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Social Media PR Stunts Marketing

Why the UK heatwave is too hot for even PR-land to handle

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By Andy Barr, Head Yeti

July 19, 2022 | 5 min read

No ads? No stunts? No social media memes? The heatwave may be the talk of the UK, but for once most brands aren't jumping on the bandwagon. 10 Yetis chief Andy Barr explains why, on scorchingly hot days like these, even the most provocative PRs won't risk being burned.

Blackpool in the sunshine

The UK is sweltering under some of its hottest ever temperatures / Photo by Mark mc neill on Unsplash

This morning, as I released a heatwave-related dollop of throwaway social media content in our agency name, I did think, “Is this wise?” Turns out it's doing pretty well, thanks for asking, but why are brands typically steering clear of the runway-melting, train-track-warping side effects of the great ball of fire in the sky?

I thought back to my failed attempt at a corporate career at brands like Unilever, AXA, a government-owned utility and First Group, working in public relations and marketing, and I can’t think of one consumer or stunt-based campaign we ever did around hot weather. In fact, at each one of these brands everyone was actually on a crisis communications amber warning during hot weather which not only meant a change of light bulb (which often took eight people thanks to the Mick Lynch brigade) but actually meant we were preparing for the worst.

This is why brands are also shying away from big consumer campaigns this time around as well. As a brand, you just don’t know what is going to happen. OK, so you could argue that my old friends over at Wall's ice cream don’t really need to up their marketing during a heatwave but there are other brands in the Unilever stable that could use it as a sales lift. So why don’t they?

Death, there you go, I said it. Nothing causes more twitchiness in a C-Suite boardroom (fully air-con’d obvs) than death. Heatwaves kill people, often not as a direct result of a marketing campaign, or being in the sun, but from underlying medical conditions that become further complicated by the severe weather.

No brand wants to increase the risk of being cancelled, or even worse, appearing before the judge, jury and executioner of UK public opinion, Kay Burley (who I actually love and I am still very sad that she blocked me on Twitter, very sad).

Heatwaves make things go wrong that we cannot reasonably plan for. Imagine Scandi Flyers (I am hoping this is not an actual brand name) doing an “escape the heatwave, come to our colder climates” campaign only for their planes to get stuck on a melted runway in the UK. Think of the memes, think of the cost of the rebrand that would eventually be needed. Oh and, brand afterthought: maybe also think of the human suffering that came with the plane being stuck. No, best to steer clear of a heatwave stunt altogether.

Even the cheekiest of cheeky brands (think PaddyPower and Innocent Drinks, the latter deploying “cheeky” mainly on TikTok) have kept a low profile around the hot weather. It is simply too murky and risky a campaign.

Moving over to agency side and why we don’t all put more campaigns forward to clients, the answer here is simple as well. We pretend it is because we have considered the brand risk but the reality is that any agency boss who asks a team of account executives to plan the floating of something sun-related down the Thames (PR 101 yes I know) would, quite rightly, be told to “fuck off”.

No one is doing anything strenuous in this weather and that includes execs who are usually being drowned in idiotic and practically impossible campaign ideas from account director level and above. They only tolerate idiot bosses in cooler weather. I should know, I am one of them (the idiot boss that is).

Let’s have a week off stunts and PR executions that could end up being associated with death and suffering and instead leave the comms to the Met Office, the government and the NHS. God, I miss clapping for them on a Thursday while silently judging the neighbours that didn’t come out to do so.

Long live PR, and all who sail through her – just not in a heatwave.

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