In today’s day and age, we’re bombarded with advertising from all angles. And while anyone can create a commercial for television or stick a generic billboard up in cities across the globe, there are many marketing gurus out there who aim to go the extra mile. They come up with elaborate PR stunts that get people talking about their company, service, or products. And their aim is simple; to stand out from the crowd.
Well, it’s safe to say that these PR stunts have gone down in history as some of the most bizarre gimmicks we’ve ever seen. From shooting cars into space to fire logs that smell like Kentucky Fried Chicken, all of these PR stunts have made their mark in the world of consumerism. But of course, everything comes at a price. And this is how much these ridiculous stunts really cost their companies…
KFC’s Giant Space-Age Logo – $30,000
As one of the biggest fast-food chains in the world, customers don’t need too much persuading when it comes to KFC’s finger-lickin’ good food. But that didn’t stop the company from going above and beyond for a marketing ploy back in 2006. In fact, it seemed as though the brand wanted to encourage some intergalactic visitors to their restaurants, as they made sure their logo could be seen from space!
Colonel Sanders decided to create a huge logo made from 65,000 square miles in the middle of the desert in Rachel, Nevada, and the end result was pretty impressive. But what’s even more impressive is the fact that this quirky stunt set them back a whopping $30,000!
McDonald’s Upside-Down Golden Arches – $75,000
There’s nothing quite like seeing the golden arches of McDonald’s shining like a beacon in front of you when you’re hungry. And everyone knows that the golden “M” is synonymous with the legendary Mickey D’s. But in 2018 these golden arches got a topsy-turvy makeover in honor of International Women’s Day.
While turning the logo upside down was a temporary measure, it cost the company an incredible $75,000 to do this at over 100 restaurants in the United States. And this wasn’t all they did. For this occasion, the company also wanted to showcase their solidarity for women by giving their workers temporary uniforms with the new logo on as well.
Netflix Is A Joke – $100,000
While we’d love to give the company credit for this rather eye-catching billboard, the genius minds behind this PR stunt are still unknown! Yes, these billboards simply popped up around Los Angeles overnight in 2017, and nobody claimed responsibility for them. But many skeptics have questioned whether Netflix decided to berate themselves publicly for the sake of a social media buzz…
After all, we all know that Netflix is definitely no joke and is instead one of the most successful streaming services in the world. Either this $100,000 PR stunt was executed by a competitor who wanted to remain anonymous, or this was just another incredible marketing ploy from Netflix themselves in order to keep them relevant.
WWF’s Parisian Paper Pandas – $50,000
Charities have to work extremely hard to get people to listen to them, and their marketing teams are constantly thinking up new and unique ideas to get their message out there. And while the WWF has come up with countless marketing strategies over the years, their paper pandas in Paris idea has to be our favorite. Just look at how cute this is!
To bring awareness to the dwindling numbers of pandas, the World Wildlife Fund decided to shell out $50,000 back in 2008 to commission 1,600 paper-mache pandas – one for each panda left in the world. These paper animals were then plonked in front of the Eiffel Tower to ensure the most exposure. And it seemed to work, as the panda population has now increased!
Lego’s Life-Size Bugatti Chiron – $3 Million
Although regular Lego can keep adults and kids entertained for hours, Lego Technic is more popular with budding engineers who want to build working models of more technical creations. And in 2018 this brand decided to partner with Bugatti in Denmark to pull off one of the coolest PR stunts of all time. Yes, that is a life-size and fully drivable Bugatti Chiron made out of Lego pieces…
To be more specific, this sports car is made from a whopping $3 million worth of parts and it took a whole team 13,400 hours to make it! But while many questioned whether a life-size Lego car was really necessary, both companies still reaped the rewards as sales soared for both the Bugatti brand and the Chiron Lego kit found in Lego stores.
The Spider-Man Bus Crash – $200,000
Although many assume it’s part of the Disney/Marvel family, the Spider-Man franchise actually belongs to Sony. This means they are in charge of marketing and distributing all of the movies and games. And when the company was gearing up for the release of a new Spidey PS4 game in 2018 they created a $200,000 PR stunt that left people stuck in a very entertaining web!
They opted to partially throw a bus into Darsena Lake in Milan and covered it in webs to look as though Spider-Man himself had stopped it from plunging into the water entirely. Considering this area of Milan is a hugely popular location with a giant footfall of traffic, countless people walked by this strange phenomenon. Did they buy the game, though? Well, we’re not sure.
The Yunessun Wine Spa – $20 Million
Do you love wine? Do you wish you could bathe in it all day every day? Well, Yunessen Wine made that possible for those living in Tokyo, Japan back in 2018. In a bold move that cost them $20 million, they created their very own hot springs and invited customers/wine connoisseurs/self-care lovers to enjoy a dip in a giant pool of wine!
But if the guests didn’t want to chill out in the warm pool of merlot, they did offer a non-alcoholic version in the former of their green tea bath – and it certainly got people talking. The Hakone Kowakien Yunessun became one of the most talked-about places on social media, and everyone wanted to take a dip there. We don’t blame them, really.
Ghostbuster’s Marshmallow Man – $200,000
If you’re a movie buff, you may know that movie sequels and remakes rarely match up to the originals. And when Columbia Pictures learned that people were a little skeptical about their 2016 all-female remake of Ghostbusters, they decided to go all out with their marketing ploy. Yep, that’s when a giant Marshmallow Man turned up in London’s Waterloo Station…
Not only was this $200,000 Marshmallow Man bursting out of the floor, but slime could also be seen dripping from the ceiling. Travelers couldn’t avoid such a crazy sight in front of them, and soon social media was abuzz with people taking videos and photos. The film was still a box office flop, but at least the PR stunt got everyone talking, right?
Red Bull’s Space Jump – $30 Million
We all know that Red Bull gives you wings, but it turns out that this energy drink company also gives you the chance to head up into space. That’s what they did in 2012 when they cooked up a PR stunt that was out of this world, after all. That’s because – at an expense of a cool $30 million – they sent Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner 39 kilometers into the stratosphere!
They sent Felix up in a capsule powered by a giant helium balloon, and when he reached the desired height he jumped from the capsule and free fell for a whopping ten minutes! It was an extremely dangerous stunt that could have had disastrous consequences, but Felix was unscathed and the stunt supposedly generated Red Bull an extra $500 million in sales.
Corona X Parley’s Trash Wave – $100,000
Corona is known for its impact on the world of beer, but in 2018 this company decided to use its platform to partner with Parley and Chris Hemsworth for World Ocean’s Day. The company wanted to bring awareness to the staggering amount of plastic pollution in our oceans, and their $100,000 billboards certainly did that.
These billboards could be found in major cities across the globe like London, Melbourne, and New York, and showcased Chris riding a wave on his surfboard. But outside of the billboard itself was a completely different wave, made entirely out of trash found in the ocean. The billboards were provocative and thought-provoking, and people gained a newfound respect for Corona.
World of Warcraft Times Square Taxi Smash – $300,000
Since the early ’00s, World of Warcraft has captivated fans as one of the most popular role-playing games out there. But while most people know its name, that hasn’t stopped the marketing team from rolling out the red carpet when it comes to their PR adventures. And in 2014 they decided to celebrate the release of their Warlords of Draenor expansion pack with a $300,000 stunt!
While seeing a yellow cab in Times Square isn’t uncommon, Blizzard Entertainment confused New Yorkers with their game-inspired cab back in the day. They showed the normal world colliding with the fantastical World of Warcraft with this giant ax, and it certainly sliced the competition. Countless photos made their way onto social media, and it caused quite the stir.
Paddy Power’s Hot Air Balloon – $75,000
Most of us know that what comes out of your underpants is a load of hot air, but Irish bookmaker Paddy Power decided to take this to a whole new level in 2013. They took this notion pretty literally and created a way to use this hot air to their advantage. To the tune of $75,000, of course.
To celebrate the launch of the Cheltenham horse racing event, the company made their “lucky pants” fly high in the sky. And while hot air balloons aren’t uncommon when it comes to British events and festivals, this one was a little different. Betting fans loved spotting it in the sky, and it’s been noted that Paddy Power saw an increase in bets.
Time Magazine’s Drone Cover – $18,000
Over the years, Time Magazine has bestowed us with iconic covers that have gone down in history. And while these are almost always in print, they decided to go down a different route in 2018 and opt for a cover that everyone could enjoy – even if they didn’t buy the copy. That’s because this cover actually appeared in the middle of the night sky thanks to a whopping 958 drones.
This PR stunt was created as part of “The Drone Age” issue and took place in Folsom, California. And with the help of Intel Light and its Drone Light Show Team, they replicated a giant issue that cost $18,000 to make. Apparently, the residents of Folsom were overjoyed to be able to watch the drone light show from their homes, and the issue received a huge amount of positive feedback.
Banksy’s Self-Destructing Painting – $1.4 Million
The identity of the elusive street artist Banksy is still unknown today, and despite the fact that nobody knows who he or she is, their artwork regularly sells for millions. Normally, these pieces of art come with a message attached to them – and Banksy made sure that in 2018 their auction item would make everyone think.
When the Sotheby’s auction house pounded the gavel on “Girl with Balloon” for $1.4 million, one happy buyer was over the moon to call it their own. But they only did so for a few seconds, as before we knew it the painting had gone through a shredder hidden within the gilded frame. Banksy created the artwork to be self-destructive, and while the buyer missed out on a masterpiece, the stunt got everyone talking.
Domino’s Pothole Plan – $5,000
When you think of Domino’s Pizza you probably think of, well, pizza! But it seems as though this company has branched out into other areas of expertise over the years in an effort to bring in more customers. In fact, they did just that in Bartonville, Texas in 2018 with a PR stunt that only cost them $5,000 but made waves across the globe.
The pizza chain had noticed that their drivers in Bartonville were getting caught out by the many potholes in the town, so they decided to do something about it. Their “Paving for Pizza” campaign saw them buy 75 tons of asphalt to fill in the many potholes – and they just happened to put their logo into the mix as well. This gave them some serious publicity and gave locals and those around the globe even more reason to eat pizza.
Tesla’s Car Launch Into Space – $90 – $150 Million Per Launch
Considering Elon Musk has his brilliant fingers in the pies of both Tesla and SpaceX, it was no surprise to anyone when he decided to merge his two business ventures together during an epic PR stunt in 2018. Although SpaceX wanted to launch the Falcon Heavy Rocket, it was not ready to launch humans at that point. So, he decided to launch his own personal Tesla Roadster in it instead!
Elon even added a fake mannequin driver into the mix, and this “Starman” can now be found orbiting the sun – which is where he’ll stay until he burns up. And although this stunt certainly got people talking about both SpaceX and Tesla, many people have questioned whether spending $90-$150 million on this extravagant PR gimmick was really worth it.
Shia Labeouf’s Paper Bag – Price Unknown
Actor Shia Labeouf is known for being a little out of the ordinary. He’s not your average, run-of-the-mill celebrity who follows all of the rules – and that’s one of the main reasons why people love him. Over the years he has become the subject of a huge amount of chatter that just seems to have improved his career, and it’s fair to say that his paper bag stunt was a big part of that.
Shia chose to wear a paper bag on his head to the premiere of Nymphomaniac at the Berlin Film Festival, but this wasn’t just your average paper bag. It read “I’m not famous anymore” and it left everyone perplexed. While many thought he was just making a bizarre comment about his own life and career, many suggested it was also a stunt to promote an upcoming art project he had in the making.
Virgin’s British Airways Blimp – $2 Million
For those who aren’t familiar with the plane politics of the UK, one thing you should note is that British Airways and Virgin Airways have been competing against each other to be the best for decades. While both are extremely popular, one thing British Airways doesn’t have is an insanely rich founder who also has a pretty crude sense of humor. And Richard Branson proved just how funny he thought he was back in 1999.
During this time, British Airways had sponsored the London Eye and the whole world was waiting for it to be finished. But it wasn’t an easy process, and the company struggled to get the attraction erected. Branson saw this as a marketing opportunity, and so shelled out a whopping $2 million to berate his competition with a blimp that read “BA Can’t Get It Up.” Absolute genius.
Giant Borat Inflatable – Price Unknown
If you’ve ever watched Borat, you’ll know that this movie is pretty infamous. People either love it or hate it, but it’s this controversy that keeps people talking. And so, when Amazon Prime was gearing up to release the sequel Borat Subsequent Moviefilm in 2020, they decided to use this controversy even more to their advantage.
As they were advertising in the midst of a global pandemic, Amazon’s PR stunt was socially distanced in the middle of the Thames River in London – and the giant inflatable Borat they made was even wearing a face mask to cover his modesty! Because the inflatable (which we’re guessing was pretty expensive) turned up out of the blue, it immediately caused a stir online.
Dubai Desert Classic’s Tallest Tee Shot – $1 Million
The Dubai Desert Classic is a hugely popular golf tournament that takes place in Dubai every single year, and while golf fans queue up to grab tickets, the tournament organizers often shell out serious money in order to get the word out there even more. And in 2004 they opted to pay $1 million for a very special tee shot.
In fact, this money all went to the one and only Tiger Woods! The golf legend was flown in from the US to take a tee shot from what was the world’s tallest hotel at the time, The Burj Al Arab. He made his way to the helipad that stands a whopping 689-feet above the ground and the whole thing was filmed for the tournament’s advertising campaign.
Jackpotjoy.com’s Giant Duck – $270,000
It seems as though marketing teams across the world love to use the Thames River in London as part of their PR plans, and that’s exactly what Jackpotjoy.com did back in 2012. To celebrate the launch of a new Facebook page, the betting company utilized a giant inflatable duck to get their message across. And it reportedly cost them $270,000 to do so.
This duck was not only 50-foot-high but also 60-foot-wide and weighed a whopping half-ton. It took eight people over 800 hours to make sure the end result was watertight, and it seems as though it was totally worth it. As the duck floated down the Thames it caught the attention of countless people who later checked out their new initiative.
The Game of Thrones White Walker Invasion – $10,000
You probably don’t need us to tell you that Game of Thrones was one of the most popular shows on television. And while HBO could have probably relied on just word of mouth to draw in viewers for its seventh season, the network decided to take the White Walkers on a little adventure instead.
In 2017, the Night King and his merry band of White Walkers descended on the city of London in full character, costume, and makeup. Before too long their appearance in the British capital had made its mark on social media accounts across the globe, and buzz for the new series was bigger than ever before. But was it really worth $10,000?
Burger King’s “Flame-Grilled” Fragrance – $3.99 Each
There’s a high chance that you have bought a Whopper from Burger King before, but what about their “flame-grilled” cologne? In a marketing decision that made many people raise their eyebrows back in 2008, the fast-food chain decided to create their very own line of fragrance. And it was described as the “scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat”.
This was just a temporary PR stunt that was first released on April Fools’ Day, but they legitimately sold the bottles for $3.99 each. And while we don’t know how much exactly it cost the company as a whole – we bet it wasn’t cheap. Sourcing the glass bottles, creating the branding, and building the scent of the cologne itself would have cost a small fortune!
KFC’s Fried Chicken Firelogs – $16 Each
If you have an open fire, there’s a high chance that you love the smell of the burning wood. But what if you could make your house smell more like fried chicken? Well, the genius minds behind the KFC marketing team decided to give the chicken-lovers what they wanted when they created these firelogs in 2019.
Filled with all of the flavors and smells of the famous herbs and spices, these firelogs seemed like the ultimate holiday gimmick when they were released. And while the main aim was to get people talking about KFC and to entice people into the restaurants, it actually sparked a firelog revolution. When customers couldn’t buy these in-store they became in-demand items that sold for almost triple the price online!
Confused.com’s Accident Avenue- Price Unknown
The marketing minds in the UK seem to go the extra mile when it comes to PR stunts, and they go outside of the box when thinking up their new strategy. And so when Confused.com – an insurance company – wanted to launch a new campaign they found the most accident-prone street in the whole country and came up with an idea.
Yes, when they realized that one street had more insurance claims than any other, they descended upon that street with more bubble wrap than anyone could carry. They wrapped the houses, the cars, the trash cans, and even the trees in this protective wrap and posted pictures online for everyone to see. It’s not known exactly how much this cost, but we can’t imagine it was too expensive.
Chevrolet’s Car Drop – $200,000
There are countless car manufacturers out there, and when it comes to sticking out from the crowd you have to go big or go home. And it seems as though Chevrolet did just that back in 2012 when they asked their advertising team to come up with a campaign that wasn’t just another commercial. They didn’t want a video or pictures of their cars driving by a pretty backdrop. They wanted something extreme.
The end result involved one of their cars and a cargo plane! They wanted to make this campaign more exciting than the rest so attached a car to a giant parachute and dropped it from the sky – and it was certainly unique. While the exact price of this campaign is not known, it’s estimated that this cost them around $200,000.
Ben & Jerry’s Euphori-Lock – $14 Each
If you’re a fan of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, you’ll know that sharing a pint is just not an option. It’s your ice cream, and yours only, right? The marketing team behind his incredible ice cream brand obviously knows that as well, as they decided to get ice cream lovers’ attention by creating this pint lock. And they called it the “Euphori-Lock.”
Complete with a combination lock, this pint protector gained some traction on social media as people shared the pictures and warned the ice cream stealers in their houses of this new invention. But at $14 a piece, it seems as though people weren’t as inclined to buy one. They’re still available today, so you can still buy one if you want.
Carlsberg’s Best Poster in the World – $100,000
Danish beer company Carlsberg is known for producing a high-quality product, and while hardcore fans out there don’t need any persuading to buy their beer, they’re constantly on the lookout to entice more drinkers. Especially as there are so many competitors on the market. And in 2015 they came up with a genius PR stunt that got everyone talking.
While this may just look like your average billboard, they actually created “Probably the best poster in the world” thanks to a little addition in the middle. As passers-by made their way past this billboard they could actually help themselves to a pint of beer from the tap! There were lines of people waiting for their turn, and soon everyone knew about the billboard that was located on a London side street.
Diesel’s Knock-off Shop – $100 – $200 Per Item
Designer brands are so expensive and exclusive that many people just can’t afford to buy them. But over the years this has opened up doors for opportunists who have created their own knock-off products and sold them for just a fraction of the price. And while Diesel doesn’t normally acknowledge these knock-off items, they decided to change their tune in 2018 and create a PR stunt out of it!
In fact, the high-end fashion label decided to create their own pop-up and knock-off shop in Chinatown, New York City. They called it “Deisel” and sold what many assumed to be bootlegged copies of their original items. But they were actually selling the real deal and charged customers around $100 to $200 per item. The stunt garnered a huge amount of attention, and Vogue called the move “brand strengthening.”