Stunt Marketing Grows Increasingly Divisive (and Unavoidable)

By Michael O'Connell August 1, 2008, 3:27 PM EDT

A Ray-Ban stunt on July 1 stopped New York City traffic for 20 minutes.

Photo: Jemal Countess

Today’s New York Times reports on the growing budget for unconventional stunt advertising, citing some of the biggest hits and misses of the year. Summer brings prime weather for taking branded messages to the streets, and we’ve seen plenty of examples in our different markets. With so many drawing equal ammounts of critism and praise, some avant-garde efforts may do more harm than good.

Missteps, however, seem to remain in the eye of the beholder. A London prank by Right Guard had a street team infiltrate the Underground rush hour commute with small video screens embedded into their clothing. Each time a team member raised his or her arm to grab the rail, the armpit TV played a Right Guard commercial. Despite negative reactions from bloggers (and photo documentation of grimacing witnesses), Right Guard owner Dial was pleased with the effort. “We were obviously hopeful that the Right Guard brand would come out in a good light, which I believe that it did,” Dial marketing manager Nina Daily told Times reporter Stephanie Clifford.

Brian Martin, chief executive of New York marketing firm Brand Connections, shared his opinion of the Right Guard stunt with The Times: “I wouldn’t want to look under someone’s arm,” he said. “I don’t care whether you’re a deodorant or not, it’s just not something a consumer’s going to go home and feel good about.”

This past month we covered a similarly polarizing stunt by Ray-Ban in New York. After the company hired a troop of Wayfarer-wearing actors to stop traffic in Midtown Manhattan by staring up at a Ray-Ban billboard on a nearby building, many wrote in wondering if this kind of advertising is less of an advantage and more of an annoyance.

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