25 Publicity Stunts Gone Horribly Wrong

Publicity stunts typically have a bad reputation. They’re the type of things that guerrilla marketers do. They’re not done by respectable institutions. Or are they? After today’s list, you may have your doubts. Not only were these publicity stunts done by large corporations, but they also failed miserably.

How miserably? Well, miserably enough that the companies here paid a lot of money to public relations teams so that they would clean up the mess. So how bad can they be? Pretty bad. The thing about big companies is that it is hard to keep tabs on what everyone is doing.

Even if somebody somewhere along the managerial chain of command had the presence of mind to know that whatever marketing stunt was in the works would not be a good idea, it’s borderline impossible to keep track of everything and make sure that it all rolls out smoothly.

Inevitably, you’re probably going to step on a lot of toes, especially because publicity stunts by their very nature don’t really lend themselves well to oversight.

Depending on your point of view though (bystander, victim, company), even bad publicity is still publicity. These are 25 Publicity Stunts Gone Horribly Wrong.

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Taylor Swift

Taylor SwiftImage: wikipedia, Source: wikipedia

She once did a contest where she would sing for the school that had the most votes. The winning school was Horace Mann, a school for the deaf.


Bill Cosby

Bill CosbyImage: wikipedia, Source: wikipedia

Possibly the worst thing that Cosby’s public relations team could have done was to ask people to make memes of him almost immediately following the publication of rape allegations against him. Believe it or not, that is what they did, with predictable results.


Richard and Mayumi Heene

hot air balloonImage: wikipedia, Source: wikipedia

After claiming that their boy was in a balloon up in the air by himself, a massive military and law enforcement mobilization followed that was covered by media around the world. Eventually, the “balloon boy” was found hiding in the family’s garage. On a subsequent TV interview, the young child gave up the truth when questioned by the host saying his parents had told him it was “for the show.” The parents were later arrested for fraud.


Burger King

Burger KingImage: wikipedia, Source: wikipedia

They ran a campaign where if you unfriended 10 people you got a burger. The worst part? They told those people that you unfriended them for a burger.


Invisible Children

Invisible ChildrenSource: wikipedia

This non-profit’s documentary, Kony 2012, backfired spectacularly in numerous ways when it was proven to be almost completely false and misleading. The maker even ended up having a mental breakdown and running naked through the streets.

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