May 31


 - Cody calls it "glib and superficial"
 - Announces new Peppercom offering: Canine Experience

Lincroft, NJ, May 31, 2012 — Outspoken canine activist and former U.S. Congressdog Mick Cody blasted the new CBS series 'Dogs in the City', calling it "glib and superficial."

Holding court near his newly-opened backyard swimming pool, a noticeably angry Cody snapped at reporters as he decried the CBS program. "I've had it with Madison Avenue's inside out, top down, old white guy approach to marketing," snarled Mick. "This new series is the last straw. It once again depicts dogs as either aggressive asses or just plain dopes. And, naturally, the dog trainer is always painted as the hero."

MickMick says it's high time programmers experienced a dog's life from the outside in: "Until and unless human put themselves in a dog's paws, they'll never really understand us or accurately portray us." Cody says the same old school thinking permeates most corporate marketing. "The average marketer never takes the time to put herself in an audience's shoes and experience the brand before creating the plan," Cody noted, moments before lunging for one reporter's exposed ankle.

Canine Experience
The controversial ex-Congressdog also announced a new service offering from his dad's strategic communications firm. "As many of you know, McGraw-Hill recently published my book, 'Your Command Is (not) That Important To Me.' Well, that book has led to a strategic partnership with my master's firm. Effectively immediately, Peppercom's Canine Experience will be counseling marketers targeting dogs and dog owners on new, and better ways, to connect with canines." Cody believes the best marketing campaigns are based on listening. "And, do I need to remind anyone that a canine's listening skills are far superior to those of any human?"

Cody said that pricing would be based on a combination of fee and treats. "Hey, I can always use more Beggin' Strips," he chuckled.

Repman readers will recall that Mick Cody first rose to prominence in the wake of NFL football star, Michael Vick's imprisonment for staging dog fights. Cody rode a tide of publicity to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first canine to do so. He was later forced to resign in the aftermath of a sex scandal in which Cody admitting to texting topless photographs of himself to a feline admirer. The ex-Congressdog still maintains his innocence and says the incident was pure entrapment.

May 30

A Sunday night surprise

1961-jaguar-e-type-on-exhibition-floorLuxury car manufacturer Jaguar has been riding a recent crest of popularity thanks to its featured role in AMC's ‘Mad Men.’

The iconic British automaker's account has been in play for several episodes, and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has been pulling out all the stops to win the prestigious piece of business. (Note: Ad agencies believe they haven't arrived until they've landed a car account.)

SCDP creative teams labored for hours trying to pinpoint the emotional need that Jaguar filled in the well-healed, middle-aged male target demo's world. Don and Pete & Co. likened the Jaguar to a mistress: Stunning, expensive and moody. They toyed with the slogan, 'Jaguar: the mistress who will do things your wife won't.' After countless hours, they nailed the creative with a superlative tagline: ‘Jaguar: Finally something you can afford.’

But then, the plot, and the real-world Jaguar folks soaking up every second of their 15 minutes of fame, hit a serious speed bump. Herb Rennet, president of the fictional Jaguar Dealers Association, and one of three key decision-makers in selecting a new ad agency, makes it clear he will only vote for Sterling Cooper if he gets to sleep with Joan Holloway Harris, the firm's resident vixen.

Joan mulls it over, and eventually agrees in exchange for a five percent equity stake in the business and the title of junior partner. She sleeps with Rennet, Sterling Cooper wins the account and the viewer is left feeling in need of a hot shower. Did Joan actually just sell her body for a partnership in the firm? And, what must the real-world Jaguar types be thinking of this salacious show-stopper?

David Pryor, VP-brand development for JaguarUSA, wasn't thrilled. He watched Sunday night's episode with “…equal parts shock and amusement.” I'll bet. He probably also updated his resume right around the time Joan swiveled her hips and allowed Herb to unzip her dress.

To his credit, though, Pryor laughed it off, saying, “As I watched the show, I was wondering where the pitch was going to go, especially with the whole mistress thing.” He said he did like the emotional connection Sterling Cooper was making between the brand and the lust men had for it way back when. Pryor said Jaguar's current campaign, entitled, 'How alive are you?' is trying to recreate that emotion. He didn't mention whether prostitution was also being resurrected as part of the new value proposition.

The Jaguar/Mad Men episode is a superb example of the importance of losing control in modern storytelling. Pryor said Jaguar had no control over the script and was asked only to provide examples of Jaguar advertising and dealer showrooms from the 1960s.

I believe the Mad Men exposure (and, I use that word in the broadest sense) will be positive for the Jaguar brand. I think buyers will recognize the Joan twist for what it was: a Hollywood contrivance the writers believed necessary to escalate a real-world scenario.

My hat is off to Mr. Pryor and the Jaguar executives for showing the courage to lose control. I believe the winners in tomorrow's marketing world will be those executives and those brands who, like Pryor and his employer (at least, I hope he still draws a Jaguar paycheck after Sunday night's surprise), are willing to be vulnerable, open and lose control.

May 29

Ask not what your organization can do for you. Ask what comedy can do for your organization

Today is the 95th anniversary of the birth of President John F. Kennedy. And, love him or hate him, no one can deny he had IT. So did Abraham Lincoln, both Roosevelts and Ronald Reagan as well. IT isn't charisma, although all five presidents certainly possessed an abundance of that magical quality.

In this case, it refers to a razor sharp sense of humor— a sense of humor and master of comedy that each president used time and again to either emphasize a point, build audience rapport or, critically, diffuse a tense situation.
Reagan was a textbook example of a leader who instinctively knew when to use comedy to disarm an opponent. After taking a drubbing in his first debate with Democratic presidential nominee, Walter Mondale, critics suggested the 74-year-old Reagan was too old for the job. But, when the question was raised in the second debate, Reagan didn't skip a beat. "I refuse to allow age to become an issue in this campaign," he snapped. Then, pausing and smiling, he glanced at Mondale and said, "I don't agree with critics who say my opponent lacks the experience to lead." The audience burst out in laughter (as did Mondale) and, by using comedy, Reagan had turned a negative into a positive.
Reagan also used comedy on the worst day of his life. After being shot and very nearly killed by a would-be assassin, a semi-conscious Reagan lifted himself off the operating table, removed his oxygen mask and asked the surgeon, "Are you a Republican?" The medical staff burst into laughter, an extremely tense situation was diffused and the surgeon later said he felt far more relaxed and focused.
That's the power of comedy. And no modern President, not even Reagan, used it to greater effect than JFK during his televised press conferences. Here are just a few snippets:

My favorite JFK retort to a press question is when he was asked if, having settled into The White House, he was enjoying his job and if he'd recommend it to others. Kennedy paused, looked down and then smiled broadly. He said: "The answer to your first question is yes, I'm enjoying it immensely. As for the follow-up, the answer is no, I wouldn't recommend it others; at least not for another four years."  Brilliant, no?
Too few leaders possess the self-confidence or vulnerability to laugh at themselves, especially in times of crisis. One need only look at such examples as Pope Benedict XVI, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and Carol Bartz, one of many CEOs to have been unceremoniously booted out of the horror show otherwise known as Yahoo.
Comedy can define a leader and it can cure a toxic culture. But, it has to be authentic in order to succeed. Great presidents, great executives, great athletes and great entertainers understand that. Sadly, though, they're the exception. But, you can be a change agent. You can suggest that your organization's leadership embrace comedy as a competitive advantage. And you, and your company can reap the benefits.
And, so my fellow Americans, ask not what your organization can do for you, ask what comedy can do for your organization.

May 25

Modern Britain is far from brutish

Guest post by Will Brewster, Account Director at Flagship Consulting, Peppercom's strategic partner firm across the pond

2012 is a big year for UK. Not only is London hosting the Olympics but in June we’re also celebrating the 60th year of the Queen’s reign with plenty of British pomp and circumstance. London will be full of people visiting us for the first time. The question is, will they like what they see?

No-vistirosIf you believe Theodore Dalrymple, writing in the Wall Street Journal recently, then no, they certainly won’t. If you believe him, then they’re likely to be greeted with litter-strewn streets and hedgerows, loud obnoxious youths on busses, and a population that would happily get on the first plane out of here. 

Dalrymple’s view is particularly worrying as we open our doors to the world. Already Londoners are starting to panic that we won’t cope. That public transport will grind to a halt and leave people stranded, that the weather will conform to stereotype, that busy Londoners will come across as rude and uncaring. Could he be right? Are we a bunch of uncivilised, individualistic, uncaring Neanderthals as he suggests?

I am unequivocal that the answer is “no” and I’m confident that come September, when it’s all over, Londoners and Brits in general will have done themselves very proud.

Yes, we certainly have our problems, and Dalrymple is right that many of us feel frustrated by certain sections of society.  Many young people (and some older ones), especially in cities, can be rude, aggressive and lacking in respect for authority (witness the riots last summer). We have large sections of society who drink too much (I’m not sure we’re alone there though)  and, be it through fear or a growing sense of despair, the civilised majority are now less prepared to stand up for what it right and confront people for doing wrong.  ‘Walking on by’ as litter is dropped, as fights develop or as disrespect is shown is common and worrying.

To suggest, however, as he does, that 50% of the population is eager to leave the country to escape the other 50% is absolute rubbish. If indeed half are seeking to flee, then it’s more likely to be house prices and the weather that is driving this, not the behaviour of youths on the bus or litter in bushes.   Our population keeps growing, so someone, somewhere, must enjoy living here!

A visitor to the Olympics this year will not find the Britain that Darymple describes in his piece. They are more likely to notice that here people wait patiently in line for the ATM, for the ticket machine, and even at the bar; that personal space and privacy is cherished and respected and people are allowed to live their lives largely the way they want.

Even many of the perceived failings of Londoners (a standoffishness and lack of interaction with strangers) are actually borne out of a strength – that of respect for privacy. We only ignore fellow Tube travellers, for example, because we find the thought of sharing such a small space with compete strangers quite scary. So we pretend we’re not there and hope it will be over soon!

Visitors will also notice the quiet (you can often hear almost complete silence on the top deck of a bus).  They’ll notice the mutterings of “sorry, sorry” as people manoeuvre past each other on the street. They’ll notice that, if they ask for help when lost, the British people will go to great lengths to help them find their way – the trick is to ask!

The majority of Brits are kind, charming, caring and welcoming to others. We’re a private people that happen to live on a very small island and, in London, a very congested city. The fact that we rub along so well is actually pretty remarkable.

As we welcome the world this year I think that Dalrymple’s England will not be what visitors find. It does exist in pockets, but all societies have their extremes and I hope that no one is put off visiting by the dystopia he paints.  

May 24

Disaster divas

Dead climber 2Whether it's an approaching Category Five hurricane, escalating tensions in the Middle East or, as in today's case, an impending disaster-in-the-making on Mt. Everest, the media beast ALWAYS hopes for the worst.

Morning talk show hosts were positively salivating about the deaths of four climbers this week on Everest as well as the very real possibility that, because of a limited weather window, some 200 climbers would be putting their lives on the line to reach the fabled summit this weekend.

Puzzled TV hosts asked mountaineering experts why people climb, why Everest is so important and why so many were, as one put it, 'literally lined up cheek-to-jowl' on a lengthy queue awaiting their turn at the summit.

I climb, so I know the answers to those questions. Climbing is a surreal physical, mental, emotional and spiritual experience. But, trying to explain why 200 people would risk their lives to a non-climber is akin to explaining the physics involved in making a curve ball curve. One needs to experience it in order to understand it.

I've been to the tops of the highest mountains in Africa and Europe. I've also reached the summits of many Colorado peaks as well as those in the White and Smoky Mountains. But, I've never pushed myself beyond my limits or purposely placed my climbing partner, Chris 'Repman, Jr.' Cody or me, in jeopardy. And, there's the rub.

As famed climber Ed Viesturs wrote in 'No Shortcuts to the Top,' mountaineering accidents happen for one of four reasons:

– Natural causes, such as an avalanche or a climber disappearing into a crevasse.
– Inexperienced climbers getting lost and dying of hypothermia.
– Gung-ho climbers who, having paid thousands of dollars for the opportunity of reaching a famous summit, order their guide to take them there.
– A guide who, wishing to please his well-heeled clients, takes risks he or she would never have taken in ordinary circumstances (brilliantly depicted, btw, in Jon Krakauer's 'Into Thin Air').

I'll never forget a recent experience on Mt. Cotapaxi in the Andes. Having failed to summit another 20,000 ft. mountain a few days earlier, our team was bound and determined to summit Cotapaxi. But, almost as soon as we departed high camp at 17,000 feet, we were hit by a raging blizzard. Battling white out conditions for hours on end, we dropped out and returned to high camp, one-by-one. But, egged on by two maniacal team members, Chris joined them and the guide for a final, frantic push to the summit.

I waited at high camp as other climbers from other teams returned. Each one said the conditions near the summit were among the worst they'd ever encountered. My anxiety grew with each passing hour. When one climber returned, spat out blood and collapsed, I went into full panic mode. I was convinced the worst had happened.

Shortly thereafter, though, I heard Chris's oh-so-familiar laugh as he strode back into camp. I think I gave him the longest hug in Cody family history.

I worry about the climbers on Everest. And, I hope they do what Chris did on Mt. Cotapaxi; turn around before it's too late. Mt. Everest can wait; life is too precious. Besides, who wants to see the disaster divas serve up yet another dish of death and dying?

I can just imagine the breaking news item now: an oh-so-serious anchor interrupts regular programming, furrows his brow and gravely announces, “Mountain madness as hundreds die on Everest! Film at 11!”

May 23

Does your programmer GET you?

Cover of promotional brochure for advertisers 1955My TV viewing habits are as eclectic as my hobbies. They range from:

– The Sunday morning political talk shows
– AMC's 'The Mad Men' and 'The Pitch'
– PBS's 'Antiques Roadshow'
– The Military Channel
– Turner Classic Movies
– Dateline I.D.

Yet, I'd argue that not one of those programmers has taken the time to get to know me and arrange their commercials accordingly (not that I'd watch the ads, mind you. But, it is fascinating to observe which product marketers throw their money against what shows). So, addressing the very same programming listed above,

I typically see the following during commercial breaks:

– Sunday morning could double down as God's Waiting Room. Pharmaceutical products for every type of middle-age and senior malady known to man fill the tube (my personal favorites are the nervous leg syndrome and bladder control spots). Happily, though, I’m not in need of the Pfizer, Merck or J&J products being pitched. So, strike one for the marketers!

– Viewers of AMC's Mad Men and The Pitch are positively bombarded by commercials (none in the first 10 minutes, though. They need to hook me before selling me. Then, bam, by the half hour mark, I feel like a German soldier hunkered down inside a Normandy beach bunker on D-Day as the advertising barrage continues unabated). But, once again, the spots miss their mark in trying to connect with me (especially The Pitch, which includes spots from former Peppercom client, Undertone. Sorry, guys, but I won't be buying any digital ads this week). Strike two!

– As one might expect, PBS is quite reticent, subliminal and high-brow in the few spots they air from corporate supporters. But, again, ExxonMobil ads aren't going to induce me to select their gas station the next time I fill up. Strike three! Yer out!

I could continue, but you get my point.

Programmers and marketers miss the mark with viewers like me because they overlook one crucial step in their traditional market research: they don't put themselves in a viewer's shoes. Sure, they'll ask all the right quantitative questions and they'll pay a cohort of my peers $100 each to sit through an hour-long focus group, but the former provides closed-end information and the latter is always dominated by the strongest personality in the group.

We're in the midst of pitching a programmer right now and, unlike our advertising and marketing brethren, we're experiencing the various programs from the outside-in. We want to know how a particular program fits into a viewer's world. So, for example, although I watch the Military Channel, I'm not interested in buying a miniature replica of a 1945 Ford Flat Bed Truck from the Franklin Mint. Nor am I likely to order an Uzi or AK-47 from their web site.

If, however, the channel and its advertisers took the time to do what our Audience Experience team does and ask what I'd like my relationship with The Military Channel to be, they'd provide me with recommended biographies and DVD documentaries exploring personal heroes or events ranging from Winston Churchill and Light Horse Harry Lee to the English Civil War and pre-Columbian America (eclectic, no?).

Alas, as AMC's ‘The Pitch’ demonstrates, marketers and their programming partners take a top down, inside out, one-size-fits-all approach to audience connectivity. But, as viewership continues to decline, devices such as The Hopper take hold and programming continues to fragment, the smart TV folk will finally wake-up to the stark reality that, in order to GET me, they need to first walk in my shoes.

May 22

A real-life super hero

First, there was TiVo. Then, there was the DVR. Now, advertisers are battling a super hero of epic proportions whose sole mission is to preserve, protect and defend the viewing rights of Americans everywhere. And, we're not talking about the Hulk, Green Lantern or even Batman.

The new super hero comes from the Dish Network and is called the Hopper. And, get this, it ERASES commercials from any and all TV shows! And, it doesn't even use a ray gun.

The diabolically clever Hopper's ad eraser feature is called the Auto Hop. Some reviewers have already called it, “a dream come true for consumers.” Amen, brother, amen.

But, just as the Man of Steel had his Lex Luthor, Auto Hop has its arch nemesis in the person of every broadcaster and Mad Man in the world. Indeed, as Leslie Mooves, the chief executive of the CBS Corporation, bemoaned: 'How does Charlie Egan expect me to produce CSI without commercials?' (Note: This blogger assumes Mr. Egan is the executive producer of the long-running crime series).

And, Tad Harbert, the chairman of NBC Broadcasting, called Auto Hop “an insult to the TV industry.” Ha! This from a business that abuses us with such drivel as ‘The Jersey Shore’ and ‘16 and Pregnant.’ Puh-lese.

But Harbert wasn't done attacking The Dish Network's technology. He also wined, “Just because technology gives you the ability to do something does that mean you always should? Not always.” Huh? Now, that makes a lot of sense. Why should we use the phone, the automobile or the plane simply because they exist? Silly us. 

Advertising is in full panic mode and I, for one, couldn't be happier.

Pundits have misread General Motors recent decision to dump Facebook advertising as indicating the big car company is a Luddite when it comes to social media. Au contraire, mon frere. GM's marketing executives have finally realized that advertising is losing credibility faster than the New York Mets when they go on one of their lengthy losing streaks. As a result, they reallocated their advertising dollars to other channels that will, in fact, resonate with car buyers.

The Auto Hop is a beautiful invention and, I hope, one day it earns a permanent display in the Smithsonian. Any product that permanently erases commercials is OK by me. Now, if only Dish Hopper engineers could invent a similar technology to make Congress disappear, they'd supplant Superman himself as the ultimate super hero.

May 21

I am in control here

What do Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein and former President Ronald Reagan have in common?

Chaos_Ahead1All three were surrounded by communications managers who were completely caught off guard by:

-  J.P. Morgan Chase's $2bbn fiasco
-  The very public resignation of a Goldman Sachs employee
-  And, in Reagan's case, the simultaneous wounding of the President and press secretary.

The latter incident, which occurred only three months into Reagan's first term (March 30, 1981), is brilliantly re-captured in a riveting, page-turner of a book titled 'Rawhide Down'. And, it’s a must-read for any public relations or crisis communication counselor or student.

Rawhide was the nickname given to our 40th president by the Secret Service who, like their medical peers at George Washington University hospital, did a superb job of saving Reagan's life. But, Reagan wasn't the only person gunned down by the deranged John W. Hinckley, Jr. on that rainy day. So, too, were Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy, Washington, DC policeman Thomas Delahanty and White House Press Secretary James Brady. And, it was the latter's absence from the crisis response team that prompted a literal comedy of errors, gaffes and mistakes that would be hilarious if they hadn't occurred in the midst of such a catastrophic calamity.

With Brady severely wounded, and Vice President George H. W. Bush on Air Force Two in Texas (ironic, no?), various aides stepped forward to form a chain of command and provide updates to the media. But, nearly all failed:

    - First, David Gergen called a press conference at the White House. He read a few lines out loud, but was “visibly shaken” and “looked wide-eyed and nervous” to National Security Adviser Richard Allen, who decided Gergen would hold no more briefings that day.
    - Then, Secretary of State Alexander Haig argued with Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger over whether to place the national readiness at DEFCON TWO or FOUR (anticipating the U.S.S.R. might use the assassination attempt to launch a nuclear strike at a weakened U.S.). Weinberger, not knowing the proper protocol, suggested DEFCON TWO, which would have placed us in a near state of war and, no doubt, prompted the Soviet Union to follow suit.
    - Next, Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes took it upon himself to hold a second White House press briefing. This, despite the fact that he had access to no new updates on Reagan's medical condition. Speakes was pummeled by the press as he repeatedly answered their questions by saying, “I can neither confirm nor deny that report.”
    - Angry beyond words at Speakes, Haig stormed into the White House briefing room and uttered the words that would haunt him for the rest of his life, “I am in control here.” He informed the press that, with the President incapacitated and the Vice President in the air, he, the Secretary of State was, in effect the government. Haig had completely forgotten the U.S. Constitution which stated that power would, in fact, have been transferred to Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, and not him. Needless to say, the press had a field day with Haig's ignorance of a basic constitutional precedent.

The lessons in ‘Rawhide Down’ are too many to capture in a blog. The most important one for PR people, though, is also the obvious one (and, sadly, the one most organizations are still making some 31 years after the Reagan debacle). DO NOT attempt to manage a crisis on the fly. Instead, set aside time to simulate it in advance.

We work for organizations, large and small, to identify their potential vulnerabilities. We then gather senior line managers AND PR/human resources in a conference room to present a real-world crisis scenario. We videotape, observe and grade management's responses as we escalate the crisis throughout the day. At the end, the senior management team understands each other's responsibilities in case of the unthinkable. It's a smart, cost effective way to avoid the unavoidable and prevent latter-day versions of Deaver, Speakes and Haig from embarrassing themselves and making a bad situation exponentially worse.

May 18

REPMAN PODCAST: Are happy employees less productive?

Blog-women-pulling-ploughHere’s a real treat for loyal readers: a heated, 20-minute free-for-all discussion about happy employees. The question: Are they more or less productive? A recent survey from Leadership IQ suggests the latter. And, I agree!

Download the link and listen as I positively skewer Michael Dresner, CEO of Brand² Squared Licensing, the strategic licensing division at Peppercom


Michael believes happiness is more important than productivity. And, as you’ll hear, his loyal employees, Dame Heather Rosenthal and the Baroness Alana Schnee, agree (yet, neither seem very happy. JK, ladies. JK).

My co-host, Deb ‘Kangoo’ Brown joins in the fray as do a few other Peppercom employees who are neither happy nor productive (again, JK guys. JK).

Anyway, see what you think. Am I right in believing that toxic cultures such as those at Goldman Sachs and Yahoo are just as successful as the warm and fuzzy ones found at Zappos and G.S. Schwartz? And, that making everyone happy at the expense of accountability and productivity is a one-way ticket to Palookaville?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Enjoy!

May 17

Just what the doctor didn’t order

3322357738_300625ee7bWhat’s with the plethora of early morning news shows that routinely feature daily cooking segments at 6:45am? This past Wednesday, for example, WCBS-TV aired a positively revolting segment in which a local Manhattan chef grilled up a bunch of baby back ribs. Even more horrifying was the ersatz delight displayed by the anchors, weather, sports and traffic reporters as they sucked down the artery-clogging food. Indeed, Co-Anchor Mary Calvi actually complained there wasn’t enough BBQ sauce for her ribs. Poor thing.

Early morning cooking segments featuring fatty foods is exactly what this already obese nation doesn’t need. And, irony of ironies, the very same network that aired the baby back ribs at sunrise segment also broadcasts ‘The Doctors’ at 9am. So, in effect, CBS is telling viewers, ‘Do what we say, not what we do.’

I believe the media are a key, and corrosive, contributor to the malaise we, as a nation, are suffering. Gotcha journalism has replaced thoughtful and insightful reporting; tabloid headlines and sleazy photographs have bumped investigative journalism from the front page; and the notion of holding our nation’s leaders accountable for their actions has taken a back seat to promoting irresponsible, if not reckless behavior by the networks themselves (one need only look at the positive deluge of reality TV shows which shine the spotlight on the worst forms of human behavior). Sadly, the Founding Fathers didn’t think of placing checks or balances on the press when they passed the First Amendment. Of course, they couldn’t possibly have imagined a society populated by the likes of Snooki, John Edwards or randy Catholic priests either.

A baby back ribs segment at 6:45 am may not seem like much to you. But, to me, it’s just one more example of an out-of-control media monster that’s doing more harm than good.