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Do you guys remember "balloon boy?" He and his family are my most vivid memory of a PR stunt gone wrong - and WOW it went way wrong - but probably not in the way you think.


The story most of us know is that the family faked the boy accidentally taking off in a home-made balloon when he had been hiding in the attic the whole time. They were turned into memes, there was jail time involved, and tons of fines. That all sounds pretty bad, but it turns out that story may be a PR spin in and of itself.


There's evidence to suggest the whole thing was a legitimate accident and the family really didn't know the boy wasn't in the balloon, but the city needed to save face. That "saving face" involved threats of deportation (mom is Japanese), tormenting the family with endless interrogation, separating the children and questioning them illegally, and divulging false information to the media. For example, police officers told reporters that the family called the news stations for attention and then called the police. Records prove that the family first called military air service, then the police and called the media last - they were trying to secure a helicopter that could track the balloon. There's a lot more to the story, but we might never know the truth; only that it was a PR disaster the whole way around.

Reddit user u/Swordsy50 asked:

What's the best(worst) public relations stunt you've seen?

Kick back and enjoy some serious shenanigans, courtesy of Reddit and corporate fail whale fantasticness.

LifeLock 

When LifeLock's CEO put his social security number on the side of a truck to show how secure their service was.

He ended up getting his identity stolen 13 times and the company got fined 12 million dollars for deceptive advertising.

- BoiNil

That Backfired Quickly

I'd have to go with the time Bill Cosby's twitter account tried to get people to turn his face into a meme. The linked a meme generator with a picture of Cosby's face. This resulted in #cosbymeme with lots of posts about his assault allegations, which were really coming to a head right around the same time.

- othybear

A Jet

Has to be the Pepsi Points / Harrier Jet situation.

Pepsi had one of those "points" promotions going in the 90s (collect points, redeem them for crap). Pepsi had an ad that said that for 7,000,000 Pepsi points, you could get a Harrier jet. The jet was worth ~$33m . The contest rules said you could buy points for 10 cents a piece. Sooo, for a cool $700k, you could potentially get the jet.

Someone tried to do just that, and sued when Pepsi wouldn't comply

- frnoss

Kendall Jenner's Shameful Secret

That new-ish Proactive campaign with Kendall Jenner. She pretended to have some dark, shameful secret and revealing it was going to be this big, empowering thing. Then the day came and it turned out she just had acne. That was easily the dumbest thing I've ever seen.

- Motherfickle

Taylor Swift

When Taylor Swift let the internet vote on what school she would perform at, and the top voted school was "Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing."

- michaelscottpaperco-


Taylor Swift discussed doing a gig, but between her and the school decided to donate money instead, she also gave the students of the school tickets for her next local concert. So all in all a pretty good reaction to a bit of internet trolling and a win for all concerned :)

- evilamnesiac

Balloons

Cleveland.com

Balloon Fest in Cleveland in 1986 put on by United Way. Who knew that launching 1.5 million balloons would cause havoc around the city and lead to two deaths? There was a boat accident and authorities couldn't find the survivors because the balloons covered the water.

- Ersh777

Dan v. Dave

Reebok launched the "Dan vs Dave" campaign in the 90's for the Olympics hyping up who is the greatest athlete in the world Dan O'Brien or Dave Johnson. The commercials were non stop. They were decathlon athletes and clear favorites. It was always a major risk to sink so much time and money into a sport barely anyone watched. It became a nightmare for Reebok when O'Brien failed to even qualify to make the Olympics. Johnson only won bronze.

- Scoob1978

Just Guess 

That time Snapple tried to have a fucking world record sized popsicle in NYC in the beginning of summer?

Guess what happened. Just guess.

- Soulger11


An article about it said:

"What was unsettling was that the fluid just kept coming," Stuart Claxton of the Guinness Book of World Records told the Daily News. "It was quite a lot of fluid. On a hot day like this, you have to move fast."

I'm f*cking crying, that sounds equal parts horrifying and incredibly funny.

- Ulti

Wrong Casey

Telstra (Australian phone company), promoting Australian Idol winner, Casey Donovan, by linking to her website caseydonovan.com.au except they left off the au suffix and it introduced thousands of teenage fans to the world of gay US porn star Casey Donovan.

- mandown72

Not For Women

Anyone else remember Dr. Pepper's bizarre "It's Not for Women." campaign? They were trying to corner the men's diet soft drink market, so for their new product Dr. Pepper Ten, their ad campaign literally just explicitly stated "It's Not for Women." Like dude, c'mon, I get you want to market toward men, by why blatantly alienate half of your potential customer base??

- marineman43

Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

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