PR stunts are a fantastic tool when it comes to consumer PR campaigns and they have long been used as a means to generating mass exposure and capturing the imagination of the masses.
One of the best sited examples of an early PR stunt happened in 1886 when William Crush of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad had an idea to publicise his company.
Crush decided to stage a crash between two full size trains in Crush, Texas (no co-incidence) and invited 40,000 people to watch. The event did generate huge publicity, but poor planning also meant there were fatalities after the boilers exploded.
Almost 120 years later and PR stunts have come a long way – and some of the most effective and exciting consumer pr campaigns of all time have harnessed the power of creative PR minds to shock, engage and educate…. but what are the top ten best PR stunts of all time?
Here we’ve included our favourite examples of stunts that entertained, shocked and engaged and, most of all, made people sit up and take notice.
Disclaimer: For the sake of editorial integrity in the following list we haven’t included any of our clients (because we are good and decent folk). If we has we may have mentioned the likes of Alex Thomson’s daredevil sailing stunt, Ann Summer’s march through Soho or the Mongol Rally – but like we said we didn’t want to seem biased.
Top Ten PR Stunt Count Down
Ten: Mattel – Pink Street
Mattel decorated a whole street in bubblegum pink to increase Barbie sales. The campaign reached 100 million people through media coverage and tied in with national pink month
Nine: Women’s Institute naked calendar
Using baked goods to cover their ‘bits’, eleven members of the women’s institute posed nude to raise money for the charity. The calendar sold almost a million copies, raising money for leukemia
Eight: Blair Witch Project – real or fake?
In the days before YouTube video marketing, the creators of the Blair Witch project handed out tapes of the film to college campuses of ‘real diary footage’. The stunt caused huge debate and was an early example of viral marketing.
Seven: Batman is a Father
A man dressed as Batman stood on the Balcony of Buckingham Palace for five hours holding his banner campaigning for Father 4 Justice. The campaign generated huge publicity leading to further stunts.
Six: Richard Branson – BA Can’t Get it Up
Richard Branson is seen by many as a pioneer of the publicity stunt and we could devote a whole blog post just to his antics. From flying hot air balloons to abseiling down buildings, Branson has always understood the power of PR for his brand Virgin.
One of our favourite Branson stunts was back in 1999 when he jumped on a story about technical difficulties with the London Eye, poking fun at BA
Five: Tokyo Wine Pool
A Tokyo spa filled a pool with wine and allowed guests to splash around – a great way to raise the profile of the new resort!
Four: KFC and the world’s largest logo
In 2007 KFC built the largest logo as a publicity stunt when they relaunched their brand’s image. They shot the logo with Google Earth’s satellite, which generated over 600 million views.
Three: Taco Bell buys the Liberty Bell
Sometimes to generate publicity you need a little controversy. When, in 1996, Taco Bell took out an advertisement in The New York Times that read “Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell”, they received thousands of complaints. Yet the mass publicity around the April Fools day prank generate millions in sales.
Two: Best Job in the World
Sometimes heralded as the best PR campaign of all time, this stunt resulted in mass global coverage worth an estimated $110 million
Queensland Tourism posted a classified ad for the ‘best job in the world’ looking for an island caretaker to spend six months living free rent on an island villa while exploring Queensland.
One: Red Bull Jump
Red Bull have long ceased to be just a brand – today they are a media outlet in their own right, creating some of the most watched viral video content on the web.
Their PR stunt in 2012, which saw Felis Baumgartner become the first person to break the sound barrier falling 23 miles from the earth’s stratosphere, because a global story.
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