The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – PR Stunts

By Lauren Sleiman

Let’s take a look back at a handful of the great and not so great PR stunts that managed to catch the eye of the public.


Snapple, a brand of tea beverages, intended to be placed in the Guinness Book of Records by creating the ‘world’s largest popsicle’ made from their frozen tea, which they planned to erect in the middle of Union Square, Manhattan. However, due to the 27 degree Celsius heat on the first day of summer, the 25 foot tall and 17 ½ ton popsicle began to melt and flow out onto the streets of Manhattan.

The Snapple representatives exclaimed they were perplexed as to why it wasn’t unable to withstand the heat. Due to what seemed to be an impulsive and under researched campaign, the Snapple PR stunt failed to meet its objectives.

Lesson to learn:

  • Make sure you have done an extensive amount of research and if it looks like things are going to backfire, don’t decide to take a chance and go through with the stunt anyway. It’s better to be safe than sorry – unless you want to see your stunt literally melt right in front of your face.

Paddy Power

Bookmaker Paddy Power sent two of their workers to gate-crash the Brit Awards dressed as Daft Punk. They got through easily and no one suspected a thing, thinking they were the actual members of the band. That is, until they ripped off their pants to reveal their green Paddy Power underwear.

Lesson to learn:

  • Think outside the box. It doesn’t hurt to be a little bit cheeky and humorous in your public approach!


Perhaps one of the greatest PR stunts in modern time, the ALS ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ became a viral fundraising sensation. Through the power of social media, it raised over $115 million as participants all over the world filmed themselves pouring a bucket of icy water over their heads, all in the name of donating and creating awareness for the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Lesson to learn:

  • Social media and audience participation is your greatest friend!

American Apparel

Mannequins with pubic hair were placed in the display window of American Apparel store in New York. Many scrutinised it, saying that the company was just on the hunt for controversy and that having pubic hair on their mannequins didn’t prove anything. However, the retailer defended their stance on the issue saying, “We created it to invite passers-by to explore the idea of what is ‘sexy’ and consider their comfort with the natural female form.”

While the campaign did strike controversy, it also created conversation. Through the exhibition, the “realness and rawness of sexuality” as one worker described it, was a proposition to society to redefine the concepts of feminine beauty.

Lesson to learn:

  • Redefining society’s norms through a PR stunt will create attention, but it will also have your audience divided depending on their stance on the issue. If it’s for a good cause, you may just come out on top like this campaign did.

Sky Travel

Britain had anticipated the 26th January 2013 to be the most depressing day of the year, due to research that was undertaken and touted by psychologist Dr Cliff Arnell. ‘Blue Monday’ was based on proof that was proposed through the following mathematic model:

[W + D – d]Tq/MNa

The cause of depression would be due to a number of variables including:

“W=weather, D=debt, d=monthly salary, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since failing our New Year’s resolutions, M=low motivational levels, and Na=the feeling of a need to take action.”

However, it was later revealed that this so called ‘evidence’ was all fabricated by a PR firm in an attempt to get people to book a holiday. Arnell confessed that he was paid by the PR representatives from Sky Travel to support the campaign by giving it credence. When this was revealed, there was severe backlash from the public and the company later became defunct.

Lesson to learn:

  • Don’t be dishonest towards your audience and don’t pay other people to perpetuate this. Honesty is the best policy.

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