Publicity stunts are as old as the notion of publicity itself. As soon as business owners realized good word of mouth and positive buzz and generate more interest and revenue, many of them started dreaming up publicity stunts. Even as viral video campaigns become the norm for businesses, publicity stunts still have their place, and in many cases actually help propel the video campaign’s success–or form the very foundation of the campaign itself.

The Walking Dead Publicity Stunt Video

Take The Walking Dead, for instance. After a several-week hiatus in the middle of the show’s second season, the zombie-based drama was looking for a few ways to help get the word out to fans that new episodes were starting up again.

Their idea? Take a page from the social experimentation of Improv Everywhere. And they got pretty elaborate with their publicity stunt, too. They created a fake movie trailer, and working with a local cinema they ran that fake trailer in front of a packed house of moviegoers. Of course, since it’s The Walking Dead we’re talking about, there was something more… scary… than just a fake trailer in store for the audience.

Check it out:

I’m not sure how they chose South Africa as the location for this prank–perhaps there’s a higher-than-normal concentration of Walking Dead fans in that country? But the actual theater in which they staged and filmed this stunt is irrelevant–the message, like the brand, is global.

Takeaways For Creators & Marketers?

You can do this kind of thing yourself, even if you’re a smaller business or individual video creator. Aside from the fake trailer, there’s very little cost involved in creating your own “social experiment” publicity stunt. Smaller brands certainly don’t need half a million views to call it the campaign a success.

As with more straightforward song-and-dance flash mobs, the secret to video campaigns like this is in the audience reaction. It’s the surprise, shock, and glee of the onlookers of a social experiment that make the video something people enjoy and want to talk about. This massive social video success from T-Mobile is built around the same concept:

If you can find a suitable location–probably get permission ahead of time–and a way to stage some kind of non-offensive event or stunt that will grab the attention of onlookers, you can easily recreate this kind of video marketing success on a local level.