Our picks for the biggest publicity stunts of the year are not based on effectiveness. Some achieved a goal, while the verdict is still out on others. Regardless, it was as big a year as any for making a splash for doing something outrageous:
1) The Yes Men attack:
The “culture jammers” known as the Yes Men used their knowledge of standard PR tactics–press release followed by press conference–to humiliate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for their unpopular stance on climate change. A number of journalists witnessed the real Chamber spokesman interrupt the fake one. It was all captured on film and immediately YouTubed. In turn the duo scored a lot of legit publicity for their latest movie.
2) Balloon Boy
Delusional father Richard Heene let the media believe his son was flying around Colorado for an hour in a homemade aircraft in a bizarre attempt to gain attention for himself and his would-be pitch for his science TV show idea. Even crazies have an inherent idea of how the media functions, though no one really thought the goofy balloon was a UFO. By sheer impressions, this is probably the top stunt of the year.
3) Skittles: A rainbow of socnet profanity
When Skittles and Agency.com unleashed a pure consumer-generated content ploy to get attention, the social media pundits reacted swiftly with both praise and disdain. Skittles.com was re-skinned for to show its Wikipedia entry, and again to show what people were saying about the brand on Twitter. Given an inch, consumers took a mile and posted all shades of ironic comments and profanity. Did it sully the “sacred” brand? We don’t think so. It’s a 79 cent candy after all, and here we are nine months later still writing about the stunt.
4) GM’s Bob Lutz Races Bloggers
We all know the hit the Big 3 has taken in the last few years in sales, and in image. Remember how the CEOs flew to Washington in private jets to testify in 2008? Now that’s gas guzzling. So we always appreciate when the mouthy Bob Lutz does something cool. When Jalopnik took GM’s “May the Best Car Win” message literally, Lutz put the marketing rubber on the road and met the blogger on the track for a time trial. Lutz lost though showed septuagenarians can drive. Less than two months later, he lost his job when GM’s new CEO came in.
5) The Salahis crash the White House
When socialites Michaele and Tareq Salahi allegedly crashed a White House state dinner in the name of publicity, they made headlines over the slow Thanksgiving weekend. Except it was the same weekend Tiger Woods crashed too. Unlike the golfer, the couple along with their publicist Mahogany Jones handled things surprisingly well, stood their ground and punted the ball firmly back to the White House. White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and the Secret Service both drew heat for the debacle. “Salahi” is now a verb in D.C.