Stunt or punt?

Thursday, 17 February 2011, 2:32 | Category : General
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Has anyone else wondered whether Christina Aguilera’s star spangled botching (which set the Twittersphere alight, led to millions of YouTube hits and sparked hundreds of copycat videos) was a genuine error or a calculated risk?

Ms Aguilera’s star has certainly been in decline of late. And you have to say that the explanation of the lyrics being downloaded from Wikipedia has the cold hand of a ‘PR’ all over it (and conveniently ignores that she has sung the national anthem live perfectly at umpteen previous sporting events – see YouTube).
Whether or not it was a stunt, the point is that I am suspicious movie trailers . And that’s because more and more brands appear to be willing to use the web to engineer controversy – and trade off their long term reputation against short term publicity.

Take Marie Stope’s controversial contraception video for example. Their lyrical ‘faux pas’ may have set the chattersphere alight last week and delivered several hundred thousand YouTube hits. But at what price fame? Making a music video that would so clearly result in them being accused of encouraging teenage sodemy and trivialising AIDS is a either brave or stupid (although it probably wont stop them picking up a PR Week Award).

And, whilst on balance, Gap may have just about got away with its alleged ‘logo gaffe’ PR stunt last year…you have to ask whether it was worth the gamble? Yes they got an enormous amount of buzz and engagement online, but the tone of the whole thing made them look clumsy (at best) and I doubt it will sell more beige chinos as a result.
The problem is that immediacy of social media has made it all too easy for a frustrated PR – with a smattering of social media knoweldge – to get carried away with a stunt that ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’. Simply say or do the wrong thing in the right place and you too can go viral overnight and wake up to a world of publicity. Unfortunately though, such campaigns are all too often ill conceived and to the long term detriment of the brand.
And unlike print, web campaigns just can’t be dismissed as ‘tomorrow’s chip wrapper’.
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Here’s five examples (in no particular order), of some of my favourite stunts (on and offline) witnessed during my PR career that also deliver on the brand promise. Let us know yours?
1. T-mobile’s Liverpool Street flash mob
2. Queensland Tourism’s best job in the world
3. VisitLondon’s turf Trafalgar Square
4. Carlsberg’s Champions League prank
5. FHM’s Gail Porter on the Houses of Parliament

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