An old friend of mine in New Zealand sent me some information on a classic piece of guerrilla marketing that is causing a kerfuffle in the Southern Hemisphere. To coincide with the launch of Mintshot.co.nz, an entertainment website which rewards people for watching ads online, it appeared that Rangitoto, an extinct volcano, was actually erupting before thousands of people’s eyes. However on closer inspection it was revealed that this was part of a guerrilla marketing campaign led by Mintshot director Marc Ellis. The Mintshot tagline is “It pays to watch” and in the early hours of the morning of the launch, Ellis and his fellow directors ascended Rangitoto and using smoke flares simulated an eruption. Later that day, tens of thousands of people had registered on the Mintshot website. But the stunt was slammed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation who believed it to be harmful to the islands native wildlife, calling it “demoralising and disappointing”. The NZDOC are now seeking legal advice on whether they can take Ellis to court. The authorities were up in arms that they had not had any warning of the impending stunt because people really believed the volcano was erupting, sparking panic amongst thousands of people. But this is exactly the kind of stunt needed to produce grand scale publicity.
There is so much guff talked about guerrilla marketing, but for it to succeed there needs to be a huge sense of risk. There is an old Polish proverb my Father used to use which I think might be apt here: “A good painter need not give a name to his picture, a bad one must.” Clients often want to indulge in this type of marketing but rarely have the balls to take on the turmoil that this discipline requires. The greatest stunts and marketing are akin to a high wire or circus trapeze without a safety net. Clearly Marc Ellis, unknown to most of us in Europe, has all the makings of a fearless stuntster.
Ellis is well known for his risqué behaviour which has seen him appearing on a Sky TV show called Sports Café where he used the phrase “sweating like a rapist” which was subsequently denounced by organisations including rape crisis. Ellis promoted streaking at televised sports fixtures to promote his “nude day” event and offered to reimburse any streaker that was fined, resulting in the police labelling him irresponsible and childish, but no formal charges were laid. Ellis appeared on the same show months later, so intoxicated he could barely speak, but some members of the media believed he was faking it to boost the show’s flagging ratings.
If a brand is going to make its mark in this very competitive and noisy marketing territory, it needs to follow this example in order to generate worldwide attention and maximum publicity.