Saturday, November 14, 2009

Promotion Fail

You make it all the way through Friday the 13th and then this crap happens.

"Mailorama va distribuer des dizaines de milliers d'Euros en cash dans les rues de Paris," claims the website - at least for the moment. For the monolithically English speaking, that roughly translates to "Mailorama will distribute tens of thousands of euros in cash in the streets of Paris." Didn't work out that way.

Mailorama, an email marketing website in France, set out to promote their service by having a drive-by-giveaway, tossing envelopes of cash to people from a van as it passed the Eiffel Tower. However when an unexpectedly large crowd estimated at 5000 showed up, blocking traffic and causing safety concerns, police and  Mailorama agreed to call off the publicity stunt.

The disappointed crowd overturned a car. At least 10 people were arrested.

The Mailorama fiasco is right up there with other great promotional disasters. My favorites are the (real) Disco Demolition night and the (fake) WKRP Thanksgiving Giveaway.

Disco Demolition night took place in Chicago in 1979. Disco music, the signature music of the 70's, had divided the nation into those who could do The Hustle and those who couldn't. A growing rejection of what had become the Disco norm was spawning the New Wave and Punk movements, and in Chicago a disc jockey expressed his disdain for Disco by destroying Disco records by any means possible. His claim to fame came when he was scheduled to blow up boxes of LPs between games of a Chicago White Sox double-header.

The White Sox were owned by Bill Veeck, a shameless promoter who had once sent midget Eddie Gaedel up to bat in a major league baseball game. For him the Disco Demolition night was a no-brainer.

The demolition took place, but then, as with the Mailorama crowd, the scene turned ugly with hundreds of people coming onto the field and starting a bonfire in center field. The second game of the double header was cancelled (the White Sox ultimately forfeited the game - the last time an American League game was forfeited).

Still, IMHO, the best promotion failure was from the fictional WKRP radio station from the TV series of the same name. If you know the story it needs no explanation, and if you haven't, well, I won't spoil it for you, just watch the clip (sorry, can't find an embeddable version).

CBS News

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