When Harry met savvy


Royals caught with their pants down. Russian pop stars imprisoned. Whoever said this summer’s hijack marketing opportunities would end with sport obviously wasn’t counting on recent events, which prove, if nothing else, that in PR and advertising timing, judgement and bravery remain major success factors.
So Prince Harry, Britain’s favourite rebellious regal, was snapped naked in a Las Vegas hotel room. And he wasn’t alone- shock, horror- with scantily clad females also partying in the suite. As the subsequent YouGov survey proved though, few members of the public really care, with just 22 per cent of respondents condemning his behaviour. Meanwhile, the Press Complaints Commission received over 3,600 messages objecting to the bare-faced imagery being published, with many considering this a breach of privacy.
Which is why subsequent stunts from brands have been so well received. On Saturday Lynx, the poster boy of lad’s brand behaviour, launched a full page ad campaign in UK newspapers, with a simple but effective message. ‘Sorry Harry if it had anything to do with us.’ I’m sure you’ll know what ‘The Lynx Effect’ is, whereby females are unable to resist men wearing the deodorant, this reference should be clear, meaning full marks must be awarded for thinking on the spot. We wonder how many Angels fell to Earth at Harry’s feet that night?
The Las Vegas Tourism and Convention Authority went one step further with a brilliant tongue in cheek campaign of faux reputation management par excellence. Immediately jumping into action the marketing department used the world famous sentiment ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ to show its support for the young Prince. The advertising message run in the national USA Today title deplored those who ‘traded in their pledge’ to leave any antics behind in Sin City, claiming if those responsible for the outing returned there would be ‘no bottle service’, ‘no bikini clad girls’, and ‘no Bucatini from Batali’, then the organisation’s #knowthecode trended on Twitter.
Both actions showed the value of knowing the media agenda and tapping into the public zeitgeist to win brand affection on the back of other’s actions. A healthy does of humour was clearly a vital ingredient too.
The campaigns stemmed from traditional press ads but (we have to assume) were cleverly conceived to be cheeky and quirky enough to have great PR value, setting journalists and the social media community around the globe chattering.  A strong case of mining a powerful insight and delivering clear brand storytelling which transverses any one channel. We applaud you!
In contrast the plight of all-girl protest punks Pussy Riot isn’t amusing. Three members are looking at lengthy prison sentences for performing songs in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, reigniting political fires in the music community. The list of artists making videos and singles in support of the detained outfit is as long as a nose-to-ear piercing. And nobody’s accusing those backing the band of false sentiments, but uploading new material to the internet isn’t doing the campaigners much harm in terms of exposure either.
Similarly, Amnesty International UK’s response- to adorn Belfast statues with trademark Pussy Riot balaclavas and placards- is a genuine display of solidarity from one of the world’s most significant civil rights groups. It’s also a great high profile stunt that will ensure people see the charity’s logo, keeping the organisation at the forefront of the common consumer conscious. Less commendable, and far more self-fulfilling, are the comments issued to media by the U.S. State Department, denouncing the two year incarcerations.
Needless to say, Washington is never slow to stick the boot in when it comes to Moscow policy, especially if it can come away looking liberal, despite the obvious conservatism rife in the world’s foremost economic power (one American publication even came out on Putin’s side). Beyond the details though what’s important, in terms of business, is that from fragrances to gambling capitals, government departments to charities, when there’s a sudden chance to make an impact on donors, voters, or potential customers, as is evidenced here, acting faster and bolder than the next brand is vital to ensure truly impressive results.