April 2, 2011 11:55 AM   Subscribe

What are some good famous examples of free publicity paying off big-time --- "You couldn't even _buy_ publicity like that!!" ?

I'm looking for examples where free publicity somehow paid off like gangbusters for a company or individual --- example: news stories all over the nightly news saying "People are lining up around the BLOCK ALL NIGHT LONG to buy their new Apple iPhone!". Or, for an older example, when Prince made Warner Brothers pull the Black Album from the marketplace, making it the most bootlegged and popular album of the year... ...
posted by shipbreaker to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If I recall correctly, Friday broke big when it was linked to (and mocked) on the Tosh.0 blog. (PS: better version here).
posted by mhum at 11:59 AM on April 2, 2011

You might want to Google "Guerilla marketing". Projecting Gail Porter onto the Houses of Commons springs to mind... of course, by their very nature these things only work once.
posted by Leon at 12:00 PM on April 2, 2011

Joey Buttafuoco and John Wayne Bobbitt both became minor celebrities after some dismaying events.
posted by Operation Afterglow at 12:14 PM on April 2, 2011

Monty Python's Life of Brian.
posted by endless_forms at 12:44 PM on April 2, 2011

Coca-Cola and New Coke. Here's how it went down. People didn't so much hate New Coke (trust me, that statement is open to argument) as they missed "old" Coke. So New Coke sort of stayed on the shelf. Protests formed and lots of "news" stories etc. Long story short, Coke brought out Original Coca-Cola—the return of Coke. It was pitched as a "victory for the consumer". Yes, seriously.

But there's more to this story. First, people bought all the old Coke before it went off the shelves. Then everyone bought New Coke if only just try it. Then everyone bought Original Coke when it re-debuted.

At the time, Pepsi put out a big "After all these years of facing off, the competition blinked." And they showed a can of Pepsi and a can of New Coke. Which is really free advertising.

And there's still more. Coke to this opportunity to switch from using sugar to using high-fructose corn syrup. So (new) Original Coca-Cola really wasn't. But it sold like it was the invention of water. Read the wikipedia entry for New Coke for a good synopsis of the tale.

Coca-Cola got so much publicity world-wide, people ever since have said, "You couldn't pay for publicity like that."
posted by Mike Mongo at 1:00 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Paris Hilton's sex tape leaking. Before the tape she was just a wealthy daughter with a notable last name. After the tape, she has starred in several tv shows, guested stared in countless others, made movies & commercials and everyone in the country knows her name.
posted by mmascolino at 1:36 PM on April 2, 2011

Oprah book club books.

There is a place in Des Moines that apparently sells cookies that Obama likes and they sold a ton after the news did a piece on it.
posted by starman at 2:41 PM on April 2, 2011

Christina Perri's song "Jar of Hearts" was passed along to choreographer Stacey Tookey who loved it so much she choreographed a number for So You Think You Can Dance to it. Per wikipedia: "Following its exposure on the show, "Jar of Hearts" sold 48,000 digital copies, debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 at #63 and reaching #28 on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs."
posted by magnetsphere at 2:44 PM on April 2, 2011

Taylor Swift and Kayne West at the VMA 2009 awards - it made her even more famous and she could not have paid for publicity like that!!
posted by sandyp at 3:15 PM on April 2, 2011

I am reading a biography about Lady Gaga (don't judge) and in it the author claims that Gaga really got noticed when Christina Aguilera was dressed like her at some event. Aguilera was asked about the resemblance and she was all "Gaga who? I don't even know Gaga, is she like a woman or a man?". Even though it was a negative statement, it gave Lady Gaga a ton of attention.
posted by amicamentis at 3:20 PM on April 2, 2011

The controversy over Jersey Shore when it premiered - Italian-American groups were very unhappy about it.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:29 PM on April 2, 2011

If you're writing a paper or something, please make some distinction about how publicity is, at least by some definitions, *unpaid,* vs. advertising, which is paid. "Free publicity" therefore sets my teeth on edge. When people say "you can't pay for publicity like that," I know what they mean, therefore I try really hard not to scream at them, but it's hard not to say "er, you can't pay for publicity of any kind..."

There is, of course, the side issue of whether you pay PR people to *get* the publicity, vs. it just happening to you, but that's not exactly the same thing.

Everyone feel free to flame me, as I know I'm a bit pedantic about this :-)
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:41 PM on April 2, 2011

Rebecca Black might make $1 million from being reviled for that Friday song.
posted by elder18 at 12:04 AM on April 3, 2011

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