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Fox: “Oscar blunder or marketing genius?”

Image: Via the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' Twitter page

Image: Via the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' Twitter page

Was this week's gaffe at the Oscars actually one of the most cunning 'shock-awe marketing stunts ever'? This was the question Fox Business posed in an article the day after the 89th Academy Awards.

With the Oscars' TV ratings on the slide in recent years, the PR guy inside me desperately wanted to believe the Academy had orchestrated it all in a bid to boost ratings. Did they deploy Emma Stone as a ruse to distract PricewaterhouseCoopers' Brian Cullinan from his duty of handing out the award winners envelopes? Sadly no.

Cullinan, the PwC partner who handed Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope, tweeted this picture just three minutes before they walked on stage to present Best Picture.

Cullinan, the PwC partner who handed Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope, tweeted this picture just three minutes before they walked on stage to present Best Picture.

PwC's reputation is now being questioned in the media and experts say it's suffering as a result. For what is arguably the world's most prestigious accounting and consulting firm, renowned for its accuracy, it's not a good look.

However, Fox Business was right to raise the question of whether or not it was a PR stunt. Marketers are forever trying to find ingenious ways of boosting ratings and increasing sales through these kinds of cleverly concocted stunts.

Thinking outside the box

At a time of media saturation and hyper connectivity, we need to try and find new and creative ways of reaching and connecting with our target audiences. Here are three organisations which have done that really well:

Tui

The Kiwi brewery launched an ingenious stealth marketing campaign when it helped Waiuku builder Sean Brown, and his mates, to plumb his brother's house with beer. The prank has been viewed more than 10 million times on YouTube and attracted worldwide media attention. Watching the video you'd never have known Tui had any involvement, there were a few subtle pieces of product placement but essentially the boys involved were the stars of the show.

Stealth marketing is essentially any strategy that advertises a product or service without the audience knowing they are being marketed to.

In actual fact, it was all part of Tui's 'Always Something Brewing' campaign put together by Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand. Its creators describe how it took months of planning, a team of the brewery's best beer technicians and 14 cameras to pull it all together. Tui didn't shy away from its involvement and the prankster, Sean Brown, openly admitted in interviews that Tui had helped but that it was all real.

Tui then ran adverts on television to capitalise on the attention it had garnered. It was all backed by extensive social media support, billboards, point of sale marketing and promotions.

Volkswagen

Have you ever seen a children's slide in a train station? Before Volkswagen was engulfed in the emissions scandal the German automaker benefitted from an ingenious experiential marketing campaign which saw them set up a temporary slide in a train station in Berlin.

Experiential marketing is a strategy that directly engages your audience and enables them to physically interact with your brand.

It's the kind of thing that could be replicated here in Auckland at Britomart station. You'd be giving commuters a fun, quirky and different experience in what is an otherwise monotonous routine at the end of their day. With a well-chosen hashtag you could easily see it trending on social media. And with the aid of a PR firm it could generate media coverage and get people talking about your organisation.

In a B2B context?

Creative marketing strategies are often overlooked in the B2B world but some organisations have pulled them off to great effect. Saas provider Chargebee wanted to make an impact at an industry event in San Francisco so dressed up as nuns and stood at the entrance to the venue holding large tablets with the 10 Commandments of SaaS. As a result, they secured a media interview, gained some traction on social media and left a lasting impression in the minds of their target audience.

It was a risky approach, but as they explained, they knew their audience and felt it was a risk worth taking. It got them the exposure they were looking for and it only cost them $400 and a few hours of their time.

Guerrilla marketing is a way for organisations with a limited budget to promote their products or services in an unconventional but memorable way.

Whether it's at a trade show, conference or public space, guerrilla marketing is an underutilised tool at your disposal, and one that can often generate media attention and traction on social media.

The PR potential is huge so if you're in need of some out of the box ideas, get in touch with us at The Clarity Business on 09 950 2690, on LinkedIn or via Twitter @ShapeTheMessage.

By Daniel McCabe