do something great

To stunt or not to stunt?

… that is the question.

We all know that ideas [generally] win pitches. But are big all-singing and all-dancing stunts always the answer to a brand’s comms challenge? The answer is no, they are not.

Let’s be clear on the difference between stunts and campaigns up front.

A stunt is a one-off flash in the pan idea aimed at gaining publicity or engagement. A campaign, on the other hand, builds in momentum, often has different phases and has longevity. In fact, Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries refers to a campaign as ‘a series of planned activities that are intended to achieve a particular social, commercial or political aim.’

You may argue that the legacy of a stunt gives it longevity, and of course that can be the case, but all too often the decision maker in a business has decided they need to ‘do a stunt’ because one of their competitors has. And that, purely and simply, is the rationale behind it rather than it being the right thing for the business and falling in line with their commercial objectives.

to stunt or not to stunt
“If in doubt, float it down the Thames”

Obviously, you want to be the brand known for that stunt that went viral and got you loads of additional sales, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend tens of thousands of pounds on a huge installation you’re never going to use again. You’re smarter than that.

Often stunts can work harder for agencies than brands too. They generally always get picked up in trade marketing press and they can win awards. But will they get cut-through in the national media or your top tier titles, or create engagement on your social feeds with your direct audience? This is what it needs to come down to because, if not, then why bother?

I am not saying there isn’t a place for stunts. There absolutely is. But they need to be considered, well executed and incredibly timely, otherwise you might miss your moment in time and end up scrambling for the dregs of the day’s coverage, dreading the email from the client asking for an update.

I actually wish less emphasis in the agency/brand wooing phase was placed on standalone ideas and more on an agency’s approach, the chemistry, their understanding of your business and experience with relevant media or sectors. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most and is the key to a long-term reciprocal relationship. That is what’s going to give you the best grounding when it comes to launching a campaign.

We talk about being strategy-first as an agency and that’s absolutely our core belief, but we too have been guilty of throwing some quick and dirty ideas into a proposal to make sure we’re ticking all boxes.

Actually, what we’d prefer to do, is spend time getting to know our clients before proposing campaign ideas, so we can genuinely suggest something that will drive success for the brand or business.

To help this, one thing we’re good at is questioning. Questioning the reason behind a brief. Questioning the objectives. Questioning a client’s expectations – if we don’t have clear KPIs how are we going to know whether we’ve succeeded? Success in our minds may be different to that in the mind of a client. If a client wants a stunt, why do they want a stunt? Which stunts have they seen before that they’ve deemed a success? What type of budget do they have for a stunt so we can frame our response accordingly?

Often the result of questioning is a pragmatic conversation around what will work best for the client (or prospect). And the answer to that might be a 12-month programme of press office activity to get the brand better established before a planned campaign. Or to test the water with some reactive comms through newsjacking. In the main, clients appreciate that honesty.

When bringing an agency on board it’s important for there to be an open dialogue – you don’t want someone working on your behalf if they’re just chasing the fee and not fully bought in to what you’ve asked them to do. Take advantage of their expertise and use it to benefit your brand (and make your life easier). Even if they [respectfully] question your approach…

So remember, when writing that brief, always ask yourself the question – to stunt or not to stunt? Or ask the agency the question and see what their recommendation is…

About the author: Amy Airey is CreativeRace’s Communications Director. Amy has extensive experience in communications and PR, working on big name brands such as British Military Fitness, Morphy Richards, Landsec, Barratt Developments, Yorkshire Water and Thomas Cook.