In anticipation of our firm’s Spring cleaning this Thursday, I started rifling through some old files and deep-sixing unnecessary clutter. As I did, I came across a true relic that presented a mini time portal to another era that, thankfully, is dead and buried.
The artifact was the January 11, 1999 issue of PR Week, which I had held onto because of a page-six article heralding Peppercom’s winning the GE Financial Assurance account (beating Fleishman and Bozell Worldwide in the process. Bozell Worldwide? Where are they now?).
Anyway, as I scanned the entire issue, I came across some real time-period gems, including:
– An editorial presumably penned by then Editor-In-Chief Adam Leyland bemoaning the fact that national business publications had been missing the boat on the huge, upcoming Y2K crisis. He wrote: "The Millennium Bug is not just a technology problem; as much as anything it is a problem of communication. He cited a recent USA Today survey in which 46 percent of respondents expected air traffic control systems to fail. Yet, Leyland said, most airlines were "…adopting little more than a cautiously reactive approach to media inquiries." The text goes on and on to warn about the major business disruptions about to occur and industry’s seeming lack of proactive communications outreach. He felt Y2K was a huge opportunity for the PR industry to shine. In fact, as we now know, Y2K was much ado about nothing and Y2K preparedness was one of the major hoaxes of the late 1990s.
– Speaking of the Y2K issue, a separate feature quotes Barb Young, senior VP of the Financial and Professional Services Group at Shandwick in Minneapolis (I guess Larry Weber hadn’t made his ‘bigger is best’ move yet) as saying, ‘Year 2000 is the most significant business issue companies have faced — possibly ever. It promises to be one of the biggest communications challenges, if not the biggest, that many professional communicators will ever face.’ Barb: wherever you are, I wonder if you’d like to amend that prediction?
– An article on the pitched battle between the cable and mainstream networks announced a number of new Fox TV shows, including "The PJ’s (featuring Eddie Murphy’s voice), Family Guy and Futurama. I wonder which show actually made it?
– A Media Watch analysis piece showed that financial analysts were evenly divided as to the future of Internet stocks. Forty-eight percent felt there was a good reason to expect a significant correction; 42 percent believed some Internet stocks were a good investment and that prices would continue to rise. Wonder what those 42 percent are now doing for a living?
– Last, but not least, the Campaigns section featured a case study on Frankel & Company’s super creative idea to link the introduction of Oldsmobile’s Intrigue Sedan to the red hot TV series, The X-Files. Oldsmobile estimated the viral campaign generated more than 33 million media impressions, increased awareness by 43 percent and created more than 45,000 new test drives. PR Week’s verdict: ‘Overturning its image as a stodgy brand, Oldsmobile invaded a new potential audience by creating a subtle commercial association with a hot entertainment property.’ Repman’s verdict: ‘Oldsmobile: R.I.P.’
Time travel is such fun.