Experiential / PR

PR stunts – The Good, The Bad and The Very Ugly.

Three recent PR stunts brought to mind that hoary old chestnut of an argument – do stunts count as experiential?

The answer’s simple: No. And yes.

Let me explain. Experiential events frequently garner media attention, and as such can be described as stunts. Stunts, on the other hand, frequently grab media attention, but rarely engage consumers – so experiential they are not.

Confused? I’ll explain by example.
Let’s start with The Good.

Ogilvy One hired former pickpockets and sleight-of-hand experts to target London commuters – they slipped tablet, wallet and smart-phone size cards into passers-by pockets and bags. The cards carried the simple message that if they can get this into your bag, they can get it out.

Printed wallet with message.

Printed Smart Phone with message.

The cards directed people to the putpockets.co.uk website (hosted on CrimeStoppers) which shows the ‘putpockets’ in action, the tricks they use and how to protect yourself from pickpockets.

As a ‘stunt’ the event worked well – it got good media coverage. And as a piece of consumer engagement it can’t be faulted. After all it got inside people’s bags and pockets. And from there into their consciousness. It also had a simple call to action and was social-media friendly. Big ticks all round.

Now for The Bad – Skoda.

To mark the launch of the new Yeti Outdoor, Skoda encased its latest car in a block of ice and dumped it in London’s Covent Garden.
Why? Why indeed.

Car encased in ice, Covent Garden, London.

At this point I’ll leave it up to Skoda’s official spokeswoman, Sarah Chapman, to explain why:

“We’ve commissioned some research and what we’ve discovered is that people are really down in the dumps. The weather has been poor. And actually 80% of people want to break free from everyday life and have more adventure and excitement in their lives. So here today we’ve frozen the new Yeti Outdoor inside a block of ice. It’s really a visual metaphor for breaking free and having that sense of adventure.”

So the research told them that most people want more excitement in their lives… I hope they didn’t pay too much for this gem of an insight.

Now as a stunt, this has managed to get some press coverage – but maybe not as positive as Skoda was hoping for.

Less than glowing media coverage.

As a piece of consumer engagement, it is quite frankly dreadful. People buy cars on appearance. It’s human nature. However looking at the new Skoda encased in ice is like peering at it through a shower curtain. While chopping a large juicy onion.It’s not the best way to show off your latest vehicle.

But credit where credit’s due; they have at least created a competition. You can win the car by guessing the weight of the car and the ice combined. I entered online via a very dull page on the main Skoda site. And for my troubles I didn’t even receive a Thank You email. So much for CRM.

There may well be an idea in there struggling to get out – I hope it has a very large ice axe.

And now for The Ugly.
Luxury brand Louis Vuitton scored a spectacular PR own goal with this woefully miscalculated PR stunt.

Louis Vuitton suitcase stunt, Red Square, Moscow.

They created a two-storey replica of one of their suitcases and sat it smack bang in the middle of Red Square. The plan was for it to be a space to house an exhibition about how travellers have used the brand’s luggage in the past. (No, it didn’t sound very exciting to me either.)

As for media coverage, it certainly got that.

Sky News reports stunt backlash.

NBC reports backlash over ill-considered PR stunt.


But as for consumer engagement, it got a big fat ‘Nyet!’ all round.

Not only did it cause a Twitter storm, even politicians got in on the act. This is what Valery Rashkin, a Communist member of the State Duma (Russia’s parliament) had to say:

“I am ashamed of our country for putting a suitcase on its main square, this sacred area that should be protected by the state.”

He then went on to call it an “eyesore.”

How did it all go so horribly wrong? I think the technical term is ‘Cultural Sensitivities’. Someone, somewhere, didn’t do their homework.

If brands want to engage their customers it’s hard to beat a strong piece of experiential. But like all great creative, it takes time and effort to arrive at something truly inspiring. Rarely will that come out of a one-hour ‘brainstorm’.

So the challenge is out there to experiential and PR agencies. It’s time to get your creative thinking caps on and Dump the Stunts.

5 thoughts on “PR stunts – The Good, The Bad and The Very Ugly.

  1. Pingback: PR stunts – The Good, The Bad and The Very Ugly. | brand thoughts… | The Place to Share

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s