When a stunt's only a starting point

Live events are still popular, but they can be greatly magnified by the use of multimedia.

Live events are still popular, but they can be greatly magnified by the use of multimedia.

When the Seattle Seahawks were preparing to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl earlier this year, Seattle-based Getty Images decided to stage a stunt to build on the excitement in the city, and reinforce its status as official photographer of the NFL.

Working on short notice, Edelman helped Getty Images create a "stealth projection" event, Project Seahawk, which projected 30" x 50" images of the Seahawks players in action all over Seattle.

"We wanted to stand out, but that's more difficult than it's ever been, so the projection absolutely helped cut through the clutter and get noticed," notes Jay Porter, VP for consumer brands in Edelman's Seattle office, adding that Project Seahawk proved especially attractive to local TV news stations. "We would not have been as pleased with the results if we had not gotten the broadcast pickup we did."

Though they still have their occasional detractors, special events and outrageous stunts are making a strong comeback as a way to build brands and launch products in a cluttered media landscape.

But to make sure clients are comfortable putting up a significant budget against a one-shot stunt, PR agencies are looking to add multimedia features to these events, both as a lure to attract traditional media and as a way of creating additional compelling content for YouTube and other direct-to-consumer distribution sites.

"You always want to attract TV coverage," says Andy Morris, partner and principal with New York-based Morris & King Company. "But now there are alternatives - and with multimedia, you can shoot your own coverage for distribution virally."

Increasingly, it appears as if simply getting the television trucks out to your a event is only part of the equation. When Disney Parks & Resorts held a star-studded event to mark the opening of Disneyland's redesigned Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, it opted to augment the standard media coverage with live broadcasts on MSN and Disney.com.

"There were over 100 TV crews on the carpet, so traditional media still provided the vast majority of coverage by a long way," says Duncan Wardle, VP of global PR for Disney Parks & Resorts. "But this was a chance to take an event where we knew there would be a lot of enthusiasm and see what we can learn from a new medium."

Wardle says when Disney created additional multimedia content for the webcast, it made sure some of it was also available to traditional TV. "On any red carpet there are gaps, so we had pre-produced packages with the history of the attraction and the fact that it was one of the last attractions Walt Disney worked on before he died," he explains.

Porter says it is important to make sure you have the right client - and the right content - to ensure multimedia serves as that additional lure for television, rather than just another expense.

Theano Apostolou, VP, media relations for the AMC and WE cable networks, says incorporating multimedia into an event doesn't have to be a budget-buster. Apostolou has staged several stunts in New York's Times Square to promote WE's Bridezilla TV series, including a cake dive and a "Running of the Brides."

"We get tons of coverage, but we do set-up points through the stunt that can be leveraged on multimedia to not only enhance the event for TV, but also to provide content for cell phones and Web sites," she explains. "A lot of times, it's as simple as putting a helmet cam on one of the running brides or a lipstick-cam in the cake to get this crazy wild footage that everybody will want to share.

"A media stunt isn't newsworthy in itself," Apostolou adds, "so you must create a spectacle and multimedia can help. We do ad value on the Bridezilla stunt, and what we get back is almost five-fold the money we put into it."

Technique tips

Do

Have compelling visuals worth incorporating into a multimedia component of a live event

Maximize multimedia content by using it both to attract traditional TV and to distribute via direct-to-consumer outlets

Make sure multimedia is right for the client's target audience. It's most attractive to outlets aimed at teens and 20-somethings, less so for older groups


Don't

Bet the ranch. A few projectors or cameras can be a cost-effective way to build multimedia into an event or stunt

Count on multimedia to salvage a lackluster live stunt. It must stand on its own

Worry about real-time. Multimedia can be packaged into b-roll and given to TV crews so they can work the content into their live footage during editing

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