Media Credit: Oliva Garrity. Source: www.thetriangle.org
I came across a video showing a Carnival Cruise Lines publicity stunt gone awry (sort of) as my first-year PR students were researching pseudo-events this past week.
As this article in The Daily Pennsylvanian describes, Carnival staged a major publicity stunt in Philadelphia in November 2008, in which it built – and invited the public to come and enjoy – the world’s largest piñata.
It sounds like a great idea. Carnival markets itself to a young, fun-loving audience with the tagline “Fun For All. All For Fun.” and many of its most popular cruises include ports of call in Mexico. The world’s largest piñata would seem to be a great fit.
According to another article, Carnival never planned to actually bash the giant piñata with a wrecking ball on-site; rather, the plan was for the wrecking ball to come close, and for trap doors to open via remote control, spilling eight thousand pounds of candy into the square for the public to collect (with cameras rolling).
Imagine the planning that went into this event. Between the actual event plan, the building and filling of the piñata, the procurement of the wrecking ball, the advertising and media relations, dealing with the city for permits, security, first aid, and all the required staging, it would have been a huge undertaking.
But in the end, the moment the crowd was waiting for – the release of the candy – didn’t happen. Why? Because their publicity for this publicity event was too successful… and they didn’t have a plan B.
So why does the title of this post talk about advertising?
Because of this Carnival ad, which I also found on YouTube.
I don't know whether this is done with CGI or whether they edited footage of the event together with footage of a later, smaller, piñata opening; but either way, audiences nation-wide and beyond watching this commercial would have had the impression that the event had gone off without a hitch.
Does it matter?
You tell me.
Either way, Carnival did legitimately earn its Guinness World Record for the world's largest piñata; it'll be able to leverage that distinction for publicity purposes (including the ad, above) until its record is broken by some other publicity-hunter.