Thursday, December 02, 2004

Stunt Marketing -- Over Easy

My husband has gotten me into the habit of reading The Boston Globe obits. A November 17th obit for Sandy Giampapa, "Idea Man at Noted Publicity Firm," caught my eye. It outlined the well-lived life of a principal at Boston-based Publicity, Inc., where Giampapa had had the same business partner for 58 years and worked until eight weeks before his death, at the age of 86.

The long tribute starts with an anecdote about a 1940s promotion for a restaurant. During a Boston heat wave, he had the restaurant's well-known chef fry an egg in olive oil on the sidewalk. The stunt generated a ton of attention from the media and passers-by.

It's a good reminder that the field of stunt marketing is not new, but as cutting through the noise becomes more difficult, the stunts become more colorful.

Our client Sun Microsystems has made good use of inventive stunts in recent years. A high point perhaps was this last JavaOne, when Sun celebrated its Tiger release of the Java platform with a real Tiger cub on stage. James Gosling blogged about how cool it was to pet the adorable little fellow and he features a photo where both fellows are looking pretty cuddly. James is that rarest of combinations -- articulate brilliance wrappered in humility. Staffing interviews with the Father of Java has to be a highlight of my professional career. But I digress.

Hyperion kicked off the week with a classy example of stunt marketing, made all the better by the fact that it sounds like the CEO really did cook this up himself because he felt it would be a win-win for the environment, the company and its employees. Staffers who buy a vehicle that gets 45 mph or more get $5000 towards the car, so basically, he's motivating employees to buy a gas/electric hybrid.

As a PR professional and ecofreak, this idea is so sweet it makes my teeth hurt. You know it's going well when you first learn about it in Monday morning's Wall Street Journal. Then last night I heard CEO Godfrey Sullivan on "Marketplace" on WBUR, our local public radio station. (Is the radio equivalent of eyeballs "earballs"?) Sullivan struck just the right balance between crunchy-granola altruism with concern for shareholders. (The company has set aside $1 million for this program.) Key shareholders are sending him positive feedback, saying they are proud to be associated with the company. These folks aren't dumb. The company will earn back most of that million this month in visibility and good will.

In another recent stunt, Jeep launched a promotion for its 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee by pulling a shell of the model up the side of Two Penn Plaza in October. The event underscored the Jeep's all-terrain, rugged nature. This stunt was probably inspired by a similar one by the folks at daring marketing agency Cunning, which scattered full-sized, fiberglass replicas of those cute little Mini cars around London. One was parked on the roof of a movie theater; another was deposited part way up the side of a Leeds hotel.

In perhaps one of the more colorful examples I've come across -- this also from Cunning -- the agency launched "a brand new medium" called ForeheADS. ForeheADS pays students to wear brand logos on their foreheads! So here's another promotion that worked on many levels. The bizarre nature of the promotion generated tons of visibility for the brands they were promoting and for the agency itself. My hat's off to them.


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