Stun Creative, an ad agency on the Miracle Mile, claimed remarkable success last week for a campaign to promote the Stun Fone, an accessory that turns a smart phone into a Taser-like personal defense weapon.

One week after the campaign broke, the Fone’s website received about 20,000 requests to buy the device. The agency estimates 200,000 stories about the device appeared in print, broadcast and online.

Great work, right? But the Fone was a hoax: The campaign was a publicity stunt designed to illustrate Stun Creative’s skill at grabbing attention.

Brad Roth, co-founder of Stun Creative, said the entire project cost about $1,200.

“This illustrates the power of a great idea that resonates,” he said. “We reached the Holy Grail of marketing and we did it for $1,200.”

Mark Feldstein, Stun Creative’s other co-founder, said the agency has received a few complaints from the public but far more accolades for the campaign in the sales industry.

“While we may have upset would-be consumers, we more than got the result we wanted in our space, impressing marketers with what we could do,” he said.

The campaign didn’t defraud anyone, Feldstein said, because if someone tried to buy the device, a notice said that due to high traffic, the order couldn’t be processed and the visitor should try again later.

The bogus device’s name and function were designed to keep Stun Creative’s name in mind for a long time.

“If we were in the business of product development, this would have been a bad idea,” Feldstein said. “But because we are in the business of cutting through the clutter, it showed what we can do. Our credibility couldn’t be better right now.”

Watermarking

Buzz Media, an entertainment website publisher in Hollywood, has developed a new type of online advertising: watermarking on photos.

On Nov. 16, the company signed a deal with Plixi, a San Diego-based photo-sharing site. The deal allows visitors to Buzz sites, such as the official fan sites for Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian, to access and download celebrity photos posted on Plixi.

The photo technology “is designed to enable celebrities and brands the ability to add a watermark to their photos, allowing for greater marketing exposure,” the company said.

Unlike many watermarks, which are placed at the center of the photo with the goal of preventing unauthorized use of the photo, marketing watermarks incorporate a brand logo or name in the background.

About 300,000 photos of celebrities are uploaded daily to Plixi, supplied by film studios, record labels or fans.

Brand Depression?

A new study from the USC Marshall School of Business indicates that people’s emotional connection to brands can run so deep they suffer from “separation anxiety” if they can’t buy their favorite products.

The study quizzed respondents about their attitudes and behaviors toward three brands: Quaker Oats, Apple’s iPod and a local university. Based on the answers, “the study suggests brand attachment can even be strong enough to induce separation anxiety when favorite brands are replaced,” the study concluded.

For loyal consumers, brands become extensions of their own identity. That explains why some people vigorously defend brands in conversation or suffer emotionally at the death of a favorite celebrity.

“Brand Attachment and Brand Attitude Strength” was published in the Journal of Marketing. Four USC Marshall academics co-authored the report: Whan Park, Deborah MacInnis, and Charles and Ramona Hilliard.

Agencies & Accounts

Ad shop David & Goliath in El Segundo has hired Brian Dunbar as managing partner for client services and Claudia Caplan as chief marketing officer. Dunbar will lead the account for Kia Motors, the agency’s largest client, while Caplan will seek new business for the agency. Dunbar comes to D&G from Goodby Silverstein & Partners, where he worked as group account director. Caplan was formerly chief marketing officer at West L.A.-based Mendelsohn/Zien Advertising. … Sullen Clothing in Huntington Beach has formed a partnership with Beverly Hills-based digital marketing agency Dilemma to launch a branded Web series based on the upcoming comic book “Chopper.” The story centers on a headless outlaw biker seeking vengeance by killing sinners, a theme that Sullen hopes will help it reach fans of horror movies and heavy metal music. … Blitz, a digital marketing agency in Santa Monica, has appointed Pam Walsh group account director in charge of the Disney and Naked Juice accounts. She joins Blitz from Acquity Group, where she managed the Lucky Brand Jeans and Liz Claiborne accounts. … Phelps Group in Santa Monica has won the W3 award for an integrated campaign on behalf of client Tahiti Tourisme North America. The “Invest in Your Love” campaign generated sales leads and increased travel to Tahiti through its website, online advertising, social media and a video contest. The W3 Awards are given by the International Academy of Visual Arts. … Ad agency Team One in El Segundo has hired Alicia Dotter as creative director for the Ritz-Carlton and other hotel accounts. Previously, she was associate creative director at TBWA Chiat Day/Media Arts Lab in Playa del Rey, where she worked on the Apple campaigns “Mac vs. PC” and “There’s an App for That.”

Staff reporter Joel Russell can be reached at jrussell@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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