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Great (and not so great) travel PR stunts and campaigns

As lovers of a great PR stunt ourselves and and continuing with the theme of travel PR here on the Smoking Gun blog, we’ve compiled the following list of great and not-so-great stunts conceived to promote tourist boards, airlines and destinations. Some of which you’ve probably already seen (especially in our Blagger’s Blog weekly highs and lows), some probably passed by unnoticed. All are guaranteed to raise either a smile or disbelieving eyebrow, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip.

The good

Tourism Queensland – Best Job in The World
What better way to promote one of the most idyllic spots in Australia, Hamilton Island, than by advertising a $73,000 per annum salary to one lucky recruit for the post of Island Caretaker. Dubbed the greatest PR stunt in history by many in the industry, tens of thousands applied, visitor numbers to the region boomed, and Tourism Australia has since taken on the campaign to support tourism across the country. Top marks.

Air New Zealand – Bare Essentials of Safety

Staff at Air New Zealand are getting used to appearing naked on screen. The airline launched a cracking advert wherein everyone from baggage handlers to pilots appeared wearing nothing but a layer of body paint, and this was coupled with this ‘alternative safety video’ which sent out the clear message that even if you’re a frequent flyer, the pre-take off briefing is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Visit London – Turfing Trafalgar Square
It’s easy to forget that one of the most challenging areas of travel PR is promoting domestic tourism, what with the lure of sunnier climes drawing more and more Brits abroad. Hence Visit London deciding to create an urban green space in one of the capital’s most iconic, but decidedly concrete, public spaces. By laying astroturf down on Trafalgar Square residents of the city and visitors alike saw things from a different perspective.

Virgin Holidays – Tunnel To Barbados
OK, so we might be blowing our own trumpets here (just a little), but nevertheless our campaign for Virgin Holidays earlier this year deserves a nod. By using 3D street art we managed to create the illusion of walking through a tunnel and stepping off a plane on the beautiful Caribbean island of Barbados, even though the public were really strolling through Spinningfields, Central Manchester. Take a look at our case file here.

The not-so-good

Malaysian Airlines – Bucket List
Winning our Blagger’s Blog weekly low in the recent-ish past, we were baffled when marketers at Malaysian Airlines decided to launch a campaign asking the public to name their ultimate bucket list destinations- that’s the place you want to visit the most before dying. Needless to say, after losing one airliner and everyone on board, and having another shot down over Ukraine, this wasn’t a good idea, and has since been scrapped.

Jet 2 – Free Holidays
Send out members of staff to a British city with the sole intention of being chased down by the public, and, when caught, giving away free holidays to various destinations. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, how about numerous bystanders, participants and employees being injured in what ended up being absolute carnage as desperate Britons clamoured for a toll-free trip abroad. If only they’d have thought it through.

South Australian Government – Big Fish, Small Pond
The idea here was simple, but woefully conceived. A marketing agency acting on behalf of the South Australian Government decided to try and entice editors, journalists and tastemakers to visit the region by sending them out a goldfish in a bowl, with a note that read: “Be the big fish in a small pond and come and test the water. SA” The problem being, many of the fish died en route to their recipients, and those that survived were seen as unwanted responsibilities. Who knows what the animal rights people thought.

Ryanair – The Girls of Ryanair
OK, so this differs from our other not-so-good entries because in contrast to the rest it actually generated the desired results. Nevertheless, Ryanair’s annual calendar, featuring female cabin crew in suggestive poses, wearing very little, has angered everyone from gender equality campaigners to the Advertising Standards Agency, while making the brand look rather outdated. Time for some fresh ideas.

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