NEW YORK: In retrospect, ?Returning the Favor? may not have been the best tagline for the Snapple PR stunt that degenerated into a kiwi-strawberry tidal wave in New York City Tuesday.
An attempt by the soft drink company to break the Guinness world record for the "World's Largest Ice Pop" turned into a fiasco when the 35,000 pound Popsicle melted on a hot summer day, sending bystanders scurrying to escape the world's largest pool of all-natural beverage.
Deutsch, which handles promotional PR for Snapple, helped to organized the stunt gone awry.
The spectacular failure of the ice pop generated hundreds of news stories across America, but most pointed to the ineptitude of the idea's execution rather than the quality of Snapple's new ice pops.
Nonetheless, Lauren Radcliffe, a PR manager for Snapple, said that the entire six-hour event, which she estimates drew 40,000 people, was successful, and should not be judged only by the melting mishap.
"At the end of the day, we think that...people had a great time," she said. "If you're looking for brand awareness, I don't think there's a person in the United States of America that doesn't know that Snapple just launched Snapple on Ice Pops."
Radcliffe said there are no immediate plans by Snapple to further play up the slushy snafu in future promotions.
The company has a number of "working theories" as to why the Popsicle did not properly rise to the occasion, she said.
"The latest theory from today," explained Radcliffe, "is the molecular structure of sugar, water, and ice, and the fact [of] where the stick was lying, and temperature and all that good stuff."
She said that the company and its agency had been working on the stunt for "months and months and months," and had enlisted the help of "a team of scientists, engineers, and ice experts." But she declined to place blame for the incident on the shoulders of any of them.
"This was a well-thought-out, well-planned event, just like everything Snapple prides itself on doing," said Radcliffe.
Madhu Deutta, VP account director at Deutsch, said the agency's team of 20 on the scene put its crisis plan into action as soon as it became evident that the ice age was giving way to the great thaw.
Michael Lasky, a partner and co-chair of litigation for the PR law practice at the law firm Davis & Gilbert, said that he would have advised Snapple to "plan protectively" to protect itself from legal liability in the case. The New York Post reported that several minor injuries were associated with the sudden wave of liquid.
"The one thing I would tell Snapple [if they were a client] is: Think ahead," Lasky said. "If the activity could involve any risk of harm to any of the participants or [passers-by], you need to think through that issue."
He added that if Snapple were to be sued over the incident it could potentially pass on responsibility for the fiasco to both Deutsch and the ice-sculpture subcontractor firm that was hired to prepare the popsicle itself. They would generally be considered most legally accountable for the promotion itself, Lasky said.