Doug Harris’ Best and Worst Publicity Stunts
April 22, 2016

On April 14, 2012, the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, Cullen’s Restaurant on Space Center Boulevard presented a 10-course dinner that duplicated the last meal served in first class aboard the doomed ship.

Many restaurants around the country held Titanic nostalgia parties that night. But it was Cullen’s lavish $1,000-a-head dinner that grabbed headlines around the world.

You can’t buy publicity like that.

But Doug Harris, president and “Idea Generator” of Noisemaker Communications, will try to sell it to you.

Harris gave Cullen’s Restaurant the idea to duplicate the Titanic’s last meal and make it completely over the top. I’ve known Harris a long time, back to his days as marketing director of hard-rockin’ KLOL (101.1 FM).

If you’re ever directing a play about a mad genius scientist, Harris is your man, no makeup necessary. I asked Harris to give me some of his most successful publicity stunts … and a few that fizzled.

Best:

1. “Re-creating the last dinner on the Titanic for Cullen’s Restaurant became an international story, so that’s my recent favorite. I’m really proud of that one.”

2. “We once paid a KKRW (93.7 FM) listener $1,000 to legally change his name to Obi Wan Kenobe. That made ‘Entertainment Tonight,’ and the idea was copied by dozens of radio stations.”

3. “Staging a funeral for the Houston Oilers season, with a casket and Hooters girls as pallbearers, after the Oilers’ playoff loss to Buffalo. Every Houston TV station covered it.”

 

Worst:

1. “I hired a guy I saw on ‘Letterman’ who hypnotized chickens. We wanted him to hypnotize chickens so they’d spell out ‘KLOL’ in the parking lot of Memorial City Mall. Nobody showed up except the animal rights people.”

2. “I had an idea for an indoor Mardi Gras Parade in Galveston. Floats came off Broadway and into the Civic Center. About 50 people had a great time.

3. “I tried to tie in Budweiser with a radio station blood drive. I had a slogan ready, ‘This blood’s for you.’ It wasn’t my finest hour.” Harris said his all-time favorite publicity stunt never saw the light of day. The client got cold feet. “I was representing an electric razor company and pitched the idea of taking out a full page ad in the newspaper and offering Fidel Castro $1 million to shave his beard with our electric razor. We were going to offer the same $1 million to ZZ Top. The client was worried, what if the leader of communist Cuba actually took a capitalist bribe to shave his famous beard?”

 

By Ken Hoffman