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5 Bizarre Publicity Stunts in Pop Culture

Marketing and promotion are everywhere these days, and the more billboards and magazine ads we’re inundated with, the more they all blend together. That’s why we often turn to the classic publicity stunt, an exercise in making folks go “What the hell?” and then preying on that confusion for profit, I guess? Anywho, here are five of the weirdest publicity stunts in entertainment history.

Nintendo has gamers jump into a giant bowl of pasta

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2002 was a simpler time, when Tobey Maguire first donned a Spider-Man outfit, Michael Jackson dangled a baby over a balcony, and Mario was making his very first jump onto the Gamecube console. And to celebrate the release of Gamecube’s Super Mario Sunshine, Nintendo dug deep for the most Italian stereotypes they could cram into one publicity stunt, gathering gamers from all around in San Francisco’s Little Italy to dress like Mario and dive into a record-breaking 3,265-pound bowl of pasta. Stereotypes be damned, I challenge you to find better gaming prep than covering your hands in pasta sauce. It really helps the dexterity, you know?

 

Acclaim wants your first-born (or your second-born or third-born or whatever)

(source)

We’re not done with 2002 yet. The very same year that Pastamania ran wild all over the USA, Acclaim upped the ante in their promotion of Turok: Evolution when they offered parents $10,000 to name their child after the game. Nuts to them, they never answered my phone calls when I totally misunderstood the rules, and now my child Evolution is going to hate me for years. THANKS, ACCLAIM.

 

William Castle pulls out all the stops for The Tingler

(source)

In the 1950s, William Castle was either a genius or a lunatic when it came to publicity stunts, selling his films in all sorts of outlandish ways. 1959’s The Tingler was chief among them, employing multiple gimmicks all at once. The film was all about a fear-based parasite that sent literal shivers up the spines of its hosts, so Castle created a concept called “Percepto!” that vibrated the theater chairs during scary scenes, while planted performers in the crowd screamed and fainted during the climax, carted away by just-as-fake nurses. I’ve been hiring actors to do the same thing for years, but people just don’t appreciate the gimmick when it comes to The Secret Life of Pets.

 

Drugs are totally chill, right?

(source)

Several movies have used drugs to sell their movies (as opposed to the Hollywood standard of using movies to sell drugs). In 2001, marketers for Johnny Depp’s Blowdistributed tiny mirrors to sports bars in order to… help people cut all the cocaine they’re doing at the local Buffalo Wild Wings, I guess? In 2008, for Ben Kingsley’s The Wackness, producers included with a thousand DVDs a free trip to Amsterdam, complete with weed on arrival. If I were Ben, I’d hope those people were STILL high enough to forget The Love Guru.

 

Crispin Glover doesn’t fill David Letterman in on the joke

(source)

Crispin Glover has had a variety of roles, from the nebbish George McFly in Back to the Future to the nebbish rat-lover Willard in Willard, to…well, he’s just a nebbish kind of guy. And in 1987, to promote a flick called River’s Edge, he introduced David Letterman to his particular brand of quirk. He donned a bizarre wig, showed off some formidable guns and damn near kicked Dave in his face. Letterman walked off the set, and Glover is enjoying a thriving career of nebbishness. But of course, when *I* kick people in the face, it’s called “assault”. They just didn’t get my charming sense of humor, is the thing.

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