A Publicity Stunt I Call “Toast n’ Eggs!”

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Many years ago while working at a large PR firm, I assisted some of my colleagues with a publicity stunt to help raise awareness and increase sales of citrus products.  The client was a trade association that represented citrus growers that our agency’s Food Group had represented for decades.

It was early Fall, and America was getting ready to “Fall Back” —  the annual act of turning clocks one hour back to make better use of the long daylight hours that we enjoy during the summer months.  I think the tradition began a long time ago so farmers would have an extra hour of daylight during which they could harvest their Fall crops.  I think.  I’m not certain, so don’t quote me on that.

Someone in the Food Group at the agency came up with the idea that we should hold a publicity stunt that would employ the use of “costumed breakfast characters” stationed in high-traffic commuter locations, helping early morning commuters “wake up” after losing that precious hour of sleep by handing out free cups of orange and grapefruit juice.  Press releases, media alerts and fact sheets were drafted, high-traffic commuter locations were secured, permits were obtained, costumes were sourced and rented, and we were ready to go.

I have to say I was very skeptical about the whole idea of trying to secure media interest and getting local TV station camera crews, print news photographers, etc., to cover the “event.”  In fact,  I was thinking about the people in the Food Group and wanted to say to them:  “Really?  Do you actually think a news director would send a camera crew to shoot footage of people dressed up in costumes looking like toast and eggs handing out little paper cups of orange juice?”  Instead, I said nothing because I knew someone would accuse me of being negative, too pragmatic, or some other undesirable adjective that would stick to me for all eternity like, well, sticky orange juice that just doesn’t want to wash off.

We were a day or so away from the clocks “falling back” when someone — who did not work with the Food Group —  stumbled upon the press materials (that had already been printed out in large quantities) and pointed out that when you “Fall Back” you are actually GAINING an extra hour of sleep, not LOSING an hour of sleep,. the reaction from the many people who worked on the project was like, “What?  Really?  Oh sh*t!”

I don’t remember any finger-pointing or too much in the way of violence or mayhem, just a lot of foul language being thrown around as people scrambled to fix the problem.

The solution:  the press materials would be revised and our costumed breakfast characters would still go to high-traffic commuter locations and hand out free orange and grapefruit juice, only now they would be doing it “to help Americans celebrate the extra hour of sleep they got due to the annual “Fall Back” tradition!

With the corrections to the press materials made, it was time for me and a few of my colleagues who worked in the Broadcast Media Group, to place pitch calls to morning news programs, assignment desks and day book planners to try to get  — what we were now calling “Toast n’ Eggs” some coverage.  If I remember correctly, we were holding these events in New York City at Penn Station (maybe Grand Central?) and similar high-traffic locations in several other top-ranked media markets.

I was absolutely shocked beyond belief when I saw on the local New York evening newscasts our “breakfast characters” giving juice out to happy commuters who, despite rushing to the their offices to get to work, stopped to get their orange juice and get their faces or even better, their sound bites, on TV.

From that day forward, whenever my pitching partner Marie and I had to pitch a hare-brained stunt or a weak story and later found out that it worked, we would shout out “toast n’ eggs!”  And, when someone pitched a half-assed idea at a brainstorm, I’d look over at her and quietly say “I don’t know, it might work, ya know, I mean it could be another toast n’ eggs.”