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Viral publicity stunts: Top five brand campaigns that attracted attention in 2021

From explosive billboards to celebrity stars, how brands went viral with publicity stunts in 2021.

A number of brands attracted viral success on social media and hit the headlines for their creative use of publicity stunts this year.

In 2021, we saw an increase in brands using publicity stunts in outdoor advertising, twists on well-known products we all know and love, to reactive marketing with trending topics on social media.

Let’s take a look back at a few of the publicity stunts that brands went viral for in 2021:

1. Weetabix and Heinz Beanz

A single image posted on Twitter of two Weetabix with Heinz Beanz poured over them was enough to cause a stir this year - attracting nearly 37,000 retweets and over 131,000 likes.

As part of an on-going PR campaign alongside Frank PR, the cereal brand became a viral sensation on social media with a variety of breakfast twist suggestions. After its success, Weetabix went on to show social media users how they might love or hate trickling Marmite on top of their cereal... or opting to pour a glass of an Innocent smoothie drink on top to shake things up a bit.

The post went viral with other brands deciding to get involved, weighing in with witty responses to the post on Twitter. Tesco replied with: “Illegal combination in bagging area”, while Royal Mail swooped in with the comment: “Sorry, you weren't in. You'll have to collect this from your local bin.”

Specsavers 'It's coming home' ad.

2. Specsavers - It’s Coming Home

With the media gaze firmly on the football this summer as the England football team made its way to the Euro 2020 finals, Specsavers was one of the brands that took notice.

Specsavers celebrated England’s success through its reactive campaign with the simple phrase all football lovers were chanting - ‘It’s coming home’. The phrase was posted on its billboard advertisement in the style of an eye chart found in opticians, with the letters decreasing in size. 

The billboard and social media posts about the campaign hit the headlines throughout the football tournament.

Tangerine Communications worked with Specsavers on the campaign - with the agency showcasing how brands can embrace topical events to boost a brand.

Marmite "Dynamite" campaign.

3. "Dynamite" campaign for Marmite

Communications company adam&eveDDB created an explosive campaign to launch a limited edition chilli flavour of Marmite, called Dynamite.

Using OOH special build, the agency helped the brand to build a PR story around the tagline ‘Love it, hate it, be careful with it’ to create a vision that the new flavour was so spicy that the lid has... actually blown off.

Making a big impression with social media users, the explosive PR campaign featured an iconic street installation. The installation showed the lid of a Marmite jar 'blown off' of the billboard, all the way through to a car windscreen on the street below it.

Reactive campaign with Autoglass.

4. Rise at Seven reactive campaign with Autoglass

The spotlight was on Autoglass following Marmite’s Dynamite campaign, with the help of an agency’s reactive vision.

Creative SEO agency Rise At Seven saw an opportunity for reactive marketing following the success of Marmite’s exploding jars campaign, and created their own twist.

Although the team at Rise at Seven did not count Autoglass as a client at the time, they photoshopped an Autoglass van into the photo which helped the social stunt, and brand, to become a viral sensation.

Silentnight PR stunt.

5. Tucked up with Silentnight

It’s not everyday you see a TV star suspended on a giant billboard as part of a PR stunt for a brand.

In her PJs, TV star Denise Van Outen was tucked up in a bed suspended on a giant billboard in Manchester alongside boyfriend Eddie Boxshall, as part of a PR stunt for Silentnight.

Manchester PR agency Brazen worked with the brand and the Celebrity Gogglebox couple on the publicity stunt to boost the Wake Up to a Silentnight campaign.