9 Publicity Stunts That Went Horribly Wrong

chipotle fake hacked tweets

When bizarre tweets started emanating from Chipotle’s Twitter handle Tuesday — like, “twitter Find avocado store in Arv” — the public thought that it had been hacked. This theory gained traction after Chipotle later tweeted “Sorry all. We had a little problem with our account. But everything is back on track now! – Joe.”

Then Chipotle admitted to Mashable that it was a publicity stunt to gain more attention and followers for its 20th anniversary. Chipotle usually gets 250 new followers a day, but during the stunt it gained 4,000 followers.

While the fake hacking was strange and jeopardized consumer trust, it wasn’t a PR disaster of epic proportions.

We’ve collected a list of some marketing stunts that went horribly wrong.

LifeLock's CEO gave out his social security number and challenged people to steal his identity. They did. A lot.

LifeLock CEO Todd Davis was really asking for this one.

In 2006, Davis posted his social security number on billboards, online ads, TV commercials, everywhere, to prove that LifeLock's service -- which costs $10 to $15 a month -- would protect his identity.

A couple years later, word got out that his identity was stolen. Thirteen times. There were 87 failed attempts.

While Davis said that this proved LifeLock worked since identity thieves were only successful 13 times, the Federal Trade Commission disagreed and fined the company $12 million for deceptive advertising in March 2010.

Gunmen stormed an 'Iron Man 3' screening

A theatre in Missouri thought that it would be a good idea to have a group of actors dressed in tactical gear, and sporting fake guns, to storm a theatre screening 'Iron Man 3' in May.

In light of the 'Dark Knight Rises' shootings that occurred less than a year before, this was a horrible idea.

The local police station received multiple calls and an Army vet said that the stunt triggered his PTSD.

The theatre soon apologized on its Facebook page. Although it assured the public, 'This was not a publicity stunt ... We didn't clearly tell our customers and some people didn't realise it was for entertainment purposes only.'

The South Australian government sent 55 dead goldfish to media agencies.

The South Australian government approved a publicity stunt in 2011 in which 55 goldfish were sent out to media executives to promote a tour by Advantage SA. A message was penned on the fishbowl: 'Be a big fish in a small pond and come and test the water.'

The only problem: In spite of providing enough food to last each fish 6 months, most of the fish that arrived were already dead.

'South Australia does have a reputation for the worst water in Australia but this is going too far,' an executive told The Australian.

The Department of defence flew a plane low over downtown Manhattan for a photo shoot.

In April 2009, workers in downtown Manhattan were distressed to see a low-flying Boeing 747 circling close to the very same area that had been hit by two commercial aeroplanes on 9/11.

Why? The Department of defence thought that it would be a good photo opp.

Really bad move.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Obama was 'furious' about the incident.

Snapple tried to make the world's largest popsicle in 2005. It melted.

On a warm June day in New York City, Snapple decided that it would try to erect the world's largest popsicle in Union Square.

Then the 25-foot-tall, 17.5 ton frozen Snapple snack started to melt. Fast.

Union Square was flooded in strawberry-kiwi flavored liquid and the fire department had to close surrounding streets.

Sony created a fake fan site.

To create buzz for the PlayStation Portable (PSP), Sony created a fake blog called www.alliwantforxmasisapsp.com that raved about the system, featuring fun video blogs about the new item.

Gamers then found out that the site was registered to viral marketing agency Zipatoni.

Fans slammed Sony on legitimate message boards, and the stunt ended in disaster.

A 'hold your wee for a Wii' contest ends in tragedy.

In 2007, a radio station held a 'hold your wee for a Wii' contest in which people competed to see who could drink the most water without using a bathroom.

The next day, contest participant Jennifer Strange, 28, was found dead in her home. She had died of water intoxication.

Strange reportedly competed to win the Wii for her children.

Cartoon Network accidentally convinced Bostonians it put bombs around the city.

To promote the 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force' movie, Cartoon Network hid glowing, metal, LED signs (depicting the show's characters) around major cities.

But when Bostonians noticed the devices hidden around the city, they began calling the police and fire department to report improvised explosive devices.

Turner Broadcasting and marketing company Interference Inc. ended up paying $2 million in damages for the stunt.

A marketing guru decided to stage a train crash for publicity. Three people were killed.

There were even horrible publicity stunts back in 1896.

In an attempt to get people to buy train tickets to Texas, marketer William Crush decided to build a 'temporary' city that would host a train crash. The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad offered discounts to people who wanted to travel to Crush, Texas and observe the crash -- almost 50,000 people went.

Even though crowds were seated at a 'safe' distance from the crash, special tracks were made, and the crew was able to jump from the trains before they collided, things didn't go according to plan.

Two boilers exploded when the trains, travelling at 45mph, crashed.

Three people were killed and dozens were injured.

Now for some less disastrous marketing decisions ...

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