What a year! From the automotive industry, to politics, and celebrities, these past 12 months were full of unexpected PR surprises! In spirit of the upcoming New Year, each member of our Durrell Communications team decided to gather and share with you our favourite publicity incidents, good and bad, of 2015.
Melissa: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his sweep to victory
As “the” political wonk in the Durrell Communications bullpen I had to name Justin Trudeau as the best story of 2015. This summer we all braced ourselves for an 11 week campaign, which we would later learn was the longest and costliest. The Canadian public was told Trudeau was “just not ready.” It was this unique ad called “Ready” that started to turn the tide. The ad was also released shortly after the Maclean’s debate that Trudeau proved he could be Prime Minister or as most political analysts said “he held his own.”
What we can learn from Trudeau and his successful campaign? Start off strong and keep up the momentum, be authentic and surround yourself with great leaders that will give great advice. Trudeau may have been the underdog at the beginning of 2015, but his ease with people, and willingness to listen and talk about national issues was something that Canadians really wanted to see in a leader.
Laura: Das Uh Oh!
Dirty diesel disaster, a new stink coming out of Volkswagen’s corporate tailpipe.
You know the saying “time heals all wounds?” While it is certainly true, if Volkswagen (VW) had tried to ride out their TDI diesel emissions scandal better known as #dieselgate, the company would be in a far worse situation.
Since the emissions scandal broke in September, VW’s advertising has been tailored around a clear and strong message: that it will do everything to win back the confidence of its customers. How? It is offering vouchers up to $2,000 to diesel VW owners, is gifting its car owners with fun rewards like Star Wars Awakens tickets and more. But in my PR-centric mind, the most important thing that VW did was take full responsibility for this colossal and very illegal screwup; a great first step in rebuilding customer trust.
Although this PR crisis was a stinker, I have to give credit to VW handling it well (so far).
Alexandra: How Justin Got His Groove Back
This time last year the vibe around Justin Bieber’s career, persona and celebrity could not be more different than how it stands today. After going strong in the music biz since he was just 13 years old, Bieber’s fall from grace over the past few years had become a pretty epic media fodder.
From comments about Anne Frank and Bill Clinton to peeing in buckets and run-ins with the law to buying and abandoning a monkey in Germany – it seemed as though there was no coming out of the hole he dug himself. That was until his guardian angel, or rather Ellen DeGeneres, reached down and pulled him out. Thus began his rise back into the public’s good graces.
With a slew of appearances on Ellen, a seductive Calvin Klein campaign, a public roast, car karaoke with James Corden and overall a genuine change in his public demeanour – he was back. Today Justin’s music career could not be hotter with three songs in the top 5 on the billboard chart alone. It seems as though in 2015 Justin proved that it is never too late “to say sorry.” ♪ ♪
Elaine: Starbucks Red Cup Controversy
Starbucks is a billion dollar, international mammoth that doesn’t depend on advertising campaigns to pay the bills. Or does it? Every single year, Starbucks launches its holiday red cup campaign, so anticipated and popular that within the first 48 hours of red Starbucks cups launching last year, a photo of a Starbucks holiday cup was shared on Instagram every 14 seconds.
This year, the coffee giant came under fire for a cup design that was simply not conducive enough to the Christmas spirit. With a simple, minimalist, fully red cup, they were brutally slashed for essentially being ‘too politically correct’. Is this really something that constitutes bad PR? What about when Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Colbert chimed in? Money can’t buy that kind of publicity, and for that we tip our hats to Starbucks this holiday season.
It is no question that this year was an exciting year full of innovation, surprises, and leadership. These stories can teach us practitioners to never let our ideas be clouded by criticism and doubt.
We look forward to seeing what the world of PR has in store for 2016!