23 December 2016 Business Consumer Affairs

Stunts are dead. Long live PR Stunts!

Here are our top 3 from 2016

PR stunts are designed to raise eyebrows. Despite the great work out there, there’s no real formula (apart from the sheer creativity) for what makes a stunt work. It could be a simple idea, an activity planned for months or a smart and spontaneous response to world news or events. There’s no limit to the lengths that creative teams will go to create a positive buzz for their clients in the media or on social.

There have been many great and not so great ideas in 2016 but in a year when the majority of conversation was around the worst that the world has to offer, we’ve looked to the stunts that have given us light-relief from the vagaries of the world we live in. In no particular order….


  1. The mystery of Dr Watson’s baby’s name

Sherlock is a series that prides itself on keeping its viewers guessing, right up to the closing credits. Yet fans were frenzied when producers quietly offered clues about the upcoming fourth season’s naming of Dr Watson’s new born.

In a simple and wondrously fantasy meets reality stunt, producers revealed the name of John Watson’s new-born child in an announcement in the Daily Telegraph’s births, deaths and marriages register, which sparked an enormous online debate between fans speculating the upcoming storyline.

This simple and cost-effective announcement in The Daily Telegraph was used by PRs as a catalyst to start the conversation around the fourth season, keeping the fans engaged and interactive on Twitter and Facebook long after the paper was printed.


  1. Ghostbusters takes over Waterloo station

To help Sony Pictures promote the release of Ghostbusters in UK cinemas this summer, Waterloo station became the centrepiece of a two week PR campaign. In a no-expense-spared stunt, the iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man appeared at Waterloo station, accompanied with slimed security cameras and logos over the underground entrance doors.

A pop-up unit created to look like a New York Subway entrance was also set up in partnership with Forbidden Planet (world’s largest and best-known science fiction, fantasy and cult entertainment retailer), enabling commuters to buy limited edition Odeon tickets, and ghostly goods. Promotional staff encouraged station goers to call Ghostbusters HQ with “Who you gonna call?” handouts and drove lots of sharing on social channels with the hashtag #GhostbustersWaterloo.

OK, so Ghostbusters is a gift for PR and publicity and with budgets like this you can’t fail, but this campaign was fun and extremely successful and was shared all over social media by commuters.

  1. Humanoid Army roam London landmarks

On the 3rd October, an army of 20 Humanoids descended upon three popular London locations as a publicity stunt for Sky Atlantic’s new sci-fi show ‘Westworld’.

Along with the PR campaign, a survey of 2,000 people was conducted, revealing that 58% of Brits were worried about the impact robots would have on the future, and 41% thought humanoids could destroy humanity.

Sky Atlantic wanted to explore what life would be like if this became a reality, focusing on the future of AI. The stunt left an impact on the public and started a conversation about what the future may be like with robots in control.

Stunts and surveys may be standard PR fodder but what’s interesting here is that they’re all entertainment brands. These properties seemed to have cut through an otherwise desolate media landscape with some fun, perhaps because other non-entertainment brands were just too afraid to be so frivolous. Whatever the reason, these publicity teams definitely made our year!

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