How effective are New Age PR Stunts?

Public relations is known for doing stunts to get publicity. Traditionally they have relied on journalists and media gatekeepers to publish media for them. They have also had to rely on new stations to pick up their story.

With the New Age PR stunts companies don’t need any of that. No need to contact journalists, gatekeepers or worry about buying costly media space.

Companies have found a new way to hone in on the highly digital age that we live in.

I have been thinking a lot recently about the changes that have been made in public relations just over the last five years. Public relations relied so much on others before, but now when it is done right you can have a successful PR stunt done in-house.

The latest PR stunt recently that drove me to write this blog was done by Ubisoft to promote their new game Watch Dogs.

Before you watch the video let me explain about the game in one sentence. The game Watch Dogs is based in future Chicago and the main character can hack into any system using his cell phone, whether than be shutting off lights or changing traffic lights.

In just over two weeks of the video being put on YouTube it has almost 13 million views. There are some video that have gotten more views in the same time period, but this is still impressive.

I can infer that the producers of the video are pleased with the 12.7 millions views, but want more.

These type of videos have been going on for about the last six months. The first one I remember seeing was the Jeff Gordon Pepsi MAX prank. This video has over 43 million views.

People thought that it was fake so they made another video to prove themselves.

Other notable one to watch if you have time is the Devil Baby prank in New York and the promo PR stunt for the movie Carrie. The Carrie video got 57 millions views.

I watched the behind the scenes video for the Street Hacks video and there were a lot of factors that played into the video. It was very complicated and intricate.

It may have cost a lot of money to make the video, but they didn’t have to pay for any commercials on TV. They didn’t have to pay thousands of dollars for a TV spot, which people could easily miss if they left the room.

By putting the video on YouTube they are able to know exactly how many people viewed the video. They know that the audience and demographic for Internet use is only growing.

They could have made a commercial and then placed the commercial on YouTube and then have people share that, but why use the middle man? Put it straight on YouTube.

I think that these New Age PR stunts are very effective. I am not saying that traditional media is a waste, but a lot of companies are going in this new direction.

The amazing thing is that people are choosing to watch your PR stunt a.k.a “commercial.” If a friend shares the video people are going to be more likely to watch the video themselves. They will also be more likely to share and mention the video to friends.

If their friends mention it to them they are most likely going type in “Watch Dogs Prank” on Goolge or YouTube, driving their traffic and impression through the roof.

If you look on Google trends, people searching for Watch Dogs has gone up exponentially since April.  Check out the picture below.








I think that they are effective for impressions, whether they impact sales or not is a discussion for another day.


Foursquare Fail, Swarm Sinking


Recently Foursquare decided to split their check-in app into two separate apps. Foursquare is now turning into a wanna-be Yelp, and Swarm is the new check-in app.

I first found out about this because when I was checking into places on Foursquare where I was the mayor it wasn’t notifying me that I was the mayor anymore.

I tweeted at @4sqsupport and they responded quickly informing me that they were making way for Mayor 2.0.

foursquare support ‏@4sqSupport  May 13

@TaylorBentall Hi there! We’re making way for mayors 2.0! See more here: …

According to their blog these are the three reasons for them splitting the app:

  1. Points became arbitrary and less reflective of real-world achievement, because a check-in at a concert in Istanbul is really different than one at a dog park in New York (and the thousands of types of check-ins in between).
  2. We created hundreds and hundreds of badges to appeal to different people around the world. Some of you want more, though we hear more often that badges stopped feeling special a long time ago.
  3. Mayors were great when Foursquare was small and you were competing against your friends to rule the neighborhood coffee shop, but as more people signed up, earning a mayor crown became impossible.

When I read the way Swarm would work I wasn’t very happy.

I now have to compete with my friends to become a mayor, oh wait I have 12 friends that use Foursquare. I don’t compete with my friends for mayorship, I compete with the people in town. That’s the whole point of the app.

They also introduced stickers, which are a waste of time. If you want to read all the details check out the blog. I don’t want to copy and paste their whole blog in here.


I downloaded Swarm and gave it a chance for a week and I finally deleted it yesterday.

I deleted it for three reasons:

1. I check into places where I am the mayor and nothing happened. The whole point of checking in is to feel a sense of accomplishment and I don’t feel that with Swarm. It is just a waste of time now.

2. The app has an auto-location setting and tries to guess where I am. That’s not the point!! I am supposed to tell you where I am, not the other way around. Oh and the location is always on so it kills your battery.

3. It shows everyone’s check-ins, I doesn’t show just their last check-in, so I have to scroll through a bunch of posts to see older ones.

Honestly the app design is really cool. I love the new feature of being able to make plans. I think it is cool.

The reviews on the app story have been overwhelmingly negative. The people gave it a 5 star rating said, “I like it but, [enter problem].”

There are as many 1 star ratings as there are positive.

Here are some 1 star reviews:

Royman0: “I miss some of the game aspects like badges and leveling up… the stickers don’t seem that fun.

Sixonthefloor: “I don’t like having to use two apps to check into one place. Why can’t you just keep it simple and use one app?”

I am sitting here wondering the same thing. I am not going to use Foursquare to check reviews on places. I use Google. They are fighting a battle they aren’t going to win

Salvag98: “I have been using Foursqaure for years, I just can’t figure out why they are inisiting on splitting the app in two.”

It goes on and on. I understand that it is a new app and it might have technical flaws. I am not worried about those. I am worried about why they changed everything. They messed with something good and made it bad.

With all these negative reviews I am wondering what research they did. What audience did they research to think that this would work?All of the 5 star ratings seem to be people that know nothing about the app and haven’t used Foursquare. New users might be happy, but they don’t know what they are missing.

All the negative reviews come from people that have been using Foursquare for years

Funkyman3333: “Ack! This is awful! I’ve used Foursquare for 4-5 years and love it. I cared less about where my friends were. The gamification is gone- no more points, no badges and mayorship is stupid.”

This is the audience that they should have been talking to. The three reasons above for changing it are the exact reasons that people hate Swarm now. Badges, points and mayors. People liked it and now they removed because they think that people don’t like them.

This blows my mind! I told everyone how great Foursquare was, now all I can talk about is how mad I am that they split the app. I will only go back if they change things and even then it is a long shot.

UPDATE: November 7, 2014

I got an email from Foursquare yesterday with his image in it!

I am still not satisfied! I know that they probably took the feedback and did what they could, but it just won’t be the same. They should have done this research beforehand, instead of trying to fix it after. Good PR move with the email by saying that you listened to the consumer.

If they asked me the first time though this wouldn’t have happened! I am still not downloading it, I will never download it again! They are just going to have to live with the fact that they made the biggest mistake by getting greedy and trying to split the app!