The Top 5 Publicity Stunts of 2009

2009 was the year of the celebrity publicity stunt. If it wasn’t celebrities themselves angling for the limelight, it was the non-famous seeking celebrity thanks to the influence of reality TV. Without further ado, were the top 5 publicity stunts of 2009:

balloon-boy1. “Bruno” Offers Eminem an Unusual Greeting – British comic Sasha Baron Cohen made a splash when, in character as the flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion journalist Bruno, he descended via zip line from the ceiling at the MTV Movie Awards, and ended up greeting rapper Eminem with a derrière to the face.  After a brief tussle with one of Eminem’s body guards, the rapper left the ceremony in a huff. The video, of course, went viral on YouTube at a time when both stars had something to promote. Eminem, out of the public eye for a few years, had just released a new album, and Baron Cohen was readying for the release of the Bruno movie.

2. Capcom and the Hunt for Dead Body Parts – In this list’s only non-celebrity related publicity stunt, video game giant Capcom encouraged fans to hustle through Central London in search of fake but very realistic looking dead body parts as part of their promotion for the zombie game Resident Evil 5. What could possibly go wrong? That’s right – horrified passersby complained to the police when contestants began wandering through London holding severed body parts. Worse, a head, two torsos, and six limbs remained at large when the competition ended. One can only imagine the “surprise” in store for unlucky Central Londoners over the next few weeks.  Capcom considered the stunt a success, and the game sold 400,000 copies in its first week.

3. The State Dinner Party Crashers – Fame seekers Michaele and Tarq Salahi caused an international incident when they managed to crashed President and Mrs. Obama’s first State Dinner. These Northern Virginia social climbers reportedly pulled the stunt – which resulted in pictures of the pair posing with luminaries like Joe Biden and Rahm Emanuel – as part of their audition for a new reality show, The Real Housewives of Washington D.C.  But pictures and memories are all the couple has – even after the stunt, they didn’t get the part.

4. Kanye West Interrupts Taylor Swift – In another MTV-related stunt, this time at the Video Music Awards in September, rapper Kanye West jumped up on stage during teen singer Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. After interrupting her with the oft-quoted words, “Ima let you finish…,” Kanye went on to upstage the demure blonde in defense of her competitor, Beyonce. Unlike the Bruno and Eminem moment, no one ever confirmed that this stunt was staged, but the video went viral on YouTube, and landed Kanye plenty of press over the ensuing weeks.

5. Balloon Boy – For several hours on October 15, 2009 the whole country was held spellbound by the televised sight of a homemade balloon, supposedly with a 6-year-old-boy inside, floating above Fort Collins, CO. After the Denver International Airport was shut down and the National Guard Dispatched, the balloon fell to the ground with no sign of the boy inside. The saga continued when reports came in that something (or someone) had fallen from the balloon during its flight. In the end, it turned out that the 6-year-old, Falcon Heene, had been at home hiding all along, and that the stunt was actually a hoax orchestrated to by his parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, to land the family their own science related reality show. The family had apparently gained a taste for fame after appearing twice on the reality TV show Wife Swap. Instead of reality TV stardom, Richard Heene received jail time for orchestrating the hoax.

The moral of this year’s publicity stunts? If you’re already a celebrity, publicity stunt results are hit or miss. But if you’re just pulling your stunt to try to win a spot on reality TV, better make some new resolutions for 2010.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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