June 30, 2004 by Colin
The President of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies appreciates the role of blogs in building general buzz for independent reporting. As he mentioned in his “State of the Association” speech this week:
And, this year, we did something AAN hasn’t tried in years — commissioning shared editorial. Not only did Jason Vest’s report on a closely-held memo from an operative inside the Iraq Occupation get AAN lots of attention — from random blogs to Harper’s magazine — it filled a lot of news holes around the country with solid reporting . . . for free.
June 30, 2004 by Colin
Every year, alternative newsweeklies from across the US apply for membership in the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. After careful review, some are accepted, some are mentored, and some are mocked and belittled. Like the Fayetteville Free Weekly:
“From the cover stories that read like middle-school reports to the weak home-decorating column, this publication is an abomination. Inane writing, bad editing, zero design. You can’t even read the crossword.”
The review committee’s advice is a mixture of frank professional assessment and tough love.
“This paper has great potential in a rapidly growing if conservative market. First things first: start doing news, get an art director and simultaneously a new printer. Quickly.”
Is it all bad news? No. Los Angeles City Beat, a unanimous choice for admission, is “So sharp, it draws blood”.
Read the committee’s comments. Line after line, they underline the high levels of professionalism, creativity and originality the Association demands of local newsweeklies. Does your hometown rag rate as well?
June 30, 2004 by Colin
Once upon a time, lonely campers could only rely on a weekly mail call and the occasional long-distance phone call to break the solitude.
Parents and campers alike had to communicate through the Camp Director – a nice, traditional command and control communication system.
Obviously, times have changed. There are fewer filters influencing communication among staff, counselors, campers, parents and alumni.
Phone trees, bulletin boards and mimeographed newsletters have been replaced by sophisticated web sites, e-newsletters, voice mail broadcasts and alumni affinity programs.
This means transparency and the rapid flow of information are essential if a Camp Director and camp staff are to deal effectively with campers, parents and alumni in times of calm and crisis.
After all, why should the campers, kitchen staff and Head Counsellor’s drug dealer be the only ones to know that Cabin B has a wasp’s nest, the Assistant Director is sleeping with the crafts teacher, and the school bus failed its last safety check?
That’s why the advent of electronic communication has proved to be a boon for small businesses like camps:
- Desktop publishing software means the admin assistant has reams of clip art to “brighten up” the early spring promotional mailouts
- Cheap broadcast voice mail services mean you can remind campers to bring more Off! when that dead crow turns out to have West Nile Virus
- E-mail means the on-call lawyer can provide instant reaction to the FTC lawsuit stemming from last year’s “how to make money off spam” seminar.
- Out-of-the-box software can help the camp set up alumni websites and mailing lists, ensuring a continuing flow of wistful nostalgia, reunion reminders, and plaintive calls for more donations for the new staff rec room.
- Of course, regular web access time for campers, at $9.95 an hour, will give them the opportunity to maintain their Neopets, trade in their fantasy baseball league, and keep up on the Olsen twin’s latest addictions/afflictions.
But some communications activities need to be styled old-school: there are influential members of the community who need their hands held, voices heard, palms greased, and, sometimes, their skull cracked.
- the cranky old man who leased the land for the camp, knowing it was a Superfund site
- the park ranger who tolerates overturned portapotties, golf cart races on the bike trails and underwear in the branches of the 300 year-old Sequoia
- and the small town mayor, who’s still mad that your non-profit status is depriving him of tax revenue for such essentials as a frapuccino machine and a new Impala.
June 29, 2004 by Colin
The Blackberry has become ubiquitous among hacks, flacks and political hangers-on, in Canada and the US. It’s proven indispensable in maintaining the rapid flow of facts, party lines, rebuttals and counter-spin as Canada’s political leaders bounced from the Atlantic to the Pacific these past five weeks.
Which is why all concerned were probably quite disturbed to discover the Rogers Wireless Blackberry network went offline for several hours yesterday morning – election day.
Rogers is one of only two national Blackberry networks. Email sent to their subscribers backed up as RIM, the maker of the device, moved to fix what Rogers described as a “a software issue … at the RIM server level.”
Every Blackberry user has experienced one of these “issues.” Eventually, your hip is flooded with 25, 50 or 75 messages, and you realize the gadget had been misbehaving. I have to imagine three national political campaigns trying to drive a get-out-the-vote effort on election day were a little non-plussed at the failure of a now-essential piece of equipment.
RIM, for some reason, did not return calls from the Ottawa Citizen for comment. (sub. req.)
June 28, 2004 by Colin
In July, clear blue skies greet you each morning. The morning dew burns up under brunt of the growing heat. At night, porches are filled with noisy teenagers, and every morning, lawns are covered in bottles.
What ever happened to shipping the kids off to camp for the summer? The belch of diesel as a school bus coughs to life, a faint wave as Mom starts up the Ford Family Truckster, and little Timmy is gone for two, four, maybe even eight weeks.
This week, Canuckflack will take a look at the public relations challenges facing the staff at day camp, overnight camp, adventure camp, computer camp, basketball camp, even band camp.
June 28, 2004 by Colin
Camp Directors, in their daily work, call upon many of the skills routinely demanded of a well-rounded communicator: promotions, advertising, media relations, staff communications and business development.
And they deal with some really disturbed people along the way.
Crooked small-town supplier: pulls up in a V10 supercab pickup, but can only provide Israeli canned tomatoes and Russian chipped beef. Preferred form of communication: No small talk, just cash.
Idiot Savant Camper: can wire pirated cable to the cabin, but never uses soap or a comb. Preferred form of communication: just IM his Treo.
Competitive parent : their kids arrive at sports camp with a copy of “the seven habits of highly effective people” and autographed photos of Pat Riley and John Gruden. Preferred form of communication: daily email, weekly newsletter, constant phone calls to the director, and regular visits to watch every sporting event.
Crazed groundskeeper: whether Carl Spackler at golf camp, or Groundskeeper Willy … there’s always a hint of mischief in their eyes – and the whiff of home-grown. Preferred form of communication: Quick verbal commands. Don’t get pushy, and don’t expect quick action.
Unwilling camper: can be spotted by eternal frown at the back of the pack. Prefers retro tshirts with suggestive logos. Preferred form of communication: Loud verbal commands and understated hand signals.
70s throwback music teacher: her license plate reads “JHN DVR” and she insists “Macarthur Park” and “Kumbaya” be sung at every campfire. Preferred form of communication: Passive and non-confrontational conversations.
Head Counselor: an unusual combination of natural leadership and subversive impulse. Can take forty kids on a three day canoe trip, and find a forty-pounder of vodka for the end-of-summer party. Preferred form of communication: A loud shout-out across the campgounds.
Lonesome Camper: easily spotted by the 180 page diary clutched to their chest. Preferred form of communication: Mix tapes with Liz Phair, the Indigo Girls, Elvis Costello and Alanis.
Camp Casanova: upturned collar on the Lacoste tennis shirt. Sebago deck shoes. Brings cologne on the canoe trip. Preferred form of communication: Plenty of empathic body language. Rhythmic verbal cadences. Handwritten notes on linen.
45 year-old Fantasy Camper: wants to know where he can hang his suitbag, and whether he can switch to a room with a mini-bar and broadband. Preferred form of communication: that young lady at reception.
June 25, 2004 by Colin
Unless you’re just a grumpy landowner, you’ll agree that lawn signs do have a place in a political campaign. Those little wire and plastic signs will, in an incessant and subliminal manner, help raise general awareness of your candidate’s name, affiliation and well-deserved elected position. And on election day, who knows, they may swing a few votes during the drive to the polling station!
Most creatives and political organizers question whether lawn signs help move votes in a campaign dominated by issues, rather than name recognition. As one Toronto advertising executive commented:
“They defy every rule of advertising that I would abide by,” he notes. “But at the same time … they work, I think.”
Still, they can provoke negative reaction from voters feeling overwhelmed by door hangers, stickers, pamphlets, flags, trade show pop-ups and free standing inserts. The Missouri Press Association asked a sample of readers what tactic is the most offensive form of political advertising:
- 1st — Phone calls from candidate campaigns (32%)
- 2nd — Television ads (30.3%)
- 3rd — Lawn signs (19.3%)
Of course, if you’re a warm and sensitive Green Party member, lawn signs pose a far more hazardous risk to the environment:
“You could frame an affordable house with all the lumber in . . . the NDP signs and the Conservative signs,” [said one Vanouver area Green Party candidate] …
But it’s clear the plastic-bag lawn signs are still a bit of a sore spot with the campaign — one Lewis said he’s still working on. “Somebody suggested we make them out of hemp and then they could be shopping bags after you’re finished with them,” he said.
We’ll leave the final observation to a Canadian political organizer. Do any signs stand out for their design, wit, or imagination?
“Oh, Good Lord no. They’re all uniformly execrable.”
June 24, 2004 by Colin
Shhh. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of David Ogilvy, hooked up to a turbine in the grave, generating enough power to light Six Flags over Georgia.
Almost two thirds of procurement directors questioned in a survey by spend management company Ariba said their marketing departments were “suspicious” of their activities, while 20% claimed they had been accused of interfering in client relationships. (MediaWeek)
June 24, 2004 by Colin
Effective experiential/guerilla/street marketing depends upon the surprise and amusement of the general public. An imaginative campaign will draw the grudging admiration of a shopper, pedestrian and possible consumer, even if they are normally irritated by what they perceive as over-the-top marketing efforts.
I have to think the growing practice of building buzz by telling reporters about your impending “surprise” marketing tactic will eventually cause consumer skepticism to grow, and make this marketing genre backfire.
Sometimes an integrated marketing campaign isn’t worth it – especially when all you plan to do is flash people.
Outside Grand Central Terminal tomorrow, for example, six men and women will advertise a New York Health and Racquet Club class by spending hours flashing their underwear at strangers, who may notice that the club logo and “Booty Call,” the name of the class, appear on the garment.
“Our street team will be going around and mooning the message to the masses,” said Darren Paul, managing partner at Night Agency in New York, which organized the event. (NYT)
Come on – the least the agency could have done to earn the commission is hire J.Lo impersonators. Or RuPaul impersonators. Or RuPaul, I hear she needs the work.
June 23, 2004 by Colin
A DJ for the British Classic Gold digital radio station has been suspended for repeatedly straying from the approved playlist. The Guardian got their hands on some internal emails:
We shouldn’t be playing Cliff Richard,” [Program manager Paul] Baker wrote in an email sent on Tuesday. “As I said on Monday, we might carry out research on him, but for now we have a policy decision that he doesn’t match our brand values, he’s not on the playlist, and you must stop playing him.”
“Requests is [sic] not an excuse,” he added.
An unrepentant [Tony] Blackburn read out the email at around 8.20am this morning then tore it up live on air, threw it in the bin and played two Cliff Richard tracks back to back, thought to be We Don’t Talk Any More (.mov)and Living Doll.(.mov)
And here for you, the dedicated Sir Cliff Richard fan, is the secret of his Dick Clark-like eternal tan and taut skin. (RealAudio)
June 23, 2004 by Colin
How can you measure the impact of your blog? When do you really know that your astute and incisive analysis is really having an effect on people? Paul Wells, of Macleans magazine, knows:
This is the edgiest campaign I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of the 1995 referendum. The other day I was walking up Bank St. and some guy leaned out of a minivan and shouted, “Your blog sucks!”
June 22, 2004 by Colin
Despite the enormous up-fronts for the major networks, advertisers continue to scramble to find alternate vehicles to promote their brands and products. While we know what ad sales staff will do for a buck, some creatives appear quite willing to make room on tabletops, in kitchen cupboards and in carports – for an extra cheque or two.
Steve Martin, for example, set his novel Shopgirl in the Beverly Hills outlet of Saks Fifth Avenue. Now being produced as a film, Shopgirl is set in Neiman Marcus.
For Martin, the tweak to his artistic integrity appears to have been relatively painless. As his book climbed the bestseller lists, he said: “I wrote a novel this year called Shopgirl, and several producers came to me and wanted to turn it into a movie. And I said: ‘If you think you’re going to take this book and change it around, and Hollywoodise it . . . that’s going to cost you’.”
Some marketing execs, though, seem to wonder why they should pay for the cow if they’re getting the milk for free.
“We never pay for placement,” says Jeff Bell, marketing chief for the Chrysler and Jeep marques. “We call it brand casting.”
DaimlerChrysler won thousands of media hits for their Crossfire after it was “cast” in the finale of the Apprentice. The cost? A few free cars.
Today, the FT discusses the relative value of different placements on television and in film.
June 22, 2004 by Colin
Apparently, the BBC wasn’t fully briefed on how to handle Presidents hawking their new biography. Ask probing questions, but don’t push too far, you know?
Former US president Bill Clinton lost his temper during a BBC interview after being repeatedly asked if he was genuine in voicing regret over his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton, revving up a publicity campaign ahead of the release Tuesday of his memoirs, bristled at relentless questioning about the affair with the White House intern by veteran BBC interviewer David Dimbleby, according to British newspapers …
“As outbursts go, it is not just some flash that is over in an instant. It is something substantial and sustained,” said a BBC executive who viewed the interview, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
June 21, 2004 by Colin
June 21, 2004 by Colin
It was twenty years ago this summer that Labatt changed the drinking habits of Canadians by introducing a longer-necked beer bottle with a twist-off cap. With the careful control of production, marketing and advertising, Labatt also managed to knock constant competitor Molson on its heels.
The latest salvo in an intense war with Molson for market share, the twist-off cap was a ground-breaking innovation in a national market just getting used to long-necked bottles. This was a secret product that had been developed, advertising produced and factories retooled, over a year: Molson could not be allowed to piggyback on Labatt’s work, especially through the beer-heavy summer months.
Labatt’s management counted upon deception to win the battle: a new ad for Labatt Lite was broadcast in Alberta, touting the benefits of a new, longer-necked bottle. At the same time, Labatt bought a million tall bottles – without a twist-off.
Molson, judging that Labatt was making a longer-necked bottle the marketing innovation of the summer (remember – Canada was still a land wedded to the stubby), bought millions of bottles – without a twist-off.
Naturally, they were non-plussed when a new version of the Labatt Lite ad ran in Alberta, one that began with a traditional bottle opener shooting off the screen and closed with the bottle being opened with the twist of a wrist.