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Gateshead billboard hostage stunt

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Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 10 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have, to put it mildly, mellowed.

I'm not a believer in brushing the past under the carpet. I've written some offensive rubbish on here in the past: deleting it and pretending it never happened doesn't change that. I hope that stumbling across something that's 10 years old won't offend anyone anew, because I hope that people can understand that what I thought and felt and wrote about then is probably very different to what I think and feel and write about now. It's a relic of an (albeit recent) bygone era.

So, given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views may well have changed in the last 10 years. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find utterly cringeworthy today.
  • This post might use words or language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate, offensive, embarrassing, or all three.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken, and embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

To promote their new website, the advertising company SA Group staged a bizarre stunt in which they dangled a person in front of a billboard during rush hour last week. It caught my eye as I drove past, and I ended up Googling the company involved. Here cometh the company’s video of the stunt:

.swf?clip_id=13934926&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0″ />.swf?clip_id=13934926&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0″ allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”>

“>Billboard Corruption PR Stunt from 37″>SA Group on Vimeo.

Yes, I know that the stunt has got me talking about and linking to the company and so in that sense has been a success, but I can’t help thinking that their Press Release about the event will ruffle a few feathers.

You’ll note their headline – “Newcastle Billboard Stunt” – and their claim that

Known as billboard corruption www.sagroupuk.com targeted rush hour traffic with a head turning billboard message supported with a live kidnap stunt where a person was suspended from the top of a billboard in Newcastle City Centre.

All very well, except for the minor fact that this happened in Gateshead, not Newcastle, and next to the B1600, not exactly the city centre of either Gateshead or Newcastle. They’re based in the North East themselves, so surely they know the difference?

And given that my attention wasn’t exactly focused on the poster’s logo, when I came to Google the stunt, it was very difficult to find any information as to who the advertiser was – as I naturally wasn’t searching for “Newcastle City Centre”, since it happened in a different city. Even substituting the city for Newcastle, only the narrowest possible search terms bring up any results – and then we’re talking about the above Vimeo video, rather than the company’s own site.

I’m sure their “billboard corruption” makes for wonderful PR, but these guys really need to work on their web approach. I don’t know whether they bought some AdWords nearer the time and I just missed the campaign, but surely I’m not the only one looking this up a couple of days later.

So, in summary: Eye catching stunt, geography and web strategy need some serious work.

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