Publicity stunt

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Publicity stunt in Salt Lake City, 1910: "Little Hip" the elephant, advertising newspaper and theater. LittleHip.jpg
Publicity stunt in Salt Lake City, 1910: "Little Hip" the elephant, advertising newspaper and theater.
Austin A40 Sports, c. 1951. To promote the A40 Sports, Leonard Lord, Chairman of Austin, bet Alan Hess of the company's publicity department that he could not drive round the world in 30 days in the car. In 1951, an A40 Sports driven by Hess achieved the round-the-world feat in 21 days rather than the planned 30 (with assistance of a KLM cargo plane) - though the stunt had no eventual impact on sales. Austin A40 Roadster ca 1951.jpg
Austin A40 Sports, c.1951. To promote the A40 Sports, Leonard Lord, Chairman of Austin, bet Alan Hess of the company's publicity department that he could not drive round the world in 30 days in the car. In 1951, an A40 Sports driven by Hess achieved the round-the-world feat in 21 days rather than the planned 30 (with assistance of a KLM cargo plane) though the stunt had no eventual impact on sales.
In 2013 in several large German cities, Planet Earth Account Community Enterprise (PEACE) organized events where money was distributed to the public via a balloon. PEACE Money Balloons Frankfurt Main.jpg
In 2013 in several large German cities, Planet Earth Account Community Enterprise (PEACE) organized events where money was distributed to the public via a balloon.

In marketing, a publicity stunt is a planned event designed to attract the public's attention to the event's organizers or their cause. Publicity stunts can be professionally organized, or set up by amateurs. [4] Such events are frequently utilized by both advertisers and celebrities, the majority of whom are notable athletes and politicians.


Organizations sometimes seek publicity by staging newsworthy events that attract media coverage. They can be in the form of groundbreakings, world record attempts, dedications, press conferences, or organized protests. By staging and managing these types of events, the organizations attempt to gain some form of control over what is reported in the media. Successful publicity stunts have news value, offer photo, video, and sound bite opportunities, and are arranged primarily for media coverage. [5]

It can be difficult for organizations to design successful publicity stunts that highlight the message instead of burying it. For example, it makes sense for a pizza company to bake the world's largest pizza, but it would not make sense for the YMCA to sponsor that same event. The importance of publicity stunts is for generating news interest and awareness for the concept, product, or service being marketed. [6]

Notable publicity stunts

JP Morgan and Ringling Brothers

In 1933, J.P. Morgan was summoned to appear before Senate Banking and Currency Committee due to their suspicions of his previous banking activity throughout the financial crash. During the congressional hearings, U.S. Senator Carter Glass remarked that the proceedings had turned into a circus as things had begun to appear out of hand. The Ringling Brothers as well as Barnum & Bailey Circus were both in D.C. at the time of the hearing. Thus, they interpreted Senator Glass' remarks as an invitation and asked their press agent to place a female circus dwarf named Lya Graf, on Morgan's lap during one of the hearings. While the addition of the small lady surprised Morgan and infuriated Glass, it also got loads of publicity for Ringling Brothers Circus. [7]

Calendar Girls

In 1999, a group of 11 women from the Women's Institute (in Yorkshire, UK) stripped for a calendar to raise money for Leukemia Research. Setting a goal of $5,000, the group of Women's Institute women feared that they would struggle to sell even a 1,000 copies. [8] The calendar released was eventually released on April 12, 1999, and featured all 11 women posing nude – obscured by baked goods, flower arrangements, sewing adornments, teapots, song sheets, and even a grand piano. Despite leaving people of this time stunned, over 800,000 copies of the calendar were sold worldwide. After its initial release in 1999, the calendar raised over 5 million euros or over 4.8 million U.S dollars. This publicity stunt eventually went on to inspire a multitude of media productions including a British comedy film, titled Calendar Girls [9] in 2003, a West End show in 2009, and a musical production in 2012, titled The Girls. [8] Tricia Stewart, one of the original calendar girls, also known as Miss October, even went on to publish her own autobiography, Calendar Girl, in which she retells the initial creation of the publicity stunt and how it changed their lives forever. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Media circus</span> Phrase describing excessive media coverage

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hartford circus fire</span> 1944 mass fatality fire disaster in Hartford, Connecticut

The Hartford circus fire, which occurred on July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut, was one of the worst fire disasters in United States history. The fire occurred during an afternoon performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that was attended by 6,000 to 8,000 people. The fire killed at least 167 people, and more than 700 were injured. It was the deadliest disaster ever recorded in Connecticut.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus</span> Traveling circus company

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is an American traveling circus company billed as The Greatest Show on Earth. It and its predecessor shows ran from 1871 to 2017. Known as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, the circus started in 1919 when the Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth, a circus created by P. T. Barnum and James Anthony Bailey, was merged with the Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows. The Ringling brothers had purchased Barnum & Bailey Ltd. following Bailey's death in 1906, but ran the circuses separately until they were merged in 1919.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College trained around 1,400 clowns in the "Ringling style" from its 1968 founding until its 1997 closure.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Ringling</span> American entrepreneur (1866–1936)

John Nicholas Ringling was an American entrepreneur who is the best known of the seven Ringling brothers, five of whom merged the Barnum & Bailey Circus with their own Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows to create a virtual monopoly of traveling circuses and helped shape the modern circus. In addition to owning and managing many of the largest circuses in the United States, he was also a rancher, a real estate developer and art collector. He was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1987.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pecora Commission</span> American inquiry that investigated the causes of the 1929 Wall Street Crash

The Pecora Investigation was an inquiry begun on March 4, 1932, by the United States Senate Committee on Banking and Currency to investigate the causes of the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The name refers to the fourth and final chief counsel for the investigation, Ferdinand Pecora. His exposure of abusive practices in the financial industry galvanized broad public support for stricter regulations. As a result, the U.S. Congress passed the Glass–Steagall Banking Act of 1933, the Securities Act of 1933, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barbette (performer)</span> American entertainer

Vander Clyde Broadway, stage name Barbette, was an American female impersonator, high-wire performer, and trapeze artist born in Texas. Barbette attained great popularity throughout the United States but his greatest fame came in Europe and especially Paris, in the 1920s and 1930s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crash at Crush</span> 1896 rail crash publicity stunt in Texas, USA

The Crash at Crush was a one-day publicity stunt in the U.S. state of Texas that took place on September 15, 1896, in which two uncrewed locomotives were crashed into each other head-on at high speed. William George Crush, general passenger agent of the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad, conceived the idea in order to demonstrate a staged train wreck as a public spectacle. No admission was charged, and train fares to the crash site – called Crush, set up as a temporary destination for the event – were offered at the reduced rate of US$3.50 in 1896 from any location in Texas.

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Mark Borkowski is a British PR agent and author with an interest in the history of public relations and the art of the publicity stunt. He attended King's Stanley Junior School and St Peters High School in Gloucester and began working in public relations at nineteen years old. As founder and head of Borkowski PR, he is a well-known tv pundit, lecturer and speaker on the art of publicity. Borkowski has a column in The Guardian and has written two books on publicity stunts as related to public relations and has won several awards for his work.

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Feld Entertainment Inc. is an American live show production company which owns a number of traveling shows. The company began with the soon-to-return Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus then expanded into additional live events, including Disney on Ice, Monster Jam, Monster Energy AMA Supercross, and Sesame Street Live. The company is family owned.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Globe of death</span> Stunt where riders ride motorcycles inside a mesh sphere ball

The Globe of Death is a circus and carnival stunt where stunt riders ride motorcycles inside a mesh sphere ball. It is similar to the wall of death, but in this act riders can loop vertically as well as horizontally. There have been three performance-related deaths recorded between 1949 and 1997. The only Globe of Death World Record officially recognized by the Guinness World Records is six riders and one person in the center by the Infernal Varanne team on the set of Lo Show Dei Record, in Milan, Italy, on 13 April 2011. It is sometimes the finale of the circus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bird Millman</span> American circus performer, Ziegfeld Girl

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  2. "Motoring Memories: Austin A40 Sports, 1951–1953". Canadian Driver, June 15, 2007, Bill Vance.
  3. "Money rain over Frankfurt am Main". Archived from the original on 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  4. "Advertising". The Balance Careers. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  5. Cutlip, Scott; Center, Allen; Broom, Glen (1985). Effective Public Relations . Englewood Cliffs, new Jersey: Prentice Hall. pp.  8–9. ISBN   0-13-245077-1.
  6. Horton, James. "Publicity Stunts What Are They? Why Do Them?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  7. "10 Crazy PR Stunts Throughout History". Mental Floss. 2015-08-23. Retrieved 2022-06-27.
  8. 1 2 3 "Real Calendar Girl shares story". Hexham Courant. Retrieved 2022-10-20.
  9. "The 25 greatest publicity stunts of our time". The Drum. Retrieved 2022-06-27.