2018 PR Triumphs and Disasters

Regular readers of our blog will know that at the end of the year we like to review the PR triumphs and disasters of the year. So, who has won the PR game this year and who has some work to do in 2019?

First up, the triumphs!


Iceland and Rang-tan

Who can forget the controversy that Iceland sparked this December when their Christmas ad was banned by the tv advertising authorities for being “too political”.

The ad, borrowed from Greenpeace, showed a baby orangutan’s habitat being demolished in the human quest for palm oil. Upon receiving the notification of the ban, Iceland’s quick thinking marketing team put the ad on social media. The social media frenzy that ensued made sure the campaign was arguably more successful for being banned than it would have been had it been aired on TV and people are really taking notice of the palm oil issue.



Heralded as the PR stunt of the year, controversial artist Banksy wowed his followers this year with the first ever self-destructing artwork. The artwork, entitled “Girl with a balloon”, was the final lot in an evening sale at Sothebys. When the gavel went down in the princely sum of £1,042,000, the artwork slid downwards into a shredder installed in the frame. Despite efforts to save the piece, onlookers were left open mouthed stating “It appears we just got Banksey-ed”. Even now, the critics are speculating that the stunt will have enhanced the value of the work. Bravo Banksy.


British Airways

BA hit the headlines hard this summer with their overwhelming support and PR campaign for the England team in the Men’s Football World Cup.

First up was their unique ‘ticket’ that hit the social media channels – genius!

Next was their stunt handing out 300 Gareth Southgate-esque waistcoats to passengers on their flights from London to Moscow.

And on the day of the semi-final itself, BA asked passengers to checK-ane (a nod to Harry Kane) rather than check in, gave specialised World Cup safety demos on board, handed out England flags and did face painting.

It was great to see a strong British brand backing the England team with some good humour thrown in. And that’s before we get on to the #GarethSouthgateWould twitter trend



Greggs has had some PR disasters in the past (who can forget the sausage roll in a manger?) but this year was a triumph for its Gregory and Gregory stunt.

Greggs pranked unsuspecting gourmets at a foodie festival by serving up lunch posing as an artisan delicatessen. With tapas style dishes, salads and vegan wraps, Gregory and Gregory fooled some of the most discerning of culinary royalty.

When festival goers were told they were eating Greggs, they were pleasantly surprised, and Greggs happily and confidently launched its new product range UK wide.


The Beano v Jacob Rees-Mogg

Let’s face it, Jacob Rees-Mogg has very few fans. So when the Beano sent him a cease and desist letter for impersonating one of their much loved characters (Walter Brown), a social media storm ensued. Comments included “trolling of Olympic standard by the The Beano,” and “On this day in 2018, Jacob Rees-Mogg was pummelled by the Beano.” In the words of Mike Stirling, Head of the Beano Studios Scotland, “Bog off Rees-Mogg.”

And now for the disasters….


Cambridge Analytica

Which no-longer exists. Need we say more?



In the techie age, we are ever more demanding as consumers. No doubt when TSB announced an online service outage between Friday 20th April and 22 Sunday 22 April, customers were a bit miffed. But when that outage became Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and beyond, well, miffed was something of an understatement.

Initially praised for their rapid statement on Twitter, TSB apologised to customers.

However, as customers experienced problems many days, weeks and ultimately months later, TSB changed tack, shifting the blame to their third-party suppliers.

The whole episode certainly did not curry favour with their customers and, with the passage of time constantly proving their ‘business back to normal’ promises to be over optimistic, trust in the bank fell through the floor.



A big ‘whoops’ moment for Sainsbury’s CEO, Mike Coupe this year when he thought the cameras weren’t rolling. After giving an interview to TV crews about the merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda (a merger worth a whopping £12 million!), he was caught on camera singing “We’re in the money” from the musical 42nd Street. While, as a big shareholder, he is highly likely to do well financially from the merger, with some 75 Asda stores potentially being sold as part of the merger, and likely job losses to follow, the musical interlude was viewed with little humour.

Mr Coupe issued a humbling apology for his ‘unfortunate choice of song’ and the Sainsbury’s PR machine was keen to hit out at any wider meaning to be attached to his choice of song but it has still been branded as the one of the worst PR blunders in recent history.


The Barcelona Four – taxigate for West Bromwich Albion

Sports stars, and footballers in particular, frequently come a cropper on overseas trips and this year it was the turn of West Bromwich Albion to hit the headlines. Following a dismal start to the season that saw Tony ‘never been relegated’ Pulis lose his job as head coach, Alan Pardew was brought in to steady the ship and secure the club’s Premier League status.

Taking the team to Barcelona in February for a bit of team bonding might have seemed like a good idea but poor planning became apparent when the trip itself had to be cut short due to unexpected Cup success. The trip started badly when Pardew had his wallet stolen during a night out but, when four senior players (including the team captain) broke curfew after a late night drinking session and allegedly decided to ‘steal a taxi’, the wheels well and truly came off.

Although the players identified themselves and were interviewed by the police, no case was brought against them. However, the team returned home in disgrace, the rift between playing staff and management was clear for all to see and any hope of an upturn in fortunes – along with the reputation of what had previously been perceived to be a ‘well run, professional club’, was left in the tatters. All-in-all an unmitigated PR disaster.

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