'Slightly cynical' Angel of the North stunt: Gormley unmoved, despite goading

A shipping and removals company has projected an image onto the Angel of the North as part of an Australia Day stunt, but its hopes of prompting the ire of the iconic sculpture's creator appear to have fallen flat.

The stunt was run by Southampton agency Carswell Gould.

The huge artwork, to the south of Newcastle, has been the target of such stunts before. The supermarket Morrisons apologised for projecting an image of a loaf of bread on it in 2014, which creator Sir Antony Gormley had called "stupid", and after the Brexit campaign group Vote Leave did a similar thing in 2016, his lawyers complained it was "damaging to the integrity" of his work.

A release from Carswell Gould quoted Simon Hood, sales and marketing director at John Mason International Movers, saying: "We hope everyone is wowed by our antics and would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Australia Day."

The release also said: "Designer of the Angel of the North, Anthony Gormley, has previously spoken out against exploiting the landmark in this way, saying he was 'shocked' and 'appalled' to see the Angel trivialised. His comments on this use of the Angel are welcome."

Not 'bonza'

Representatives of Gormley did not comment when contacted by PRWeek - that lack of response at the time of going to press appears to mean the stunt has not delivered, one PR professional suggested.

Cow PR creative director Matt Wilcock said of the stunt: "There's nothing wrong in celebrating the bonds between the North East and Australia, but part of the approach seems a little cynical. Trying to get a reaction out of Gormley by highjacking the Angel of the North has been done before several times before, from baguettes to Brexiteers, and I can’t see him rising to the bait again. If Gormley does get narked and it gets a ton of coverage I’ll eat the cork hat that I don’t have.

"But anyway, how does prodding the sculptor to potentially denounce the stunt say anything positive or meaningful about Australia Day and this brand’s role in connecting the North of England with Australia?"

Newcastle native Raman Sehgal, who founded healthcare agency Ramarketing, which operates in the city, said of stunts using the angel: "If a brand has 'cheeky' at its core, eg Virgin, Paddy Power etc, then it's worthwhile as it reinforces its positioning and resonates with its customers. However, if it's not in-line with what you'd expect from a brand, like a bank or professional services firm, then it's misplaced. Then of course it might help an unknown brand get some exposure, but most publicity is not good publicity these days."

Meanwhile the founder and director of Munch, Lizzie Earl, was a little more positive about the stunt, saying: "Ah, the age-old projection stunt says 'g’day'. Not the most inventive idea of course, but I’ve definitely noticed a bit of a PRenaissance recently with ideas we’ve seen before being recycled, and working.

"The brand clearly knows it’s being cheeky and the outcome feels in tone with the day it marks. A huge iconic landmark like the Angel of the North is always going attract the attention of PRs who want to make a bit of a stir."

And the agency itself defended its stunt, with MD Gareth Miller commenting: "Essentially, it's a cost-effective and positive celebration of Australia Day. It's already proven to be a success, appearing in the nationals and gathering speed on social media."

The stunt appears on page six of The Times today and other national newspapers are apparently interested in the story, according to a colleague. Miller continued: "Using one of the UK’s most iconic landmarks to help tell your story is a fantastic way to reach a larger audience than is normally achievable for an SME. Above all, it has made people smile and extended a great deal of happiness."

Read next: Paddy Power draws scorn from National Trust after 'defacing' chalk giant for stunt

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