Home Blog Other|PR Fallon’s 13-hour Arby’s ad: Blatant PR stunt or brilliant advertising?

Fallon’s 13-hour Arby’s ad: Blatant PR stunt or brilliant advertising?


In case you missed it, Arby’s ran a thirteen-hour commercial over the Memorial Day weekend featuring its new smokehouse brisket sandwich.

You read that correctly–a thirteen HOUR commercial.

Reportedly, the commercial was 13 hours in length to play up the slow-cooking process that Arby’s new smokehouse brisket undergoes before being shoveled into customers’ mouths.

The commercial ran on a Duluth station My9 starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 24 and ended at 2 a.m. on Sunday, May 25. You can catch a livestream of the commercial today actually here.

The commercial also broke the Guinness Book of World Record for the longest TV commercial ever. Next closest? Nivea at just an hour.

My immediate take: Great PR stunt, Fallon. Well done.

My next take: Do PR stunts like this still work? I mean, do they really end up raising awareness for Arby’s and its new sandwich?

My last take: Interesting that Fallon, a very traditional ad agency, would venture into the PR business (or at least, basically lead with it, which is essentially what they did here).

Because make no mistake about it folks, this was a full-blown PR move.

Why else would they run a 13-hour commercial?

I mean, I get that they were playing up the slow cooking process. They cook the meat for 13 hours. We get it.

Did you have to run a commercial for 13 hours in which any viewer would see the equivalent of the holiday yule log for half a day? Couldn’t they get that point across in a different way that did NOT take 13 hours?

Short answer: Of course they could.

They conceived and ran the ad because they knew media would talk about it.

They knew people would talk about it via social media.

And they knew bloggers like me would talk about it (in this case, I’m the sucker I guess :).

And, from that perspective, they’ve done their job.

A quick Google search for “Arby’s 13 hour commercial” brought up 2,340 results with hits from the likes of HuffPo, Business Insider, Gawker and many local news outlets showing up.

A quick Twitter search pulls up a plethora of tweets (but also, a lot of robots/spam).


But don’t try to tell me this WASN’T a PR play. Just look at Arby’s Twitter stream. The pinned tweet is one that calls out the Guinness book win–why would that matter if it wasn’t a PR stunt?   

Heck, you can even see it come through in the way the agency folks talk about the campaign.

Rocky Novak, managing director at Fallon, had this to say about the approach to the campaign in Sunday’s Star Tribune article: The idea is that “We love our food so much we’re just going to look at it for 13 hours. We think any real lovers of barbecue will be rapt.”

Obviously, that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek (and if it’s not, please shoot me now), but it also speaks to the strategy.

Their goal was to drum up attention.

Let’s look at the back story of this work. Fallon started working with Arby’s earlier this year (read: new agency relationship). In any new client/agency relationship, the agency is out to impress and score points–fast.

Enter said PR/ad campaign. And it worked beautifully.

It scored LOADS of media attention (driving awareness–check!)

It stoked the social media flames (driving engagement with the brand online–check!)

And it scored ad/creative industry coverage, which makes the Arby’s marketing folks feel good (massaging agency egos while making the client feel better, too–check!).

The big question is will it drive sales for the new sandwich at Arby’s stores. Time will tell.

But back to the initial question: Is this campaign a blatant PR stunt or brilliant creative?

What do you think?



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