Home ANTHILL TV Eminem 'tea-bagging' (How a publicity stunt can really 'hit the spot')

Eminem 'tea-bagging' (How a publicity stunt can really 'hit the spot')

0

On Monday night, I watched one of my favourite satirists (and the creator of everyone’s favourite fictional Kazakstani character Borat), Sacha Baron Cohen, turn an otherwise formulaic awards ceremony into a YouTube ‘must see’.

If you haven’t yet been hit with an email, Twitter ‘RT’ or facebook wall comment linking to the clip, you won’t yet have heard that Cohen, dressed as a half-naked angel to promote his upcoming film ‘Bruno‘, descended from the ceiling in an elaborate stunt that culminated in the ‘tea-bagging’ of Eminem, to the international rap star’s apparent surprise and disgust.

If you don’t know what ‘tea-bagging’ means, I don’t intend to explain it. You can watch the clip and find out for yourself.

By the way, the clip is not nearly as confronting as the image that MTV has chosen to promote it (So, please don’t let the unfortunate pic put you off).

Cohen, AKA Ali G and Borat, has built a career out of elaborate stunts – some for publicity purposes, most as the main source of humour for his films and television shows. He has gained a legion of fans in this way (and I for one, sometimes ashamedly, am among them).

It is, therefore, with guilty pleasure that I write this post, combining three of my favourite things:

  • Publicity Stunts
  • Sacha Baron Cohen
  • Fun lessons for business

What can we learn from Eminem’s ‘tea-bagging’? (Eight words you never expected to see in one sentence!) And how can the exploits of Cohen and others like him be used to help grow a company or brand?

Let’s face it. A successful publicity stunt can make a business or a career. But it can also break it.

Here are my unscientific dos and don’ts of the publicity stunt (based on several years working in PR but mostly acquired from years watching, with side-splitting glee, others get it so right and so horribly wrong):

Don’t be like Vodafone (or Janet Jackson)

For all the good things Vodafone has done to make us love it, its infamous 2002 publicity stunt created an unhappy legacy for the telecommunication giant’s brand managers for decades to come.

In case you somehow managed to miss it, Vodafone’s “accidental” brand awareness exercise involved two streakers with Vodafone symbols painted on their naked bodies, who took to the field during a Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney.

The event generated enormous publicity and a storm of criticism. On balance, it’s hard to see how a household name could have benefited from the exercise. Vodafone broke the cardinal sin: The publicity stunt must support the brand identity.

Just ask Janet Jackson.

She also learnt this the hard way, when another accident occurred, involving a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ (adding a new expression to the lexicon), back in 2004. Once again, the message didn’t match the brand.

Don’t endanger lives, scare people or get arrested

The first goes without saying. The second don’t can occur unintentionally.

In 2007, the Cartoon Network engaged a ‘guerrilla marketing’ agency to manufacture a scavenger hunt featuring several cartoon character replicas as bait. When more than a dozen suspicious devices described as ‘blinking electronic circuit boards’ were found under an interstate highway and at other sites in Boston, the bomb squad was dispatched, closing down several major thoroughfares and a train station.

The city hit the agency responsible with a $2m fine!

The Chaser has also built a reputation for its outlandish stunts, the most notable when it ‘gatecrashed’ the APEC 2007 summit in Sydney. The Chaser, fortunately for its crew and producers, has managed to avoid serious fines or jail time for its proclivities (much to the chagrin of the politicians of Australian) and the point can be made that the stunts are in sync with their brand (their raison d’etre, in fact). However, by and large, getting arrested in rarely good for one’s reputation.

,

Do use viral marketing

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, yeah! But if a stunt occurs without going viral, you’re pretty much barking up the wrong tree. If you have a stunt prepared, keep the cameras at the ready.

The flash mob concept has mastered the use of digital media in tandem with flash mobsters’ often spectacular stunts. What’s a flash mob? I wrote about the concept in 2008, as part of our Commercial Ready flash protests.

A flash mob occurs where a group engages in seemingly spontaneous but actually synchronised behaviour. We gave you an example of its natural evolution as marketing tool last week, as ‘T-Mobile Dance’. But this early ‘Improv Everywhere’ example remains one of the best (note the use of cameras).

Do employ emotions

The most common emotion used in viral campaigns is humour (or surprise, as a foundation for humour). But other emotions can be just as powerful.

I couldn’t think of a successful publicity stunt by a commercial entity that uses an emotion other than humour. (If you know of one, please let us know.) But the viral clip “Free Hugs”, which was not created for commercial purposes, proves it can be done… and done well!

Do exploit the Zeitgeist

Exploit what is happening right now. Another favourite example was perhaps unintentional. But it occurred in 1938, so who will ever know? Of course, I refer to the infamous debut radio broadcast  of The War of the Worlds, directed and narrated by Orson Welles.

The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast was presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual Martian invasion was in progress.

While it’s still debated whether or not the broadcast created genuine panic, it’s still talked about today, so it must have ‘hit the mark’.

Do stay on message, stay on message, stay on mesage!

When a stunt goes wrong, nine times out of ten it’s because the stunt does not mirror the brand personality of its commercial instigator.

Vodafone is branded for families (not nudies). Sacha Baron Cohen targets offbeat comedic audiences (not members of the FCC).

The message must match the messenger – even when the message comes in a ‘tea-bag’.

Get unlimited access to our FREE business tools…

Need to raise capital? Want to become a more persuasive presenter? Want to master social media? Is it time to overhaul your website? Unlock the library to get free access to free cheat sheets and business tools. Click here for free business tools.