As we enter 2019 bright eyed and hopeful, it is almost impossible to not reflect and reminisce on the year that has just passed us. For me, 2018 marked the end of my placement year working as a Regional Communications Content Intern at the Walt Disney Company, Ltd. in London, but also saw my love for all things PR heighten. Living in London and working in Communications exposed my mind to some absolutely amazing and absurd PR campaigns/stunts. The creativity and detail is second to none, and taught me a lot about the logistics behind creating/brainstorming PR campaigns to seeing them gain viral success. From small scale PR stunts or wide scale events, the process behind creating an idea or event and the entrepreneurial nature of PR is something that I strive to be involved in.
On that note (and in no particular order), I think it is only fair to showcase some of my absolute PR favourites from 2018:
- The One with Deliveroo recreating Rachel Green’s infamous ‘Meat and Sweet’ trifle from FRIENDS
Like the majority of the population, I truly am a FRIENDS fanatic (especially now that it graces our screens via Netflix!) so this campaign immediately caught my eye. Back in May, Deliveroo cleverly saw a perfect opportunity to optimise on the 14 year anniversary since the last episode of FRIENDS aired on television. Created by Talker Tailor PR and paying homage to this iconic moment from the show, the £6 trifle is a duplicate of the iconic desert (a concoction of lady fingers, custard and beef) , which saw character Rachel mix-up two recipes stuck together in a cookbook. FRIENDS fans were able to order the trifle via the Deliveroo app for one day only, or get a taste of the action at the Regina Phlange pop-up shop.
In the words of Joey Tribbiani, “what’s not to like? custard, good. jam, good. beef, GOOD!”
- Gregg’s Goes Gourmet for Valentine’s Day
Although Gregg’s is an up and coming dining experience in Ireland, it is a fan favourite franchise in the UK. My colleagues were shocked and appalled that I had never tried the delicacy of a Gregg’s sausage roll or meat pie, so I took it upon myself to try this local cuisine whilst in London. After hearing so much about Gregg’s, it was impossible for me not to spot their Valentine’s campaign day (especially considering the campaign attracted a whopping 350 pieces of coverage).
For some people, love equals a fancy three course meals, to other it equals a meat pastry. Created by Taylor Herring PR, selected shops ranging from London to Newcastle were transformed into restaurants designed for romance. Complete with mood lighting, a cellist, roses, candelabras and white linen tablecloths – this was a Valentine’s Day date you could dream of, and all for just £15 for one day only. This limited edition menu included 4 courses, each with a Valentine’s Day twist.
This cheap but tasteful alternative went down a treat for millennials, struggling to treat their better halves to a romantic Valentine’s Day experience. The novelty of this PR stunt combined with the Instagrammable/ Snapchatable aspect was the perfect combination for a PR success story.
- Marks and Spencer: The Royal Re-Brand
Living in London (did I mention I lived in London this year?) it was impossible to avoid the wedding of the century, an utterly British celebration of the Royal Wedding between Harry and Meghan. As a quintessentially British brand, Marks and Spencer (with their own in-house PR team) became a royal wedding machine and utilised this special occasion to their full potential. Firstly, they changed a select number of stores names to: Markle and Sparkle. Although some describe the stunt as cringe-worthy, it allowed customers up and down the country to unify in the celebrations as the M&S’s website, social media accounts and store windows in the eight Royal boroughs re-branded to Markle & Sparkle to commemorate the brilliantly British occasion.
As Harry was deemed the ultimate romantic by proposing to Meghan during a chicken supper (and who said love is dead?), M&S honoured him by changing the name of their roast chicken sandwich to ‘The Proposal’. Following the confusion over whether public guests attending the wedding will be offered food on the day, the supermarket has pledged to give away free meals to those fortunate enough to be invited. M&S proved that the simplistic details can go a long way in PR and resonate well with customers.
4. KFC (FCK) We’re Sorry Campaign
Although it may be deemed a PR disaster, this campaign was a personal favourite of mine and a prime example of the best way to handle crisis communications chaos. Chicken lovers across the UK and Ireland were distraught to learn that KFC experienced a chicken shortage, which was kicked off after KFC switched its delivery supplier to DHL. DHL blamed “operational issues” for a disruption in deliveries, causing the fast-food chain to close most of its UK outlets. How could KFC, a brand that incorporates the word chicken into its own name, recover from a chicken shortage?
Despite some negative traction from customers on social media, some decided to tackle the shortage with humour:
Keeping with the humorous theme, KFC and Mother London PR created the following communications to combat their negative feedback:
The print ad rearranges the letters of its name to spell out “FCK” on a chicken bucket, utilising chicken related connotations with their website sub-heading reading, “The chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurants.” KFC’s honesty and humour throughout this crisis allowed them to retain their loyal customer base. They remained consistent with their own brand reputation, as a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously. They took a risk, and as a result have set the standard for future brands experiencing a crisis.
5. Banksy: “Going, going, gone…”
Described by the Drum as “the PR stunt of the year”, Banksy’s famous artwork “Girl with a Balloon” was the final item of the evening sale at Sotheby’s and was sold for £1,042,000 in October. It is well known that Banksy is not keen on his work being sold at auction. To combat this, he fitted a secret shredder within the paintings gold frame, on the off chance this piece would someday go on sale.
The stunt immediately went viral, leavings fans distraught at this iconic image being destroyed and wondering how this freak accident occurred. However, Banksy himself confirmed via his Instagram that the destruction was intentional. The artist posted a picture captioned: Going, going, gone…” as well as a detailed video explaining how he built the shredder in 2006.
Despite the picture failing to fully shred, it is believed the piece has now doubled in price, as well as being remained “Love is in the bin”. Banksy’s dedication to his secretive identity and privacy is admirable and keeps fans on their toes, in anticipation that one day he will reveal his identity.
I’m certainly excited to see what 2019 brings to the world of PR, both locally and abroad, and hopefully get involved in the action myself.
Abigail Foran is a final year BSc Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @abigailforan ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-foran-755800118/