Having a craic at the races as Paddy Power stunt makes hay while the sun rises
12th March 2012

Having a craic at the races as Paddy Power stunt makes hay while the sun rises

In reviewing my collection of favourite stunts from the week gone by, pondering which to write about while sitting, as I tend to, in Starbucks of a Sunday afternoon, there is one that stands out from the past seven days.

It might be the most obvious selection. But only because it is so damn good.

So it is that I come to highlight for those who may not have seen it, Paddy Power’s latest, epic-scale stunt: putting a rider on the White Horse of Uffington.

Now here we have a brand with a formidable reputation when it comes to cunning stuntery.

Perhaps with a nod to fellow countryman O’Leary, they have a flagrant disregard for authority and “the rules” in their approach to brand promotion. Paddy Power has been creating word-of-mouth since they launched on these shores in 2001 – indeed those with long memories might remember their opener: print ads “so brutal” they were banned.

They followed that with their “Hollywood sign” as a two-fingered salute to the official Ryder Cup sponsors (which, incidentally, they were ordered to take down, thereby creating yet more news for themselves).

They (or at least Taylor Herring on their behalf) have been at it again.

On this occasion, with this gem …

Now those with reasonable memories will stroke their chins and acknowledge the genius before briefly whinging that this is a rip off idea: “Homer Simpson meets Cern Abas Giant by Beatwax way back in 2008,” they will say.

To that I say “bollocks”.

Some ideas are truly stand out original.

But many of the best campaigns are those that take an idea that has worked and build on it – re-creating it for a new generation of news desk hacks who are green and have short memories of such things.

They are also ideas that set aside the petty desires of creative folk to tread eternally new ground and are simply a take on a previous idea that is as good – if not better – than their predecessors.

Why’s it work?

For sure because it has front – a certain Irish cheekiness, if you will.

Undoubtedly because it had risk attached – always bound to appeal to the gamblers of the turf.

Without question because it has scale – of an epic nature.

And, of course, it has wit.

But most important, it has not wimped out at the last jump.

Many are the clients who would fall in love with the idea and promptly suggest that – in the face of lawyers, English Heritage opprobrium, the Daily Mail-ism of potential backlash – it would be “safer” if they picked a different hill and made their own Uffington Horse.

This idea – and its ultimate success – tells me once that there are two maxims that can be forgotten all-too-easily in an industry where everyone is feeling the economic pressure: that it is sometimes better to ask forgiveness than permission and that, in this game and at a time when the war for consumer attention is fierce, it is better to feel the fear and do it anyway than it is never to feel fear in the first place.

This is a first class education in those two lessons. Anyone contemplating a career in PR would do well to learn them.

This article was first published on PR Moment roughly two days ago – they get first dibs, naturally. But we thought that we would put it up here too. Just in case anyone missed it, I guess.

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