Call a marketing campaign a stunt and you could be heaping on praise or derision. Droga5 has been famous for them, including a faked graffiti tag of Air Force One. And sometimes the stunts are more like bad pranks. Samsung's outer space selfie promotion literally fell apart when it landed unexpectedly in someone's backyard.
But let's (mostly) pass on the crash landings and, instead, celebrate some of the great marketing stunts that brands pulled off during 2019.
Battle for the Bowl
The Super Bowl has developed an underlying second form of competition: that among the advertisers. Which is understandable, given the millions they spend to create and produce extravagant television spots to catch some attention from consumers.
One of the notable stunts, in the form of an advertisement, was the Bud Light commercial that pit the Bud Night against the world of Game of Thrones. (One created by Droga5, by the way.)
It was a strange crossover in which a major beverage company recruited characters from a big media property hit to kill off the brand mascot. Because sometimes a beer can come across a little flat.
Broadway bound Skittles
If the Super Bowl is the ultimate performance medium of marketing, like a visual slam poetry competition, then the marketers for Skittles have gained fame for everything they do outside of their game day ad. In 2018, it was having four potential ads and then, finally, only one of them airing during the Super Bowl, but then only to one person.
This year, it was another stunt.
Yes, a Broadway musical with a song called Advertising Ruins Everything. People paid hundreds of dollars to see it. Genius and twisted work.
Don't drink the yellow water
You can see plenty of spats in marketing that are contrived and dull. Others can be pretty clever. Here's a story of one that involved Vita Coco coconut water, with thanks to Rebecca Jennings, who wrote about it at Vox.
Self-proclaimed artist and, apparently, amateur MMA fighter Tony Posnanski had written a HuffPost piece, arguing that coconut water was disgusting and then tweeted to Vita Coco that "I would rather drink your social media persons piss than coconut water."
Never throw down a challenge if you're not ready for it.
It apparently threw Posnanski for a loop as he responded with two tweets:
And although coconut water is disgusting this is extremely funny.-- Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) May 15, 2019
Gotta offer respect when you've been bested.
The woman in the photo was Lane Rawlings, who was the social media person, according to Vox, and, yes, the liquid was her urine. Posnanski did give his address, but the company sent its new product, which supposedly tasted like coconuts rather than coconut water.
Times Square takeover
How do you promote the stage version extension of the wildly popular Harry Potter novels? By taking over 51 display screens in Times Square on a single night and establishing what might be the largest dedicated multimedia presentation in history.
The presentation stretched over four blocks. The secret world of magic isn't so secret.
This turned out to be a pre-April Fool's prank, but was still a good stunt. Apparently people get a bit concerned about people giving accurate heights on dating sites and apps. Tinder decided to announce a height verification feature.
Ad within an ad within an ad
If meta concepts disturb you, or if you just find them annoying, you might want to pass this section by. Actor, writer, and partial Aviation Gin owner Ryan Reynolds was in an unusual Samsung ad:
During an ad for Samsung TVs that shows an ad for his latest movie, an ad for Aviation Gin appears. As the director says, "You bought an ad for your gin within an ad for your movie within an ad for Samsung TV." Reynolds: "Yes. It felt like the right thing to do."
Dismissing the bigger competition
However, as smart as some of these stunts have been, all respect to Burger King, which, in the U.K., has spent a year hiding a McDonald's Big Mac behind every Whopper. The point was that the latter was bigger than the former. You can't see the Big Macs because they're hidden.
It took an entire year to build up to the denouement. And the line, "Thanks you Maccy D's for having our back in 2019."
A new classic.