A PR Stunt too far? Holiday Firm behind Search for Child’s Father

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By Joe Paley, Account Executive [email protected]

In today’s 24 hour news cycle, PR firms work hard to create original campaigns that are able to stand out in a competitive media landscape. Strictly speaking, re-using old ideas and refusing to take risks makes it more difficult to gain traction in the media – as it often requires out of the box thinking to capture the public’s imagination. In a Clearly Blog written a couple of weeks ago, we examined the McWhopper PR stunt and how an opportunity for Burger King and McDonalds to come together for World Peace Day was ultimately turned down by the latter’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook. Now, in the last week, we have seen an audacious PR stunt go viral on YouTube, attracting millions of viewers across the world – but did it go too far?

It all started on August 30th, when a young French women calling herself Natalie Amyot uploaded a video onto YouTube claiming that she was looking for the father of her child. Amyot explained that she had been living without knowing the identity of her child’s father – whom she had experienced a short relationship with whilst holidaying in Mooloolaba near Brisbane – and felt it was time to appeal for information.

A Facebook page was setup to support the YouTube video and raise further awareness of the story. And within a few days, a second video was posted by Amyot with the title “I found him! This time however, the reaction was a lot different. Suffice to say, “Natalie Amyot” turned out to be a character, played by an actress. Furthermore, the “father”, who was unveiled in the video, happened to be the owner of Sunny Coast Social Media, who filmed the production as a viral marketing tool to promote Holiday Mooloolaba, a vacation rental company.

Since then, the PR stunt has been universally condemned for taking advantage of the public’s generosity to promote a brand. Whilst Holiday Mooloolaba is hardly the first business to produce a fake viral marketing campaign on YouTube, this is perhaps the most controversial case because the story touched so many people on a personal level.

In the coming months, it will be interesting to see whether Holiday Mooloolaba vacation resort benefits from the PR stunt. Ultimately, there is no doubt that more people know about the resort – and in that respect, they have achieved their objective. But because of the nature of the stunt, there is a chance that this will negatively affect their brand with many people appalled.

The Holiday Mooloolaba campaign certainly raises more questions than it answers. Whilst we will learn in time whether this campaign has created a higher demand for the resort, it does pose the question of how far businesses are willing to push the envelope with PR stunts – as the public reaction to this one tells us that Holiday Mooloolaba went too far.