Some stunts should never see the light of day

Buried_aliveIn this time compressed, ADD-addled, 24×7 news cycle world of ours, marketers are going to ever  greater extremes to break through the clutter.

Some, like the Old Spice campaign, are remarkably smart and successful. Others, though, such as the stunt I'm about to relate are downright dangerous, if not completely harebrained.

So, to publicize the screen debut of a new Ryan Reynolds' thriller called “Buried”, the Alamo Drafthouse theatre chain came up with an unbelievable stunt. They found four local Texas women who agreed to be blindfolded, driven in silence to a burial site 30 minutes away from Austin's 'Fantastic Fest' and, get this, be interred in wooden caskets, lowered into the ground and have shovelfuls of dirt dumped on top of them. The specially-equipped caskets contained flat screen monitors attached to the coffin roof that enabled the women to view the movie.

I wonder if popcorn and a supersized Coke with flexible straw were provided as well?

Wow. That is just so, so wrong. Suppose one of the women just freaked out, had a major panic attack or, god forbid, suffered a fatal heart attack? I'm all for smart, guerilla marketing, but this stunt deserves a special place in hell.

At my firm, we're long on strategy and short on stunts. We'll do them. But only if they leverage a client's strategy and deliver measurable results.

And, while we've never produced anything that could cause potential bodily harm, we have had our share of clunkers. Quite a few years back, we launched an 'innovation tour' of college campuses to underscore one client's commitment to innovative thinking. We constructed huge white boards, took them to college campuses and invited students to write down any and all ideas for making America more innovative. Smart, no?

We received some great ideas from the college kids. But, we also got some unbelievably nasty, X-rated comments about the client and the client's CEO that our team had to quickly delete. All in all, it turned out to be a terrific learning lesson about the unpredictability of stunts.

Burying four people alive may generate some buzz for the movie (hey, I wrote about it), but at what cost? I know nothing about the director or his movie, but I've taken an immediate, visceral dislike for both. And, in my book, that's the antithesis of smart marketing. Why alienate a potential audience with a tactic that may resonate with a few core constituents?

Bury the buried alive stunt, Mr. Reynolds.

4 thoughts on “Some stunts should never see the light of day

  1. Steve, for the fourth time in as many business quarters I could not agree with you more. What’s especially disturbing is the four people who agreed to be buried. Why? To tell a story to their friends? Or, more likely, to get their name in the paper, to have their 15 minutes, to be personally associated with silver screen glamour, to have a brush with US Weekly-style greatness? In the desire for fame, too many people will do things (sometimes on national TV) that put their lives or their families’ lives in danger. And organizations like the Alamo Drafthouse prey upon that. I fear it will take a serious tragedy to reprogram populist opinions on this subject matter.

  2. Indeed and thanks. You’d think that Ryan Howard would at least swing at the pitches v. watching them cross the plate…don’t they teach you to protect the plate as early as Little League?

  3. That would indeed be poetic justice, Lunch. Sorry about your Phils, BTW. Both they and the Yankees went down more with a whimper than an bang.

  4. wow. they should have used david blaine for this stunt. then, if something did go wrong, they get the press and we all win!