The ten best PR stunts of 2022

Which has been your PR stunt of the year? Let us take you through our selection of the top ten of 2022 so you can pick your favourite.

January

RSPB Big Garden Bird watch

Andy Barr owner of agency 10 Yetis Digital: “The annual bothering of our feathery friends received coverage that was nothing short of amazing courtesy of the wise PR owls over at the RSPB. It is a syndicated content journalists dream.”

March

Gender Pay Gap Bot campaign

Caitlin Singh, communications executive at PR agency Definition Agency: “The PR stunt that stands out the most in my memory from the last year must be the Gender Pay Gap Bot campaign ran on Twitter - it was genius. Rightly so, International Women’s Day attracts significant social media traffic from individuals and companies keen to show their support.

This year, from an anonymous Twitter handle - @PayGapApp - Francesca Lawson and her partner Ali Fensome, a copywriter and software developer respectively, began sharing brands’ ‘supportive’ posts alongside data actually exposing their gender pay gap. It was a bold move, but one that paid off as it sent a strong message to brands that more transparency is needed from them on social media - not performative actions.”

May

Visit Iceland, OutHorse your Email

Edward Bell, freelance senior consultant, strategist and copywriter: "Visit Iceland's OutHorse Your Email campaign was the kind of Camus-like absurdist madness that PR agencies might include in the ideas deck, but never expect the client to ever go for. It's the idea you include to show that your agency doesn't lack for creativity, but never expecting a brave client CMO to actually greenlight it.

“Yet somehow, consumers who are used to pretty rigid category convention for Tourist Board-type campaigns, were instead treated to a perfect, mad blend of bespoke research (on employees checking emails whilst on holiday), a fun real-life actual verifiable horse which was tasked with replying to your OOO emails on your behalf on a giant custom-built keyboard - and all set against the beautiful backdrop of Icelandic countryside.

“As campaigns go, there were rightfully a few neighsayers. I envy the PRs who got to ring journalists and say 'hey, so we've trained three Icelandic horses to autofill OOO emails - here's new research, a beautiful video and a smile on the face of anyone who sees it'. Did it boost visitors to Iceland? That's the real...equestrian.”

Penguin Un-burnable Handmaid’s Tale

Yani Giazizoglou, director, citizen and community at comms agency Headland Consultancy: “Penguin’s un-burnable book of Handmaid’s Tale was brave, elegant and timely. Originally intended as a comment on censorship, it unexpectedly caught fire in the context of Roe vs Wade.”

Body Shop, Be Seen Be Heard

Yani Giazizoglou: “The Body Shop - campaigning for greater representation of youth voices as part of its purpose - stood against the government’s anti-protest Public Order Bill with a classic guerrilla tactic: a letter to every House of Lords member ahead of its second reading, delivered to Parliament by senior leaders. Hold on, a photo of a letter drop? Isn’t that peak PR cliché? Yes - but it worked because it was designed to resonate with the communities that matter to the campaign. The humble letter stunt not only prompted debate in the Lords, it also drove the brand’s best-performing content to date on its Twitter campaign hub. The fight against the Bill continues.”

June

The Last Photo for CALM

Angharad Planells, head of PR and culture at PR agency Radioactive: "The Last Photo, created by adam&eveDDB for CALM, is my stunt of 2022. It was a tough choice, given we've been able to enjoy some truly incredible OOH stunt work properly again this year, but this is a knockout for me. Or rather a gut punch, because it took my breath away when I saw it.

The campaign, which aimed to reshape our understanding of suicide, used 50 photos, each 6.5ft high, of people smiling on London's South Bank area, reminding us that suicide doesn't always look suicidal. Solid media relations around the exhibition drew attention to CALM's online toolkit in a bid to equip us all with knowledge that can save lives, and the stories behind each heart-breaking photo broke stereotypes and stigmas around suicide. A very powerful stunt that has stayed with me ever since I first saw it."

July

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic

Andy Barr: “Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic tracked the recycling habits of 100,000 households in the UK and discovered that the average British household throws away 66 items of plastic every week and this adds up to 96m a year across the whole country.

“Worryingly, 46% of that plastic is incinerated, 25% goes to landfill with just 12% being recycled here in the UK and then 17% is shipped off overseas for “processing”. Supermarkets were lucky to dodge any negative PR bullets as it was revealed that fruit and veg packaging was the most commonly found plastics in the recycling research.”

October

Dove’s Real Virtual World campaign:

Steph Brown, account director at creative agency Orchid:  “The Real Beauty campaign has run through Dove’s core for many years. It pledges to break down unrealistic expectations of ideal beauty standards and champion women for their natural beauty and potential.

“An already meaningful, loved, and commended campaign, 2022 saw Dove take its message into the virtual world.

“With more women now enjoying gaming as a pastime, it became clear that whilst the real world was becoming far more diverse and inclusive in its representation of women, the online world was stuck in the past. Women simply don’t see themselves in the games they play which not only makes the immersive enjoyment of gaming far harder, but also reinforces stereotypes Dove has been working so hard to eradicate.

“Working with Unreal Engine, Dove’s Real Virtual Beauty campaign stepped into the metaverse to continue its fight against unrealistic beauty standards to ensure that happiness, wellbeing, body positivity and self-confidence of women continues to be advocated for.

“With the online world so frequently intermingling with the real world, especially in this day of AI, VR and the metaverse, this campaign stands out for me as one of the most relevant and most important messages told this year. Empowerment for women knows no boundaries. “

November

Joe Lycett vs Beckham

Estelle Boon, head of consumer at PR firm Grayling: “Joe Lycett used his platform; he was creative and he was focused on a singular objective. All the elements of a brilliant campaign. Never mind the fact he was doing it for good, it was excellently executed. Tease, suspense and reveal. Smart. The best (and worst) he could have hoped for was that David Beckham wouldn’t respond. It was a win-win for PR. Albeit a lose-lose for society. We all must use our influence better.”

Bounty-free Celebration boxes

Chris Photi, senior account manager at PR agency M&C Saatchi Talk: “I’m a big fan of the ‘No Bounty’ Celebration tubs from the back end of this year. The Bounty debate has roared on for decades now and there’s something quintessentially British about it… almost like the way in which people use the price of a Freddo to measure inflation. It was about time that someone acknowledged it and this campaign does that in a simple but effective way.

“I also love stunts that take full advantage of a seemingly unimportant, yet undeniably divisive conversation, just like this one. Things are bound to snowball and when you’re winding up Piers Morgan on Twitter, you’re definitely doing something right. The announcement was followed by a limited run of Bounty-free boxes, available for purchase: a fairly low effort production relative to its impact. And because of that, the stunt was wrapped in a pretty convincing disguise; almost like it was a considered, commercial decision.”

As for my favourite stunt, chocolate-related ones always go down well, but the idea of not having a Bounty in my Celebration tub, well that’s plain cruel!

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