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PR Stunt Watch: Channel 4 and Gregg Wallace's Miracle Meat versus Elon's Twitter Xit

You can’t be writing a column about stunts this week and not mention Elon Musk and twitter. Following in the footsteps of iconic brands such as UberX, ITVX and Television X, the world’s most likely Bond villain replaced a little blue bird with the alphabet’s 24th letter this week and - quite literally - broke the internet.

As my esteemed co-columnist opined, projecting a giant X onto Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters gave off serious regional nightclub vibes, but while there were no shortage of brand experts this week lining up to mock Musk’s decision, I couldn’t help but notice that none of them were multi-billionaires.

Do I think everyone is going to keep calling “X”, “twitter” for the short and mid-term? Absolutely yes. But the point of stunts is to get people talking and when the letter X is used, the immediate next step should be to ask “Y”?

Those that did, found out that Musk’s X rebrand is the first step towards making twitter more than a pithy remark and toxic take site, but an “everything app”, where micro-blogging sits alongside financial services, shopping and streaming in a marketplace of ideas. Like you, I am not entirely sure what this means - but I do understand that “twitter” probably doesn’t cover it.

When you are moving your brand in a dramatic new direction, a total rebrand is one of the most effective ways to communicate that journey to customers. For all the outrage and bluster, this stunt succeeded in what stunts are meant to do - get us talking. Musk is changing twitter and X marks the spot.

But before I come off like too much of a Musk-maniac, by far my favourite stunt of the week goes to the team behind Good Harvest. This week, their marketing team secured every PR person’s dream - a full-length feature, on a mainstream broadcast channel, explaining every facet of their company’s operation.

With Gregg Wallace gleefully shouting them on, we saw how Good Harvest were revolutionising the UK’s food market, using innovative new techniques to combat the cost of living crisis and curbing environmental impact. There were just two catches; firstly, their product involved the harvesting of human meat and secondly, it was all a complete hoax, filmed for Channel 4.

For the uninitiated, The British Miracle Meat took us on a tour of the secret Lincolnshire factory of Good Harvest, an innovative food company providing cheap, fresh meat sourced from humans. “It may well be the meaty miracle we need to ease the squeeze of the cost of living,” said Wallace as he learned how hard-up Britons could earn extra cash and feed the rest of us by having chunks of themselves removed surgically and grown into cheap cuts of meat. By the time Wallace got to the children’s wing, where the tenderest human flesh was being farmed, most viewers would (or should) have smelled a rat…

…but loads didn’t.

Twitter, sorry, X was awash with outrage, Ofcom received hundreds of complaints, and Facebook Karens and Keiths even started petitions to cancel Masterchef, proving that even when it’s on Channel 4, the BBC must be blamed.

Being a typical centrist Dad, my only critique of this beautifully shot piece of television was that I’m still not entirely sure what its main point was. Was it to demonstrate that the poorest in society are always forced into the most drastic action during a recession? Was it to show that the cold hand of capitalism will stop at nothing to find new profit? Or maybe it was to prove that given so many people fell for it, 13 years of permacrisis has finally killed satire?

Most likely, it was a mixture of all of the above - but most refreshing for a man in his mid-30s, it was proof that broadcast television can still bang with the best of them. It was Channel 4 at its naughty best, the spirit of Brass Eye and Ali G still alive - only this time the viewing audience were being pranked, not watching the prank.

The end result has been countless news pieces and thought pieces, about fake pieces of human meat. If Good Harvest could enter next year’s PR Moments Awards, I fear the rest of us would be sat eating dinner. My stunt of the week, maybe even stunt of the year.

Greg Wallace Image credit: Channel 4

This week's PR Stunt Watch was written by Greg Double, Creative Director at Mischief PR.

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