Nick Burcher and Rick Lamb view the idea’s ability to generate media attention as a PR success, whilst MP Lynne Featherstone blogs it was a “PR stunt gone wrong” as a result of angering local residents and politicians by causing traffic chaos. Indeed, Autoblog also takes this angle calling it a “blunder”.
The idea will have achieved an aim to cut through media clutter, gain coverage and word of mouth awareness of the stunt. But many, like MBA Geek, won’t make the connection to the actual game, Mercenaries 2; although they aren’t its target market.
Indeed, neither those queuing for the free fuel, nor residents in the local area of the chosen garage were being targeted for the new game; they were mere collateral in the publicity battle.
However, EA did plug the fuel giveaway on its website down to a map of where to find the filling station. The execution of the stunt was well planned with the forecourt “completely transformed into that of a military style bunker, with jeeps, oil barrels, sandbag walls, and fully costumed actors on hand to pump the petrol for the customers” echoing the theme of the game.
The resultant traffic chaos was no accident, but an integral aspect of the idea. Without the furore and irate residents, there is no story here. I expect the PR team behind the idea “fuelled it” (excuse the pun) by informing police and media of the traffic queue.
Clearly as Chris Reed writes, the aim seems to have been to generate coverage for its own sake, and I agree with Richard Glynn who predicts the company won’t be concerned about negative reporting of its stunt.
This activity is purely a marketing initiative, solely intended to generate publicity. Indeed, several of the EA team carry to the job title of publicist, whilst its agency, Shine is a marketing communications agency (although it has won several CIPR awards).
The campaign should be considered as seeking publicity, and not about achieving public relations. As such, its success should be assessed as any other marketing or promotional activity.
That means evaluating whether the media and online coverage contributed to increased sales. However, like most advertising and other marketing tactics, the best that can be said is that it may have generated recall (of the creative if not the product). I actually doubt whether the company measures how many customers report hearing of the stunt and whether it influenced their purchase decision.
Indeed, I don’t suppose the research element of planning the stunt involved identifying whether it would actually lead to increased purchases. There is an assumption in many campaigns that simply getting attention and media coverage leads to a desired behavioural consequence.
It is easy to motivate motorists to queue for free fuel. It is much more of a challenge to demonstrate the linkage between their activities and sales of Mercenaries 2.