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Is all PR really good PR? – By Vanessa Strangio, Senior Publicist, InsideOut PR

In the fast-paced world of media, where brands are constantly trying to get noticed and out-do each other with bold stunts and cheeky slogans, the question remains ‘is all publicity necessarily good?

Reputation must come into play – just because a brand is deliberately being controversial and gains exposure – what does this say about the brand? Or is brand awareness in itself a win – regardless of the implications; especially when more often than not, a cheeky stunt ends up going viral and as a result, before the days’ end a brand has had more exposure than a carefully executed three month campaign.

Look at Wicked Campers, for years the company has pushed the boundaries by plastering slogans on the side of their rental camper-vans – they’ve breached the Ad Standards of Australia more than 70+ times, had countless complains, and more and more council’s threaten to impose a ban on the vans travelling in their areas – yet every time they offend a story is written and the exposure grows. Whether some see it as funny and playful or others as grossly offensive is up to the individual – but one thing’s for sure – they are certainly leaving an impression.

Similarly, Ultratune has faced backlash for their series of ‘unexpected situation’ campaigns, featuring famous faces Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mike Tyson alongside the ‘ultratune’ girls – hilarious and cheeky to some – sexist to others – but certainly achieving a newfound level of brand exposure for a company that services car.

While brands like Sportsbet have a reputation for deliberately delivering controversial campaigns purely to get a reaction (who can ever forget that over sized Jesus balloon).  Whether you agree with what they do or not – they get a reaction and with reaction comes the publicity.

However, there are campaigns that prove you don’t have to be deliberately controversial to make an impression – and in these cases brand reputation has remained intact.

What about when red balloons tied to storm drains eerily began appearing in Sydney to promote the release of horror film IT – it was simple, highly effective – the spend would have been minimal and yet its impact was widespread. From the social media impressions of people snapping what they saw to news articles – the movie had already gained favourable traction, before a single review had even been published.

And who could forget Gelato Messina’s Game of Cones – releasing a new ice cream flavour each week to coincide with new episodes of the hit show, which has an undeniable cult-like following. It was deliciously clever and kept the ice creamery in the media.

Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign was ground-breaking – put popular names on coke bottles and encourage people to find their name and share with a friend. The global campaign was a high flying success and it wasn’t controversial, cheeky or salacious. It was simply a great idea. Just look at some of the brands that have followed suit – Nutella, Vegemite, Milo, Tim Tams.

So is all publicity good publicity, depends on who you are asking –and is dependent on many factors, including age, culture, personality – what a person finds offensive, another may find funny. It’s very personal.

But for me, as the ultimate goal in PR is to get a brand out there and talked about – how a company does that and what they are willing to jeopardise (brand reputation, image, potential lawsuits etc) is ultimately up to them, but I will continue to appreciate a brand that can cleverly dominate the headlines while remaining authentic to their brand.


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