There’s been an advertising trend over the past few years that’s been hard to miss. Brands are always trying to cut through the noise to capture peoples’ attentions and a great way of doing this is to go big. I’m not necessarily talking about big budgets, but more about big props in big locations. Below are a few examples of big out-of-home advertising in action and a critique of each effort.
The marketing team behind the latest Ghostbusters re-boot conducted what’s known as a “domination” of Waterloo station earlier this year. This meant that all available advertising space inside the station was taken over by Ghostbusters assets for a set time period.
The centre-piece for the domination was a huge version of the film’s Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that was made to look like it was breaking through from under the floor’s surface. It proved to be a huge hit, with selfies of commuters posing next to the prop flooding social media. Buying out the whole of Waterloo managed to give real clarity to the campaign and gave no room for other brand messages to dilute that of the film’s.
Other aspects of the domination included gunge dripping from the ceiling and down security camera poles, actors running around in Ghostbusters clothing and all digital billboards displaying Ghostbusters graphics and trailers. Reactions to the effort have been hugely positive – in contrast to the film it was advertising.
So it begins. This is our first of two, but what could have been many more, examples of brands floating huge props down the River Thames in London. This effort was by PG Tips and its PR team was eager for everybody to know that the tea drinking, cross legged monkey was “made of 110,486 plastic leaves and as tall as a two-storey building”.
Here’s the second example of a brand floating something down the River Thames. This time it’s Airbnb, the home sharing company, who put a house on a barge to promote new rules on short-term lets in London back in 2015. The house had “two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and even a garden complete with a real lawn, doghouse and apple tree.” People could enter a competition to stay on the floating barge for a night.
The listing for the floating house is still online and can be seen here: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/night-at/floating-house
This effort actually tied in well with the service that Airbnb offers, so it managed to really resonate with both those who knew about the brand and hadn’t heard of the brand before. The stunt was picked up by news outlets – the holy grail for PR teams – giving Airbnb an abunance of earned media.
The BBC decided to create a giant Stig for the re-launch of Top Gear earlier in 2016. Referred to as the “Big Stig”, this was a “nine metre tall fibreglass tame racing driver” that was driven through London and placed outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House.
Although not the most inventive of ideas, the Big Stig proved popular and was ultimately a quick and impactful way of generating buzz and hype around the series. What the PR team did well was to not focus solely on the prop, but also its journey through the streets of London.
Both photo and video content was posted online showing the Big Stig’s route to Broadcasting House which generated just as much interest as the prop’s final “resting place”. This shows that it’s not always just about the prop, but how the campaign is activated.
The final example is a bit more left-field. Kwik Fit decided to unleash a 12 foot pedal-powered hamster onto the streets of London to promote its new customer service drive. The question on many peoples’ lips was the same – why a hamster?
The answer was this. A national TV advertising campaign preceded the stunt which told the story of Jaffa the hamster who was rescued by technicians when he escaped from his cage on the way to the vets. Kwik Fit’s marketing director said that the purpose of the campaign was to raise a smile. It certainly achieved this, but how many people would have connected the rodent with the Kwik Fit brand?
It’s an audacious attempt at generating earned media, but maybe Kwik Fit should consider spending next year’s budget on floating something down the River Thames.