Last night, I spent almost 40 minutes of would-be Masterchef indulgence poking through online sites in an attempt to verify the authenticity of this clip.
Instead of watching another culinary car-wreck send a willing contest home, I got to see a misconceived marketing stunt launch an unwilling donkey into the skies above the Seas of Azov in southern Russia.
Flying donkey shocks beach-goers in Russia
According to the UK Telegraph and various Russian reports, the donkey ended up airborne as a result of an impromptu advertising campaign by several Russian entrepreneurs to attract beach-goers to their private beach.
Yet, surprisingly (like der), the stunt turned sour when the donkey began screaming in distress. Watching children began to cry, and the donkey’s landing was less than perfect.
Apparently, donkeys don’t like being strapped to paragliders. Who’da thunk it?
The seven stupidest marketing stunts of all time
Of course, the ‘Paragliding Donkey’ stunt got us thinking. Based on dim-memory, subjective reasoning and a (slightly self-conscious) desire to create a traffic accumulating list of massive link bait longevity (like this one), we’ve created what we’re (rather ambitiously) calling…
The seven stupidest marketing stunts of all time!
(The stunts are presented in no particular order.)
For all the good things Vodafone has done for the world (like… ummm… this is awkward), its infamous 2002 ‘expose’ of a publicity stunt created an unhappy legacy for future brand managers of the telecommunication giant.
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.
Janet Jackson’s ‘Wardrobe Malfunction’
The pop singer also learnt this rule the hard way, back in 2004, when a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ (adding a new expression to the lexicon) ‘accidentally’ exposed her right breast, partially covered by a nipple ring, for nine-sixteenths of a second. Jackson copped a fine, that was later overturned, while the NFL announced that MTV, which produced the half-time show for Super Bowl, would never be involved in another half-time show again.
The theme of the half-time show was intended to promote MTV’s Rock the Vote campaign to encourage younger people to get out and vote. Once again, the message scored the least exposure.
Cartoon Network ignites Bomb Scare
On January 31, 2007, much of Boston and the surrounding cities of Cambridge and Somerville was shut down and put on high alert when a mysterious electric package was spotted near a subway.
The device had wires coming out of it and was suspected to be a bomb.
Of course, the offending objects turned out to be battery-powered LED placards with an image of a cartoon character called a Mooninite. (Of course!)
The placards were part of a guerrilla marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, a film based on the animated TV series Aqua Teen Hunger Force on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim late-night programming block.
A high ranking city official claimed that the ‘devices’ were so realistic that a Bomb Technician decided to detonate one rather than take the chance of it being a real bomb.
Two young marketers were arrested for the stunt and the head of the Cartoon Network resigned.
Let’s just say, the campaign bombed.
Vegemite’s iSnack Attack
Few Australian marketing campaigns have copped more consumer and industry criticism in the recent past than Kraft’s first foray into social media marketing.
The crowdsourcing experiment, designed to name a new version of Vegemite, delivered an omnibus of naming options from Vegemite fans (10,000, in fact).
Yet, according to speculative newspaper reporters at the time, the final name, iSnack 2.0, was chosen by a panel of “marketing and communication experts” to appeal to a younger market, capitalising on the popularity of Apple’s iPod and iPhone.
The choice immediately drew almost universal criticism. Several critics also pointed out that the name is not even original; iSnack is the name of an energy bar manufactured by South African company PVM Products and is also the trademark used by an American Corn Chip manufacturer (iSnack).
Splinter Cell Stunt Attracts Armed Police
It’s typically not a good idea to wander over to a bar and threaten patrons with a fake pistol as a way to promote something.
And yet that’s exactly what happened in April of this year in New Zealand when an actor showed up at a bar with bandages wrapped around his hands and a black imitation handgun, which he proceeded to point at the people drinking outside, causing panic and sending them diving for cover.
Police officers said they could not tell the gun was plastic until they had taken it from the actor. The stunt, to promote the release of Xbox title Splinter Cell Evolution, was understandably condemned by police.
Charges were laid on the night. But not, unfortunately, on the credit cards of aspiring gamers.
Toyota’s ‘Stalker’ Game
Viral games have become pretty common in marketing. For example, if you sign up for a game about an upcoming movie, one of its characters might send you e-mails and leave you telephone messages with passwords in them to help you navigate a complex website.
Last year, Toyota launched a game called The Other You to promote the Toyota Matrix. The twist was that you weren’t playing for yourself. You signed up an unwitting friend. Then that friend got stalked by a stranger who called them and said they were going to come to their house.
Yup, uninvited stalking sanctioned by Toyota. Of course, when a Los Angeles woman finally discovered that Toyota was responsible for threatening e-mails, a link to a fake MySpace page, a fake bill in her name for trashed hotel rooms and other forms of ‘pretend stalking’ that terrified her for five days, she sued for $10 million.
Surprisingly, that came as a shock to Toyota.
Now it’s your turn…
So, what’s number seven? The paragliding donkey, of course! If you know of any others, leave your comments below. If there’s a video to embed, we’ll embed it.