5 Psychotic Marketing Stunts That Traumatized Their Audience
We have TiVos, ad blockers, and the highly refined ability to simply not give a shit, so advertisers really have to get creative if they want to get our attention these days. And what gets your attention more than threatening, scaring, and emotionally traumatizing you for life?
Well, they say no press is bad press. See, after listening to you sobbing and ranting about the ghost in the mirror, the man with the rifle, or the police hunting you through a crowded airport, your psychiatrist will inevitably ask you what product caused all this pain, and then boom: mission accomplished.
Capital 8 Theaters Hires an Armed Assailant to Threaten Ticket Holders
The Goodrich Capital 8 Theater in Jefferson City, Missouri, decided to celebrate the opening of Iron Man 3 the best way they knew how: by threatening to murder their patrons.
The party's over, unsilenced cellphones.
It went down like this: The theater owners decided to put on a little show before the main event, so they hired a gaggle of actors (actors come in gaggles, right?) to play the titular man of iron, a couple of cops, and James Holmes.
T-the porn guy?
No, it was not the infamous python tamer (you're thinking of John), but this Holmes was still packing heat.
Real badasses strap their handguns to their chest, right?
James Holmes was the psychopath who killed 12 people in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. He entered the theater wearing body armor and carrying a rifle, then opened fire.
We'd love to find a way to phrase this next part to really emphasize how stupid the decision was, but try as we might, we can't make it sound any dumber than the plain old unembellished description: One year after a mass shooting by a disturbed individual wearing body armor and carrying a rifle at the premiere of a blockbuster superhero film, Capital 8 hired an actor to walk into their own theater during the premiere of a blockbuster superhero film ... wearing body armor and carrying a (fake) rifle.
"It's OK, these are blanks! You can stop soiling yourselves now."
As soon as Mysterious Armed Assailant #1 clocked in for work, intrepid theatergoers called the real police, screwing up the whole planned showdown. When the actual cops showed up, they informed the owners that they were lucky that no off-duty officers were present in the audience, otherwise their fun little stunt would have gotten the actor shot in the dang face. It takes a lot of people to make an idea this bad happen: Of course the theater owners should have known better, their employees should have spoken up, and really anybody within earshot should have smacked them upside the head with the Bad Idea Hammer. But actors, maybe you should also consider whether "guy in small-town PR stunt" is a role worth dying for. We know the Jefferson City theater scene is struggling right now, but we hear there's a pretty bitchin' version of The Wiz casting right now, and there's only like a 4 percent chance you'll get shot in the face for playing the Tin Man.
Eh, why not make it an even 10 percent?
The Last Exorcism Part II Assumes You Don't Have a Heart Condition
So there you are at the salon, staring into the mirror, flinching every time the hairdresser bumps your elbow and trying to think of a polite way to say "I don't have an opinion about the weather." Then you see something ... off. It was just for a second, out of the corner of your eye as you were being swiveled around. Probably nothing. But no, there it is again. You get a better look: There's ... there's definitely a freaky-looking girl in the reflection. Clearly, either you were wrong about the existence of ghosts or you're going insane. You're still debating which is more likely when the girl up and walks out of the mirror on her hands like Regan MacNeil. Two paths lie before you: You can have a fear stroke right now, or you can grab those scissors and stab them right through her fucking eye. It won't kill her (you can't kill a demon with scissors; it takes salt and iron, everybody knows that), but maybe it will slow her down enough to -- oh! Turns out you just murdered an actress.
On the plus side, you're kind of a hero.
Well, that's going to knock off a star or two on your Yelp review.
This was all accomplished with a two-way mirror and a really flexible actress. The salon brought in an unsuspecting customer, played out their little show with the costumed girl behind the mirror -- turning out the light every couple of minutes so she was briefly visible -- and then, at the end, they had her crab-walk out from behind the mirror, presumably just crossing their fingers really hard and hoping that the customer didn't have a heart condition or a natural penchant for ghostbusting.
You can't live your whole life wondering which of your actions might kill someone.
Philips Thinks Bear Attacks Are Hilarious (Only Partially Correct)
Electronics corporation Philips wanted to kick off its new Singapore marketing campaign with a lovable mascot. And what do people love more than wild bears? Practically nothing! Maybe rabid wolves, or hungry sharks -- but bears have more viral potential, clearly.
Dear God ... what have we done?
And so they hired an actor to dress up in a bear costume and rampage about town. What's the worst that could happen? Nobody's going to see a guy waiting in line or dancing around in a bear costume and assume it's an actual predator. The only way that would happen is if you shot really grainy video of the actor moving and behaving like a bear, digging through trashcans or some such thing. And why would you do that? What does "bear digging through trashcans" have to do with electric razors? Clearly, the bear should be doing cartwheels in the par- oh, no? They went with the grainy trash thing?
Good call, guys.
OK, then. Here comes the backfire:
After the first video of the bear was released, locals panicked and called the cops, reporting a bear on the loose in a populated area.
News reports about the rogue bear started appearing, along with helpful tips on what to do if you run into one -- if you're curious, the best advice is "pretend to be a bear yourself," followed by "panic, die." Philips' loveable new mascot was then hunted by police, animal rights activists, and zoo workers with tranquilizer guns. Not something the Snuggles bear has ever had to deal with, we hear.
"That bearstard gets all the breaks."
CONVAR Deutschland Straight Up Mails You Some Bombs
CONVAR Deutschland was a German computer company that wanted to get the word out about the crazy young rebel upstarts in the wacky world of data recovery, and they figured the best way to accomplish that was to put a bunch of explosives in the mail and see if anybody died.
In retrospect, Cobra Commander was a poor choice for social media director.
Well, OK, they weren't actual bombs -- but they sure looked the part to your average uninformed citizen. CONVAR hot-glued a hard drive to an alarm clock and attached a note that read, "Your time is running out." Picture getting that package in the mail: a brick of electronics, a countdown timer, and a threatening note. Your first thought isn't "Oh man, they're right, hard drive failure is imminent!" Your first thought is "balls," followed by "I am running now," and then probably "I need some new pants."
This wasn't an isolated incident. CONVAR sent these packages out to about 40 businesses. And you know what technically counts as a business? An embassy!
Because if there's one group of people who appreciate a good bomb joke, it's embassy guards.
We feel like we don't need to say it, but the embassy called the police. Buildings were evacuated. Bomb squads went out to investigate. When the authorities discovered that the packages weren't actual bombs, they knocked some marketing dudes' heads together, and then presumably went home to back up their hard drives.
NIVEA Convinces Travelers That They're Wanted Criminals
Between the looming threat of terrorism, frisky TSA agents, and the ridiculous markup on almost certainly poisonous food, airports are about the least pleasant place to be. How could it be worse? Well, what if you suddenly found yourself cast as the lead in a re-enactment of The Fugitive? Imagine sitting down in one of those busted vinyl delayed-flight-sweat-soaked airport benches, only to look up and see your own picture on the newspaper being read by the man across from you. You squint, trying to read the headline:
You suddenly regret wearing your vintage Power Rangers Underoos for the flight.
Oh, holy shit, what did you do? W-was it illegal to mock the postman's stupid shorts, like you did yesterday? Do they issue warrants for parking more than 6 inches away from the curb? What the hell is going on?
Then a voice comes over the loudspeaker, reiterating what you already know: Police are looking for somebody who matches your description. On the TV in the bar across from the gate, there's a news report running your picture, describing you as "dangerous and unpredictable." Just as you start contemplating kicking out a window and hijacking a plane, two security guards approach you. This is your Bourne moment. You're innocent, and you know it, but they're still coming for you. Thinking fast, you bash one guard in the face with a trashcan, then use his Taser to take the other one down. As he falls, the suitcase they were carrying cracks open, revealing that it was all a stunt to hawk deodorant.
If NIVEA were smart, they'd have shared the ad with Depends.
It all actually happened in Germany. Well, everything but the superspy-caliber judo takedown (come on, you struggle getting a gallon of milk into the cart; you couldn't even lift one of those airport trashcans). An unsuspecting person would show up at the airport, where ad company folks secretly took his or her picture and printed it on a fake newspaper. An actor sat down and read the newspaper in front of the target. Fake news anchors standing by would whip up a report for the situation, and when it looked like the mark was sufficiently panicked, they'd send in the security guards with the big reveal. NIVEA was trying to make a point about their deodorant, and sweat, and stress, and whatever. It was really only by chance that they didn't accidentally prove that there's a little Harrison Ford in all of us.
We're kind of ashamed that this whole thing didn't end with a scissor-kick.
Sara Ohlms doesn't have a blog and doesn't tweet, but she wants you to have a lovely day anyway. If you want to talk about how awesome the St. Louis Blues are, or need a freelance writer, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related Reading: Think marketing stunts couldn't get any more irresponsible? Think again. No one today is ballsy enough to stage a TRAIN CRASH just to advertise their business- but that exact scenario went down in 1845. Publicity stunts have a long history of getting out of hand. Just ask the Hollywood sign. Or the patrons of the bar Splinter Cell's developers paid an actor to wave a gun around at.