Since March 2020, the vast majority of our interactions have taken place online. Lockdown meant we rarely ventured beyond our doorstep, spending less time in areas with high footfall like city centres or shopping malls – the typical go-to areas for press stunts and large-scale marketing tactics.

The pandemic also meant that marketing managers had to tighten the purse strings on their budgets, with brands decreasing their spend on media relations by 71%, on content marketing by 69% and on outdoor advertising by 26%, according to a survey by Radioactive PR.

With lockdown behind us (for now), has there been a rush back to the analogue stunt?

2021 saw several brands put the traditional press stunt back on the map. Artist Joe Rush created a sculpture made from electronic waste in Cornwall ahead of the G7 Summit, depicting the faces of key political leaders and drawing attention to the growing e-waste problem across the globe. The piece, titled ‘Mount Recyclemore’, was commissioned by second-hand electronics marketplace musicMagpie. Without directly promoting their service as a platform, the sculpture acted as a stark reminder to potential consumers to consider “recommerce” as an option for their electronics. Mount Recyclemore received coverage across major international news outlets from BBC News to the New York Times with features on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and James Corden’s Late, Late Show. As a result, 38% of all trade-ins through musicMagpie in June alone were first time users, demonstrating that the press stunt hasn’t lost its value in a post-Covid world.

In the lead up to Christmas last year, Sony PlayStation took over the London Underground to mark the launch of the PS5 console. The stunt, a collaboration between MediaCom, Transport for London, Red Consultancy and Diva Agency, transformed the iconic roundel signs around Oxford Circus tube station into PlayStation’s infamous button shapes, generating over 100 million impressions on Twitter and coverage across all major national titles. The stunt became the lead story on Reddit and helped PlayStation have the most successful UK console launch of all time. The campaign recently took home The Drum’s Grand Prix Award, celebrated for its slick simplicity, with judges calling it  “cultural moment which had many in the industry in awe.’”

In October of this year, saintnicks client Bailey gave surprised tourists and Londoners a fresh perspective on caravanning as the manufacturer hoisted its new 1430kg Unicorn Vigo model on to the rooftop terrace of the One New Change shopping centre, overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral. The stunt was designed to celebrate the boom in staycations during the pandemic and demonstrate that, with a Bailey caravan, any location can be turned into a campsite.

After witnessing a dramatic feat by the crane operators, celebrity guests including Gary Mabbutt, Peter Shilton and Debbie Arnold were invited to experience the Unicorn’s unique panoramic window by taking in a view like no other – the stunning London skyline.

TV presenters and radio hosts presented their programmes from inside the caravan throughout the day while journalists were invited to spend the night in the four-berth accommodation, recounting their experience in detailed articles in the Daily Mail and the Sun. The event was, quite literally, unmissable. Coverage was achieved in major publications while social media users took to Twitter to share their pictures of the flying caravan with the hashtag #caravaninthesky. As a result of the event, Bailey had over 450 presales for Unicorn Series V prior to the dispatch of the first display models.

Another brand embracing the spectacle of a stunt is Western Global, who worked with saintnicks to launch a new campaign designed to demonstrate the robust nature of their products by putting their TransCube tanks through a series of extreme tests. The first video saw the Western team drop a full 250-gallon fuel tank from an 80 ft high crane. The satisfying landing produced no leaks or pressure loss and acted as a live demonstration of the TransCube’s durability and safety. While the tank drop didn’t take place in front of a public audience, the video became a genuine testimonial to be shared across their communications. With a 456% increase in engagements and 667% increase in views on LinkedIn, the Western Global team not only reached new audiences but also created a piece of content that can be used again and again to demonstrate the capabilities of their product.

PlayStation, musicMagpie, Bailey and Western Global have all shown that the ‘traditional’ press stunt still has its place in our fast-changing world, but with the growth of social media and a drastic shift to online, it’s imperative that brands hybridise their ideas. Consumers are looking to experience these campaigns virtually, too, so creative teams should find ways of engaging audiences in both physical and digital spaces to stay at the top of their game.

At saintnicks, we’ve always believed that everything we do should take brands further, not just create spectacles for the sake of it. With a growing emphasis on brand transparency, consumers are increasingly looking for authenticity within any marketing activity. Press stunts require careful consideration as they can be perceived as a waste of resource, environmentally destructive or disruptive to consumers. To find its rightful place in 2022, the press stunt must be executed with people and planet in mind. Get in touch today to see how we can help out.