Coffin in river a 'marketing fail'

TOM HUNT AND MATT STEWART
Last updated 15:26 14/07/2014
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

This coffin was found floating in the Hutt River this morning.

Coffin in Hutt River
GRIM FIND: A coffin has been found in the Hutt River.

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A hoax coffin with a mannequin found floating in the Hutt River has been labelled an ill-conceived marketing stunt. 

Victoria University school of management marketing expert David Stewart said Dan Herbison had failed in his bid for exposure and had created a negative buzz around his business with the ill-conceived stunt.

''People will be offended and think he's an idiot. Death and dying in New Zealand society is still a bit of a taboo subject - it's an emotional thing.''

Herbison, posing as a fisherman, contacted reporters this morning, saying he had spotted the coffin floating and then anchored it to the riverbank.

Stewart said this tactic was deceptive and would lead people to question if he ran his businesses in an ethical way

A follow up tweet, in which Herbison apologised for the stunt while still pushing his marketing strategy, showed he was still ''milking'' the failed campaign, Stewart said.

Police are considering charging the Wellington man, who put the hoax coffin and body in the Hutt River.

Herbison admitted he placed the coffin in the river last night to advertise his job-finding website.

''I have taken it too far,'' he told The Dominion Post after police went to the scene, which they promptly cordoned off.

''I'm in a bit of s*** here.''

The mannequin in the coffin had a supposedly-dead model holding a sign reading: ''If only I'd advertised for an electrician ... I wouldn't have tried to fix it myself.''

Herbison called police and told them of the hoax this morning once he realised he had gone too far with the guerrilla marketing stunt.

''It's going to get bad, I know.''

Police spokesman Nick Bohm said police, who cordoned off the scene near Waione Bridge, would consider laying charges for wasting police time and resources.

The prank was ''highly insensitive'' to families who had lost loved ones in the area, Bohm said.

The coffin was found about 50m from where the body of Brett Ramon Waiwai, 30, of Lower Hutt was found less than a year ago.

A Hutt City Council spokeswoman said the council would not prosecute for the stunt.

''We feel enough time has been spent this morning dealing with this hoax.''

The coffin was found close to Owhiti Urupa, a Maori cemetery near the Waiwhetu Stream where it joins with the Hutt River in Seaview.

Waiwhetu Marae elder Te-Rira Puketapu believed the prank could have been culturally offensive had it targeted Maori or been conducted at the cemetery.

However, the coffin was likely floated up-river and any offence caused could be far greater felt by the police or potential customers in general.

''A lot of people might shy away from the company. It's bad taste for people who are perhaps conducting funerals or their families, it's making light of that sort of situation.''

In 2011 during the Rugby World Cup Herbison put a mannequin on the All Blacks sign at the site of the current Wellywoood sign, near Wellington Airport's runway.

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An airport spokesperson said given the location the stunt was considered highly unsafe. The mannequin was safely removed by airport contractors and disposed of.

- The Dominion Post

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