10. Burj Al Arab’s World’s Tallest Tee-shot, 2004
Dubai Desert Golf Classic invited Tiger Woods to their event in 2004 and paid him $1 million to hit a tee-shot off of the helipad of the Burj Al Arab, the world’s tallest hotel, making it the highest tee-shot in history (that’s if you exclude Alan Shepard hitting balls on the surface of the moon in 1971).
9. SNAPPLE’S GIANT ICE-POP, 2005
Snapple thought that they could construct the world’s largest ice lollipop (or popsicle if you’re that way inclined) and they kind of did. In the summer of 2005 Snapple erected a 25ft tall lolly in Union Square, New York. Strangely they had forgotten summer’s golden rule that in the sun a fool and his ice-pop are soon parted. 18 tonnes of strawberry slush very quickly melted and flooded the adjacent streets causing huge traffic jams and leaving a number of streets unusable. Ridiculous.
8. HOLLYWOODLAND, 1923
The Hollywood sign is one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks and perhaps the world’s most famous sign, but it actually started out life an outrageous publicity stunt for LA-based housing development company Hollywoodland. In 1923 the company paid $21,000 for a 30ft tall, flashing electric ‘HOLLYWOODLAND’sign to be built in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the city. The sign was only supposed to be there for a year but has in fact survived in one form or another ever since. After falling into disrepair by 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce decided to repair the sign but remove ‘LAND’. By the ‘70s it had deteriorated again – but this time a consortium of celebrities led by Hugh Hefner paid for a complete restoration and rebuilding of the letters, allowing the iconic landmark to live on into the 21st century.
7. Guinness Book of World Records, 1954
Sir Hugh Beaver loved his facts, but he loved selling beer more. The head of Guinness Breweries developed the idea of documenting all the world records in one place after he failed to find the answer to a hunting argument that he had been having over the name of Europe’s fastest game bird. He thought that such a book would not only make a great marketing give-away to promote his beer, but it could also be the bible of every pub in the land; putting an end to needless drunken arguments about the world’s biggest and best. In 1954 1000 copies were given away as a marketing stunt, but the book became a surprise hit beyond the public houses – 50 years later had gone on to sell more than 100 million copies across its many editions.
6. LE TOUR, 1903
In 1903 the French sports newspaper L’Auto (The Car) decided to stage a bicycle race as a publicity stunt to increase its circulation. L’Auto’s editors had broken away France’s number one sports newspaper, Le Velo (The Bicycle) but were failing to garner enough readers to keep the paper afloat, when cycling journalist Geo Lefvre suggested that they stage the world’s longest bicycle race as a PR stunt. Le Velo was banned from reporting on the 1500-mile race, and by the end of the event not only had L’Auto began selling six times as many papers than before, but they had also inadvertently given birth to the Tour De France.
5. Calendar Girls, 1999
On the 12th April 1999, 11 members of the Yorkshire Women’s Institute decided to release a nude calendar of themselves as a publicity stunt to raise money for a new sofa at a local hospital. The publicity generated by the calendar was such that they were not only able to buy the sofa but they were also able to raise and donate over £3 million (and counting) to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. The story went on to spawn a hit play, a successful film and countless copycat calendars. Who needs promotional staff for publicity after all? Pretty outrageous.
4. THE TEXAS CRUSH, 1896
In 1896 the aptly named marketeer William Crush decided to host what is certainly America’s strangest and most tragic stunt ever. Crush thought that he could promote Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy) by staging a planned train crash and inviting the whole of Texas to come and watch. How he thought that a train crash would help promote a train company no one knows, but Katy agreed to the stunt and 40,000 people made there to the site. With the audience at a seemingly safe distance, no one anticipated that the trains’ boilers would explode on impact and result in heavy debris and metal shrapnel spraying into crowd, which killed two people immediately and wounding countless others. Expecting a PR backlash, Katy fired Crush on the spot, however the event did not receive much media attention at all at the time and strangely Crush was handed his job back the very next day.
3. K Foundation Burn a Million Quid, 1994
Infamous Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of The K Foundation shocked the world in 1994 when they burnt a million pounds of their earnings in cash on camera. As one the UK’s most successful music acts in the 90s, Bill and Jimmy found themselves sitting on a lot of money and clearly had no idea what to do with it so in an act of – well no one really knows -, they burnt the large majority of the money that they had just earned on film. The shocking stunt is particularly baffling as the K Foundation was not promoting anything at the time and then refused to talk about the burning for 23 years. Drummond later admitted that he regretted his actions and found them hard to justify to his kids.
2. HANDS ACROSS AMERICA, 1986
In 1986 when music manager and film producer Ken Kragen asked everyone in the USA to hold hands in the world’s longest human chain, it seemed like an outrageous publicity gimmick that no one would take seriously. However around seven million people (including President Reagan) came together across 16 states raising around $34 million dollars for charity. Along with the accompanying single, ‘We Are The World’, the stunt raised nearly $100 million dollars to fight world poverty. Nice one Ken.
- Red Bull Stratos 2012
In 2005 Red Bull conceived and began working on the idea of dropping Felix Baumgartner out of a balloon from the earth’s stratosphere (39 kilometres above the surface), which would not only be the highest altitude jump in history, but would also break a number of other world records including: highest ever altitude outside a vehicle, largest balloon ever piloted by a human, highest ever manned balloon flight, and fastest ever speed in a manned balloon. In October 2012 they did it and, as well as breaking the records above, Felix became the first man to ever break the sound barrier without the aid of an engine. He also broke the world record for fastest vertical speed (without drogue): 834.6mph.
Records aside, no drinks company has ever created their own space program to further brand awareness, surely making this the most outrageous publicity stunt of all time.
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