PR pit or peak?

Posted on January 02, 2018


As we swing open the doors and say 'what about ye' to 2018, we wanted to take stock of the last 12 months and pay homage to the year that brought us the Academy Awards blunder, the hipster Ken doll makeover and the Taylor Swift comeback of dreams.

Winston Churchill once said “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing, but of reflection.” Inspired by the big man, we took time over the festive season to reflect on the PR moments that got us talking, laughing and cringing in 2017.

So, in true Kardashian style, we asked the Clearbox team to tell us their PEAK and PIT PR moments of 2017. Over to you, team…

Natalie
My peak moment has to be the Skittles Gay Pride campaign. The official ‘taste the rainbow’ brand ditched their famous colours for a black-and-white packet to signify that the only rainbow that mattered that month was for Pride. It was a really smart campaign and a fab way to channel the message about equality, proceeds from the sales were also given to charity. A great idea all round. 

Pit - just has to be Pepsi, without a doubt. I don’t know what was worse, the ad itself or the videos of Kendall Jenner crying and apologising for it afterwards. It’s a shame that a campaign that was built upon a positive message was undermined by trivialising a serious issue. Major oops.. 

Bestie
One of my peak PR moments this year was the Marmite DNA tests - their ‘Love it or hate it’ campaign is now 21 years old and it’s deeply engrained in the UK culture. Their latest campaign saw a genetic testing company commissioned to create DNA home kits so consumers could test whether they were born a lover or a hater of the yeasty spread. 

My pit moment has to go to United Airlines; they really haven’t had a great year have they? Over-booking and overreacting…between kicking (quite literally) a passenger off the plane due to seats being oversold and banning two passengers because they were wearing leggings! 2017 was a complete shocker for them. 

Daniel
Peak: I’m not sure if this will count but it’s something that really changed the public’s perception of an organisation. My favourite club, Aston Villa, has had a pretty horrible time of late, not least with a want away, absentee chairman. 

The club has since been bought by Dr Tony Xia and this year, his transfer window Twitter updates have really helped get fans back onside. He’s open and engaging on social media which is a very new approach for the club and has made a big difference in how it’s thought of. Anyone precious about maths should probably not click this link, mind. 

Pit: WalkersWave - The speed at which this one went bad was almost impressive. Walkers found out rapidly that user generated content was entirely subject to the mercy of the internet and people were sending in ridiculous selfies and pictures of all sorts of unsavoury (100% intended) characters. 

Ashley
I adore IKEA for making my house look (almost) Pinterest worthy and I also adore IKEA for their fantastic PR stunts. This year they did not disappoint as they celebrated 30 years of IKEA in the UK by hosting a four floor house party that was open to the public. Each floor celebrated a decade of business in UK and made a nod to interior design of that time. The top floor finished with a look ahead to 2020. Take note people - indoor gardens are the future (you heard it here first).

There were sadly quite a few PR pits in 2017. For me the most stand out of these were the Nivea ‘white is purity’ and the Dove ‘body shaped bottles’ campaigns. It still amazes me how campaigns like this get the nod of approval, lets hope they revive themselves in 2018!

Charlotte
My peak PR moment would have to be the Fearless Girl statue facing the Charging Bull on Wall Street.

It was timed for this year’s International Women’s Day and depicted a little girl standing proudly before the bull, to represent workplace gender diversity.

It was a bold statement and was so successful that it remained in situ for much longer than planned. It sent a very clear message and created lots of media buzz, so it was hard to miss!

My pit PR moment was Kendall Jenner’s horrendous “apology" for that Pepsi ad. 

Rather than a straightforward, ‘hands up' apology, Kendall offered up crocodile tears on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, partnered with an explanation that made it feel that she she still didn’t quite understand what was wrong: "I feel really bad that anyone was offended.”

They say Satan works hard, but Kris Jenner works harder. However, this time the damage control didn’t quite cut it and it remains one of the biggest PR fails, if not THE biggest PR fail, of the year.

C Ham
This one is close to home - Mash Direct’s Potato Face Mask April Fools Day prank on Sky News was amazing. It was well-planned, very clever and something that got them great national coverage. Seeing my husband Jack on Sky News talking about how mashed potatoes gave him his lovely skin was one of the funniest moments of 2017. Plus, he even convinced the presenter to put mashed potato on his face. Well played, Mash Direct! 

This year’s PR fail award goes to United Airlines and flying the not so friendly sky. It was also a really interesting case study for how social media is changing the game. The video of that man being dragged went viral and everyone had clicked on it by the time the CEO had a chance to give a response. There were several other airlines this year that made PR blunders, so hopefully they will learn from their mistakes in 2018.