The best creative PR Campaigns, Publicity Stunts and Brand Activations of 2018
By James Herring on Sunday, December 9, 2018
Twelve months ago we took on the challenge of firing out a daily blog that captures the very best in head-turning brand activations from across the globe.
So if you’re looking for regular creative inspiration there’s plenty here for you.
And if it’s daily tips your after – you’ll need to follow our smashing LinkedIn feed.
It’s been quite a year – in which the site delivered 1.5 Million page views to our 150,000 regular readers. Last month we won a shiny trophy at the Vuelio Blog Awards – for Best Comms site.
ANYWAY without further ado, I bring you my favourite stunts and creative brand activations of the last year.
(P.S a round up of Taylor Herring work can be found here)
#1 Colin Kaepernick x Nike
Nike chose Colin Kaepernick as one of the faces for a new ad campaign marking the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan.
The endorsement deal triggered a flood of debate, with some calling for a boycott of the company’s products but also won the brand a legion of new fans.
Brave and brilliant.
#2 £1M Banksy artwork self-shreds at Sothebys Auction
A Banksy artwork “self-destructed” at a Sotheby’s auction in London after it was sold.
His famous artwork “Girl with a Balloon” was the final lot of the evening sale at Sotheby’s and was sold for £1,042,000.
However, in a twist to be expected from street art’s greatest showman, as the gavel went down – the canvas began sliding downwards through a shredder installed in the frame.
#3 Iceland’s Christmas advert was BANNED
Iceland’s new Christmas advert was banned from appearing on TV, became a national talking point for 7 days and went on to the most watched UK Christmas ad of all time.
The supermarket struck a deal with Greenpeace to screen an animated short film featuring an orangutan and the destruction of its rainforest habitat at the hands of palm oil growers.
The effectiveness of the ad – which has been viewed more than 30m times online – won praise for making huge media impact without ever appearing on TV.
#4 SpaceX sent a Tesla sports car into space
Earlier this year news of a cherry-red Tesla sports car floating in space was in every paper and on every TV show on earth.
A space-suited mannequin was strapped into the driver’s seat, and the car stereo played a David Bowie soundtrack on a loop.
Space exploration (and car marketing) has never been this spectacular or showbiz.
#5 This KFC apology ad was finger-lickin good
KFC put its worst week behind it with this full page print advert which ran in Metro and The Sun.
The trademark bucket bears the jumbled logo FCK in the ads.
It was a tough week for the brand but they won praise for striking the right tone in communications.
#6 Diesel launches authentic fake goods store in New York
Italian fashion brand Diesel launched a fake goods store in New York – selling unwitting customers a limited edition range of hoodies and jeans – ahead of Fashion week.
Canal Street, famous for knock-off goods provided the perfect location for the authentic knock-off store in which Sweatshirts and T-shirts are stamped “Deisel”.
Diesel have a had a solid year with memorable campaigns including Hate Couture and a genius collaboration with a kebab shop.
#7 CALM raises issue of male suicide with sculptures
Suicide prevention charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), sparked huge discussion with eighty-four sculptures of men with hoods covering their faces on top of the ITV South Bank Studios to raise awareness of male suicide.
#8 Lacoste replace their iconic crocodile logo with endangered animals
Lacoste announced that their iconic crocodile logo would be temporarily stepping down from his spot on the brand’s signature polo shirts to be replaced with 10 different and very special critters.
These animals, ranging from the Vaquita porpoise to the Anegada Rock iguana all stand on the brink of extinction.
To shine a spotlight on their plight, Lacoste immortalised each on a limited edition run equivalent to the number thought to be left in existence in the wild.
#9 Swarm of 1,000 drones come together to create TIME magazine cover
Taking creative cover art to the next level – TIME magazine teamed up with Intel for this incredible creation.
The publisher deployed 958 drones to create the iconic TIME logo and red border in midair over California.
#10 Lego create full-scale replica of Bugatti Chiron
Lego partnered with Bugatti to create a full-scale replica of the Bugatti Chiron and amazingly it is fully functional, meaning you can actually drive it!
The model, made with over a million Lego Technic pieces, took around 13,500 hours to build and is said to weigh over 1.6 tons.
#11 Stabilo Boss Highlight the Remarkable
A print ad campaign – that delivered huge social sharing by office equipment giants Stabilo Boss (quite literally) highlights the role of women in history.
The ‘Highlight the Remarkable’ campaign consists of a series of images where women in history, whose achievements have previously gone relatively unnoticed, have been highlighted with the brands signature yellow highlighter.
#12 Dominos filled potholes with ads to protect pizzas from bumpy road damage
Tired of delivering its pizzas on bumpy roads Dominos took matters into its own hands.
The chain has launched a campaign to fix the streets that are mangling its pizzas en route to customers.
The pizza chain said in a press release that they’ve begun repairing these potholes in a handful of American towns because potholes and bumps in the road can cause “irreversible damage to your pizza”.
#13 Deadpool Brings Back Blockbuster Video
Deadpool turned back the clock bringing 90s favourite Blockbuster Video back to the British high street.
With 1,989 copies Deadpool 2 up for grabs, fans queued for hours having resurrected their original Blockbuster membership to claim their free copy – a download version of the film in a limited edition VHS case.
#14 North Face open a shop up a mountain
The American outdoor brand, has always boasted about providing products for the most active.
Not surprisingly then, they are still hoping to get some customers visiting their new pop-up store located in the Italian Dolomites at 2100 meters high.
#15 Tiffany & Co turns New York’s Yellow Cabs eggshell blue
Tiffany & Co turned the city’s famed yellow cabs to the brand’s trademark egg shell blue – in one of the classiest takeovers we’ve seen in a while.
And seven locations in New York were given the blue treatment inspiring an Instagram scavenger hunt across the city.
#16 Corona unveil ocean plastic billboard installation for #worldoceansday
A stunning creative outdoor campaign by Corona for World Oceans Day which was unveiled in London.
A sign next to the installation reads ‘This wave of waste contains the average amount of marine plastic pollution found on every two miles of beach in the UK’
#17 The ‘Last Straw’ for IKEA
Sticking with stand-out anti plastic campaigning – IKEA unveiled their ‘Last Straw’ in a display at London’s Design Museum after they stopped selling single use plastic straws in stores across the UK and Ireland.
On display in the Design Museum the installation acts as a reminder of our collective responsibility to strive for zero waste lifestyles.
#18 First World War fallen portraits created on UK beaches
People gathered on beaches around the UK at low tide on Remembrance Sunday to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the first world war.
Sand artists created a portrait of a war casualty on each beach, later to be washed away by the rising tide. Members of the public were asked to join them in creating ephemeral silhouettes of people in the sand.
#19 Man sends fakes of himself to appear on TV around the world
We live in an era where people tailor themselves online, putting out an idealised version of themselves to the world.
So why can’t we do it in real life?
In the wake of turning his shed into London’s most popular restaurant, Vice reporter Oobah Butler decides to send doppelgängers of himself on a global press tour to improve his personal brand.
#20 KFC uses customers negative tweets to promote new fries recipe
A second entry for KFC and a great example of how embracing your flaws can be powerful creative tool.
KFC changed its fries recipe after customers complained they were terrible – and used customer’s tweets to highlight the message.
#21 British Museum unveils newest acquisition… Mo Salah’s Boots
The British Museum took the football world by storm with the acquisition of Mo Salah’s football boots.
The boots were unveiled alongside objects from Ancient Egypt to tell a story of an Egyptian hero who set European Football alight this season for Liverpool.
#22 The Walking Dead offer zombie life drawing classes
Fox promoted a zombie life-drawing class to promote the new series of The Walking Dead and upcoming exhibition.
The life (death?) drawing class featured a female model in full body walker prosthetics and SFX, posing for a group of passionate artists.
Fans of the show are being offered a chance to have their work displayed in a new exhibition which opens next year.
#23 Ireland’s most famous statue fronts a new breast cancer awareness campaign.
An Irish cancer charity made an important change to one of Dublin’s most famous statues.
The buxom statue of Molly Malone is one of Ireland’s most recognisable and Instagram-ed monuments, attracting hordes of tourists daily.
But would anyone notice the addition of a lump to one of her breasts?
#24 Three rebrands as Three Lions for the World Cup
Three, wanted to show its support for our boys at this summer’s tournament in Russia, it required some smart thinking.
The mobile brand rebranded a number of its retail spaces across England with the language their target audience uses instead: the emoji.
Three lions, the emblem of the England team, adorned shop fronts during the tournament.
#25 Beer brand prints World Cup tweets on lager foam
Raise your beer glasses to one of the more creative brand campaigns of the World Cup
A Swedish beer brand is encouraging fans to put their phones away during the games and “follow social media live on your beer instead.”
The brewer built a printer that uses malt-based ink and scans Twitter for the latest and most relevant World Cup-related tweets.
#26 Chanel creates stunning beach set for Paris Fashion Week
Fashion house Chanel created a stunning beach scene at Paris Fashion Week to launch their latest collection.
A beach was recreated that included blue sky, wooden docks and lifeguards.
The elaborate scene utilised a wave machine to bring waves gently crashing onto the pristine sand.
#27 Paramount stage epic fan screening for Mission Impossible
To mark the release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout , Paramount Pictures organised an epic fan screening at the top of the cliff that rises 604 meters above the waters of the Lysefjord, Norway.
Over 2000 fans hiked and scrambled up Pulpit Rock to watch a special screening of the sixth instalment in the Ethan Hunt saga.
#28 adidas convert Chicken Shop into a Glitch Takeaway
Adidas shut down a chicken shop in Hackney to celebrate the launch of their new Glitch boots.
Fans queued up at ‘Glitch’ takeaway to get their hands on the new boots which were served out of specially designed chicken box style packaging.
#29 Swedish sports brand opens shop where you can swap drugs for gym kit.
Swedish sports fashion brand, Björn Borg have opened a pop-up store in Amsterdam where you can swap drugs for workout gear.
Why? Because you don’t need drugs to get high. The same feel-good substances are released in your brain when you work out.
#30 New York Public Library makes literature more accessible to the masses with Instagram
People are spending less time engrossed in literature because of social media – but New York Public Library has a solution.
The institution has launched an innovative new program called Insta Novels – which involves publishing novels via on their Instagram Stories feed.
#31 Grenfell Tower Campaigners tap into popular culture with “Three Billboards” stunt
Three large truck-side billboards, demanding justice for the victims of the terrible Grenfell Tower fire back in June 2017, were spotted making their way around the capital.
Inspired by and in the style of the infamous banners now featured in the Oscar nominated film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, they contain one simple yet damming question, “71 dead. And still no arrests? How come?”
#32 Deliveroo recreates iconic ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’ photograph
86 years on, Deliveroo recreated the iconic photograph with the help of some very lucky competition winners.
The free ballot offered the fearless few the opportunity to break the cycle and enjoy the most extreme lunch break of their lives.
#33 Greenpeace activists paint Berlin’s streets yellow
The roads of Berlin surrounding the city’s famous victory column have been covered in approximately 3,500 litres of yellow paint by Greenpeace activists.
Intended to resemble the sun and champion the power of solar energy; the stunt was enacted to put pressure on the German government to decrease the amount of coal power plants.
#34 NOW TV recreates Jurassic Park’s most famous meme
To mark the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park, streaming service NOW TV has unveiled a Jurassic-sized sculpture of the film’s heartthrob Jeff Goldblum, in front of Tower Bridge.
The installation plays homage to one of the film’s most iconic scenes…that unforgettable moment when Goldblum’s character – Dr. Ian Malcolm – took a sultry breather, with his shirt unbuttoned.
#35 Huawei troll Apple as new iPhones go on sale
As crowds camped outside the Apple store in Singapore eager to get their hands on the newest edition of the iPhone – rival tech brand Huawei were on hand to make sure their needs were catered to.
Apple’s iPhone may packed with many fabulous features, but lengthy battery life isn’t one of them.
With this in mind, Huawei decided to hand out free power banks to customers along with a little sign that said: “Here’s a power bank, you’ll need it.”
#36 Greggs reverses its sign in clever festive marketing ploy
Passers by the Greggs on Northumberland Street in Newcastle were surprised with a rather odd sight as the store has mysteriously had flipped its sign backwards.
The clever marketing ploy capitalises on some free advertising all thanks to the reveal of the annual festive window display created by the department store opposite.
#37 Emmeline Pankhurst’s great-granddaughter smashed Harvey Nichols windows
Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Suffragette movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst, marked the century of women’s right to vote be recreating an act performed more than 100 years ago: the smashing of Harvey Nichols windows.
#38 Life-sized elephant hologram spotted in London
A life-sized elephant, normally found roaming the plains of Africa, appeared in St Paul’s this morning.
WWF released the elephant hologram, standing at just under five metres, as part of their ‘Stop Wildlife Trafficking’ campaign,
#39 Why Burger King sent customers to McDonald’s
Burger King promoted the relaunch of its app by trolling its biggest rival.
Burger King sent Whopper fans to McDonald’s 14,000 restaurants in order to unlock a promotion for a 1 cent Whopper.
The ‘Whopper Detour’ wass activated via an app that allows people to order a 1 cent Whopper if they are at a McDonald’s (or within 200 metres of one).
#40 Strasbourg Film Festival stages screening of The Exorcist in a church
This campaign takes immersive cinema experience and church restoration fundraising to a dark next level.
Horror masterpiece The Exorcist was screened in church in Strasbourg as part of the annual Film Festival.
A massive thanks to our tipsters, contributors and readers for supporting the endeavour.
If you’d like to get involved please do get in touch we’d love to get more bloggers on board.
In between posts for PR Examples I work alongside some very talented folk at creative PR agency Taylor Herring.