William and Anais Yeager are two brilliant filmmakers, who embody the Jungian archetype of the trickster to promote their filmmaking business. CNN reported that they claimed credit for putting the piano on the sandbar in Florida, and effectively produced one of the best publicity stunts ever, winning millions of dollars worth of free publicity from CNN and others. CNN produced a 2.5-minute report that might have cost the Yeagers up to $100,000 if they had produced it themselves, complete with helicopter aerial shots and clips of famous movies. CNN later reported, not in the video report, that 16-year-old Nicholas Harrington, not affiliated with the Yeagers, has now stepped forward to say that he was the prankster. It seems he did not want someone else to take the credit.
The Yeager claim may be just an example of publicity opportunism, since they didn’t even have to move the piano to get the publicity. They saw the archetypal potential of the situation! One wonders whether CNN will ever again believe a Yeager claim.
The CNN report even contains a mention of their independent film called “Jesus of Malibu: The Revolution for the Freedom of the Mind.” In fact, now that I think about it, they have even gotten me to write about it in this very article, which will be seen around the world. What a brilliant stroke! That piano on a sandbar will now forever be an archetypal symbol for the Yeager’s movie and top publicity stunts of all time. Sadly for young Mr. Harrington, it seems unlikely that anyone will remember that he was the actual idea man.
Considering Jungian Archetypes and how they were used in this stunt and the reporting around it is a very rich experience indeed. First we have the incongruous image of the piano sitting on a sandbar. This image made us think about many other archetypal symbols, including the saloon of the Titanic at the bottom of the sea; Ingrid Bergman cooing, “Play it again Sam” in “Casablanca”; Michelle Pfeiffer’s archetypal rendition of “Makin’ Whoopee” in “The Fabulous Baker Boys”; and Harvey Keitel dragging a piano off the beach in “The Piano” from 1993.
The caption contest that materialized in the local newspaper brought in such quips as “you can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish” and “play it again sand.” It seems as though most people who have seen these reports couldn’t help but be drawn in by the fun, including me!
The Yeagers have provided us with an excellent example of how to get publicity by using archetype. We often write about how an archetypal story or painting will engage generations of fans, but we rarely think about how archetype is used to attract publicity, for better or worse.
Unfortunately, last year’s best publicity stunt was probably the pastor who threatened to burn Korans as a means of revitalizing his failing church. The potential conflagration he caused by his archetypal antics nearly released the kinds of evil that were gently portrayed in Walt Disney’s 1940 animated film, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” in which Mickey Mouse is nearly overwhelmed by unexpected evil.