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Publicity Stunts Can Get Sticky

We''ve been involved with our share of publicity stunts. We helped stage the Subway Houston Challenge, which attracted thousands to weigh-in on the steps of Houston City Hall and pledge to lose weight to help reverse the city''s image as America''s fattest city. We conceived of a landscaping blitz to beautify Houston for the Super Bowl; made the world''s largest cookie shaped like Texas; hosted the launch of a beer brand at the Playboy Mansion; celebrated the anniversary of the invention of the Root Beer Float with a party at MD Anderson Cancer Research Center Division of Pediatrics; and found the biggest belt buckle in the West.

Fun stuff and they worked, not just because they attracted the media, but because they properly positioned the respective clients in the hearts and minds of our target publics.

But you have to wonder about the public relations genius at Deutsch Advertising (yeah, the friend of Donald Trump who appears on The Apprentice and hosts The Big Idea on CNBC) who came up with the idea of trying to break the world record for the largest pop-sickle in the middle of summer in Manhattan. The client was Snapple and it was an unmitigated disaster. Even so, I''m certain there''s some guy at Deutsch trying to convince Snapple that the event was a smashing success due to all the ensuing media coverage (see the CNN story). In fact, according the the New York Post, Deutsch issued a bizarre news release after the event cheerfully claiming the event was nothing but "a great time."

To be honest, I doubt that this will have a lasting impact of how people perceive Snapple. It might even reinfoce the brand''s positioning as being a little goofy and lacking common sense. But it''s never good to have TV cameras zooming in on "The Best Stuff On Earth" spilling down the gutter like sewage. A general rule of thumb in public relations is that you would rather have your target market laughing with you and not at you. Here''s what the New York Post reported:

A 25-foot, 17-ton ice pop made of the supposed "best stuff on Earth" melted in the New York sun yesterday - turning Union Square into a river of Kiwi-Strawberry Snapple.

Bicyclists wiped out in the stream of goo. Pedestrians slipped. Traffic was, well, frozen.

Snapple officials had hoped to get in the Guinness Book of World Records and promote their new line of ice treats.

Instead, New Yorkers got a first-of-its-kind, first-day-of-summer mess.

"It was a big boo-boo," said Kizzy Vazquez, 28, of Manhattan, as she watched the mammoth pink pop ooze while someone with a sick sense of humor blasted "Cruel Summer" over a sound system. "They should have had that [up] before the sun came out."

Firefighters hosed down E. 17th St. between Union Square East and West, and about 100 yards of Park Ave. South, rinsing away a thick, sweet slime.

"No one was attempting to lick it up - but that really isn''t our concern because it isn''t a health hazard," quipped Capt. Michael McLaughlin of Ladder 3.

Snapple''s attempt was a matter of icing a record held by a 21-foot-long, 7-foot-5-wide, 20,000-pound pop in Holland.

The New York contender weighed 34,500 pounds and came in at 25 feet long and 5 feet wide, Snapple said.

But the behemoth didn''t make the record book because it couldn''t stand on its own in temperatures that climbed to over 80 degrees at midday.

"It''s a tough break," said Stuart Claxton of the Guinness Book of World Records on the sticky scene. "What was unsettling was that the fluid just kept coming. It was quite a lot of fluid. On a hot day like this, you have to move fast."

A Snapple rep apologized for the meltdown. Pressed yesterday by the Daily News, company officials said they would offer to help pay for the cleanup.

Dan Keeney
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Author: Dan Keeney
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