May 13, 2006 by Colin
Before there was MySpace and other social media, there were fan clubs and fanzines. If you had a personalized desktop, it meant you had plastered your desk with stickers and magazine covers of your favourite star, then covered it with plastic sheeting. The only custom ringtone popularly available was fifteen seconds of hissing and static as you waited for your bootleg cassette to wind around to the first track.
Back in the day, the only two-way interaction between a celebrity and a fan involved a lot of mail. Physical mail. Waiting on the porch for the mailman after school kind of mail. Newsletters. Christmas postcards. Envelopes stamped “with love from Olivia” or “from Leif.” “Autographed” posters from Bo Derek.
Those of us “of a certain age” remember Leif Garrett. His chest was bared in almost every one of his appearances in early celebrity magazines like Teen Beat. It was an eerie contrast to the hirsuite images of Barry Gibb and Abba’s Benny and Bjorn.
His fan club included a membership card, a fanzine and a “welcome message” 45rpm record from Leif, as we can see over at as ShortTermMemoryLoss.
An excerpt from the 45:
“Before I leave you, on this recording, that is.
I want to thank you for being so wonderful.
It’s fans like you who make me smile from my heart.
I can take it, just about any place.
It’s one of my favourite things to do.
And I’ve had a few opportunities to take it out.“
End of recording
I have NO IDEA what the boy meant by that. Maybe it was the heroin talking.
May 11, 2006 by Colin
Despite all the initial carping, I think MESH is shaping up to be a very interesting event – May 15 and 16 in Toronto.
Maybe I’ll see you there!
May 9, 2006 by Colin
I know, I know. If something’s made it to the front page of the WSJ, it’s likely old news to the trendhunters. So today’s coverage of “donk stye” LeSabres, Impalas, Cutlass Supremes and Caddies isn’t surprising to anyone who knows what Xhibit’s been doing for the last few years.
Still. Nona and Nono now have some fierce competition for their land yachts.
“… J.D Powers … reports that buyers 16 to 35 accounted for 35% of sales of 1989 Buicks last year, up from 29% in 2003. Similarly, the age group represented 34% of 1989 Cadillac sales last year, up from 20% in 2003.”
“… Chris Kilian first saw his 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme eight months ago in someone’s yard. He knocked on the door and asked the “older man probably 65 or 70,” who opened the door if he wanted to sell the car for $1,500. Mr. Kilian, a 25 year-old self-employed car salesman, tools around South Beach in his Oldsmobile, which is now lifted 56 inches off the ground on 26-inch wheels, and painted four different shades of pink.” (WSJ, May 9)
Too bad the WSJ had to ruin their quick flash of cool with the headline “Hip to Be Square.” What? Huey Lewis? He and “the Sports” are going to have to wait for this new 80s revivalist trend to really run its course before they get off the cruise/retro concert circuit.
May 8, 2006 by Colin
The surefire forumula for winning some soft feature coverage: take a common activity (like BBQ’ing). Add a methodologically suspect but topically appeallling survey. Time the release of your results to anticipate interest by feature editors preparing seasonal stories.
That seems to be the strategy for Weber Grills, who surveyed Canadians about their grilling habits. Great. It works. We’ll likely see Weber and their survey profiled as lifestyle editors roll out their traditional summer BBQ stories over the next four to six weeks. To guarantee coverage in community papers, it looks like Weber’s commissioned a rack of stories and recipes to be distributed through News Canada.
My problem? THIS SURVEY WAS COMPLETED IN SEPTEMBER 2005!
I understand that outdoor grilling tends to drop off over the long, cold Canadian winter. I recognize that the survey’s results are so soft and qualitative that they remain valid seven months later.
Still, there has to be some sort of standard for how long a PR team let a survey baste in order to maximize media interest. Otherwise, public and media irritation with client-commissioned research will only simmer and, eventually, fall apart.
May 5, 2006 by Colin
Loyal. Dedicated. Vocal. Eager to win new converts and open up new territories. Am I describing a valued customer and contributor, or a hardcore biker? A theory is developing that many online communities depend on that one in a hundred user to populate and popularise the site. Just like the larger biker gangs fascinate and attract that one percent of bike riders.
Ben at Church of the Customer pulls together some disparate metrics to make the point. Wikipedia, he points out, depends upon 1-2% of users to contribute and edit content.
“… If we also add evidence from Bradley Horowitz that roughly 1% of Yahoo’s user population starts a Yahoo Group, we seem to have The 1% Rule: Roughly 1% of your site visitors will create content within a democratized community. (Horowitz also says that some 10% of the total audience “synthesizes” the content, or interacts with it.) …
It would appear that small groups of people often turn out to be the principal value creators of a democratized community. Over time, their work fuels widespread interaction that engages the non-participating community and attracts new ones. If continually nurtured, the community can become a self-sustaining generator of content and value.” (Church of the Customer)
Okay, I guess there’s a difference. It’s evident from definitive sources like the movie Hell’s Angels on Wheels: Eat my Angel Dust! that biker gangs tend to carry a lot of baggage with them to a new community – not to mention warrants. Still, as the movie’s radio promo (WFMU) promises, “when you see a Hell’s Angels wedding, you won’t believe it!”
“They’re not bad guys, individually. I tell you one thing: I’d rather have a bunch of Hell’s Angels on my hands than these civil rights demonstrators. When it comes to making trouble for us, the demonstrators are much worse.
- Jailer, San Francisco City Prison” (H.S.T’s Hell’s Angels)
May 4, 2006 by Colin
Last weekend, rail commuters in Toronto were befuddled by hacked in-car electronic displays that, instead of traffic and advertising notices, repeated “Stephen Harper Eats Babies” every three seconds. You may not know that Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada.
Apparently, the signs were not password protected and could be reprogrammed with a easily available “gadget.”
Two items of interest here for marketers: this message repeated, on at least five different displays, for THREE days before being removed. To solve the security gap, the railway authority will have to spend several days installing software currently being COURIERED to them.
I don’t mean to be uncharitable, but COURIERED? What, is the new security software on floppies?
This is one aspect of highly targeted marketing that may cause concern for marketers and clients: culturejammed billboards often have the creative range (and space) to display humour and satire. Your marketing campaign will still be highjacked, but at least the community may benefit from some element of artistic or cultural sensibility.
How likely is that scenario with new electronic displays – whether on store shelves, in subways or on buses? It’s quite possible that your campaign could be highjacked or sabotaged at multiple sites – with far more blunt counter-messaging.
“Commuter Gerry Nicholls said he thought he was hallucinating as he relaxed in his seat for the 35-minute GO train ride between Toronto and his Oakville home. …
“No one seemed to be reacting to it,” … “I kept waiting for the kicker,” he said. “I thought, there’s got to be something to this. It’s a joke, it’s an ad for baby food or something like that. It just kept going over and over again and I realized that this is something that could be pretty serious.
“I wasn’t even sure when I got off the train. Was I hallucinating?” (CTV.ca)
May 2, 2006 by Colin
Strumpette continues to rail against the PR blog establishment and their reaction to that blog’s satirical, sarcastic and often biting commentary. The latest jab, Championship PR Midget Toss Sets Record, apparently hit a little close to home, prompting a critical backlash (in the limited volume only possible in the insular world of PR blogging).
Among the attacks: Strumpette’s volume cannot be as strong as claimed. Why do PR pros always concentrate on the size of the splash, not the duration of the ripple? I’d rather have one good hit as a feature, not a mcnugget of news in USAToday. After all, for most campaigns it’s the motion of the ocean that’s important, not the size of the ship.
” … See… their dig is just an immature ad hominem attempt to discredit us. They are trying desperately to discourage readership. Like the Edelman Gang at the onset, they have a vested interest to take us off line. Their “Me2Revolution” is a load of hooey and they’re afraid that we will continue to point that out.” (Strumpette)
The blogosphere is still enough of a juvenile and amateurish playground that readers are unlikely to be dissuaded and repulsed by accusations of illegitimacy and sensationalism. If anything, public relations counsellors should have the capacity to judge for themselves how to read blog posts, interpret their meaning and evaluate their repurcussions for their clients (and maybe their own organization).
It’s evident that Strumpette is having a good time tilting at some windmills and knocking over some apple carts, all the while injecting some humour into a community that is rushing to adopt an increasingly doctrinaire approach to preaching the books of Long Tail, Web 2.0 and the old testament of Conversations. After all, what’s a blogging practice without catchphrases, eight point action plans, the reflected glow of big agency approval and oversized ambitions for business development?
Still, the sniff of righteous indignation hanging over Strumpette’s retorts smells a little funky to me. The claims that “the man’s trying to keep me down” ring hollow. You want a true voice for the oppressed and under-represented? I present Public Enemy’s Don’t Believe the Hype:
Was the start of my last jam/
So here it is again, another def jam/
But since I gave you all a little something/
That we knew you lacked/
They still consider me a new jack/All the critics you can hang’em/
I’ll hold the rope/
But they hope to the pope/
And pray it ain’t dope/
The follower of Farrakhan/
Don’t tell me that you understand/
Until you hear the man/
The book of the new school rap game/
Writers treat me like Coltrane, insane/
Yes to them, but to me I’m a different kind/
We’re brothers of the same mind, unblind/
Caught in the middle and/
I don’t rhyme for the sake of of riddlin’/
Some claim that I’m a smuggler/
Some say I never heard of ‘ya/
A rap burgler, false media/
We don’t need it do we?/
It’s fake that’s what it be to ‘ya, dig me?/
Don’t believe the hype…
Strumpette even tries to appropriate some of the “voice of the common man” mojo:
” … They’d like you to believe that being dis-ed by the PR bloggers and the “Nobodies Club” matters. No. It just doesn’t. They, by-an-large, are a group of self-important PR juniors and empty Shels. They are PR people whose power, and credibility for that matter, is a total fabrication and not real. We are more credible as a character than all of their resumes. (Strumpette)
And that is really quite weak, if you consider that Public Enemy was singing about political and social empowerment in the face of continuing societal oppression, and Strumpette is mad that three or four white guys are ganging up on him/her/them/the collective.
May 1, 2006 by Colin
An exercise in difficult community relations: when your suburban cul-de-sac becomes a shooting location for porn movies, and how your neighbours react. In the LA Times.
April 29, 2006 by Colin
“French fries and sneakers: pure evil” – that’s the title of Steve Maich’s column in the latest issue of Macleans. In his analysis, the corporate social responsibility efforts of the world’s biggest consumer brands contrast with their continuing poor showings in pubic CSR polling: Nike, Coca-Cola and BP all suffer at the hands of activist groups, and are affected by the public’s myopia for much more harmful activities by less profiled corporations.
After all, it’s hard to get your community group riled up about picketing a two story building in a corporate business park.
” … What started as a well-meaning movement, aimed at getting business to promote the greater good, has morphed into an industry unto itself: it’s the discontent industry, and it’s driven by image consultants and professional lobbyists, none of whom can present a coherent vision of what it means to be ethical. Instead, the public is fed a constant diet of anti-corporate polemics like The Corporation, No Logo and Super Size Me, all painting business as a hostile force, warping society into a bleak dystopia driven by endless greed.
… The result is a world in which arms manufacturers do brisk business with regressive dictators while tech companies eagerly assist autocrats in squelching democratic rights, and yet an entire generation of supposedly intelligent people seriously believe the world’s most unethical corporation sells hamburgers.”
April 27, 2006 by Colin
Now in production, and scheduled for the Fox Reality channel in the fall, the final confluence of reality entertainment: reality television and porn.
” … My Bare Lady, which begins shooting in June, will follow the four female porn stars as they study at a London drama school and aim to land a role in a West End theatre production. (Guardian, reg. req.)
April 27, 2006 by Colin
Regret the Error may take the New York Times to task for its corrections, but internally the paper depends upon greenies. So says Jonathan Landman, the deputy managing editor for digital journalism at the Times:
” … Greenies? They are daily critiques of the newspaper, prepared by editors with contributions from staffers and circulated throughout the newsroom. The odd name comes from the habit of Allan M. Siegal, the assistant managing editor for standards who has been preparing critiques of this kind for decades, of using a green marking pen.) (Ask the Editors, NY Times)”
Landman doesn’t think, however, that readers should be given a public forum to highlight these errors.
” … We do, of course, publish corrections and editors notes to correct the public record. But it seems to me that fingering individuals in public for writing less-than-ideal headlines or overusing buzzwords or splitting infinitives would do much more harm than good, making people fearful and overcautious rather than diligent and responsive.”
One blogger seems to have noticed – quite a while ago – that the Times corrects these minor grammatical errors even after they’ve gone online and have been pumped out through the RSS feed. If you have an eye for detail, you can spot the greenies and then track their deletion through your feed reader.
April 27, 2006 by Colin
A car dealer in Prince George, British Columbia has managed to alienate a portion of his community – and customer base – by placing a poorly considered ad encouraging locals receiving government compensation cheques for past abuse to spend their money on his lot.
The car dealer is located in a community near an aboriginal residential school run in the past by the Roman Catholic Church. For a hundred years or more, members of Canada’s first nations were sent to live at these schools in an attempt to assimilate them.
“”You have a whole lot of individuals who went to residential school who were sexually and physically abused and working through settlements with the government and the churches, only to find out there’s some used car salesman at the end looking for your money,” [Grand Chief Ed] John told CBC News.
The dealer apologized in a subsequent edition of the paper:
“”Action Motors would like to apologize for our ad that ran Friday, April 21, in the Stuart Nechako Advertiser. We did not mean to offend anyone with this ad. We appreciate your support over the years and look forward to serving you in the future.” (National Post, behind firewall)
Or, to paraphrase: “Sorry about that. Still, whaddya think of that 94 Taurus?”
April 23, 2006 by Colin
Oh, to have the measurement and evaluation money available to drug companies. Medical Marketing and Media has taken a look at The Science of DTC (pdf), discussing the growth in pre- testing of direct-to-consumer advertising, as well as efforts to improve the clarity of the many DTC formats.
In part, it’s a reaction to the scandal surrounding the side effects ofVioxxl and the resulting attention levelled at DTC advertising by the FDA.
“We’re trying to cut to the issues at hand in DTC advertising,” says [Merck consumer marketing manger Ed] Slaughter. “Every time an FDA official gets up and speaks at a conference, they say, ‘If anybody has any data on this, we’d love to see it.’ This is an attempt to move the ball forward and answer that in a scientific, data-driven way.”
MM&M calls upon industry insiders and critics to comment on past and current DTC practices, placing special emphasis on particular initiatives to improve consumer understanding of pharma advertising. Initiatives like Pfizer’s Principles for Clear Health Communication (pdf)
… Even the highest-functioning readers are hard-pressed to slog through the dense, highly technical text in a typical brief summary. To improve readability, Pfizer adopted its Principles, mandating that communications
should explain a drug’s purpose and limit content to avoid clutter; involve the reader; make text easier to read through use of active words, conversational style, chunking and road signs; make the look of the content more inviting through use of white space, good contrast and elimination of ghosting and other competing visuals; and
select realistic visuals that motivate patients to take action. The company’s new consumer-friendly risk information format for print ads, wherein easy-to-read chunks of information are presented in bulletpoint-happy bubbles, was one result of those principles. (MM&M)
Funny how the editors of MM&M couldn’t follow the same advice in constructing that last paragraph …
Some academics have critiqued the presentation and positioning of risk information in DTC advertising, claiming it understates risk – likely to the benefit fo a sales pitch.
“… Drug makers often use flashy, sparkling graphics to distract viewers and divide their attention when risk information is presented during an advertisement, [Duke University professor of psychology Ruth] Day said. “Risk information is there,” she said. “It’s physically present, but functionally absent.”
For instance, she explained, Schering-Plough uses a “charming” cartoon bee character in its commercials for its allergy product Nasonex.
But, Day exclaimed, “Watch his wings.”
She demonstrated for regulators a simulation of how the bee‘s wings move quickly during the commercial’s presentation of risk information. But, Day noted, when the narrator talks about the drug’s benefits, the “wings are not moving. In fact, he doesn’t have any wings at all.”
A plotting of wing flaps per second during the presentation of benefits and risks found “clearly more [flaps] during the side effects,” she declared.
Day’s research found that risk information is placed in less favorable locations in drug advertisements than is benefit information. (ASHP News Release)
Pharma Marketing Blog offered an alternate evaluation of Day’s presentation before the FDA.
April 21, 2006 by Colin
After several years hard work, the Measurement Committee of the Canadian Public Relations Society has launched a new media measurement tool to support the measurement and evaluation efforts of PR practitioners in Canada.
“The MRP™ (Media Relations Rating Points) system provides communications and marketing professionals with an easy-to-use tool that measures the effectiveness of any public relations campaign. The 10-point rating system can be used for any type of media coverage (i.e. print, TV, radio, online). The MRP system can also be used to measure crisis communications and unplanned media attention after the fact.
The primary objective of the MRP system is to create a standardized reporting mechanism that can be widely accepted and utilized with ease to measure coverage results. This system can be easily customized by Company or by project. MRPs provide clear metrics to evaluate media coverage, track total impressions and cost per contact.” (Media Relations Rating Points User Guide)
Tested, in some form, by organizations like the Bank of Montreal, Second Cup, Kellogg Canada and others, it has been endorsed by the CPRS and IABC, and is supported by a subscription databank established and maintained by News Canada.
Key in this initiative is its breadth: with such a wide-ranging and well-tested mechanism, an opportunity now exists to implement a common measurement standard that will help corporate shops and agencies alike to effectively measure, and compare, performance.
April 17, 2006 by Colin
Before Google News, before Yahoo, before (gasp) Pointcast … people had to buy magazines to keep up with current events. They were sold at places called news stands. They’re still around, I know. But for most people under a certain age (quick – fifty words on the influence of Dennis Haskins on your teenage years) a news stand is where you find your girlfriend’s Italian Vogue (or your British FHM). In 1987, I found two of the most interesting – and perverse – magazines. They were to grace the magazine rack beside my john for years to come.
The first was Spy, which we’ve all heard of at one point or another. There was the piece on American Kabuki (mascot costumes) and there was Bunny Burgers, testing whether public relations firms would recoil at representing a fast food rabbit meat chain.
” … We needed to come up with a venture that would have the look and feel of a big, well-financed, image-driven, Madison Avenue – created powerhouse yet somehow lack fundamental common sense. The bad idea we settled upon was simple and all-American: a fast food chain called Bunny Burgers Inc., which would be selling ground rabbit, as well as salads and french fried carrots, at dozens of outlets in the eastern United States and Canada.
The company could follow the Red Lobster model — diners would have the opportunity to pick their own bunnies (Tuesday is P.Y.O.B. Night!) for broiling. The whole idea appealed to us because it simultaneously evoked sweetness and made the skin crawl.
We invited nine PR firms to bid on the account and assist us in determining whether the concept was feasible, public-relations- wise, and if so, what measures could be take to mitigate public hostility toward the consumption of bunny meat at a time of burgeoning sensitivity toward the animals with whom we share this fragile planet. At the outset, we feared that PR firms would hang up on us when we phoned to describe our fictitious enterprise and ask for help.
None of the firms hung up on us.” (Full Text)
A recent piece in Metropolis magazine lookeds at the magazine’s enduring cultural and design influence:
“… “It was an exercise in shoehorning material,” [former art director Alexander Isley] says–and partly a product of a Mad magazine-inspired use of buried text: the best stuff was often in the tiniest type, in the marginalia or the captions. Deadpan delivery remains a key part of Isley’s design approach, despite the very American insistence that funnies be accentuated by the visual equivalent of a laugh track. “The key was not telegraphing the joke,” he says. …” (Metropolis, and more on Isley)
The other magazine – more of a ‘zine actually – was Monk. Two gay men, travelling across the United States with their two cats, building an audience with their Mac. Aside from the more flamboyant tales, I was interested in how Michael Lane and Jim Crotty discussed the characters and communities they encountered. Just as appealing was their threadbare appeals for money – $100 got you a lifetime after lifetime subscription. I remember signing up for two years after reading only one issue.
Interestingly, the two found that advertisers were loath to commit to such a small publication: “… “People told us we needed to print at least 20,000, so that’s what we did,” Mr. Lane said. Promising to distribute every copy, they sold $12,000 in ads, more than covering the $6,000 in printing costs.” (NYT)
Oh, what they could have done with AdSense or BlogAds!