Great Publicity Stunts In History That Backfired Horribly

Great Publicity Stunts In History That Backfired Horribly

Inspired by the recent tatvertising stunt to promote the fourth instalment of the Millenium series, it’s B&T list of all the many ways that publicity stunts can fail miserably.

Posted by ERIN MARY Doyle

The Girl In The Spider’s Web (2015)

Hachette Australia has backed down on its recent ‘tatvertising’ marketing stunt, The promotion would involve an open casting call for women who were keen to have a free dragon tattoo, like the protagonist in the series.

The head of publicity at Hachette Australia, Anna Egelstaff, said the company has made the decision not to go ahead with the campaign.

“We conceived the tattoo aspect of the campaign with good intentions for fans of the series and fans of tattoos,” Egelstaff said.

“However, some people have been offended. As this was never our intention. We have listened and we have decided we will not continue with the tattoo element of the campaign.”

South Australia (2011)

In a tourism promotion for South Australia, 55 dead goldfish floating in glass bowls were sent out to media executives. The goldfish bowls were inscribed with the message: “Be the big fish in a small pond and come and test the water. SA”

Advantage SA chief Karen Raffen apologised: “On behalf of Advantage SA, I would like to personally apologise for any offence caused by the arrival of the fish. It was certainly not our intention to either harm or cause any distress to the fish or those receiving the invitation.

“In hindsight we would probably not do this again.”

Dead Man Down (2013) 

What would you do if you stumbled across a murder in progress? The promotional team for Colin Farrell gangster flick Dead Man Down decided to answer this question by staging a fake murder in a lift. Some helped. Some turned and ran. One person took a photo.

LifeLock Security (2006)

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LifeLock CEO Todd Davis really trusted his company’s technology. In 2006, Davis plastered his social security number on billboards, online, TV commercials to prove that LifeLock’s services would protect his identity.

It didn’t. Davis’s identity was stolen 13 times and the Federal Trade Commission fined the company US$12 million for deceptive advertising in 2010.

Iron Man Three (2013)

To promote the latest Iron Man movie, a Jefferson City Movie Theatre hired a fake gunman to crash the screening and scare the crap out of movie-goers. This stunt went ahead despite the actual Dark Knight Rises shooting, which killed 10 people and wounded 70, happened less than a year before.

People called the police, and an Army veteran who went to the movies claimed the stunt triggered his PTSD. (2005)

Karolyne Smith looks in mirror after having Golden tattooed on her forehead in

The online casino was involved in a notorious tatvertising campaign back in 2005. A struggling Utah woman Karolyne Smith auctioned off her forehead to the highest bidder. The online casino paid US$13,000 to have it’s web address inked across her face.

Smith claimed she did it to raise funds for her son’s private education, enthusing: “I really want to do this. To everyone else, it seems like a stupid thing to do. To me, $10,000 is like $1 million. I only live once, and I’m doing it for my son … It’s a small sacrifice to build a better future for my son.”

Hold Your Wee For A Wii (2007)

A California woman competed in a radio competition to win a Nintendo Wii console. The competition was to see how much water competitors could drink without going to the bathroom.

It was a terrible idea because a competitor, Jennifer Strange, 28, died from water intoxication after the stunt.

Lenskart (2015)

After the devastating earthquake in Nepal, an online eyewear brand sent SMS notifications advertising an online discount:

Lenskart quickly sent out a “sorry we messed up” apology:

Have we missed a failed publicity stunt? Tweet us @bandt and we’ll add it to the list.