In a Procter & Gamble promotion gone drastically wrong in Brazil this week, the bomb squad was summoned after panicked residents called the police on Wednesday to report two large wooden crates abandoned in public squares in the upscale Ipanema beach area of Rio de Janeiro. The city of six million people was already on edge after days of fighting between violent drug gangs and heavily-armed police with armored military vehicles left at least 23 dead.
The suspect crates were intended to be a teaser promotion for P&G’s biggest-ever sweepstakes in Brazil, called “P&G Faustão’s Airplane,” with multiple drawings to be held on the Sunday afternoon variety show hosted by Fausto Silva, Brazil’s most popular TV host. Six lucky winners will each win the equivalent of an airplane full of more than $100,000 worth of prizes, including two cars, bars of gold, everything needed to fully outfit an entire home, and of course multiple P&G products.
The website for the promotion features a plane on a runway surrounded by cars, motorcycles, every imaginable household appliance — and a big wooden crate emblazoned with pictures of P&G products like Head & Shoulders, Ariel detergent, Oral-B toothpaste and Gillette deodorant and razors. The wooden crates became a symbol for marketing the promotion, and the idea of placing them in unexpected spots around Rio and other cities was intended to show that Faustão’s Airplane is so full of prizes that some are even falling from the sky. The stunt was executed by local promotions company NewStyle, based in Sao Paulo, with the support of a local partner in Rio called Moda Promoções e Eventos. There were also plans to install the crates in the parking lots of large retailers that sell P&G products.
Instead, Rio’s bomb squad closed off surrounding streets in Ipanema, opened the two crates and found them to be empty. The police put out a statement saying no explosives had been found.
Neither promotions company would comment but P&G quickly canceled plans to distribute more mystery wooden crates and issued this brief statement: “The boxes placed in parts of Rio de Janeiro were part of a P&G promotion. We profoundly regret any discomfort caused to the population. The promotion has been immediately suspended in Rio and other cities.”
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