Anyone that watched The Block last night can be forgiven for thinking Energy Watch is a sponsor of the show. Three people wearing Energy Watch t-shirts stood front and centre at one of the auctions, making erratic, obscure bids.
It was a classic example of ambush marketing.
The in-your-face stunt won them prime TV time, a flurry of tweets and plenty of not-so-positive press, and it didn’t cost them a cent. Apart from the $1.4 million they paid for the house...
But was it a worthwhile stunt? And what separates good ambush marketing from bad?
To find out we asked public relations expert Prue MacSween of Verve Communications.
“If the objective was to tell people they’re in business with a new team at the helm then they did achieve this,” MacSween says of last night’s stunt.
“But unfortunately their irritating bidding was a bit smarmy and maybe reinforced the company's suss image.”
So while they got breakfast TV and radio talking about them, MacSween says they didn’t go about it the right way.
Then what does a good ambush marketing campaign look like?
“They protect the essence of the brand.” MacSween says. “It can be a great exercise to associate with big, credible events and a very useful tool for a marketer, but you must be very careful not to jeopardise your brand.”
“Ambush marketing is about arresting an audience by capitalising on high profile, high reach TV shows, but it must be done in good spirit.” MacSween advises.
So even though the approach was right, the Energy Watch team failed in their execution.
“Of course it’s always opportunistic, that’s the nature of ambush marketing,” MacSween says, “But if it’s done in a sleazy manner then it can backfire.”
“If the ambush confuses, irritates or angers customers or reinforces negative perceptions or concerns about the company then it will damage the brand.”
That’s because it’s as much about follow up press as it is about exposure from the event itself. A point apparently lost on the Energy Watch crew last night.
“You have to remember the media is much more savvy these days and critical of opportunistic stunts. They can also very easily ignore you, in which case it can be a very expensive and ineffective stunt.” MacSween says.
An example of well executed ambush marketing involves KY Jelly and Shane Warne. Sounds good already doesn’t it?
The personal lubricant brand parked a van outside Warnie’s house when Liz Hurley came to town.
This was suitable for the audience, appreciated by the customer and done it good spirit – all marks of a well construed campaign. And importantly, it was applauded by our PR expert.
“If you know your customers and that they will appreciate it, then go for it.” MacSween surmises.