Penny for your PR

Chevrolet’s latest PR stunt, Penny pinchers (via Mischief PR) reminds me of Borkowski‘s chocolate billboard work for Thornton’s from Easter 2007, but it does have an interesting creative element – and very nearly a direct connection to the car being promoted.

It involves a billboard displayed in the centre of London where the image of the car was overlaid with over 20,000 pennies which the public were encouraged to grab.  Not surprisingly, this drew a crowd in the style of the classic American PR stunts of the early 20th century.

The money message links to the current credit crunch agenda, but the penny connection doesn’t quite meet the aim of advertising “the 769,500-pence starting price of the new Chevrolet Aveo”.

This isn’t a very memorable price and I can’t see a strong association with the particular model in the stunt (yes, the image was there, but would even those grabbing some pennies remember what is was?)  Maybe if the deposit had been 20,000 pennies, there could have been a bit more of a connection in that this was all the money you needed to ‘ave an Aveo.

Autocar mistakenly added an extra zero into the number of pennies – headlining it the £2,000 publicity stunt (20,000 pennies is £200 by my maths though).  I couldn’t find any video of the public melee either on YouTube – and I really do feel that good publicity stunts today must consider the viral and online word of mouth opportunity.  An online photo diary could have been fun too rather than the press release images which look a little posed.

Mischief is definitely coming up with some cut through ideas – such as the “does my bum look big in this car” story from April. 

However, the problems in being creative in the car industry include ensuring a real connection with a particular model.  The story may be memorable, but could you recall the brand? 

A second issue is around credibility – and the idea that the car fitting room was seriously a trial for the concept to be rolled out more widely is simply not believable.  This was only every likely to be a one-off stunt.

The billboard initiative is a clear stunt.  Mind you, it is an idea Mischief have used before – last June it promoted the Captiva with a scratch car-d.

These stories certainly have the potential to gain media coverage – but whether that translates into greater awareness, enquiries or even purchases is debatable.  That may not be the direct aim, but having a PR stunt that is talked about is only one element of successful creativity. 

The same applies in advertising campaigns – if you can’t recall the product, let alone stimulate someone on the road to purchase, you’ll only reinforce that old adage that 50% of advertising works, we just don’t know which 50%.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “Penny for your PR”

  1. Hello,

    Jenny from Chevrolet here, just to say there is a film up if anyone wants to take a look, it on under “Chevrolet Penny Billboard.”

    We must have posted it just after you looked.

  2. Thanks Jenny – good to see the medium being used as this is clearly a visual story too. Maybe next time there could be a link in the press release to the YouTube video? Of course, one of the challenges for PR with all the multimedia options is getting everything live simultaneiously.

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