2014 in review – Top 20 PR Campaigns and Stunts of the Year
By Rich Leigh on Friday, December 19, 2014
I’m not one to get too heavy, but 2014 feels like it’s been a pretty big year in the world of PR.
Self-appointed UK PR rent-a-mouth Max Clifford was jailed for some horrible things – after we were all made to wince through some needlessly detailed descriptions of Little Max, a £12k pay gap was found to exist in the favour of male PRs (and talks are ongoing as to how to improve this situation) and, onto something slightly less solemn, I’ve only gone and set up my very own PR agency in the last month, the ingeniously-named Rich Leigh & Company (HOORAY, I hear you in the back cheer – oh, bloody… yep, h- hi Mum).
Before getting into the top 20, and as I have in the last couple of years, I’d like to take this opportunity to ruminate on the year that was for PRexamples.com.
The cold hard facts:
There have been just shy of 400 posts throughout 2014 so far, averaging more than a post every single day, which, given this is an independent website and all contributors are volunteers, I’m incredibly proud of.
That’s down on 2013, but then, the site is entering it’s fourth year now (3rd birthday party happening, end of January in London – details coming in the New Year) – perhaps I need a new gimmick. Dancing girls? Dancing guys? Dancing girls AND dancing guys? In seriousness, I see a marked increase in both contributions and unique visitors when I’m doing more for the site, so therein lies the answer, I think – and now the stress and time spent setting the agency up are out of the away, I’ll have more time.
This year, the site has, on four separate occasions, hit more than 60,000 unique visitors per month. This is a HUGE accomplishment, is much higher than the averages we saw in 2013, and firmly places it in the list of best-visited PR sites, made all the more impressive when you consider that there are an estimated 80,000 PR people in the UK. Cision unceremoniously ignored the site in its recent top 10 PR blogs list, so, pride swallowed, I’ve been in touch and we’ll now be part of its scoring moving forward.
Rick Guttridge, MD of Smoking Gun PR, has been an absolute gent and said, rather than the usual £50 contributor prize given to the author of the most popular post each month (which has, until now, been coming out of my pocket – and, of course, I can’t win it), he will up that prize to £100. In the words of the great Salt ‘N’ Pepa… whatta man.
OK, enough of all that – how was the top 20 decided?
The list is ordered by the number of times each post, all previously featured on PRexamples.com, has been visited, giving as accurate an estimation of popularity as any other metric. The link in each title takes you to each post, where you’ll be able to read more about it.
Before I forget, if you, along with thousands of others, would like to receive the best PR stunts/campaigns of each week, directly to your inbox, click here to subscribe.
PHEW. OK. Without further ado, I bring to you…
The top 20 PR and marketing campaigns and stunts of 2014, in reverse order…
20. Park posters scented with dog food in Match.com ‘barketing’ campaign – to promote its new ’socials’ events – and in particular, its ‘Bark in the Park’ event – dating site match.com has created dog food-scented posters to ensure passing dog owners can’t fail but to be aware.
19. West Ham FC is on the hunt for ‘crying boy’ – After a 5-0 drubbing to Nottingham Forest, West Ham Football Club issued a public statement asking for help to find a boy spotted crying into his dad’s jacket, to offer him a complimentary ticket to the Directors’ Box. Jokes about that being less than a prize have been made, but make them no less valid, so fill your boots. Post by Houston PR’s Inderdeep Gill
18. Giant Shoebox Doubles as Adidas Pop-Up Shop – a really nice, seemingly-social media-led outdoor campaign focusing on Adidas’ best-selling Stan Smith trainers, giving the East-London pop-up shop customers the chance to be part of a celebration of an iconic product, as well as to get their hands on a pair, complete with a 3D-printed customisation. Post by Hope & Glory PR’s Don Ferguson
17. Birds Eye open doors to world’s first pay-by-Instagram restaurant – customers at a pop-up restaurant called ‘The Picture House’ were able to pay by taking photos of their food in this smart campaign to promote Birds Eye’s new Inspirations range.
16. Pirates strung up for first time in 200 years in Thames beach PR stunt – to promote the launch of pirate drama Black Sails, ‘pirates’ were strung up in gibbets on a beach of the River Thames for the first time in 200 years. Nice photo-led campaign by Amazon.
15. 36ft tall Incredible Hulk ‘raises’ Tower Bridge in great projection PR stunt – I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Another big budget outdoor effort, this campaign is as good as you’d expect from a Disney-Marvel tie-in.
14. Mr. Kipling unveil ‘edible billboard’ ad as part of new marketing campaign – food as art is always a winner, and when you throw free cakes into the mix, well, it’s hard to go wrong.
13. Commuters shocked by alien abductions and more in Pepsi MAX bus shelter stunt – as part of its ‘unbelievable’ campaign series, Pepsi MAX duped bus stop-sitters (surely the most preyed on of all marketing victims?) with this clever AR stunt.
12. English town renamed ‘King’s Landing’ in Game of Thrones DVD release PR stunt – Kings Langley. King’s Landing. They sound sort of similar, right? Well, that’s the crux of this campaign to promote the (at-the-time) new Game of Thrones DVD release. As anybody that knows me knows, I’m a sucker for a good name-change stunt, so I’m a fan of this one.
11. “Fuck the poor”: shock-tactic campaign from charity – A great campaign by The Pilion Trust, highlighting how angry people become when confronted with something as distasteful as a sandwich board saying ‘f*ck the poor’, yet how apathetic they are when walking past the same man wearing a board saying ‘help the poor’. Post by WPR’s Jade Mansell
American Apparel – known for its intentionally controversial marketing (highlighted in ex-head of marketing Ryan Holiday’s book, ‘Trust Me I’m Lying‘ – well worth a read) gave its mannequins pubic hair. Cue shock, impressed murmurings and a shedload of shares as a result.
In an incredibly popular stunt DHL were quick to deny they had anything to do with, parcels were printed with temperature activated ink and sent via rivals UPS and TNT. After time in the back of delivery vans, the ink faded to reveal the words ‘DHL is faster’. Post by Taylor Herring’s James Herring
I’m almost sick of saying how good Coca-Cola’s campaigns are. And this one is very good, as you’d expect. Post by WAA’s Alex Mansell
Does what it says on the tin. Some great examples in there for you to seamlessly place into future client proposals, no doubt.
Video game retailer GAME created its very own game, in the style of Goat Simulator. It’s crass in all the right places for me and I personally love the effort that’s gone into this campaign – this isn’t a quick and dirty marketing stunt, some serious time and effort has gone into the brand creating something its audience might just appreciate. Given it was only written up a couple of weeks ago, has done amazingly well to place so highly.
In a brand match made in heaven – and seemingly to promote the then-imminent LEGO Movie release, LEGO teamed up with The Simpsons to create detailed house and character sets. Post by Hope & Glory PR’s Don Ferguson
Way back at the beginning of the year, 18 year old Adnan Januzaj took a girl on a date to chicken purveyor Nando’s, costing him £18. Not unusual for a teenager, right? WRONG, according to the media and the attention-seeker he was unfortunate enough to have decided to date. As a Manchester United footballer, Januzaj earns a reported £30,000 a week and apparently, this means he should have to fork out on every gold digger that crosses his path. Nando’s smartly spotted a quick social media opportunity, and tweeted an image of a £50 gift card, stating that the second date was on them but that he might want to ‘ditch the trackies’ next time. The tweet was retweeted tens of thousands of times. Hat doffed for the obvious but very shareable branded hashtag. Post by Houston PR’s Inderdeep Gill
Ahh, one I remember fondly. In short, a giant octopus caused a traffic nightmare whilst stranded in London’s Oxford Circus, evidently in a PR stunt-capacity.
I donned a deerstalker, adopted a hushed foreign tone and got to the bottom of it for you, my public. Aren’t I good like that? If MI6 is reading, please do feel free to get in touch.
The Royal family got in on this year’s selfie action… or did they? Nope. It’s a lookalikey Mother’s Day stunt by online retailer NotOnTheHighStreet.com – but actually a pretty good one. Post by University of Warwick student Ciaran McCormick (who takes this year’s £100 contributor prize!)
And, finally, the best-read post of the year was…
To promote it’s new ‘Easter-themed’ pizza, notorious trouble makers Hell Pizza decided to pin rabbit skins to a billboard, to a balance of admiration and controversy. Not for the weak-stomached this one, but if you’re looking for a PR stunt that fits the brand, is visual, will get people talking, reaches the audience the brand cares about and highlights the brand’s product/service in a relevant and newsworthy way – this ticks all the boxes.
Thanks to Annalie Brown for letting me know about this early on – as a result of being one of the first to write it up, Redditors got hold of it and that no doubt helped bump it up 2014’s pecking order a couple of places.
Well, that’s it for this year, some absolutely brilliant stunts and campaigns! Thanks for reading and please do share far and wide (well, at least with your colleagues). Here are some links you might appreciate:
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