Today’s guest RepMan post is by WALEKPeppercommer Stefan Prelog.
Today’s GenX and Yers may remember the Nickelodeon’s show “You Can’t Do That on Television,” featuring sketches that were used to set up “sliming” a cast member with green goo when they said, “I don’t know.” This 1990’s show permeated pop culture with its sliming stunt and everyone from ‘The Onion’ to ‘Family Guy’ has lampooned it.
I use this show as an example to highlight the problems with PR stunts. Poorly conceived stunts may generate some short-term exposure, but in the process they risk overshadowing the bigger strategy and the offending company or brand risks getting, well, slimed. But if a stunt is strategic and properly executed it can become memorable enough to live on in the annals of pop culture and maybe even history, i.e., P.T. Barnum famously led 21 elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge in 1884 to squash the growing concern that the bridge wasn’t stable.
So in honor of that unforgettable show, here is the first edition of “You Can’t Do that in PR.” Stunts are rated in effectiveness from one to five slimes.
Snakes in a Taxi
Comedian and former taxi driver Jimmy Failla promoted his book, Follow That Car!: A Cabbie’s Guide to Conquering Fears, Achieving Dreams, and Finding a Public Restroom, by picking up unsuspecting New Yorkers and filming their “holy s*it” reactions as he scared the bejesus out of them with a 10-foot Albino Phython. The snake was real but the danger wasn’t—a professional snake handler hid in the front seat. Nonetheless, the freaked out passengers evoked so much venom (sorry, I couldn’t resist) that the videos went viral and got tons of publicity. Failla was allegedly even approached by two producers who wanted to pull the prank in other places. It’s tough promoting a book and, even though the stunt got a lot of attention, it was a ten-foot reach.
One slime for Failla.
A President Between Two Ferns
Our Commander in Chief makes our inaugural list for his appearance on the Zach Galifianakis online video series “Between Two Ferns.” The appearance was an attempt to encourage people to sign up for health care coverage on the beleaguered government website. President Obama had the timing and chops to counter Galifianakis’ barbs but you had to cringe watching it.
The appearance received an enormous amount of publicity and gave Republicans more fodder to criticize the President. The stunt clearly showed the President’s desperation to get people to sign up on the site.
Two slimes for the Pres.
A Close Encounter of the Underage Kind
James Franco is everywhere. Movies, plays, soap operas, sitcoms, you name it. So when news broke that he had tried to hook up with an underage Scottish girl on Instagram, it looked like exhaustion took its toll. Almost immediately after the news came out, it was reported Franco’s attempted pick up was part of a viral marketing campaign for an upcoming Franco movie called “Palo Alto,” which is based on a collection of shorts which he of course wrote. The stunt has not been confirmed. Franco is either a creepy social media troll or part of a failed movie marketing campaign. But since he’s just so damn prolific, I have to give him a pass.
Until next time, keep your brand from getting slimed and when in doubt, lead a parade of elephants over a bridge. That’s always worth five slimes.