Posted by:
Chris Grabowski, Creative Director
9th Aug 18

Seeing the Big Picture.

The picture-story is back and bigger than ever, but thankfully with a bit more depth and a little less Kelly Brook.

Firstly, just to clarify what we mean by a ‘picture-story’ as agencies use different names for them.  This is a moment-in-time PR stunt where a brand creates something, often big, often somewhere very public (“high-footfall, central London location” obvs) that creates a standout brand image, striking and interesting enough to get pick-up in mainstream consumer media.  As a build on the picture, if you were a bit worried that actually it is going to look a bit pants and not going to make the headlines, the agency would tac-on some lovely lady / gent with ‘tabloid-appeal,’ with some loose rationale for them not being in many clothes.

Stranger things

The last few weeks, has shown that the picture-story seem to be back in favour. Netflix has given us the Stranger Things monster crop circle / maze image, Corona’s launched the Waste Wave, and NOW TV’s unveiled Jurassic Jeff (oh how we enjoyed the wonderfully, hopefully deliberate, irony of creating a retro meme-inspired picture stunt at home of the picture-story stunt: Potters Field), and here at Cirkle we have got our own splendiferous Mr Kipling BFG activation away.

In the bad old days, picture-stories often fell flat, (even with Kelly on-board) with bigger breaking news or competitor stunts taking up the limited space available in a smaller pool of print media titles. With no coverage and a large bill, you’re faced  with a difficult client status call, and a massively imbalanced ROI to have to explain. Burnt by these experiences the use of picture-story stunts waned, it just wasn’t worth the stress, stupidly early mornings and lottery of it all.

This was a shame as done well they could be brilliant, creating properly great PR moments, demonstrating what the brand was about, executed in a way that was truly different. Big, bold activations that worked because they played to the news agenda, parodied culture or just blew you away with an awesome ballsy image that you couldn’t help but share.  Remember, Red Bull jumping Tower Bridge, KFC’s Colonel from Space, or Paddy Power’s Break in Emergency Fergie – all of them hugely risky, but they helped to give the brands personality, and shape what consumers still think about them today.

Thankfully they seem to be on the way back, the larger number of online media titles constantly needing new striking imagery, the reduced cost of production and smart agency activations have made them valuable routes again. By building in multiple media-layers agencies have added depths and spread the risk, with the best ones doubling or tripling-up as immersive brand experiences, digital interactions, charity partnerships, social collateral, sampling opportunities etc. etc. …

With the availability of VR, AR and everyone getting their news on their phones and tablets there is a whole new set of possibilities, becoming more sophisticated, with stunts coming to life onscreen creating fully immersive activations. Who knows where it will go next, done now maybe UKTV’s Mr Darcy wouldn’t just stand there looking intense and a little confused, hey maybe he might even lose the shirt.

So welcome back the picture-story, we are glad to have you with us again, as ultimately there aren’t bad PR tactics just bad executions.

Now I’m off to do a radio day.

Chris Grabowski

Creative Director

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