I like press agents, as distinct from marketing executives or public relations practitioners.
The former has a screw loose; an off-the-wall sense of humour. The latter two use well-worn (but usually tried and true) initiatives that get the job done but lack real pizzazz.
Here’s the difference:
A marketing or public-relations practitioner will send out a release inviting the media to a press conference where the winner of the Royal Winter Fair’s Best-in-Show Bull contest will be introduced.
A press agent will take the bull to Burke’s and then call all the newspapers and radio and TV stations in town. "There’s a bull in a china shop," he’ll yell into the phone. "Come quick."
Guess which of those two approaches will wind up on the front page?
So when I heard that F1 star Sebastien Buemi was going to drive a Formula One car on the ice of the frozen-solid Olympic Rowing Basin beside Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Ilse Notre Dame in the middle of the St. Lawrence to promote next June’s return of the Grand Prix of Canada, I thought: "Way to go! The Grand Prix people have gone and hired themselves a press agent!"
But then I heard the ice wasn’t thick enough in the rowing basin (Montreal’s winter isn’t much colder than Toronto’s, apparently) and they had to cancel the stunt.
So I forgot about it.
But it happened after all. They plowed a path around the Gilles Villeneuve track and then, later, plopped Buemi and the car onto the ice at Lac-a-l’Eau-Clair (north of Trois-Rivieres). With the help of specially studded Bridgetone tires, he let ‘er rip.
"It was a bit cold," said Buemi.
So which do you think would generate the most response?
1. Putting the car on display in the lobby of a downtown Montreal hotel (marketing)?
2. Letting an F1 driver spin a Toro Rosso around on the surface of a frozen-over lake in the Quebec wildnerness (press agent)?
You decide. But you’ll have to watch the video first (click here)