10 Publicity Stunts That Went Horribly Wrong
9 Publicity Stunts Gone Wrong
Tareq and Michaele Salahi—the couple who are being considered for Bravo's upcoming reality showThe Real Housewives of Washington, DC—are better known for crashing the Obama White House's first state dinner on November 24, 2009. Whispers suggest that both the network and the couple were behind the scam, which has brought the couple to the attention of the Secret Service and sparked accusations that they are seeking paid network appearances. Bravo maintains that they thought the couple was invited.
After plotting a global media hoax in which they convinced the world (not to mention the National Guard) that their young son Falcon had floated away in a weather balloon, Richard and Mayumi Heene—who were hoping to get a reality-based science TV show—soon landed in court on both felony and misdemeanor charges. They are currently facing sentencing for the 2009 debacle.
Grill Gone Wild
When Oprah teamed up with KFC on May 6, 2009, for a coupon promotion for their Kentucky Grilled Chicken, KFC was hoisted furiously into the spotlight. The overwhelming response caused an online traffic jam as chicken-craving visitors attempted to download the coupon, while rumors of unhappy customers—due to long lines and coupon refusals—erupted all over the Web.
Air Force Flub
On April 27, 2009, New Yorkers held their breath as an Air Force One look-alike (the backup plane used by the president) soared low over Manhattan. Later that day, the White House issued an apology, explaining that the flyover was part of a planned Air Force One photo shoot, but the explanation came too late—some panicked New Yorkers were evacuated from their buildings in fear of a terrorist attack.
During the Miss USA 2009 pageant, Miss California, Carrie Prejean, responded to a question on gay marriage from judge and well-known gossip blogger Perez Hilton—making for an uncomfortable moment on a normally politically neutral broadcast. Though her celebrity has since exploded, the answer is speculated to have cost her the contest and, well, a lot of friends.
In 2007, in an attempt to promoteAqua Teen Hunger Force(a movie based on the popular Cartoon Network show), marketers Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens dotted the Boston area with electronic LED signs with images of ATHF "Mooninite" characters. The stunt—which caused panic and traffic jams—summoned the attention of the Boston Police Department's bomb squad, cost Turner Broadcasting million in payout and forced the resignation of the head of the Cartoon Network.
In August 2006, McDonald's Holdings Co., the Japanese subsidiary of the U.S. fast-food chain, held a joint text-message-based promotion with Coca-Cola. Winners—all 10,000 of them—received McDonald's-branded MP3 players preloaded with 10 songs and, allegedly, a malware called QQPass. The Trojan reportedly disabled some antivirus applications and captured passwords and other personal information. Once McDonald's caught word of the flub, they sent out a warning, set up a hotline and offered to swap out the players.
In 2005, Snapple attempted to construct the world's largest Popsicle in New York City's Union Square. Though the 25-foot-tall, 17.5-ton frozen treat was wise in theory (record-breaking food feats are generally a successful publicity tactic), the unexpected 80-degree heat sent sticky kiwi-strawberry-flavored liquid flooding down several streets.
MTV, who produced the Janet Jackson halftime show for Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, had reportedly hyped up the event by promising a surprise—and those watching the performance, during which Jackson sung "Rock Your Body" with singer Justin Timberlake, got one; it came in the form of a revealed right breast. Though Timberlake called the incident a "wardrobe malfunction" in a later interview, CBS was fined 0,000 by the FCC, the largest indecency fine levied against a television broadcaster.
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