Even a potential grunt has influencers

06/07/05

So. you’re asking yourself: where can I find a step by step guide to building influence in a school setting? How about the US Army recruitment guide?

It’s full of practical student activities (tactics), promotional opportunities for Army reps (brand building), and a detailed explanation of how to track school performance, recruiter visits and identify potential recruits (research and evaluation). For instance, the Army is certainly up-to-date on current marketing lingo:

    Know your student influencers. Students such as class officers, newspaper and yearbook editors, and athletes can help build interest in the Army among the student body. Some influential students such as the student president or the captain of the football team may not enlist; however, they can and will provide you with referrals who will enlist. More important is the fact that an informed student leader will respect the choice of enlistment and, in turn, future Soldiers will feel good about their decision to join. Something as simple as an Army promotional item can help produce positive results.

From a handbook for US Army recruiters visiting high schools, excerpted in Harper’s Bazaar this month.

The entire handbook can be found on an Army website.

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Things I Wish I’d Written, II

05/20/05

    Mmmmmmm … nice ass

Headline in Promo, referring to the promotional donkeys in attendance at the MCCA Awards.

Now, if only a evangelical marketing genius could work that into one of the huge promotional campaigns they always seem to have on the go.

“Come to our Sunday dancercize session! You haven’t seen this much ass shaking since the three wise men got lost!”

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Puke and Live TV just don’t mix

05/08/05

Poor Tyrone Davies. Apparently promoting an upcoming showing of his film at a local film festival, he appeared on a Missouri TV show. He looked a little pasty and unsure of himself. The hair looked a little greasy, the shoulders slightly hunched.

Still, he was holding his own until a few minutes in – when a sudden burp prompted a live revisiting of his last meal. On the interviewer’s desk.

Link via Circadian Shift and Panopticist.

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CBC – no, you’re not fired. You’re asymetrically outsourced!

04/28/05

The CBC, in the course of a budget exercise, recently decided that there wasn’t a sound business case for keeping their in-house staff of publicists. Instead, they are going to outsource to standalone PR firms.

Now, the CBC is partially funded by the government. It produces made-in-Canada programming that has to compete with American programming broadcast on our other networks. And it has to raise profile for this programming in dozens of tiny markets with a limited quantity of MSM.

John Doyle, the television columnist for the Globe and Mail, asks: “Why is CBC shooting the messengers?”

    “… it’s called an “asymmetrical outsourcing model,” a phrase that is easily the outstanding bafflegab of the year so far. Essentially, it means that in the key, concentrated markets for Canadian TV, freelance publicists will be hired to promote CBC programs.

    No offence to freelance publicists, who contact me daily, but CBC managers must be out of their minds. This is how it sometimes works with the freelance publicists and me. Long before the show airs, I’m pestered with calls and e-mails about the show, which I haven’t seen. Before a tape or DVD is provided, I’m asked to commit to writing about it …

    The freelance publicist, if reachable, can’t answer, must make numerous calls and gets back to me long after my deadline. Sometimes they can’t be reached at all, having long since moved on to promoting some other project. The result is that somebody who worked on the program I review gets busy composing the angry letter about his or her efforts receiving no mention.

    Among the now-redundant CBC staff are people I’ve called at home, late at night or on weekends, when a news story needs to be written — by me or another reporter — and in some cases I’ve often spoken to their spouses and children. They never complain because they’re helping to get attention for Canadian-made television. They are an essential part of the fabric of a homegrown TV industry. They’re the messengers. Getting rid of the messengers, at a time when the CBC and Canadian-made TV need all the help they can get, is worthy of an Air Farce skit.”

(Globe and Mail, sub. req. )

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Michael Jackson, a Petting Zoo and lots of Balls

04/28/05

Well, I’ve always said minor league baseball has the best promotions. Take a look at what the Lake Elsinore Storm thought up for their promotional schedule on April 21:

    TAKE THAT MICHAEL: During its homestand last weekend, Lake Elsinore hosted a “King of Pop-Beat It Night,” at The Diamond, poking fun at recording mega star Michael Jackson. Fans that passed through the gates on Friday night received a medical mask and white glove. The Storm’s mascot, Thunder, was dressed in classic Michael Jackson attire, and fans could visit the “Neverland Ranch” petting zoo, set up in the concourse.

    QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The idea for the night started to form some time in February during one of our midweek brainstorming sessions. With Jackson’s trial happening so close to us we felt that we had to do something to recognize (don’t you mean capitalize -ed) the situation.” — Lake Elsinore Director of Media and Public Relations, Casey Hauan.” (MLB.COM)

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Pay for play, SMTs and tech editors

04/19/05

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.

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The Fifth “P” – Being Picky

04/04/05

Product, Price, Promotion, Place: those are the four “P”s that have driven P&G and other CPG marketers for years. Now, marketers need to concentrate on another – picking profitable niches, products, customers and channels.

Over at HBS Working Knowledge, Jonathan Byrnes discusses “The Age of Precision Markets”:

    “The shift from mass markets to precision markets is manifested along several dimensions. It is a shift (1) from product-driven competition to account-driven competition; (2) from product innovation to supply chain innovation (including related services); (3) from broad-market targeting to precision account targeting; (4) from standardized, broad market engagement to focused, aligned, flexible market engagement; and (5) from functional department separateness with periodic budgetary and planning alignment to functional integration with overlapping responsibilities and ongoing alignment.”

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“This Mac attack is wack”

04/04/05

… is the brilliant headline from a Globe and Mail article on the new McDonald’s approach to co-promotion with musicians – particularly rappers.

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Best Buy: where the chicks aren’t

04/01/05

Like many businesses, electronics giant Best Buy has realized that some customers deserve to be fired – and if not fired, then ignored. The company’s new marketing strategy emphasizes catering to their five best customers. Drawing upon 18 months of purchasing data drawn from a new personal rewards program and a greater emphasis on data mining throughout the company, this “customer centricity” philosophy targets:

    - Barry the affluent professional who wants the best and demands excellent service.

    Buzz the younger male who wants the latest gizmos and entertainment.
    Ray the family man and practical adopter of new technology.
    Jill the suburban mom who wants gear that enriches her kids’ lives.
    Small-business customers (who have no nickname).

Wait a minute! So women are neither affluent, young, or adopters? What exactly does their data reveal? That women only come into the store when the Sandra Bullock DVDs go on sale?

And those nicknames seem awfully familiar – in an evening sitcom sort of way. Click on the links to see what I mean.

Promo‘s got more information on their plans.

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What tactic do you have lined up for daylight savings?

03/31/05

Hey! We all lose an hour of sleep Sunday morning thanks to daylight savings time (except Saskatchewan – don’t ask). Stuart Elliott’s covered the PR and marketing gimmicks now associated with the changeover.

Old Navy’s pushing flip flops, Swatch is hawking watches, Olay is pushing anti-aging products, and we all know that Duracell REALLY cares about your smoke detector.

What ideas can you think of to leverage your client’s issues?

– New town slogan: “Another year out of bankruptcy!”
– Agrifood lobbyist: “It’s a season for change: genetically modified milk”
– Cabbies: “We change our brakes, whether we need to or not!”
– Cleaning company: “Have you looked at your urinal cakes recently?”
– New York Mets: “It’s a new year, and we have brand new pipe dreams”
– Adult gift store: “Do you still get a buzz out of life?” (co-promotion with Duracell)

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He’s no Rick ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn, but …

03/31/05

promo63_trailerparkboys.jpg 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.

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Placements in contemporary music? Say it isn’t so!

03/29/05

BusinessWeek’s David Kiley is surprised that music acts – including rappers – would consider McDonald’s new campaign to integrate friendly commentary in their songs. Where has he been the last five (or fifty)years?

    “… Maven executives say they have received numerous songs for consideration. McDonald’s gets final approval of song lyrics. Yipes!!! What happened to the anti-establishment rappers? Is it all about the money and nothing else now? Is this really the spirit of Tupac?…”

Tupac? Once your music hits the Billboard 100, I think you’re all about the money. And if you’re P. Diddy, you’re smart enough to start thinking about brand extensions – extensions that don’t involve an “upsizing with a coupon.”

Anyway – why should we be indignant about an industry that has long sold itself out in the name of filthy, horrible lucre? (to be lustfully muttered in a C. Montogmery Burns voice) After all, where was the uproar when Van Halen’s “Right Now” was used to promote the lame Crystal Pepsi?

I don’t know how that could have failed. “Can I get a rum and Crystal Pepsi?” “Hey Baby. Can I get you a Crystal Pepsi? “Watcha drinking? Ah, Crystal Pepsi.”

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Building Buzz with the Oprah Nation

03/22/05

Turns out that Oprah can help a marketer move thousands of CPGs off the shelves, but may not be as useful in pushing poorly-regarded lumps of steel.

Her promotion of the Pontiac G6 – including giving away 276 of them to her audience – helped build buzz for the product last September. But sales haven’t followed suit.

Industry analysts, however, lay the blame on the design and capabilities of the car.

    “… neither GM’s marketing department nor Winfrey can be blamed for the market performance of the G6.

    “It’s one thing to have that kind of a major marketing coup, but you need to back it up,” said [Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research], who said he believes that the vehicle is an underwhelming package in a competitive marketplace.

    In fact, Spinella said, GM’s marketing department should be credited with getting the lackluster G6 so much attention.”(Detroit Free Press)

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Pulling Ads: a defensible public relations strategy?

03/18/05

Is there an appropriate time to pull your company’s ads from a publication? How about an entire range of publications? Marks & Sparks has pulled all of its advertising from the UK’s Associated Newspapers stable – a relationship worth £2.9m last year – after an apparently inaccurate article in the Mail on Sunday.

While the story is two weeks old (Guardian, r.r.), PR Week UK is reporting on the reaction from the public relations and marketing communities.

Pulling advertising is, as a 1989 article in Communications World noted, incredibly stupid. Rather than winning a (suspect) moral victory, companies often end up distorting, if not sabotaging, their media plan and marketing efforts.

After all, how better to follow up a negative article than by pulling all your brand and product promotion – from the publications you personally identified as essential to your business plan?

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Scratch n’Sniff Marketing

03/14/05

You should really take a look at Millward Brown’s international research into the sensory impressions imparted by brands. Are you speaking to ALL the senses of your consumer or client? Has your marketing team even considered the sense of smell, sound or touch in its planning process?

Come on – it’s not a joke. This is about more than just the new fresia body wash at Lush, the waterfall scent being peddled by your cleaning supplies wholesaler, or the latest in-store music channel. Are you overlooking an essential component when setting the stage for consumer interaction with your product?

Promotions and Incentives has reviewed this research and highlights some stunning results:

    “…a whopping 42 per cent of consumers say McDonald�s smells like old oil. Even the sound is problematic. A large number of consumers felt the McDonald�s brand reminded them of screaming kids and, believe it or not, the beep-beep sounds of a truck backing up. These perceptions hardly augur well for the burger chain.”

In some cases, marketers are working to implement similar insights: machines are already being developed to deliver custom smells and sounds to customers in specific situations.

Now, if they could do something about your outside sales guy’s fondness for Drakkar Noir.

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60 sq. feet of children’s toys and Budweiser mirrors

03/02/05

I may be weird, but I like to read about retail development and promotion. And I’ve always wondered about the economics behind mall kiosks – how can one sell high-end jewellry, and the next cheap imported toys?

Well, Retail Traffic discusses the latest development trends in kiosks this month. But wait! there’s more! A few years ago, Entrepreneur examined the stories behind several successful kiosk concepts.

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RIP, Bob McAdorey

02/07/05

Well, another local newscaster from my youth is dead. Bob McAdorey, a Southern Ontario broadcaster for nearly forty years, passed away this weekend.

Of course, I only I remember his later career as entertainment editor on Global News – with his giant [irish] afro, tweed jackets and outsized glasses.

But in the 1960s, working the afternoon drive time slot, McAdorey helped set the agenda for popular music in Toronto – meeting the Beatles and the Stones along the way.

    “We kept it all clean up here. There was no payola as in the U.S. and we deliberately helped a lot of Canadians. It was personality radio. We were promoted like crazy back then. And the pressures were unbelievable. We dictated what records were going to go. And what kids would eat, drink.” (Toronto Star, r.r.)

Correction (17/02): I originally referred to Bob’s scottish afro.

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Pricing strategies and compassion: why cut bereavement fares?

02/02/05

Given the storm buffetting the international airline industry, you’d think Air Canada would be taking advantage of every opportunity available to build goodwill and encourage customer loyalty – especially since the airline just emerged from bankruptcy protection and is competing against several strong domestic discount carriers.

According to CanWest news, they have eliminated their discounted fares for bereavement cases and emergency medical travel in North America. Why? I can understand the economic argument: those discounted fares are a remnant from the old airline industry pricing model, where limited seat supply and poor competition created a perfect environment for an airline to gouge short notice travellers. Airlines – at the risk of appearing heartless – had to recognize that these travellers didn’t fit into their normal customer segments and deserved exception from their oligarchic pricing schemes.

Today, pricing is driven by route-by-route competition among carriers, seasonal specials and web promotions. An Air Canada spokesperson has argued the discounts aren’t necessary any more as their pricing is much more competitive, especially on the web. In effect, competition has outstripped their old pricing strategies. (Vancouver Sun, behind a stupid subscriber wall)

Fine. The airline’s economic environment has changed. But why is WestJet, a discount carrier and strong competitor, continuing its bereavement discounts?

Because WestJet can look beyond its spreadsheets to see the customer at the counter. To see the human who needs help and compassion at a particularly stressful moment in their life. Who just wants a big faceless company to acknowledge their challenges and maybe offer some help.

And that extra moment of attention helps build lasting customer relationships.

A final point: Air Canada still offers these discounts on their international routes. Which gives the impression that their international customers are still paying extortionate prices, or are more favoured than their domestic customers.

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Ronald McDonald: I’m lovin’ the new skate threads

01/27/05

Promo Magazine reports on comments made by Dean M. Barrett, the senior-VP global marketing for McDonald’s, at the Association of National Advertisers meeting yesterday.

    “As for fashion, watch for Ronald McDonald to appear in a whole new wardrobe that includes everything from the looks of a snowboard dude to a business executive (still wearing those big red shoes, of course).

    Along with his new duds, Ronald got a new title: CHO or “chief happiness officer.” There are new uniforms in Germany, Denmark and the U.K., as well as other apparel like hats and T-shirt designed around the “I’m lovin’ it” theme. A new line of branded-active wear will debut next year.”

There are some other observations about McDonald’s shift in strategy, from marketing products and menus to entertaining the consumer through partnerships in music, sports, fashion and entertainment.

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Driving your customers to post-Christmas sales

01/03/05

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.

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At what point does your client become a liability?

12/15/04

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.

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Declining newspaper readership

11/30/04

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.

The WPost ran an article about the circulation troubles today. You’ll have to look down, look wa-a-ay down to find mention of their own troubles.

    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.

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All those empty hockey arenas

11/23/04

Is the office holiday committee looking for unusual event locations? How about some skating? There are 30 professional hockey rinks across Canada and the United States facing an interminable lockout. And the NHL players who aren’t playing in Europe are kind of at loose ends. The opportunity for PR and marketing folks? Events at marquee facilities with recognized stars.

With sizeable fixed costs, facility managers are looking to fill their arenas, even if they have NBA or AFL franchises to fall back on. I mean, when’s the last time an NHL arena hosted a PUBLIC SKATE in December?

On a local level, second and third line players may be available for regional, local or retail promotions. Or front-line players could headline charity events – like Jeremy Roenick’s “Wicked Weekend” golf and hockey do in Arizona in a few weeks.

Of course, the lockout is hitting luxury box owners hard as well. An Ottawa Hill & Knowlton VP was actually forced to take clients to a Beastie Boys concert last week.

On another note, Molson Canadian’s protesting the lockout with a fan ad spoofing Culture Club’s “Do you really want to hurt me?” Well worth watching.

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Dahling! Can you pucker up for the ‘razzi?

11/12/04

So, what do we know about the evolving breed of New York publicists/heiresses/socialites? You know – like Lizzie Grubman with a lot of money.

The New York Observer has run an interesting little piece on Lauren Davis, who spends her days prepping publicity for the J. Mandel fashion house:

    She’s part of a new breed of socialite-cum-publicists—”socialists”? “publicites”?—who are leveraging their network of rich friends into a lucrative career of their own: seamlessly promoting both charitable and commercial causes.

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A bobblehead primer

10/15/04

Rod Taylor writes in Promo about the recent history of the bobblehead doll. Apparently, they really help put bums in seats and move consumer goods.

Here’s a little NBA feature on the dolls as well.

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Moving cultural exports into your living room

09/21/04

In February, Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions took home the Academy Award for best foreign language movie. Notwithstanding the oustanding acting, direction, cinematography and overall artistry, some part of Arcand’s success among the Academy can be attributed to a careful marketing and public relations campaign.

Canada takes steps to promote its cultural industries at every opportunity – and these efforts can help push the candidacy of a masterpiece like The Barbarian Invasions for honours in Cannes, Berlin and Hollywood.

“The Oscars are like a political campaign. It’s like getting elected as the mayor of a small town where nobody knows you. A lot needs to go into it,” Denise Robert, the movie’s producer and Arcand’s wife, told the National Post this weekend. (behind a stupid subscriber wall)

Telefilm Canada (a federal film funding agency), the Quebec provincial government, and Canadian diplomats abroad worked together to get out the vote. Components of their campaign included:

  • a tribute event at the Mill Valley Film Festival to honour Arcand.
  • screenings in LA and San Diego organized by the Canadian consulate.
  • an early December 2003 reception at the Canadian residence in LA.
  • a deluxe reception and screening before the Palm Springs Film Festival in January, sponsored in part by Labatt.
  • 73 personalized letters from the Canadian consulate to Canadian members of the Academy.

    Even Dan Ackryod held a reception for Arcand.

    The highlight of the promotion campaign, according to the National Post, was a February 2004 reception featuring:

  • wild rice pancakes with Canadian caviar,
  • maple-glazed chicken skewers and tourtiere meat pies,
  • butternut squash soup with maple leaf croutons,
  • and, among other things, bread with maple leaf butters.

    Of course, any PR flack has to keep in mind that the auteur may have a different opinion of all this lobbying, cajoling and pleading:

    … Monday I am flying to London: BAFTA and Festival screenings. I will be back Friday. Saturday I have a Q & A at the Cinémathèque Québécoise. The Monday after we fly back to California for twelve days then back to New York for a gala of some kind. And then comes this terrifying note on my Miramax schedule: “December 2003: Ten city regional press tour.” Why am I doing all this? I have no idea. I am told that most of my films have done well in Australia. I have never set foot in Australia.

    Still, the government of Quebec government considers this sort of cultural diplomacy essential:

    Marc Boucher, head of the Quebec delegation in L.A., called it a matter of cultural survival. “Fiddles, tourtiere and jigs will not save our culture,” he said of the importance of such films. (National Post, again)

    And, in the end, Arcand went home with the Oscar.

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  • How does your newspaper cook the books?

    09/13/04

    Ever been offered a “free four week trial” of a local newspaper? Been handed one by a street hawker on the way to work? This weekend, one local paper dropped off a free copy of the paper at every house in my subdivision.

    What’s up with these newspaper promotions? How in the world do they keep an honest count?

    If you’ve been following the Audit Bureau of Circulation scandals in the US, it’s obvious some newspapers haven’t been keeping an honest count. Newsday, for example:

    In the beginning, the computerized process was used for legitimate sampling programs or to start batches of subscriptions sold by telemarketers, and it included strict criteria for paying credits to agents, the former manager said.

    By 2000, however, Newsday’s circulation department had loosened the criteria for credits and started using electronic lists to add thousands of customers who hadn’t ordered the paper, the former manager said. With a couple of keystrokes, managers could boost their daily tallies and credit agents for the nonexistent or free deliveries, he said.

    He said he once even witnessed a former manager entering a $1,500 agent credit into the system to pay for World Series tickets the agent had obtained for him.

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    Mel Gibson, leading the unwashed from the technological desert?

    08/24/04

    Digging into my clippings pile, I saw this tidbit about the highly targeted marketing of The Passion DVD, due out today:

    “We’ve initiated outreach to churches and para-church organizations,” [a FOX SVP] says. “There have been a variety of mailings and e-mail campaigns, much of it at a grassroots level.” In a unique promotion, Fox offered churches a preorder discount on bulk packs of 50 DVDs or 50 VHS tapes. For an additional fee, the packaging on each copy could be customized with the church’s name, a quotation from Scripture, or some other personalized message. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

    Even more intriguing was the observation that this DVD would prompt many Christian families to finally move their viewing habits into the 1990s:

    There will be an extraordinarily high number of sales in the box loads. That’s something you don’t normally see,” says Scott Hettrick, editor-in-chief of DVD Exclusive, an industry publication. “This title is bringing in a lot of people that never converted from VHS to DVD. You’re getting quite a new audience.”

    Really? Where have these people been? What do they look like?

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    Personalized Elle covers? Not all Hungarians are pretty

    08/10/04

    I hope to God there’s some sort of editorial screening in the new European Elle promotion. Readers can superimpose their own picture on the latest cover, then print it out?

    This screams out for some form of culture jamming. You know, though, that we’ll see far more covers of naked and fat Europeans.

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    25 ways mobile text messages can help build brand loyalty

    07/30/04

    In its August issue, Promo magazine has run several articles on texting (SMS for you cognoscenti) and possible applications for marketers and loyalty programs. Rob Lawson, a VP at Enpocket, tagged a list of promising SMS applications to the end of his article:

  • To thank you for registering and give you a reference number
  • To say how much is in your account
  • To tell you when you are overdrawn
  • To remind you of your appointment
  • To give you a ticket: admit one
    (…)
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    Touchdown at the OK Corral: A case study

    07/02/04

    As he turned to pick the football from the air, Doug Stevenson reflected on the day’s events.

    He had brought his sales managers to this Wyoming dude ranch to help them refocus after an exceptionally bad quarter.

    The 10,000 acre spread had begun life as a hobby ranch for an East Coast management consultant. His income had declined as his telecom customers had imploded, one by one.

    Looking for some extra revenue, he opened his eighteen bedroom ranch to Fortune 500 management teams looking for a little direction and a few days away from the grind.

    Together, the consultant and the salesmen had drilled down to some core objectives, identifying accounts with greater potential for growth, and those needing pruning.

    That all changed as Stevenson planted his foot in the loose gravel. A pull, then a twinge, finally searing pain: he dropped to the ground with a torn MCL.
    (…)

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    Communicating with your stakeholders – and their mothers

    06/30/04

    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.

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  • Know your audiences – and their dysfunctions

    06/28/04

    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.

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    Brand Casting: why pay for the cow?

    06/22/04

    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.

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    Princess Michael of Kent – scaring off a PR rep

    06/08/04

    It’s probably not a good idea, when you’re in NY looking for a PR agent to help rep your new book, to get embroiled in a public confrontation with racist overtones. Princess Michael of Kent made the press a week ago for the comments she made while dining at an upscale NY restaurant.

    Buried deep in a NYT piece, however, was the note that:

    Princess Michael was also in town last week to meet with public relations executives, including some from Dan Klores Communications, to hire a firm to promote her book … to be published in September.

    A Dan Klores executive, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used, said the firm would not be representing the new book.(now in paid archives)

    Oops. But why did the executive not want to be named? Does the firm want to preserve a hint of a relationship with the Princess, in the hope of further work down the road?

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    Is TBS riffing off Pop-Up Video?

    06/06/04

    Atlanta’s TBS, the home of Braves games, James Bond marathons and Dinner and a Movie, changed directions on Friday.

    tbslogo.gif
    Problem is, their new graphic design bears a more than eerie resemblance to the poppy, peppy and clean design of VH1’s Pop-Up Video. The companion advertising campaign, as Ad Week tells us, means to position the station as a premium comedy choice for cable-surfing couch rats. From UPI, some more detail:

    The on-air promos depict a call center where operators are busy fielding telephone inquiries from people at various workplaces, describing something a co-worker has done and asking whether it is funny. The operators ask questions while inputting the data on computers, and come back with decisions on what is funny and what is not.

    [Steven Koonin, EVP and COO of TBS] said the ads promote the idea that TBS is “the epicenter of funny.”

    That’s the goal? Built on repeats of Seinfeld, Home Improvement and Everybody Loves Raymond? They’re all successful and funny shows, but even with a remake of Gilligan’s Island, TBS can only promise mild tremors, not earth-shattering humour.

    The concept will officially jump the shark the day the TBS schedule features more than one cast member from Full House. Or Carrottop.

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    Garfield, Odie and Jon: where’s the buzz?

    06/05/04

    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.

    Garfield’s not hurting for work this summer. He’s pushing recliners. Thanks to a cross-promotion with Dole, 100 million promotional stickers will be placed on bananas.

    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.
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    He rode into town with only the coat on his back, an MBA, and a trust fund

    06/04/04

    Stanley Bing’s got some advice for newly minted MBAs. Here’s a sample:

    You’re also thoughtful, tender, idealistic, and searching for something that will help you make a difference to somebody other than yourself and your broker. That’s good, too, but keep it to yourself. Employers will admire you for your sensitivity and excellent values, but they will not hire or promote you for them, unless you work for a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the sanctity of all life forms except humans. And even then, in those places the politics can be brutal

  • Do not, however, be a gutless worm. If someone wants to tussle after you’ve exhausted all your mock friendliness, make sure he ends up spitting out a few teeth.
  • When the wine and beer are flowing and everybody is trashing someone, hold your tongue. What happens in Vegas often does not stay there.
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    Fans and Fanatics as marketing allies

    05/26/04

    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.

    (…)

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    Canada: how to run a political campaign on the cheap

    05/24/04

    The Prime Minister’s gone and done it. Canada’s going to have an election on June 28. Somehow, he and his fellow politicians will reach out to nearly 30 million Canadians spread across the second largest country in the world – and only spend about $40 million.

    Sure, that doesn’t count the costs of the actual election mechanics, or the costs to be tallied up by the media. Did you know a Canadian network has borrowed one of ABC’s now-ubiquitous wired buses? (It actually broke down yesterday. On the first day of the election.) Even CPAC, the public access politics channel, has a bus.

    Several outlets are trying out blogs, including the CBC (it reads like a college road trip journal). The Globe and Mail is promising to have reporter’s blogs. (When? The campaign’s into its second day)

    In the interests of free and open democracy, I’ve prepared some helpful hints for those thrifty Canadian politicians looking to save a few dollars on the campaign trail:

  • Get all the staff on one of those “friends and family” phone plans
  • Public access programming – it’s where you find the really committed voter
  • Take advantage of cross promotion – lawn signs can also advertise driveway resealing or lawn care companies
  • Save on focus groups and polling: hang around the Tim Horton’s on Saturday morning (or the mall food court, for the youth demo)
  • Integrated marketing – deliver take-out menus with outreach material
  • Campaign plane? I hear WestJet/EasyJet/JetBlue hit ALL the vote-rich suburban areas
  • Media plane too expensive? Try hotel minibar pricing on the booze
  • Meals too costly? Give the candidate’s son the “important job” of cleaning out the free breakfast bar when the team checks out of the Holiday Inn Express
  • Gas prices too high? Get the assistant driving the media van to distract the service station attendant after you fuel up the campaign bus – then make a break for it!
  • Update the campaign website and blog on the road by phishing WiFi hot spots. (A latte a day keeps your ISP bill away!)

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