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PR Stunt Watch: Mark Perkins admires Barbie and Maybelline!

This is a new column that PRmoment has asked me to co-write on stunts that caught my attention. Given this is the first and, like every half-decent creative, I’ve left it to the last minute due to the usual troika of procrastination, distraction and neglect - I have absolutely no idea what format it will take, either now or in the future. Especially as Greg Double of PR agency MHP-Mischief will be alternating with me.

Consider it like free form jazz. Admired by a few; rambling and extremely annoying to everyone else.

Barbie made an understated arrival in London to mark the European premiere of the film, also called Barbie if you missed it. Did you know there is even a Pantone colour called Barbie Pink? I didn’t until some breathless reporter informed me. Now I don’t know what else to do apart from repeat this information.

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Barbie Pink isn’t new, but the capital was awash with it. The London Eye was turned pink by cast members, there was a pink Barbie bus and a fleet of Barbie taxis. Sticking to the transport theme, Barbican Station was rebranded to Barbiecan (why not BarbieKen?). And there was even a collab with Doctor Who to have a pink Tardis appear at, where else, Potters Fields. The latter because Barbie cast member Ncuti Gatwa is the new doctor. Keep up! After all that, I fully expect the press team at Warner’s will be miffed I missed something.

Yet, what did all this extravagant big-budget hype amount to? An absolute saturation of media coverage and social commentary. This is a good thing. The movie business has been full of self-doubt in recent years. Undermined by everything from streaming platforms and TikTok to a dependence on franchises delivering diminishing returns in taking or interest, it’s good to see a shouty arrival of a film again.

Sticking to the pink theme, Maybelline Sky High caused a sensation with its new out of home campaign – applying mascara to lashes on public transport – that wasn’t out of home at all. That’s because it was created by CGI. Chances are (if you are under 30) that you saw it on TikTok, where Maybelline’s target audience resides for make-up hacks, tips and content. If you are over 30, you most likely read about the people on TikTok loving it.

It also created an industry debate about the future of viral marketing, indeed live activations. There is a line from ‘80’s film Field of Dreams, ‘If you build it they will come’. In live activations, the line is ‘If you build it, they probably won’t come, few people will see it, and there is no guarantee of coverage’.

According to Metro, viewers on TikTok were ‘losing it’, whatever that looks like. The lesson: less effort, maximum impact. Why bother building it if you can do it far better and cost-effectively digitally? Especially when one minor miscalculation by a stoner in production could result in a busload of Belgian tourists brutally decapitated by a giant pink mascara wand.

We’ve all had days like that, or close to it. For that reason alone we can expect to see a lot more of it, but probably a lot less of Barbie. She’s had her moment. Until the sequel.

This week's PR Stunt Watch was written by Mark Perkins, executive creative director at creative comms agency Cow.

PR Stunt watch is a new regular column on PRmoment. Subscribe to our editorial updates to get this feature every week.

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