April 19, 2005 by Colin
Sheer laziness, that’s what it is. If there’s some sort of ethical barrier to pimping products during syndicated television appearances, journalists just haven’t made the effort to create an elaborate enough buffer between their “reporting” and their paycheque.
The WSJ reveals today that several “tech editors” recently featured on national morning or cable shows supplement their income by soliciting major product placements to be featured during national satellite media tours. Naturally, the promotional patter they repeat ad nauseum during SMTs with third tier morning news hosts tends to spill over into their national appearances.
And to the manufacturers, that’s pure gravy, baby!
So – what’s an ambitious young telejournalist with a car payment and antsy consumer products clients to do? Look to the medical marketing industry! Learn to skirt the ethical swamps by no longer providing direct reporting on the products: instead, you’re now a continuing consumer education specialist!
As a new CCE, you’ll provide refresher training for media companies on the latest consumer trends! You’ll:
- provide in-house training video with remarkably lit product shots, descriptive commentary and sample testimonials from carefully screened users;
- set up technical briefings for reporters with free bagels, juice and pens;
- guide seminars and hand out free golf balls for producers – to be picked up at Sea Island, Georgia;
- drop by production offices weekly to restock the “sample” bins: especially effective when repping electronics firms;
- produce online video conferences – hosted by Jesper Parnevik and Maria Sherapova.
- monthly educational meetings at Cipriani’s. There might be $500 under that 24 ounce sirloin, there might not be – knowwhatImean?
You get the idea. You don’t take cash DIRECTLY for pumping up a product: you create a positive environment where the product can be examined carefully and fruitfully.
It’s all about the relationship with the customer, after all.
March 31, 2005 by Colin
Bubbles is throwing out the first pitch on opening day for the Toronto Blue Jays. A great promotional gimmick, but not necessarily a good omen for the team’s fortunes this year.
January 3, 2005 by Colin
Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in two Polo Ralph Lauren outlets in Southwest Florida. (What can I say? My fashion sense was imprinted in 1985!)
Both stores carry similar merchandise, are situated in high traffic outlet malls off main thoroughfares, and are staffed by similarly indifferent teenage employees. (Apparently, Fort Myers’ job market is really tight) They had identical pre-Christmas specials in place, clearly marked with signs hyping price discounts and hanging banners highlighting special promotional items.
The traffic during the week before Christmas was steady, but not overwhelming.
The day after Christmas both places were nuts. Lines of customers snaking through the store. Piles of clothes everywere. Yet most of the pricing remained the same.
The difference? Promotion and consumer sentiment.
The six foot banners in the windows had been refreshed to now proclaim “Up to 60 % off” – when the manager got around to putting them up an hour and a half after the store opening. It was an accurate claim: prices were up to 60% off regular factory outlet prices, just as they had been on December 22.
A broadcast email from Polo’s marketing department, making the very same promise, had pushed me to the outlet on December 26. I suspect it pushed others to drive their rental Lincolns and road-weary RVs to check out the deals for themselves.
I noticed that quite a few of the customers were British or German: Fort Myers has direct flights to both countries, and I suspect the day after Christmas was their first opportunity to hit the outlets after arriving in the US.
I shouldn’t overstate my case – there were deals to be found. I snatched up those deeply discounted corduroy shirts and pants, winter ’04 season casual shirts and chinos. After all, there will always be a 65 degree difference between Florida and Ontario in January!
Still, was their post-Christmas pricing promotion simply intended to reinforce the perception that deals can be found once the Christmas rush is over? Over at Saks, they actually had a 25% off promotion for early shoppers on December 26, over and above in-store pricing. Were they playing us for fools? Sniff.
Side note: I’m proud to note that the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet in Estero, Florida operates out of the Miromar outlet mall – a facility built and owned by a Canadian company.
December 15, 2004 by Colin
Did you know it’s summer in Australia? I’m awfully aware of that fact, staring out my window at 8 inches of snow and a balmy -9 degrees celcius.
icon Communications is the AOR for Sharman Networks, the owner of Kazaa. As you probably know, Sharman is being chased through the Australian court system, and icon is being dragged along behind it.
The Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) has subpoenaed every document, note, scribbling and text message involved in their business relationship, and is using this material in its case against Sharman.
Interestingly, the ARIA is also arguing that icon is materially interested in the outcome of the court case, and is therefore violating the code of ethics for the Public Relations Institute of Australia by continuing to provide media relations advice and services to Sharman.
“I question their independence as a PR agency,” says ARIA media spokesman for the case, Michael Speck. “They need their client to win the copyright case to justify their involvement in a promotional campaign, which is now a central plank in our case. They should disclose that involvement to journalists.”
There are more details in The Australian.
Of course, in a just world icon communications would instead be scorned and mocked for their flash-dependent website.
Addendum: apparently, my last comment only applies to a company operating as icon communications in Australia – and not related to the company advising Sharman. Still, WAAAY too much flash on their site.
The actual icon can be found here.
November 30, 2004 by Colin
Old line media (I mean newspapers! Come on, people: stay with me) are facing a real problem: their circulation is declining. Younger readers just aren’t jumping at the chance to cough up $25 a month to have the paper delivered to their doorstep.
I suspect it has something to do with irrelevancy: this demographic doesn’t feel a pressing urge to spend time flipping through 35 pages of flyers, antiseptic comics, city editorials, birding columns or small-minded columnists to find the information they need.
As subscribers of the Sun Times, Newsday and others know, this decline has prompted some publishers to cook the books. Others have commissioned reader surveys to dig deeper into the psyche of the elusive Generations X and Y.
Their findings? As the OJR observed earlier this fall, young adults are picking and choosing their media: radio, alternative weeklies, RSS, Google News, and news service websites. Information doesn’t come a la carte anymore: it’s a multimedia all you can eat breakfast.
Last week, Wired reported on the results of focus groups commissioned by the Washington Post. Their stunning finding? A large number of young adults would not even accept a FREE subscription to the paper. Their principal objection? The clutter of old papers around the apartment.
At The Washington Post, for example, daily circulation has fallen from 779,898 to 717,696 over the past five years … The paper chalks up some of that drop to the increased popularity of its Washingtonpost.com Web site and Express, the free daily it launched in August 2003, which will soon print 175,000 copies each day.
It’s a comprehensive article, covering the fraud, deceit and promotional gimmicks attempted in the quest to grow paper sales.
And that’s the problem. You’re not in the paper business, folks! You’re in the news business! Step out of the 1970s and smell the LCD screen, people! Give me some freakin’ options to consume your news!
Can I pay $2 a month to get movie listings and restaurant reviews for my neighbourhood delivered to my phone? How about a custom search function, a la Google Alerts, that delivers news of interest to me, billed to my credit card?
And not at the ridiculous rates you charge now. $4.95 for an article? That’s a pricing structure left over from when corporate librarians were the only ones with access to Dialog, LexisNexis and Infomart. It doesn’t reflect your costs of production, or your costs to store the information.
Oh, I know what you’re going to say. People like the touch, the feel, the smell of fresh broadsheet in their hands. There’s an existential aspect to old-fashioned newspapering. Sure there is. That’s why I have a printer which, after rebate, cost me $30.
The paper business isn’t going to die quickly. The technology is going to evolve underneath them. For example, the NYT ran an article on podcasting. But why don’t they make their “audio slide shows” accessible in this new format? These are revenue streams they’re not even considering.
Many news organizations will adapt, and many small community papers will continue to thrive thanks to a loyal local base, but they should stop and take their heads out of their paper mill invoices. Their readers will thank them, and the beavers, deer and eagles of British Columbia, Ontario and Norway will thank them.
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 5, 2004 by Colin
The Garfield movie comes out in a few days. I’ve seen the trailer, I’ve seen the articles on the planned cross-promotion. But I don’t feel any buzz. Is that even possible with such a familiar – and bland – cast of characters?
There are movie tie-ins with Beanie Babies, Wendy’s and Goldfish crackers. I don’t know if Wendy’s will be succesful launching a national kid’s meal program on the admittedly broad shoulders of a lazy and sarcastic cat. Beanie Babies? Talk about a trend that cratered. The goldfish are a good tie-in – if they introduce a lasagna-flavoured extension.
THAT would be a great opportunity for guerilla promotion – if it wasn’t Garfield. Sure, Bill Murray will give the cat an edgier voice, but imagine what the 18-24 and boomer demos would do with 100 million Uncle Duke stickers? If Dogbert is Satan, Garfield is Phil, the Prince of Heck.
The execs involved are clearly placing their bets on building audience size through a widespread DTC campaign. The Shrek-like numbers, they must hope, will build as audiences flock to see the nifty CGI graphics and savour Garfield’s mild sarcasm. One huge lurking problem – Garfield is a known quantity. His mug already grins from every product conceivable. It’s not like he’s a forgotten 70s icon, or a cult favourite.
Could the solution be guerilla marketing? Could the cat (and the movie) win more buzz, build a tougher image and carve a niche in the cultural zeitgeist with some more radical marketing?
Garfield’s agent could have worked harder to get the fat feline into the now-reknowned Ford Sportka ad. (reg. req.) But let’s remember – he does have an Animal Planet special coming up. Come on. 2600 newspapers daily and he can’t even land a special feature on A&E Biography?
I mean, Shrek is even in +HP ads! (.pdf)
Here are some suggestions for a Garfield guerilla marketing campaign:
- Garfield vs. Tony the Tiger celebrity deathmatch flash viral
- Garfield-themed Google logo (after all, if Google’s going to sell out, might as well go all the way, eh?)
- Random Garfield assaults on baseball mascots
- order up some knock-off Kate Spade purses – in Garfield fur – and sell them through the usual spots in Chinatown
- e-cards from unexpected places – Disneyland rides, popular regional bars
- Garfield baseball caps, with ears and tail, distributed free outside the US Open.For more information, here’s an interesting (if slightly artsy fartsy) post on guerilla art.
May 26, 2004 by Colin
Avril Lavigne’s got a new album out, don’t you know? Her publicity tour hasn’t suffered from the mud she’s been slinging at Hillary and Britney.
It has also benefited from the unusual synergy in activities undertaken by her record company, her promotional street team, and her rabid fans. Nettwerk, the record company, concentrates on the usual promotions and Back Bone, her fan club. Team Avril, the street team, seems to focus solely on net-based promotions.
Avrilbandaids, however, is a 20,000-strong fan club that grew out of Yahoo Groups. The Globe and Mail tells us:
Avrilbandaids is seen as so vital a promotional vehicle that Team Avril lists Avrilbandaids as an important link for Team Avril members to use. … Team Avril only gets about a quarter of the number of site visitors that Avrilbandaids gets.
Indeed, the visually sparse Team Avril site almost feels like an admission by Arista/BMG and Nettwerk that it can’t find someone to administer the street-team duties with quite the same vitality as independent fan clubs. Meanwhile, BMG and Nettwerk are also co-operating more with Avrilbandaids, by providing the signed CDs and posters for the club’s contests.
May 20, 2004 by Colin
If the claims being made by the Simon Property Group are true, there are some signficant experiential marketing opportunities being missed across the United States. Simon is involved in 247 shopping malls across 37 states, and is making some pretty hefty claims as the result of its new Arbitron “Simon Malls Shopper Profile“. This from the press release:
Americans are five times more likely to visit a Simon Mall than to attend a ticketed sporting event, including Major League baseball, NFL football, NBA basketball, NHL hockey, NASCAR, Major League soccer, NCAA events, major tennis events and the PGA combined.
There are some other startling claims, that should probably be taken with a grain of salt:
- Simon’s one-month reach exceeds national newspaper weekly reach.
- Simon’s net reach is comparable to, or exceeds, major weekly national magazines.
Of course, some of the results do seem self-evident:
- Teens and 18-24 year olds are more likely to make their purchasing decisions while at the mall while older shoppers tend to decide before they get to the mall. (see So Your Daughter’s a Mall Rat)
- 72% of Simon M1s distinctly recall seeing mall advertising in the corridors.
- 75% of Simon M1s are aware of audio in the corridors and walkways and awareness of signage is high.
- Four out of five Simon Shoppers would find a kiosk with sales and promotional literature to be useful.
May 13, 2004 by Colin
It’s going to be 27 degrees (C) in Ottawa today, with the chance of rain. An alert retailer would know to move the umbrella stand to the front of the store, to display the ice cream bars more prominently, and to highlight the selection of iced drinks.
In department stores fans will likely move quickly, as might raincoats – but not those leftover winter parkas.
In Britain, the Met Office is working with the British Retail Council to tailor its forecasting services to meet the needs of retailers.
Iris, an interactive web-based weather solution, is designed to serve the needs of retailers and the whole retail supply chain. The programme gives weather information up to 10 days in advance. Its users can incorporate their own thresholds to highlight when consumer demand is likely to increase or decrease for their particular products.
Another weather sensitivity analysis (WSA) service from the Met Office is designed to integrate with companies’ sales forecasts. This can lead to improvements in demand predictions and, in turn, better on-shelf availability and less wastage.
The Met Office claims Safeway has achieved an annual benefit equating to Ł4.8m from its weather services. One ice-cream promotion by the supermarket sold as much of the promoted brand in one week as it usually does in an entire year.
“It is very much about the timing of promotional ability,” says [the BRC spokesman]. “It is also about the timing of information, so if it is going to be a wet weekend and a low footfall is expected, a retailer could hold off on advertising.”
Some retailers point out that seasonal items like fans or sweaters are hard to speed through the supply chain in response to weather forecasts, but grocery stores see a real need:
Tesco buyers use long-range forecasts to adjust stock levels. Before the snowy spell earlier this year, it stocked up on soup, vegetables and tinned products. “The important thing for us is that we have the right products in-store,” says a spokesman. “The weather charts are of huge importance to the business,” says the spokesman. “It’s no good having lots of lettuce in a cold snap, but in a hot spell, salads and strawberries are in demand.”
Full story in In-Store Marketing (sub. req.)