5 Promotional Stunts Which Have Gone Horribly Wrong

5 Promotional Stunts Which Have Gone Horribly Wrong

Sometimes the key to a successful PR campaign is to push the limits and try something totally new and daring. However, there is a fine line between sensational and scandalous. Below are five companies that learned this the hard way.

#1: Pride Comes Before the Fall
Lifelock, for those unaware, is a company that is supposed to protect your identity and stop fraud. The CEO of Lifelock was so confident in his company that he posted his social security number nation-wide on billboards, online ads, and in TV commercials. He dared criminals to try and steal his identity, claiming that Lifelock would render his information useless to thieves. His identity was stolen thirteen times. To add insult to injury, the Federal Trade Commission fined the company $13 million for false advertising.

Nothing Like a Good Bomb Scare

#2: Do Not Mess With LA’s Morning Paper
To promote the release of “Mission Impossible III”, the marketing team decided to hide little music devices to newspaper dispensers through out Los Angeles. The idea was that when people opened the news dispenser the Mission Impossible theme would play. However, some of the music devices came loose and thus failed to play the theme song. When customers found the broken music devices, they mistook them for bombs and called 911. In one case, a bomb squad was called in to investigate.

#3: An Expensive Lesson to Learn
In 2007 Cartoon Network learned a lesson that is obvious to most folks: do not leave random, strange, bomb-shaped electronics on street corners. In what was supposed to be an ad campaign for a new TV show, Cartoon Network placed blinking electric devices on streets in 10 different cities. This lead to a massive bomb scare in Boston, causing police to call in bomb squads and shut down all bridges in the area. Cartoon Network was fined over $2 million to cover the costs of the emergency response.

Too Soon?

When tragedy strikes, sensitivity is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, sometimes marketing teams forget to check the papers before starting up a new ad campaign. This leads to some shocking, but also kind of hilarious, PR stunts that absolutely fail.

#4: Gunmen at Iron Man 3
A theatre in the state of Missouri decided to hire a team of actors to storm in during the premier of Iron Man 3 dressed as shooters. Sounds exciting and fun, right? No, not really, especially considering that the infamous “Dark Knight Rises” shootings had happened less than a year before. The audience, of course, panicked and called the police. Needless to say, this little stunt did not boost the theatre’s sales.

#5: Department of Defense Forgets 9/11
In 2009, the Department of Defense decided it was time to do a photo shoot. So, they hired a commercial plane to fly nice and low over downtown Manhattan. Not surprisingly, on-lookers were terrified. According to the White House press secretary, Obama was beyond mad about this incident.
So, what is the moral of this post? Do not make your customers think their lives are in danger. Also, do not flaunt your social security number, but hopefully you already knew that.

Clint is a marketing manager and recognises the need to be innovative with his promotional campaigns. He recommends Fluid Branding for an extensive range of promotional product ideas that are a fail-safe option!

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