Netflix, Ikea, Coca-Cola, Burger King and more: 2017's top creative PR stunts

PR Stunts

According to Taylor Herring managing director James Herring a great publicity stunt should "stop people in their tracks, deliver a thunderclap of social media chatter and a ton of media coverage."

This year there's been no shortage of brand exploits with supermarkets, film studios and and superbrands alike all trying to tap into some sweet stunt action. Here we chart some of this year's best capers.

1) WAP responds to 'The Whole Chicken' ad from KFC

In response to KFC's 'The Whole Chicken', the World Animal Protection (WAP) unveiled a pastiche of the mural at the centre of the campaign just around the corner from the fast-food chain's UK ad agency, Mother.

WAP's creative consisted of a graffiti installation using the same wallspace in Shoreditch on which Mother launched the initial drive by getting different artists to paint chickens every day for a week. The WAP painting, however, implored pedestrians to find out the "whole truth" about KFC chicken by directing them to the #ChangeforChickens hashtag.

KFC reacted by slamming the stunt saying WAP's images and videos were not taken at a farm affiliated with the brand.

2) Guerrilla clown marketing in Australian cities promotes IT film

Australians were unsettled on the streets by a marketing stunt for Stephen King horror movie adaptation IT.

Pennywise the Clown was plastered across the likes of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne with street art all promoting the movie launch.

In addition to this activity, red balloons were anchored into drains reminiscent of those balloons Pennywise uses to lure kids into his subterranean lair. The text, ‘It is closer than you think. #ITMOVIE in cinemas September 7’ accompanied the balloons.

3) Thorpe Park undead billboard horde promotes The Walking Dead attractions

A marketing campaign for Thorpe Park promoted two Walking Dead mazes based on the long-running AMC show.

The billboard ad was reportedly soaked in over 50 kilogrammes of animal organs and entrails to shock passersby.

The installation, which is mounted on a truck, toured London. Some of the zombies got free from the billboard taking to the streets with sandwich boards and golf sale signs.

4) Netflix promos new series Disjointed with branded pot to get binge watchers baked

Video streaming company Netflix launched Netflix-branded marijuana to promote its show Disjointed.

Thematically the pop-up shop, which ran Friday to Monday, tied in with Disjointed’s premise. The show is centred on a woman’s trials and tribulations in opening a marijuana dispensary, while the pot products were sold solely for promotional purposes to those with legible medical documentation, in line with the state’s laws, the marketing drive gained substantial coverage.

5) Pop-up shop perches itself on sheer rock cliff for mid-climb shopping

Outdoor brand 37.5 Technology opened a remote pop-up shop 300 feet up on the side of a cliff in Colorado to cater to climbers on the go.

The Cliffside Shop was opened by materials maker Cocona Inc, which makes the 37.5 Technology fabric, which is found in performance brand products like Carhartt, Tommy Bahama, Katusha, Mission, Bauer, Kenneth Cole, Babolat and others.

The stunt shop was opened on the Bastille Wall in Eldorado Canyon, just outside Boulder, Colorado and supplied climbers with apparel from Adidas, Rab, and Point6, allowing them to test the gear in real-time. Though visible from the ground below, the pop-up could only be reached by climbing routes of varying difficulty on the sheer rock face.

6) How Ikea responds to the news HBO's Game of Thrones uses its rugs as costumes

HBO's Game of Thrones is one of the most spectacular and fully realised worlds to ever grace TV, however, costume designers have been cutting corners, using Ikea rugs as pelts and capes for some of its extras - which Swedish retailer was all too happy to jump on.

In the show, the northern-dwelling Nightwatch, led by commander and king of the north Jon Snow, wear animal skins as to not freeze when winter comes. Instead of decking out the soldiers in real pelts, costume designers elected to take a trip to Ikea to buy Peta-approved Faux animal skin rugs.

Responding to the news, Ikea decked out some of its staff in the rugs in a real-time marketing stunt, jumping upon the Game of Thrones bandwagon in an organic way.

7) Match.com immortalises eligible bachelors as 3D printed dolls for dating pop-up shop

Match.com turned some of its eligible bachelors into dolls to show the range of people using the service.

With the help of 3D printing, the company immortalised in plastic seven men, each encapsulating a unique type of romance available to female suitors on the site.

The marketing stunt called ‘Model Males’ saw the men exhibited in a pop-up shop for any women fancying a quick browse of the wares on their lunch breaks.

8) Discovery Channel pits Michael Phelps against (CGI) great white in Shark Week promo

Michael Phelps, record holding US swimmer, raced a Great White shark in a promotion with the Discovery Channel.

The 23-times gold medalist failed to outpace the shark on a 100-metre stretch but only by two seconds. Some viewers expressed disappointment that the Great White was in actual fact a CGI effect based on the recorded swimming speed of the shark.

Phelps, who wore a specially-fitted shark swim cut complete with a fin, said: "Honestly, the first thought that went through my head when I saw the shark, there’s probably very little chance for me to beat him.

"They swim so fast, it's almost like a bullet. I don't like taking silver medals but I'll take one against a Great White."

9) Volvo Trucks achieves the Guinness World Record for largest object unboxed stunt

Volvo Trucks North America achieved a Guinness World Record as it unboxed one of the largest objects ever delivered, a Volvo VNL, Volvo Truck.

Creating a buzz around breaking a record, for the launch of its new model, Volvo VNL, Volvo Trucks recruited the assistance of three-year old Joel Jovine to assist with the unboxing.

For the title, the silver VNL model was packed away inside of a 80’ x 14’ x 18’ box, which was opened with the help of the child.

In order to obtain the record, the box had to completely encapsulate the Volvo VNL and had to be opened manually, without tools. Further, the truck had to be removed from the box without destroying the box during the process.

10) White Walkers receive a chilly reception across Britain in Game of Thrones marketing stunt

White Walkers swarmed the UK as part of Sky's promotion for the return of Game of Thrones.

While marketing around the show already includes a live ice-melting stunt, a chatbot and an unaffiliated Duolingo High Valyrian course, comms agency Taylor Herring brought the benevolent spectres of the north to British landmarks for a photoshoot that also signifies the show’s invasion of popular culture.

11) Hasbro toys tour London in Transformers: The Last Knight stunt

The Transformers touched down across London in an photoshoot looking to promote Michael Bay’s fifth Transformers movie in addition to the toys.

Artist and photographer Darryl Jones lined up the new range of Transformer action figures across the capital, including before Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and Parliament.

The activity from comms agency Bite global saw the Hasbro toys, Sqweeks, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Grimlock enjoy a series of activities across the capital including busking, painting and skateboarding.

The troop of heavily made-up monsters graced Hadrian’s Wall, as well as Oxford Circus, Tower Bridge and The Tower of London, before they advanced on Buckingham Palace’s Throne Room.

12) Spider-Man dangles from London’s heights in Homecoming stunt

A Spider-Man stunt double appeared across London to promote the latest Spider-Man film.

It included a photoshoot atop London’s BT Tower and Heron Tower, topping off a tour of the capital.

Spider-Man: Homecoming stunt double Chris Silcox made the ascent wearing an authentic movie suit.

13) Burger King ‘abdicates’ title in wake of row with Belgium’s royal family

Burger King opted to ditch its regal title in the wake of global controversy surrounding a cheeky advertising campaign which invited the public to choose between King Phillipe of Belgium and a Whopper burger when asked ‘Who is the king?’

The public poll saw voters select the Belgian head of state by a slender majority of 51% to 49% forcing the fast food chain to ‘abdicate’ its hold on the regal title by rebranding itself simply as ‘Burger’.

The creative stunt was overseen in collaboration with French ad agency Buzzman, who created a rigged poll via a custom website which made it impossible to choose Phillipe over the meaty sandwich by repeatedly asking royal fans to reaffirm their decision before ultimately shrinking the ‘oui’ button and flying it off screen.

14) Coca-Cola looks to heighten appeal among teens with bottles that turn into festival wristbands

Coca-Cola created detachable bottle labels that double up as festival wristbands as part of a stunt in Europe.

Comprising eight bottle designs, the push ran in Romania and was developed by McCann Bucharest. Each iteration of the packaging featured a peel-off writstband which could help young people access some of the country's biggest concerts.

To find out whether they have won a spot at a gig, customers had to download an official Coca-Cola app and scan their wristband. If they were lucky then the wearable would serve as their ticket.

15) Airbnb stunt lists entire country of Sweden

In a twist on the way tourism boards promote their places, Sweden listed the entire country on Airbnb.

Created in partnership with MDC Partners-backed Swedish creative agency, Forsman & Bodenfors, it celebrates the nation’s “freedom to roam”, a principle, protected by law, that allows people the right to be free in Sweden’s vast, natural beauty.

The format follows the familiar Airbnb format, but it is unlike the typical booking process, as, due to the law, the land is publicly owned and entirely free and accessible to all.

16) Magners urges Londoners to get their shorts on in ‘Seize the Summer’ stunt

Magners promoted the launch of its summer campaign encouraging Londoners to wear a garish pair of yellow shorts to win prizes.

The experiential stunt marked the unveiling of the four-month ‘Seize the Summer’ campaign will also saw packaging integrated with 400 EasyJet prizes, each worth £1,000, with the intent of getting solstice celebrants swigging cider on a foreign beach.

17) Citymapper trials pop-up bus service

Citymapper’s pop-up bus route in London was positioned as a live experiment for the app’s developers and not merely a marketing stunt.

The CMX1 circular route ran between Blackfriars and Waterloo, picking up and dropping off consumers for free. The green bus, which was supported by Transport for London, offered a number of extra features to customers, including wifi and USB charging ports.

18) EasyJet to go ‘Live’ on Facebook for first time with immersive theatre experience

EasyJet tested Facebook Live for the first time with the latest iteration of its ‘Why Not’ campaign.

Londoners were able to attend a 15-minute immersive theatre experience.

After walking through an easyJet cabin door, participants were met with a full-size merry-go-round where they sit as a full cast of actors sing and dance around them.

When that experience ends, they could then wander round a French food and wine market which was set up with the help of the Cote D’Azur’s tourism board.

19) In the Dew VR Beat Drop, Mountain Dew becomes the latest caffeinated drink to take to the skies

Mountain Dew tapped digital agency Firstborn to create a 360-degree video to welcome a new line of premium beverages.

The experience, the Dew VR Beat Drop, features a party on a decommissioned military plane from which guests leap into the sky.

The 360-video was hosted on Mountain Dew’s VR hub, as well as on YouTube and Facebook 360 and in the Samsung VR store.

20) Kodak pulls mobile wiping stunt on unknowing Londoners

Kodak joined forces with Imperial Leisure to take to the streets of London with a custom charger as part of a stunt 'wiping' people’s mobile phones.

The experiment, a collaboration between the creative agency and the Kodak Moments app, revealed how people react when their phones are wiped by mistake.

It was promoting the fact that the app allows people to save their photos by printing them straight from their phone.

21) Tennent Caledonian launches three new beers with Loch Katrine projection

Tennent Caledonian promoted its new range of premium ales with a projection stunt at Loch Katrine, north of Glasgow.

The loch, where the brewer sources its water, fed into the new range, the Outpost IPA, Double Hop and Hopscotch.

The proposition, ‘to light up the beer scene’ was reinforced by the projection stunt which saw the legacy brand make a move against craft brewers in the region with its own line of products in the category.

22) Kong: Skull Island promoted via Google Maps

Legendary Pictures promoted the launch of Kong: Skull Island by having Google Maps feature the wild island on its service.

The marketing stunt showed 200 photos of the island and directed users towards the movie’s website ‘discoverskullisland.com’.

23) Morrisons bakes up pie taster role for shamed Sutton FC goalkeeper following Sun Bet stunt

UK supermarket Morrisons tapped into a pie-based scandal at non-league football side Sutton FC, offering the club’s former reserve keeper an ambassadorial role.

46-year-old Wayne Shaw was under investigation from the FA under allegations of illegal gambling all revolving around his half time meal, a greasy pie, dined upon during Arsenal's 2-0 FA Cup victory on Monday.

While there's no illegality around the consumption of high-fat pastries during matches, bookmaker Sun Bets offered odds on the feat on top of its one-off shirt sponsorship of the club.

24) Universal takes the Fast and Furious brand on the road as a live event

Universal Pictures partnered with Brand Events to launch Fast & Furious Live, a global live-arena tour, which will debut in 2018.

The activation opens up the cinema franchise to a new audience by recreating some of the seemingly absurd stunts and scenes committed to film across the eight films.

Search The Drum Jobs

Explore the best jobs in Marketing and Media industries
View all open jobs