Ray-Ban last week hired a bunch of actors (shown here) to wear its sunglasses and freeze in place to generate publicity. This was in Manhattan, so most people didn’t notice or care. A few weeks earlier, Philadelphians were likewise unimpressed when Taco Bell staged a similar prank. I don’t think anyone would have known anything about these tired marketing “events” if the PR machines hadn’t shoveled alerts into cyberspace like so much compost on the heap. This got me thinking: The ultimate brand stunt today wouldn’t take place on bustling thoroughfares or packed shopping plazas. The ultimate stunt wouldn’t take place anywhere at all, except in press announcements with images shot months before on sound stages in Vancouver. If some marketer says a public event will happen, and follows up with materials indicating that it did happen, plenty of news organizations would pick it up. “Exposing” the whole thing as a fake would be part of the larger plan and yield even more coverage. Resentment could be deflected by the inevitable corporate “apology,” whipping media frenzy and consumer interest to new heights. At the very least, it ought to be worth a bronze Lion at Cannes, which recognizes bold ideas that aren’t quite what they seem.
—Posted by David Gianatasio