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Pr Stunts

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Free Heather Mills's Leg!

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We've been gripped lately with a harrowing fascination that shames us to the core. Someone we love to hate has given us something we love to love, and the resulting struggle to reconcile the contradiction has left us feeling a little, well, dirty. We're referring, of course, to our dark obsession with Heather Mills's fake leg.

Happy Teletubbies Day, New York!

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We watched them arrive, moptops-at-JFK-style, on Monday, but now we've reached the big moment. By proclamation of Mayor Bloomberg, today is Teletubbies Day in New York City. The furry friends crossed Seventh Avenue in Times Square yesterday to prepare for the milestone — and, having noted this, we now promise we'll never speak of them again. Earlier: A British Invasion

PR Swag of the Week: Great Scot!

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A New York colleague received in yesterday's mail what at first seemed to be a standard-issue bit of flackery: a press kit for Tartan Week, which is apparently both "an annual celebration of the contribution millions of Scottish-Americans have made to our great nation" and, it seems, an attempt to boost tourism to Scotland. The package was about what you'd expect: a color-copied itinerary of Tartan Week events, ads for the week's blue-chip sponsors — like Glenfiddich, Continental Airlines, and what appears to be the government of Scotland — and a brochure about visiting "the best small country in the world." And then there was the woolen thong. Yes, a woolen thong. Complete with a cute little bow. Is it local garb? Who knows? But: Itchy. And, if it is, sort of undercuts the come-visit pitch, no?

The British Are Coming!

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• Remember Steven Johnson, the freak who terrorized Bar Veloce in 2002, splashing kerosene on patrons? Well, he just got 240 years in prison. Yeah, we don't know what took five years, either. [NYP] • Renaming corners, part one: A coalition of local businesses, backed by no less than Virgin Airways, is campaigning to call a slice of the West Village "Little Britain." The stage-one strategy apparently involves sub–Benny Hill humor. ("What's one more queen in the Village?") [MetroNY] • Renaming corners, part two: Elaine Orbach may yet get the intersection of 53rd and Eighth named after her late husband, Jerry. After striking out with the grumpy Community Board 5, she found fans on Board 4 — which controls the west side of the same avenue. [NYT] • In a high-tech twist on a classic, a married couple is suing a Park Avenue clinic for allegedly inseminating the wife with the wrong man's sperm: The father is white, the mother Dominican, the baby black. [NYDN] • And New York has joined more than twenty states moving their presidential primaries up to February 5. With any luck, Assemblyman Keith Wright's coinage for the occasion — "Super-Duper Tuesday" — won't get any kind of traction in the media. Oh, crap, we just did it. [NYT]

Young Conceptualist Gets an ‘A’ in Grant Writing

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BubbleBath, a March 24 event in Union Square to be staged by 21-year-old School of Visual Arts student Anthony DeFranco, sounds simple enough: He will give away 400 bottles of bubble solution to passersby. Cute. Or is it? That shallow perception might shatter when you skim the talking points DeFranco and the school are peddling to the media: • The project is inspired by the writings of Pythagoras (misspelled as Pythagorus) about the "harmony of the spheres." • It will also celebrate the arrival of spring. • Its official supporters and sponsors include the NYC Parks Department, Union Square Partnership, and Community Board 5. • It is DeFranco's mission "to bring people together, to help them to connect with each other and to hear the music that we are all making." • It took two years — two years! — to develop. The punch line? It's DeFranco's senior thesis for a BFA in graphic design. BubbleBath Press Kit [BubbleBathNYC.com, .pdf] BubbleBathNYC.com BubbleBath on MySpace

PETA to Protest Florida Vacations

How do you say "It's on!" in Animal Kingdom–speak? As New York reported in this week's magazine, animal-rights activists were considering a protest of the Orlando, Florida, tourism bureau's plans to stage a "mini-Orlando" in Times Square tomorrow morning. Why? The stunt is set to include penguins, flamingos, and live gator-wrestling, and PETA doesn't think too highly of moving tropical animals to frigid New York — let alone wrestling them. Now it seems the activists weren't kidding: We've received a press release promising a protest at 8:30 a.m. Maybe they'll even catch Anna Wintour on her way into work!
Tim Murphy

Pre-Valentine's Product Testing: Do Pheromones Work?

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When the publicist for a company called Pure Romance called last week to offer a pheromone-based perfume called Basic Instinct for potential Valentine's Day coverage, we were, of course, drawn in. So we slapped the stuff on a dedicated New York reporter and sent her down to The Otheroom, in the West Village, to see how it worked. (We also forbade her from paying much heed to the slight allergic reaction it caused on her ears, nose, and throat.) Five men at the bar gave her a whiff. Did it work? Well, at the very least, we now know that telling a man you're wearing pheromones can make an effective pickup line.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

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We're as confused as this dog is: Snow? In Union Square? Today? (Hell, at all this winter?) It can't be! Actually, it can. Apparently, the world's top snowboarders are converging on Union Square at three o'clock this afternoon for a Jeep-sponsored competition. They'll "participate in a rail jam format on a customized urban rail," whatever that means, and the winner gets $30,000. But first, the snow. We've got none this year, or at least none to speak of, so it's all been trucked in. Ten tons of the white stuff, says NY1. Which, once Fido has his way with it, will be yellow stuff. Union Square Street Sessions [Snowboard-mag.com] Snowboarders Launch Winter Jam 2007 [NY1]

Charmin Squeezes One Last News Item Out of Us

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We are heartbroken to report that our favorite object of defecatory dreams — the neat-and-clean-and-always- stocked-with-toilet-paper Charmin public toilets at Times Square — closed on New Year's Eve. Lest they be forgotten forever, however, the friendly flacks pushing the paper — and, yes, we know we're currently giving them exactly the PR hit they wanted — inform us that one couple had perhaps the most important night of their young lives in the giant public bathroom. Neal and Jalista, of Easton, Pennsylvania, were engaged on the evening of December 30 in the Charmin space, which apparently they deemed even more romantic than becoming betrothed in the restroom of the ESPN Zone next door. May your lives together remain squeezably soft, you crazy kids! Earlier: Daily Intel's coverage of the Charmin toilets.

Roll Tape

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Despite our odd obsession with the Charmin Times Square toilets, we confess this hadn't previously occurred to us. But thanks to the latest installment in the Times' ongoing coverage of the recent invention of the Internet — today we learn about YouTube videos of Times Square marketing — we decided to check YouTube for some videos of Times Square marketing. Oh, the mother lode! Feast your eyes on an oddly hypnotic, entirely unnarrated four-minute travelogue of a visit to our favorite public bathrooms. (There are plenty of other, related videos available, too, if this one doesn't quite do it for you.) It's almost like being there — but you won't need to wash your hands when you're done. Charmin's Times Square Bathrooms [YouTube] Times Sq. Ads Spread Via Tourists' Cameras [NYT]

Lurid, Infected, Leering

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• A gruesome murder-suicide in Brooklyn left four dead and almost redefines "lurid." Investigators believe an ex-con bludgeoned to death his girlfriend (who was also his half-sister), killed her two children, then overdosed on the scene. [WNBC] • A former NY1 reporter says she was sexually harassed at work and fired for complaining about it. Among other things, a colleague Photoshopped giant breasts on her photo, which apparently passes for a joke at NY1. [NYP] • E. coli is here! The first registered NYC patient (who has already recovered) is a Staten Islander who got the bug, like the other 60 victims, by eating at a local Taco Bell. [amNY] • The Daily News is shocked to learn that about 70 percent of recent subway graffiti has been made by European kids looking for an "authentic" NYC experience. Next they'll tell us those guys on Astor Place are not real punks. [NYDN] • And the Times ponders the rise of "experiential marketing" in Times Square, wherein companies do something moderately freaky and hope tourists will photograph it and/or blog about it. Here at Daily Intel, we would never fall for such gimmicks. [NYT]

M&M's Opens Times Square Store, Tortures Willing Pedestrians

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If you're anything like us, nothing attracts your sweet tooth like "heavy, thin, old and young New Yorkers" sprayed in candy coating. So when we received a press release from the M&M's people announcing that they'd be marking the opening of their new Times Square location by spraying those folks in their favorite M&M's colors — and then branding their chests with an M, candy style — we knew we'd have to attend. Intern Everett was on the scene, where he snapped some pix and reported that nothing says yum like bikini-clad people, standing in 40-degree weather, getting sprayed with cold paint. Hey, at least the victims froze in their mouths, not in their hands.

Kenny Kramer Wants to Remind You That He Isn't a Racist, Has Things to Sell

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Michael Richards's recent wacko racist rant has led to outrage, identity crises, and — oh, yeah — a good opportunity to sell T-shirts. The real Kramer just e-mailed us and everyone else who's ever taken the Kramer Reality Tour to offer his take on the fake Kramer's predicament. "It became necessary for me to put a disclaimer right on the home page of my website, explaining that Kramer is a character that Michael played on TV and I'm the person Kramer was based on, etc.," he wrote, although we suspect he's the only one who's ever confused the two. And if you were worried this unpleasantness has hurt the real Kramer's business, you can relax. "Kramer Reality Tour DVD, as well as tour gift certificates, ASSMAN license plates, and Seinfeld T-Shirts are still available and make great holiday gifts," he continued. Yadda yadda yadda. Kenny's full e-mail is after the jump. —Lori Fradkin

And Now For Something Negligibly Different

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If you'll indulge us for a minute in an observation that has nothing to do with New York: What's up with the USA Network's ceaseless ads for the holiday episode of Monk? Have you seen them? In the most confounding gimmick on television since someone green-lighted Joey, the December 22 episode of Monk, which the network has already been plugging for weeks, will be broadcast in black-and-white. Then, immediately thereafter, it will be broadcast in color. No alternate ending. No change of cast. No live transmission. No nothing. The audience is invited to watch both and decide which version is "more Monkish." We're not sure who watches Monk in the first place (a quick survey of friends and relatives turned up no one), but, please, don't ruin things by telling viewers that the same nostalgic frisson is attainable by setting hue saturation to zero. Next up: A very special muted-unmuted episode. Monk [USA Network]

Nascar and Tiffany: Together at Last!

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Much to our chagrin, we missed Nascar's so-called "Victory Lap" around midtown yesterday — starting at Times Square, across 42nd Street, up Madison, back west at 53rd, and then down the home stretch of Seventh Avenue to Times Square. (We tried to snag a pic as the cars passed our beloved 444 Madison, but the only person in the office at the ungodly hour of 9 a.m. was a little too slow to get downstairs with her camera phone.) A press release sitting in our in-box, however, offered us another chance: A big Nascar event at Tiffany & Company. We do not quite understand the cross-promotion between the two organizations (is there insufficient Elsa Peretti at the speedway?), but, hey, we figured, at least it'd be a chance to see some stock cars on city streets. Wrong! The event featured drivers dressed like normal people, not in logo-festooned jumpsuits, and the only automotive excitement on display was some cabs decked out in quasi-stock-car livery. So there you have it, kids. Nascar at Tiffany. With taxicabs. Yee-haw. A Nascar Victory Lap Crawls Down Broadway [NYT]

Daily Intel Exclusive: Charmin Restroom, Perfect for Partying

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We've been as excited about Charmin's free-public-toilet-in–Times Square publicity stunt as the next rag. (Okay, fine, more so.) So of course we went to pay a reportorial visit. And what we didn't expect was to
find the place a completely tripped-out, Clockwork Orange–y disco candyland filled with twirling mirror balls, blue neon, deranged reggae-calypso reworkings of the brand's jingles, white pleather, and spasmodically dancing employees. It's as if Charmin, while doing its New York research, discovered people were going to be doing coke in the stalls anyway, and just, um, rolled with it.

When Good PR Stunts Go Bad (Although for Good Causes)

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We received a press release last week from the Salvation Army, promising the world's largest collection of holiday bell-ringers in Bryant Park this morning, and we were vaguely intrigued. It was a stunt, clearly, and a silly one at that, but, still, something about the image of a few hundred guys and girls in Santa suits, all clanging away together, warmed our cold hearts — mostly because we thought it'd be photographically interesting, all that red felt amid the gray and fading green of the park. As it turned out, the Salvation Army could muster only 62 ringers, none were in Santa outfits, and — this is the part that truly mystifies us — we're told they didn't even ring their bells. (You gotta ring them bells!) Bah humbug. Salvation Army [OnlineRedKettle.org]