5 Risky but Effective Ways to Gain Publicity

controversy feature image
Image by: LoboStudioHamburg
By Dexter Lunde

When it comes to marketing schemes, none are more controversial than the publicity stunt. There are plenty of things that can be classified as publicity stunts (from functional billboards to sending pop stars in space) so what, exactly, is a “publicity stunt”?

Wikipedia defines a publicity stunt as “a planned event designed to attract the public’s attention to the event’s organizers or their cause.” As you can see, the definition encompasses a lot of things, not just the controversial stunts that put people in danger or shed bad light on someone, just to put him or her in the limelight.

Publicity stunts are still risky though, because they are often shocking. They have to be in order to gain the public’s attention. These days, the more shocking the stunt, the more likely everyone will see it. However, just because they are risky, that doesn’t mean that they have to be negative. Here are some “positive” ways to get the public’s attention.

#1) Functional Advertisements

Functional advertisements are a great way to advertise and help out the public in the process. Last year, IBM launched a campaign of billboards which helped to advertise their company and help the public at the same time. One billboard was attached to the side of a building and had a curved top that served as shelter from the rain.

Another billboard that they launched (also attached to the side of a building) served as a ramp as well. It was sturdy enough so that wheelchairs and people carrying heavy luggage could roll themselves and their belongings up the ramp instead of trying to haul it up the stairs. And another billboard in their campaign was curved at the bottom and served as a bench.

The key to using this type of advertising is to make sure that your ads won’t actually hurt the public or damage property. IBM did a great job with their campaign. Consider taking a tip from them.

#2) Water-Based Graffiti

Water-based graffiti is everywhere these days. Companies use artists and water based paint to turn their ads into clever and beautiful pieces of urban art. There are even companies that specialize in these types of advertisements. The Jack Agency is one example of this; they specialize in “urban communications”.

Since it is water-based paint, the designs are visible but wear off after a while and can be easily removed after you’re done with this particular advertising campaign. For these campaigns, the best ads are both eye-catching/bold and make some kind of statement.

#3) Social Media Models

With the big anti-airbrushing campaigns going on, companies have been turning to Facebook to get some great models for their clothes or products. It is a great choice. Advertise on Facebook, tumblr (like Diesel did), Twitter, or any other social media outlet that you prefer.

If you’ve got a unique market (somewhat funky, geeky, punky, or if your market follows fandoms throughout pop culture) Tumblr may be your best option.

Choose a model that stands out, has a great following on that social media outlet, and displays the unique personalities that your target market follows. With these types of advertising campaigns, you can gain a great following and showcase your love for the modern woman (not just skinny models). Consider “everyday fashion shows” as well.

If you can swing it, DeviantArt has a great following of artists as well. Consider a campaign which will showcase artists with their art, and your products. This would work with clothing, art tools, or even furniture.
Your own fans and “regular” people are a great option and resource that has yet to be tapped in most markets.

#4) Child Imaged Concepts

Children have great imaginations. Utilize this tool by holding a contest that will showcase your market’s children’s imaginations. Challenge them to create something great and/or magnificent out of your products.

If you can’t utilize that with your products consider tapping into a different target market. High school students have great imaginations as well. Consider challenging them to create something with your products that could help your community or people in general.

#5) Flash Mobs

Flash mobs are great. They catch peoples’ attention and are usually taped and spread throughout the internet via YouTube. Depending on your products, you can use this idea in different ways. If you sell clothes, you could dress the participants in your products and have them finish by spelling out your brand or store name.

Remember that flash mobs aren’t necessarily just song-and-dance acts. They can be anything where a group of people gather together at one spot to perform some kind of synchronized or organized action or play. Meet with some local writers and have them write out an interesting ad campaign that will showcase your products. Then gather people from your local community theater or advertise on social media for participants.

Now it’s your turn. What has been the most effective publicity stunt that you can think of? Has your company utilized this idea in your ad campaigns?