The Value of the PR Stunt…

The publicity stunt to draw attention is really a lost art form in a day when budgets are tight, ROI is carefully measured and sometimes creativity falls by the wayside in lieu of a fast and easy return. However the stunt has never been lost on former New York Giant Brad Benson in his business endeavors.

Benson, who made a living on.The Blind Side. the left side of the offensive line, as a left tackle for 11 years for the Giants, has never turned a blind eye or a deaf ear to publicity, especially for his fast growing car dealerships in Central New Jersey. He has singled out those who have run afoul of public opinion with an.idio. award (Lindsay Lohan, Roger Clemens and Mel Gibson are among the recipients) and has taken shots at everyone from Plaxico Burress (no pun intended) to Eliot Spitzer and others over the years with his outlandish commercials. He also pokes fun at himself and those around him in an effort to set his business apart from the others and drive foot traffic and name recognition, especially in toda.s challenging economic times.

However unlike his other.stunts. which usually drew buzz but no real payoff for those other than the ad execs pulling in the checks and those on the showroom floor moving the cars, this Friday there will be a direct ROI on a Benson stunt. At 11 a.m. at his dealership in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, the Reverend Terry Jones will be arriving from Florida and taking a new 2011 Hyundai Accent off the lot, a gift from the former Giant. Jones made headlines earlier this fall by saying that he would burn the Quran as a symbol of protest and a response to the building of an Islamic Cultural center near Ground Zero. His remarks touched off a firestorm of criticism and some support, which eventually led to an appeal by high ranking officials to Jones to reconsider, which he did. Jones has indicated he will donate the car to an organization that works with Muslim families.

Ever the opportunist, Benson proposed the deal as an incentive to stop Jones from burning a copy of the Quran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and made the offer after hearing Jone. comments in the media. The result of the offer and its acceptance generated thousands of dollars the old fashioned way for Benso.s dealership, by creating buzz and maximizing an opportunity. It also gave Benson a chance to create a platform for himself and his company brand that went beyond the commercial itself. He was able to become a voice in the media for a little sanity, all from a man who has made at least part of his living creating the offbeat and outlandish to drive sales. Was Benso.s pitch sincer..It seems so, but in the world of publicity it does.t matter that much.

What matters is that he delivered on the promise and did not touch off any controversy in doing so (although the car still has to be delivered). Making the loudest noise and seeing who will listen has become the standard practice in many circles today. Backing up those loud claims with a deliverable is something that is still pretty old school, just like Benso.s work with publicity stunts. The price of the car is a little over $11,000 according to some reports. The coverage Benson received easily surpassed that number, and can probably be easily tracked to increased foot traffic and maybe a specific deal or two in the last month, a deal that would not have been made if his plan was not presented and then executed effectively.

All this begs for the.Wha.s nex.? question for Mr. Benson. That in essence is really the beauty of the well executed PR stunt. Away from the initial buzz and coverage comes the anticipation of something more, as well as that halo effect that comes from people remembering the well executed plan for some time to come. It is a way to keep generating buzz, differentiation, and interest in a business where one dealership may follow the other down a stretch of interstate.

Brad Benson may have been known for his expert protection of Giants quarterbacks from his days with Big Blue. He spent a career on the offensive side of the ball, and his knack for stunts, especially this one, show that he has in no way lost his offensive approach in a business where being defensive may put you out of business very quickly.

And we await to see wha.s next.