@Arbys Turns Brisket into PR Gold with 13-Hour Commercial

A screencap of the Arby's brisket commercial.
A screencap of the Arby's brisket commercial.

As far as PR stunts go, the one that Arby's recently pulled off now ranks among the longest—and simplest.

Arby's was looking for ways to get the word out about the reintroduction of its Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich. On Saturday, the restaurant chain aired a 13-hour commercial consisting of a single take of a brisket being smoked at one of its smokehouses in Texas. Call it Yule Log for brisket lovers. The spot—which concludes with Arby's corporate executive chef Neville Craw assembling a brisket sandwich using the freshly smoked meat—shattered the Guinness World Record for the longest commercial ever aired.

Arby's on Wednesday posted its sizzling 13-hour film on the Web, showing it on a special website, which enticed viewers with prizes that popped up intermittently, including 13 cash prizes of $1,300.

The goal of the project? Matt Heath, creative director at Arby's agency of record, Fallon, told The New York Times that the goal was to demonstrate that the flavor of Arby's brisket is real—not from a bottle—and that Arby's actually smokes its meat for 13 hours.

And with the story of Arby's extra-long commercial garnering stories in places like the Times, Slate, Mashable, Inc., Business Insider and pretty much everywhere else, it looks like the company has accomplished that messaging goal.

Through a clever convergence of paid, owned and earned media, a simple display of a process that takes place without much fanfare everyday at Arby's own facilities turned into a winner for the restaurant chain.

For PR pros, Arby's stunt provides an interesting lesson: When looking for ways to promote your products and services, sometimes its best not to look too far.

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene