arranged to resemble the alien world featured in the film, including a large blue alien head as its focal point. The Saint-Martin subway station has been closed for 73 years now so passengers can only catch a glimpse of the alien world when riding by; but the sight of ‘the big blue head’ has proven to be more than enough to capture the attention of both subway goers and media outlets.
PR stunts can often be a source of controversy, but when executed correctly they have the ability to garner great amounts of media attention for free. Additionally, PR stunts give some control over what is reported in the media about the product, company and campaign. But what in fact makes a PR stunt successful? Simplicity Marketing Inc. provided a few useful pointers to assure that your next stunt is a hit:
Your PR Stunt Should Make Heads Turn
Remember that a newspaper’s goal is to sell papers. For them to put a story on their front page, they first need to know that the story will turn heads. Make sure your PR stunt has true attention-catching potential.
Your PR Stunt Should Be Related to Your Company, But Not an Advertisement
Your publicity stunt should be related to your company, but your company should not be the main event. When Pillsbury first did their “Pillsbury Bake-Off” event in 1949, it was designed as a publicity stunt. People from all over the world submitted recipes and it got a ton of coverage. This definitely helped sell Pillsbury products. However, the Pillsbury brand was just the sideline. The bake-off was the main event.
Go Where the Press Are
If you’re a small company, it can be hard to get the attention of the press, even with a great campaign. So what can you do? You can go where the press is. If you don’t have the contacts or the leverage to create a press conference yet, then leverage events and topics where the press are already at. PR stunts require creativity and often also require a ton of effort to pull off. However, the resulting free publicity is often much more effective than spending money on advertising.
Not all PR Stunts are as successful as Prometheus’ Giant Head Display. Some in fact turn out to be massive PR disasters. Check out TechRadar’s list of the Tech PR Stunts that Spectacularly Failed to see what can happen when PR Stunts go wrong.
Skittles and Tweets
In March this year, Mars brand Skittles decided to go social, incorporating a live Twitter feed on Skittles.com alongside content from Facebook and YouTube, on the advice of Agency.com. Trouble was, the feed pulled in absolutely all tweets featuring the name Skittles. Naturally, Joe Public quickly cottoned on to the fact you didn’t necessarily need to be complimentary about the colored candy to get on the page. The page was soon changed, but the Chatter section of the site still leads to a Twitter search for Skittles. A backfire undoubtedly, but it did get everybody talking about some dullard sweets that don’t taste as good as Smarties. Well, they don’t!
Microsoft and Seinfeld
Getting Seinfeld to star alongside Bill Gates was no doubt a stunning stunt on paper. $300 million of paper. But the ads didn’t even reinforce the Microsoft brand properly and Seinfeld was paid a reputed $10 million for appearing. The first ad was a 90-second affair, showing Seinfeld assisting Gates in choosing a pair of shoes. But our ‘favorite’ moment is in the second four-minute vid: Gates is reading a technical manual to a kid at bedtime. “Are there any monsters in this story?” asks the kid. “Yes, but there’s a firewall,” replies Gates. Terrible, terrible, terrible.
Sony gets its goat
Legendary in gaming circles, Sony Computer Entertainment created a storm after a launch event for the God Of War II game in Athens featured a dead goat. “The event was a theatrical dramatization with a Greek mythological theme and, as part of the set dressing, a dead goat was provided by the production company from a qualified local butcher. There was never any question of journalists being able to touch the goat, or indeed eat the soup direct from the body of the goat, as one report has alleged. The goat was returned to the butcher at the end of the event,” said Sony in a statement.
Gates releases the bees
Bill Gates unintentionally released live mosquitoes during his speech at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference in California. A container was supposed to be opened but the insects themselves were supposed to be kept under a further pane of glass. Particularly as attendees to the $2,000-each charity dinner had to run for cover and some even ended up with minor injuries. After, Gates said “well, that wasn’t supposed to happen”, adding that the stunt was designed to draw attention to hardships faced in developing countries. Angelina Jolie was among those who were stung.
Sony paints pretty pictures
Back in 2005, Sony hired graffiti artists to spray-paint major US city streets with pictures of children playing with the PSP. But the street art drew painted responses – some witty, some less so. According to Wired, the responses ranged from a “four-line ditty slamming Sony” to “get out of my city.” Other critics suggested Sony was exploiting the artists. And that wasn’t the only PSP fail.
Vodafone forced to apologize for streakers
At a New Zealand and Australia rugby match in 2002, two streakers invaded the pitch. Only they were wearing Vodafone logos. Harmless fun? Well perhaps, but the cops got involved (as it’s against the law y’know) and arrested the offenders before the game had ended. Grahame Maher, the Vodafone Australia chief, had to apologize after he admitted that he had agreed to pay any fines as a result of the publicity. According to the BBC, Vodafone NZ also had to donate NZ$100,000 (£30,000) to a sports injury campaign.