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Social blindness experiment or PR stunt of the year?

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I have to admit, you either love them or hate them. PR stunts that is.

Personally, I love them and I love hearing how they came about and the stories behind them.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say most of us get a good kick out of the tactics used by marketers to boost a brand’s reputation.

From Ryanair sending its flight attendant (donning their striking blue and yellow uniforms) to the launch of an Easyjet flight (CHECK)) right down to Linford Christie appearing at a press conference ahead of the 1996 Olympic Games in Athens, wearing blue contact lenses with the Puma logo visible –  the  Puma logo appeared enlarged on many of the front pages of newspaper the following day. And who can forget this year’s Coca Cola bottles with personalised names – genius! Let’s face it, we’ve all had a sneaky look for our names in supermarket shelves up and down the country.

The latest PR stunt that’s given most of us a giggle I don’t believe ever set out to be a marketing ploy, more of a social blindness experiment.

The world famous British artist Banksy set up a stall in Central Park in New York, selling authentic original signed Banksy pieces – that would usually fetch for a six-figure sum – for just $60.

If you haven’t seen the video, it’s definitely worth checking out on YouTube. It shows that it took several hours for the first artwork to be sold. The first buyer was a lady who managed to negotiate a 50 % discount for two small canvases. There were only two more buyers, and by 6pm the stall was closed with total earnings of $420.

While I genuinely believe the point the guerrilla artist – whose identity is still a secret – was trying to make was that people should appreciate art for art, and for what each individual painting represents, not for a name or a price tag.

With the huge shift in recent years to advertise on social media – and the success of this – it would have been really interesting to see how many sales Banksy would’ve made from his work had his stall been advertised online, on another occasion.

I have no doubt this would’ve resulted in thousands of people flocking to Central Park to get a glimpse of the artwork in the hope of snapping up a bargain.

Instead, what Banksy has done, for the small cost of just $420, he’s carried out the biggest marketing stunt, I would argue that has taken place this year.

His social experiment is being talked about across Europe and America and is dominating column inches and web traffic.

In achieving this, he’s put most of us to shame as I’m sure your first thought, as was mine, was ‘I wish I’d have snapped one up’.

PR stunts are a bit like marmite and I love them!


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About the author Kate Allum

Kate Allum is head of Social Media at Citydesk Sport.