Publicity Circus: Jiving Justin’s True Beliebers; Swallowing 7-Eleven’s Election Stunt

A veteran press agent assesses the week in ballyhoo.

OH, THANK HEAVEN: Every four years, Gallop and Pew bill millions of dollars to poll a representative sample of likely voters and thereby precisely forecast the next leader of the free world. By why should they be able to hog the spotlight? In the hammy world of hype, you don’t really need anything as [cough] scientific or expensive or frankly complicated as all that statistical mumbo jumbo. A decent gimmick will do just fine. Even 7-Eleven, the home of hungry midnight stoners and lotto addicts, has gone into the Presidential polling business by measuring sales of two specially-created coffee cups, a blue one endorsing Obama and a red one for Romney. Who cares if fortune teller predictions are more accurate? The Slurpee slingers at Sev amazingly scored press all October long by proclaiming Obama will win in a landslide based on coffee cup sales since the end of September. Don’t be surprised if on February 2, 2016, Punxsutawney Phil peeks out of his hole waving a red or blue flag, greeted by the White House press corps. FLACKERY INDEX: 2

LOOP-DE-LOOPER: Admit it, you went back to see Titanic four times just to get a good cry when Leonardo DiCaprio held on for dear life to Kate Winslet’s boat in the frozen water. But flacks for the egghead time travel thriller Looper have no tragic love story and weepy Celine Dion ballad to entice moviegoers back for repeat viewings. Seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s nose job again isn’t going to do it. When you want to rope in the geeks, you’ve got to appeal to the trainspotting synapse in every one of their anal little brains. Wily director Rian Johnson knows that—he’s a bit of a geek himself—so he posted something no film nerd could resist: their very own personal “technical and detailed” downloadable MP3 commentary track to play on their iPods when Looping back for a second screening.  FLACKERY INDEX: 3

BIEBER BS: You have to tip your hat to Paris Hilton, who has turned an inability to keep track of her pets into a neverending publicity bonanza in the gossip rags: She lost her Chihuahua Tinkerbell, two dogs to a coyote attack, and even her cat Prada after failing to pick her up from the vet. Giving this “I’m a klutz” ploy a new twist, Billboard, the Washington Post, Hollywood Life investigative editrix Bonnie Fuller, and many of those same rags fell all over Justin “Butterfingers” Bieber’s tragic loss of his laptop and camera (and perhaps, it was floated, some unauthorized footage of the star en flagrante?) at a Tacoma, WA, concert as if they were reporting the next Middle East war. Sherlock Bieber must have had Lojack on his laptop, because he located the thief in less than 48 hours—not in a getaway car or secret hideout, but right there on Twitter. (Raise eyebrows here.) After Biebz demanded the culprit return the goods, @gexwy replied by Tweeting out link to Beiber’s new music video with Nicki Minaj, which was shot like “stolen” laptop video. Just about every one of his 29 million screaming Twitter followers took the bait. Psyche! FLACKERY INDEX: 2

WHAT WOULD BILL COSBY THINK? Pudding may seem like a nice, polite dessert that has enhanced many an elementary school lunch, but now that you’re an adult, it’s got a whole new image. It wants your respect, and to get it, pudding has undergone a badass makeover by stepping up to Division I competitive eating status. To show you how it’s done, three Major League Eating champions agreed to jab these things down their throats in record time and taped the results for posterity on Jell-O’s YouTube channel. This feat doesn’t quite have the beauty and poetry of choking down 62 hot dogs, but it’s a start. Can we make a suggestion? Chocolate pudding diving. Sell the broadcast rights to ESPN, and you’ve finally got your just desserts. FLACKERY INDEX: 1

BOO HOOEY: The Consumer Price and Consumer Housing Price Indexes move stock markets. Real estate site Zillow’s Trick Or Treat Index just wants you to move…to another city for Halloween. Zillow’s willingness to make up an entire geographical scale based on collecting candy and not getting mugged is not just a publicity stunt, but a public service! The site is ranking 20 cities “that will provide the most candy, with the least walking and safety risk.” Unfortunately, there is as yet no egging and TP’ing index, but it’s an impressive project. Presumably the company send costumed interns knocking on doors with a scale, pedometer and mace can in every major city last Halloween to get this critical data. Maybe the company should double down and partner with United Van Lines so you could just pull up stakes right now and move your whole family to Honolulu to max out on premium hand-outs like Kit Kats and Crunch bars. Four out of five dentists would almost definitely approve. FLACKERY INDEX: 2.

BINDERS OF SPIRIT: Rank exploitation is a beautiful thing, especially when it cheapens the political process we all hold dear. Less than 24 hours after Mitt Romney made the phrase “binders with women” a national mantra at the second presidential debate, Spirit Airlines blasted an e-mail to its customers boasting, “We’ve got tons of binders, full of sales” and insisting that “women will love them!” The low-cost carrier even went to the trouble of illustrating the email blast with different colored binders marked “Sale!” The airline may offer less leg-room than an MRI chamber, but its PR shop made a speedy takeoff indeed, taking the “Ringmaster” crown for this edition of “Publicity Circus.” FLACKERY INDEX: 4

Drew Kerr, a longtime practitioner of the dark arts of public relations, is the founder and president of Four Corners Communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @drewkerr.

Publicity Circus: Jiving Justin’s True Beliebers; Swallowing 7-Eleven’s Election Stunt