This post is coming to life after an attempt at making an infographic design that detailed the different subgenres of the musical genre that I love so dearly. While brainstorming the idea, and after having a small conversation with Rognon, I have a little something more to share from my wonderful world of metal music. So what is this topic you ask? Publicity stunts, my young students, publicity and media stunts. Let’s start with a very basic and obvious question:
What is a publicity stunt?
A publicity stunt is a planned event designed to attract the public’s attention to the event’s organizers or their cause. Publicity stunts can be professionally organized or set up by amateurs. Such events are frequently utilized by advertisers, celebrities, athletes, and politicians.
So what qualifies as a publicity stunt?
Publicity stunts can range from random events to planned events, like a flash mob. The guys over at places like Improv Everywhere are masters at these stunts, they organize events containing hundreds of people to create elaborate or simplistic scenes in public. I’ve seen their YouTube videos with random acts like getting hundreds of guys of all shapes and sizes to go into the New York Ambercrombie & Fitch store shirtless, acting like they were there for everyday shopping and getting pictures taken with the live male model at the store’s entrance. Of course, they were asked to leave after a few minutes.
They also have set up impromptu wedding receptions for newlywed couples directly outside the city building after they had just gotten their marriage licenses as well as set up live action versions of Ghostbusters in the New York public library. A really big publicity stunt they continue to pull is the annual New York City no-pants-subway-ride where hundreds of participants make their subway transits not wearing any…well the name of the event is self-explanatory.
So what is the point of a publicity stunt?
Publicity stunts are designed to make a scene and help people step out of the every day norm.
Memorable publicity stunts
One of the most elaborate publicity stunts has surrounded the movie “the Blair Witch Project.” Does anyone else remember the media frenzy and hype over this film and its events? I do, this was one of those things from 1999 that I remember vividly. I remember watching this movie and being scared out of my mind. Moving on, this movie ended up receiving overall good reviews and grossed over $248.6 million worldwide, making it the most successful independent film of all time and it even created the film subgenre “recovered film.”
Overall, publicity stunts are a form of marketing that have been around for as long as most people can recall. They serve their purpose almost immediately upon arrival and the point is to get people talking. This marketing strategy can be either really good, or really really bad for those who seek to try and push the envelope. But when they do work, they’re almost always golden opportunities.
For example, let’s consider Kim Kardashian’s wedding. Her over-the-top and over-priced wedding followed by a divorce two months later was a very effective publicity stunt. And what about a celebrity like Charlie Sheen? He has been a train wreck and media spectacle on live TV with his random spouts of perceived wisdom:
I have a different constitution. I have a different brain. I have a different heart. I got tiger blood, man. -Charlie Sheen
Of course, there’s the publicity stunts that don’t go over so well. Remember what happened to the parents of “the Balloon Boy?” Or what about Giraldo Rivera’s live TV flop to reveal an empty vault that he and the media hyped up as the lost vault of the late Al Capone? Publicity and media stunts do gain exposure fast, and if a company or group wants to make a splash and is not afraid of a little controversy they can work well. This form of marketing has certainly sparked stardom, rebooted careers, turned flash mobs and pranks on YouTube into pop culture icons and culture standards in social media, Internet marketing and brand marketing.
I Wrested a Bear Once
And now my young grasshoppers, I leave you with a publicity and media stunt from my wonderful world of heavy metal. Earlier this year one of my favorite bands, the Avante-Garde Metalers Iwrestledabearonce (yes, I Wrestled A Bear Once and yes, it’s all one word), were set to release a follow-up album to the 2009 release “It’s All Happening.” The band came out with a press release two weeks prior to the release of their first single off the album saying that they were ditching their current subgenre of metal music and going black metal. The release contained quotes from the band saying that they were tired of being grouped as a “scene band” and wanted to be taken more seriously therefore the new album would be 90% black metal music.
For a band that has song titles such as “The Cat’s Pajamas,” “The Corey Feldman Massacre,” and their biggest hit to date “Tastes Like Kevin Bacon” it was so clearly a joke–and it was. In fact, the whole thing was set up in collaboration with Balbbermouth.net and the band’s PR team as a practical joke/publicity stunt for the new album.
Publicity stunts and the public’s reaction
So what was the reaction to the black metal switch over? Well, in the corner of many black metal fans minds and columnists like Chris Harris at GunShyAssassin.com the reception was rage. But, that was exactly what the band was after. Their point was later revealed and they wanted to show how black metal as a whole took themselves way too seriously. It’s true. The rest of the metal community got a big laugh out of it, though many were still curious as to what would have IWABO’s version of black metal sound like. We may never know.
My point is, when it is all said and done publicity stunts are just another way to truly capture the public’s attention, which is what most outreach and marketing efforts are all about.
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