What Makes a Good Publicity Stunt?

This headline caught my eye in the London Evening Standard.

 Wanted: party organiser able to wow A-list guests of London’s latest hotel

A list guests? Party organiser? London hotel? It had hot sexy story written all over it and I know for a fact that I’m not the only journalist who stopped in their tracks and though how can I follow this up?  

But the more that I looked,the more sceptical I became. The hotel,it said, was looking for  a cool-hunter with inside knowledge of the London party scene, with an exclusive entre to the city’s most fashionable bars and celebrity hangouts. Yet the whole thing was referred to as a contest, the selection process was an ‘audition’ and the successful candidate, the’winner’. As to whether there was any money attached to this ‘job’, well that was shrouded in mystery.

It put me in mind of ‘The Best Job in the World’. This was the story about the search for an island caretaker who was to live on a remote tropical island for six months on a wage of seventy thousand pounds. It turned out to be a publicity stunt for the Queensland tourist board, yet I think we all bought into that little piece of heaven for a moment.

So what are the rules with publicity stunts? Are they acceptable or not?

Personally I think you have to remain true to the principles of modern marketing. Do not treat your customers like idiots. Do you remember the sham marriage in 1999 when two people who had never met before got married live on a Birmingham radio station? That’s got to be twaddle.

I like stunts which challenge the accepted thinking in brave new ways, like the Dove Real Women campaign, which saw women of all shapes and sizes being used for billboard ads or what about the Women’s Institute famous naked Calender Girls? That stunt was so successful it became a film.

I’m not saying you have to be politically correct. Britney and Madonna snogging on TV did neither of them much harm nor did projecting a naked Gail Porter onto the House of Commons – FHM magazine did very nicely out of that one.

I am indebted to Taylor Herrings great Publicity Stunt Hall of Fame for these examples. Check it out and get this, the Olympic Torch relay, which seems so much an integral part of the whole games hoopla, is in itself a publicity stunt.

Find yourself a stunt that becomes part of the culture, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and you’ll have done a good days work.

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