Enter A Contest And Win A Job! PR-Hungry Companies Stage 'Job Stunts'

Kid Rock singing onstageHere's a job: Get flown out to New Orleans for a one-day mixology tutorial, and then to three Kid Rock shows over the coming months in Detroit, Chicago, and Irvine, Calif., to serve the aging enfant terrible his before and after-show cocktails. Compensation: $10,000.

Well, it's not a job exactly. It's a job stunt. A job where the work done is less valuable than the media attention it stirs. In this case, Jim Beam is ponying up the dough. In exchange, it gets a chance to rally its fan base (to apply, you must submit a 250-word essay conveying "Jim Beam/Kid Rock fan passion"), score some free press, and advertise its partnership with the rabble-rousing rap-rocker.

Job stunts have cropped up increasingly since the financial crisis. After all, high unemployment has made "job" a bankable buzzword and Google search gold. It's just smart recession-era thinking to dress up an advertising campaign as a job recruitment drive.

More:Quiz: How Do You Pick Your Dream Job?

The first, or at least the first massively successful one in recent memory, was in 2009. The tourism board of Queensland, Australia, launched the "Best Job in the World" contest, in which the winner would spend six months as a "caretaker" for the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, living in a beachside multimillion-dollar mansion, recording video diaries and writing blog posts, for $110,000 in salary and benefits.

The world went nuts. Every media outlet from New York to Afghanistan covered the story, and the submission website crashed two days later. We were in the bloody guts of the recession, after all. The 34-year-old winner did 250 media interviews, reported Britain's Telegraph newspaper, including with Oprah Winfrey.

It was one of the best PR campaigns in recent memory. Tourism Queensland estimated that for a cost of $1 million they'd generated over $80 million in publicity, and the campaign scooped up two top honors at that year's Cannes Lions, the world's biggest advertising festival. (The winner ended up being promoted to the job of tourism ambassador for Queensland, and stayed on until last year.)

The tourism board for all of Australia took the cue, and launched its own "Best Job in the World" competition earlier this year. The six winners would get a six-month contract, and take on different jobs, from "Chief Funster" for the state of New South Wales (promoting cultural, sports, and entertainment events) to "Taste Master" for Western Australia (sampling and promoting the state's produce, micro-breweries, and gourmet cuisine). For their work, they'd be paid $50,000 plus $50,000 in benefits and living expenses.

More:Dream Jobs, Who Has Them, And Why

Australia received half a million applications. And perhaps more valuably, if you Google "best job in the world" the campaign dominates the first six pages of search results.

Companies Get In On The Game
In January, the U.K.-based resort firm First Choice advertised for a "slide tester" position: The successful applicant scored a six-month gig trying out water slides at SplashWorld parks across Europe, as well as Thailand and Egypt -- travel expenses paid. The story was picked up by ABC News, CNN, The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and British papers including The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Mirror, The Sun and The Daily Mail. And, of course, AOL Jobs. That's publicity worth far in excess of the lucky winner's $32,000 salary.

Earlier this week, another company advertised the "job of your dreams," or at least the "cushiest." The mattress company Sleepy's is looking to replace its Snooze Director, who tests out mattresses, blogs about sleeping techniques, and manages the company's Twitter page. Predictably, it's received plenty of coverage too. The glorified social media manager works part-time for $10 an hour, no benefits, and must report to work in a town on Long Island, N.Y. It seems even the job market for dream jobs is on the decline.

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