10 Publicity Stunts That Went Horribly Wrong

10) Time Bomb, 2012 German technology firm CONVAR Deutschland caused bomb scares and evacuations across the country after sending 40 suspicious packages to businesses, newsrooms and even an embassy The packages contained alarm clocks glued to hard drives, with a note that read, “Your time is running out”

The police and bomb squads were sent to investigate, but the packages were revealed to be harmless props to advertise the dangers of loosing data 9) 15 Million Balloons, 1986 Non Profit organization, United Way released 15 million helium balloons in US state Ohio, in an attempt to break a world record But unpredicted storm winds caused the balloons to be pushed down over the city, causing traffic accidents

This innocently planned stunt turned to tragedy, when two people drowned, after the balloons prevented the US Coast Guard helicopters from flying The wife of one of the fishermen sued the United Way of Cleveland and the balloon release company for $32 million and later settled on undisclosed terms 8) Swim responsibly Liquor brand Jagermeister risked the lives of their customers after they hosted a pool party in Mexico, which left one partygoer in a coma and eight others in hospital In an attempt to give the pool water a smoky cocktail effect, the pool staff poured buckets of liquid nitrogen into the pool, which dangerously reacted with the pool’s chlorine creating a toxic gas

The poisonous gas left the 200 partygoers swimming in the pool were left fighting to breath With some even falling unconscious and slipping underwater The victims were pulled to safety by paramedics and rushed to a local hospital where they were diagnosed with cardiovascular problems 7) Cashtomato, 2008 YouTube rival, Cashtomato, was founded by an anonymous millionaire who planned to promote the new video website by handing out tomatoes with $29 tied to them But before the PR stunt could start, the inpatient crowd made up of New York’s homeless descended upon the organizers causing them to panic and flee

Members of the crowd stole the boxes of tomatoes resulting in riots and one man was hospitalized after being pushed to the ground and trampled But not even the lure of cash and tomatoes could attract viewers to the site and it was relegated to internet history soon after 6) Hold Your Wee for a Wii, 2007 28 year old Jennifer Strange died from drinking too much water after entering a contest to win a Nintendo Wii game console for her three children Hosted by the radio station KDND 1079 the contestants were asked to drink as much water as they could without urinating, whilst the audio of the competition was broadcasted live

Within hours of the competition Strange was found dead of water intoxication Ten of the radio stations staff were fired and one of the corporate operators of KDND were fined after being found guilty of wrongful death 5) Author down, 2013 Author, Ray Dolin, shot himself in the arm, in a ploy to drum up publicity for his memoir 'Kindness in America’ Whilst hitchhiking across America to gain material for his book, Dolin reported to police that a driver of a maroon pickup pulled over and randomly shot him in the arm The attack made national news and the police later arrested Lloyd Christopher Danielson III for the shooting, charging him with felony assault

But once police found Dolin’s gun, the story unraveled Dolin admitted to concocting the story For wasting police time Dolin was fined and sentenced to 6 months in prison 4) 299 Bananas, 1986 Using the slang term bananas to mean dollars, American discount appliance store, Silo, ran a TV advert stating that they were selling their stereos for 299 bananas, meaning $299 But the attempt to be hip backfired when dozens of customers took the advertisement literally and began turning up to the store with crates of 299 bananas Despite the bananas being worth just $50 dollars, Silo accepted the fruit as payment, loosing the store more than $10,000 in a day

3) Pepsi & the Philippines, 1993 In an attempt to compete with the popularity of Coca-Cola in the Philippines, Pepsi launched the campaign ‘Number Fever’, promising cash prizes of $40,000 if customer’s found the bottle cap with the winning three digit code The campaign was a huge success with over half of the population of 63 million people, participating But when Pepsi announced the winning number, 800,000 bottle caps were eligible for the top prize Unwilling to pay out billions of dollars in prize money, angry customers rioted, threw fire bombs at Pepsi bottling plants and overturned Pepsi trucks, whilst 22,000 people filed civil suits against the drinks company In the end Pepsi ended up paying over $10 million in restitution and legal fees and Coca-Cola remains the most popular

2) LifeLock, 2007 Todd Davis, one of the co-founders of identity theft protection company LifeLock, advertised his Social Security number on TV, billboards and online challenging the public to steal his identity in an attempt to prove the effectiveness of his identity theft protection services Within the year, Davis became the victim of identity theft 13 times, with people using his social security number to take out loans, rack up charges and even buy gift baskets Davis argued that the 13 ID thefts proved that LifeLock worked since the number of thefts wasn’t higher, but the Federal Trade Commission disagreed and fined the company $12 million for deceptive advertising in March 2010 1) Free Flights Fiasco, 1992 Electric appliance company, Hoover, lost $73 million, when they planned to get rid of their surplus of vacuum cleaners by offering customers two free return flights if customers they spent just $150 on any Hoover product Unable to cope with the overwhelming response from customers many promotions went unfulfilled and the PR stunt became a parliamentary matter

A pressure group of 8,000 members was formed, of customers demanding their free flights Over the next 6 years hundreds of customers took Hoover to court Around 220,000 people did eventually fly, but the stunt went down in history as one of the greatest marketing disasters of all time

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