Mar 29

FIRST ONLINE DATING SERVICE FOR DOGS IS LAUNCHED

CanineMingle.com will be breed, gender and religion agnostic

Lincroft, NJ, March 29, 2013 — The world’s first online dating service for dogs made its debut today. Called CanineMingle.com, the site bills itself as 100 percent breed, gender and religion agnostic.

The revolutionary service was created by the controversial former U.S. Congressdog Mick Cody, who will serve as chairman and CEO. The ex-politco will be joined by his former campaign manager and life partner, Rooney Cody, who will function as chief financial officer.

Mick and roooooney

“I’m sick of the devisiveness I see permeating our society today,” said the former Congressdog, decked out in a Hugh Hefner-type red robe and chomping on a pipe in front of his family fireplace. “I’ve always been the leader of any pack, and CanineMingle is yet another first. It will be open to any, and all, breeds, regardless of their gender, sexual persuasion or religion.”

Cody told a gathering of media representing the political, pet and technology worlds that CanineMingle’s beta testing has been nothing short of remarkable.

 “We’ve had a run of truly amazing couplings that would make any dog park pale in comparison,” howled Mick. He cited the case of Yitzak, an Israeli toy poodle who met, and fell in love with, Rasheed, a Lebanese water dog on CanineMingle.com. He also barked about Kim, a North Korean wire-haired terrier who first met Kim, a South Korean wire-haired terrier, on the beta site. “They’re now living together in complete harmony in a trench right on the 38th parallel! I’d like to see eHarmony, Match.com or ChristianMingle.com top those types of results.”

A red herring?
Beltway insiders, though, say CanineMingle.com is a thinly-disguised ploy by the ex-Congressdog to fill his war chest in anticipation of making a run (or trot, if you prefer) for the 2016 presidential election.

When pressed by a Washington Post reporter in attendance to corroborate such gossip, Cody nipped at the reporter’s hand, and drew blood. “This is about bringing lonely dogs together in a safe, and caring, environment. Period. I’ve made my last political speech, and have no plans to get sucked into the morass that is Washington, D.C. Ask me another question about politics, and I’ll go for the jugular. Literally,” snarled Cody.

Before wrapping up the press briefing and going outside to ‘water the plants’, Cody addressed the religion-agnostic aspect of his site. “My left hind leg quivers in distress every time I see a TV commercial for a religion-specific dating service. Next to cats, organized religion is the single biggest reason why man continues to wage war. That’s why I was thrilled to see a truly star-crossed couple meet on CanineMingle. One is a Sunni Muslim dalmatian and the other is a Sh’ite Muslim collie. They’re the Romeo and Juliet of dog dating,” said Mick, as he made a beeline for a squirrel dashing across the backyard. “Gotta run, guys. But tell your dogs to register ASAP!”

Repman readers will recall that Mick Cody first rose to prominence in the aftermath of the Michael Vick dog-fighting scandal. He later rode a tide of acclaim to become the very first canine to win a seat in the U.S. Congress. Mick was later forced to resign in the aftermath of a sexting scandal that involved his allegedly sending topless photographs of himself to a cat. Cody continues to proclaim his innocence to this day, saying it was a case of entrapment.

 

Mar 28

Problem-solution storytelling

Aesop-fox-and-the-stork-270x300Every PR firm has its own unique approach to generating feature articles on a client's behalf. Our strategy, which is brilliantly illustrated in this Korn/Ferry Talent Wars story is simple:
- Quantify, or qualify, a problem keeping a target audience up at night and…
- Position your client as providing the unique solution to easing the pain.

So, in the Korn/Ferry case, the search firm confirmed what most of us already know: global organizations are in desperate need of executives with international experience. Yet, and here's the pain point, 35 percent of K/F survey respondents say they don't have a plan in place to produce those sorts of leaders! How lame is that?

Not to worry, though, because Korn/Ferry is positioned as THE solution to the global leadership challenge.

It's simple, yet elegant. And, I guarantee it will produce lots of buzz.

We try to take the problem/solution formula a step further. We'll do exactly what Korn/Ferry did but then, and this is critical, we'll tell the story through an audience member's eyes.

So, were I advising Korn/Ferry, I'd follow-up the press release with a feature pitch something along these lines:

John Smith hasn't been sleeping very well the past few months. That's because he says his number one competitor is outflanking him on the college campus recruiting front. “They're attracting the best and brightest because they were smart enough to implement a global training program for fast trackers a few years ago. Now, I'm scrambling to play catch-up,” said the SVP of human resources for LongTrak, a global manufacturer of railroad ties. Smith is just one of many human resources executives who, according to a new Korn/Ferry survey, simply don't have a plan in place to provide global experiences for next generation managers.

Pretty compelling, no? And, that's the beauty of a strategic thought leadership campaign and problem/solution storytelling. Done well, it can immediately establish your client as the de facto subject matter expert in the eyes of the media.

Smart, credible storytelling is yet another reason why PR is much more effective than advertising in connecting with an audience that is time-pressed, overloaded with information and more confused than the Republican Party.

The typical advertising approach to telling the exact same story would go something like this:

Setting: a typical American workplace. A paid actor portrays a harried, tired executive. The commercial begins with the manager rubbing his eyes…

"My wife tossed me out of bed three months ago. I thought it was my nervous leg twitching. Turns out I was muttering 'Global. Global. Global' all night long. When Gloria finally told me why I was on the couch, I knew just what to do. I e-mailed the fine folks at Korn/Ferry and asked them to create a global training program for my fast trackers. And, they did just that. So, why am I still rubbing my eyes? Turns out the leg twitching was the other reason I was tossed out. Hey, Korn/Ferry, do you guys have any meds that'll keep my legs still?"

Actor turns away from the camera to begin interviewing a bright, young college grad.

Message at bottom reads: 'Korn/Ferry: 'Your passport to a global leadership program.'

Totally bogus, right?

That's why I guarantee Korn/Ferry is spending its marketing dollars in PR and not advertising.

Smart organizations such as K/F know that taking a problem/solution approach to storytelling is the single best way to break through the clutter.

Do you agree? If so, can you share any world class problem/solution examples with the rest of us? I'm even open to learning about unique solutions to John Smith's leg twitching (that “…won't cause serious side effects which, in rare instances, could include death.”).

Mar 26

Knocking out stress

I climb mountains (www.mooneymountainguides.com) to attain a spiritual, physical and emotional inner peace that sipping Red Stripe on a Jamaican beach simply can't match.

I run and workout in Kangoo Pro boots (www.mariogodiavafitness.com) to attain an endorphin high that has to be the fitness world's answer to crystal meth.
Steve eric  JPGBut, I box to knock out stress. Period. And, I do it with my good friend, and boxing/wellness trainer, Eric Daniels (elifestyletraining@gmail.com).

I grew up watching Muhammad Ali cut a wide swath through the heavyweight ranks while winning the world title for an unprecedented three times. Ali, along with Sir Mick Jagger and Joe Willie Namath, were my childhood idols. But I never, ever, imagined myself entering the ring, singing lead on 'Gimme Shelter' or leading the Jets to an improbable Super Bowl victory.

My opportunity to change one of those suppositions came when I met Eric, who is a serious boxer in the midst of training for the Golden Gloves tournament before turning pro in the next 18 months.

Eric, or E, as everyone calls him, has painstakingly taught me the nuances of the so-called Sweet Science. And, while I'd watched countless bouts on the boob tube (and in-person), I'd never fully appreciated the footwork, defensive skills and mental alertness needed to succeed in boxing.

I'd liken the sport to an intense combination of ballroom dancing, weight lifting, Zumba and chess. I included chess because boxing is all about strategy and anticipation. Success is predicated on mastering the distance, speed, power and angles that exist between you and your opponent. And, trust me, understanding how to identify an opportunity, attack or defend while anticipating your next step and punch combination is akin to taking an advanced course in geometry (a subject I positively detested in high school, BTW).

There is no better way to relieve stress than tearing into a heavy bag, trying to catch up with a speed bag or executing on E's instructions: “All right sDot (my nickname), I want a double jab, followed by a duck, followed by a left cross, right hook, two uppercuts and a body shot. Got it? C'mon, you can do it!” And, sometimes I'll nail E's commands and, on most other occasions, I'll become hopelessly confused.

But, it doesn't matter. E is not only there to teach, prod and motivate but, critically, he trains right alongside me. So, he leads by example. I cannot tell you what a difference that makes.

How many of you have signed up for sessions with a personal trainer only to find the latter texting and talking on her phone while you're knocking off a set of lifts? Talk about bogus!

As was the case with comedy, climbing and Kangoo, I've turned my employees on to the world of Eric Daniels. They don't box with him. But, they do partake in five-week wellness programs that he tailors for each participant (and which include nutritional advice, personal training and group exercise).

Think about boxing the next time a client fires you for no reason. Or, when your significant other yells at you for leaving the house lights on. It also works like a charm when that white hot new business lead you've been pursuing for months just goes dark.

Boxing knocks out stress. As Joe Willie Namath would say, “I guarantee it.”

Mar 25

A brand as recognizable as McDonald’s Golden Arches

JaggerDid you know that, since 1989, The Rolling Stones have earned an estimated $2 billion from records, song rights, merchandising, touring and sponsorship? Or, that their 'lapping tongue' logo appears on some 50 products, including a range of lingerie by Agent Provocateur?

Having just finished reading Philip Norman's riveting, if snarky, biography, Mick Jagger, I agree with The New Yorker's observation that Mick's lapping tongue is, indeed, as ubiquitous as Mr. Clean, The Jolly Green Giant or any other Madison Avenue invention.

Jagger is a riotous, pull-no-punches insider's look at how Sir Mick became the enigmatic icon for whom the phrase sex, drugs and rock-and-roll seemed to have been invented.

I say enigmatic because, although he still remains uber active on the touring circuit, the Street Fightin' Man is truly a lord of the manor these days.

I say enigmatic because, although he loved his image as a hard-living lover, Sir Mick is a doting father of seven (via four or five women, depending upon who you believe) and grandfather of four.

I say enigmatic because the erstwhile London School of Economics student can easily engage in esoteric discussions on foreign exchange rates or Renaissance art, but he has trouble remembering ANY details of his 1967 drug bust and incarceration or his legendary love affairs with the likes of Chrissie Shrimpton (the subject of Under My Thumb), Marianne Faithfull (It's All Over Now), Bianca, Jerry Hall, Maggie Trudeau, Angelina Jolie or thousands of others.

I say enigmatic because, when asked how he and fellow Glimmer Twin, Keith Richards, were able to write so many unique songs, Jagger shrugged his shoulders and said, “Dunno. We just did.” That's like asking Babe Ruth how he managed to go from being baseball's most dominant pitcher to its greatest hitter and getting a similar non-answer. Amazing.

I say enigmatic because, while Keith Richards was noted for his heroin addiction, Bowie Knife collection and daily consumption of a fifth of bourbon, it was Mick who drifted from woman-to-woman and country-to-country while Richards settled down and raised a large and devoted family.

Jagger is a far better read than either Keith's Life or Pete Townsend's Who I Am. That's probably because the biographer pulls no punches in his text (while Keith's tome spends far too much time on the intricacies of guitar playing and Pete's becomes positively glacial in pace after the band's loss of drummer Keith Moon).

The coolest thing about Sir Mick Jagger is his continuing domination of the pop and rock scenes. As Norman points out, a Stones concert still pulls in far more money than one by any contemporary artist. And, “moving like Jagger” has become an accolade for an entire new generation of Millennial party animals aspiring to 'get down' on the dance floor.

Speaking of being floored, I was amazed to read that, with the exception of his LSD-fueled Summer of Love in 1967, Mick rarely stepped over the line when it came to drug experimentation. Even more impressive was learning of his intense, two-to-three hour daily exercise regimen. Even to this day, Mick makes sure he maintains the same waist size and weight of his 19-year-old sexually self-arrested self: 27 inches and 125 pounds, respectively!

If nothing else, his amazing physique should give Mick satisfaction. When one adds his body of work AND an immediately recognizable logo that rivals anything Landor Associates, Siegal & Gale or any other branding company could design, I think it's safe to say that, while the enigmatic midnight rambler's memory may be shaky, his legacy will only grow in strength.

Mar 22

Dual CEOs: Something Peppercomm and Samsung Have in Common

Today’s guest post is by Lauren Begley, Peppercommer and editor of the Innovation Mill, an online destination for the latest in new and noteworthy trends in PR, marketing and advertising.

Samsung recently announced the hiring of a second CEO and some industry experts are calling it a bold move. However, Ed Moed and Steve Cody have been co-managing partners since they founded Peppercomm in the mid-90s. We sat down with them to get their opinion on this news and ask if they feel like they should be given credit for blazing the dual-CEO trail.

What was your first reaction when you heard the news about a second CEO at Samsung?

Ed: I was very surprised. Not sure I have ever seen co-CEOs leading a giant public company before.

Steve: It’s impossible to predict how a power-sharing model will work out. If the co-CEOs at Samsung are smart, they’ll carve out distinct areas that each can own.

You both have been at the helm of Peppercomm since the beginning. What value do you see in having two co-managing partners?

Steve: The value in co-managing partners is the obvious one: two heads are better than one. And, since we’ve been together since day one, we can share the highs and lows. It’s not quite as lonely at the top when you’re not alone.

Ed: Having two leaders at an organization is always a challenge because egos, different styles of leadership, and different thoughts on vision sometimes conflict. Because we spent almost four years together at two other firms and have always wanted what’s best for Peppercomm first, these variables have never really gotten in the way. Plus, having two leaders who understand the critical importance of both leadership and business development becomes a real benefit to our business. That’s why I think that Steve and I have such a rare relationship and it has worked extremely well.

You each have strong personalities and differing areas of expertise. How would you describe your roles at the company?

Ed: Our relationship really works well because from the onset,  without even really talking about it, we learned to divide and conquer our firm’s responsibilities very quickly. That still exists today, which is kind of amazing. While that creates a truly efficient leadership scenario, we also cross over in a host of areas that provide double the value to what only one CEO could offer.

Steve: That’s the beauty of the partnership. Our strengths compensate for one another’s weaknesses. So, having no real interest in operations and finance, I can sleep well knowing Ed is positively obsessed about each. Likewise, he knows that I’m obsessed about what’s new, what our competition is up to and what we should be thinking of. So, while it’s happened from time to time, we rarely get in one another’s way.

How do you come to big decisions? Does one person have the final say?

Steve: No big decisions are made unless we’re in full agreement. So, for example, I backed Ed when he wanted to invest in licensing. Likewise, he backed me when I said I wanted to introduce stand-up comedy to our culture.

Ed: While Steve typically trusts me to make most financial decisions and I do the same with his around the Peppercomm brand, we always make big decisions about the agency together. In any case, we speak our mind to each other, sometimes in front of our management team and sometimes separately. Neither is afraid to debate if we believe in something that strongly. Trust allows two leaders to do this without feels being ruffled and that is extremely important. The fact is that on almost all big decisions, we actually do agree. But, we also respect each other enough to back down when the other feels really strongly about any particular decision for the agency. Overall, it continues to work really well.

What other CEO(s) do you admire and why?

Steve: I can’t name a current CEO I admire. But, looking back, I have enormous respect for Winston Churchill. In my opinion, he’s the single greatest leader in modern history.

Ed: I admire my friend Joe Beneducci, the CEO of insurance company Prosight Specialty Insurance. Joe was also our client when he was CEO of Fireman’s Fund. Joe exhibits tremendous character as well as smarts in how he views the world, his company and the people who work for him. I’ve never seen Joe sway from what he believes is right. In business, that isn’t an easy thing to do.

Any final words?

Steve: The reason most co-CEO situations fail is the obvious one: a clash of egos/power grab. Most co-CEO scenarios have matched executives with similar backgrounds and strengths (i.e. great salespeople, superior finance executives, etc.). As a result, they constantly second-guess one another’s decisions. I can’t recall a single instance in which I’ve second-guessed one of Ed’s decisions (because we do surface all of the potential big issues in advance, weigh the pro v. con, etc.).

Ed: We are in an interesting time. Because of the digital world, agencies are going through an unbelievable paradigm shift. I believe that having two co-leaders like Steve and me at the helm will be a strength for Peppercomm as we continue to innovate and become the best firm possible.

Mar 21

A memo to the People of the Falkland Islands


Today's guest post is by Pepppercommer and
British citizen living in the US, Carl Foster.

To:                       The People of the Falkland Islands
From:                   A British PR guy watching from the US
Subject:               Retrospective PR counsel on your recent referendum

Dear Falkland Islanders,

First, let me say congratulations. Your recent referendum and the overwhelming “yes” to remaining an Overseas Territory of the UK was a solid PR victory, not to mention a clear two fingers up to Buenos Aires.

Falklands-cheers_2507683bHowever, while I am merely an outside observer to an issue that you live and breathe every day, I do think a more definitive and longer lasting PR victory could have been achieved. I hear the Falkland Islands have highest proportion of internet users in the world. I would be keen to hear your response to the following thoughts.

First, why a referendum? Why not a preferendum? You were asked “Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?” Enough “no” votes to that question (there were three, right?) could have emboldened the Argentines and raised doubts as to your resolve. A preferendum would have allowed you to say whether you wanted to remain British, become independent, or become Argentine. The option to choose independence would have added credibility to the poll, as well as sending an even clearer message to Argentina, with that third option surely not receiving a single vote. More importantly, the option for independence would have strengthened the overall British argument about the Falklands.

As I understand it, the fundamentals of that argument come down to this: The British say you have a right to self-determination; the Argentines say you are British implants and therefore the principle of self-determination does not apply. The referendum was the manifestation of that self-determination, yet after the result was announced, photos such as the one below were published claiming you were “British to the core.” To the outside world, for which the Falklands issue is just one of many in the news, I think this and the accompanying Union Jack flag waving kind of plays into the Argentine position.

There were probably more international journalists on the Falkland Islands last week than at any point since the war. That opportunity could have been used to deliver a media relations campaign to undercut the Argentine argument and strengthen the British position. You could have demonstrated to these journalists that you are not British implants, that you are a nation in your own right, and that in this referendum you, as a nation, will determine your future. The demonstration of this Falklands nationhood could have been achieved by:

•    Highlighting the economy and heritage of the Falkland Islands and your contributions to the world, even if these are relatively small things like wildlife conservation or asking that minefields from the war be left so minefield clearing resources can be used in other parts of the world.
•    Providing journalists with a phrasebook so they can see that the English spoken on the islands has unique words and phrases and has evolved over more than 100 years.
•    Asking all the hotels to serve meals that are unique to the islands.
•    Demonstrating at immigration that the journalists are not entering the UK but the Falkland Islands, a distinct and separate entity.
In addition to this, I wonder if an infographic could have been created that demonstrates Argentina’s evolving position on the Falklands. As you all know, Argentine politicians use the Falklands issue as a nationalistic rallying call to divert attention from troubles at home. Using a tool such as Factiva, it could be possible to find the number of mentions of “Las Malvinas” in the Argentine press over the past 50 years and plot that against the country’s GDP, or some other metric. Providing a proof point like this to journalists would have further undercut the Argentine argument.

More than anything, I think that US press could have been courted more aggressively. On the days of the referendum I checked CNN and Fox News as well as other outlets and I couldn’t see any coverage of the referendum on the homepage. As a champion of democracy and self-determination, you should have found a sympathetic ear in America, the country most able to persuade Buenos Aires that its efforts are futile.

Of course, the reason they are futile is not because of the referendum, or any other PR exercise. They are futile because 255 British servicemen laid down their lives in 1982 for your liberty, something no one in the Falklands or the UK will ever forget.

Nevertheless, the Argentine campaign for (or is it against?) the Falklands is a major issue. Cruise ships that dock in the Falklands are banned from Argentine ports and Argentina is threatening to sue any company drilling for oil and gas near the islands.

I believe the result of the referendum will help your case on the world stage, even if I think a preferendum and a different media campaign could have helped more. Whatever the case, as this debate rumbles on, your greatest PR asset will be yourselves. You are 2000+ passionate, on-message PR practitioners who are all connected to the internet. Keep getting out there and making your voice heard.

Best of luck,
Carl
@PRCarl

Mar 20

Success is an endurance sport

Endurance-ShackletonJack and Suzy Welch say there are three key qualities an executive MUST possess in order to succeed. They are:

- Authenticity
- Resiliency
- Anticipating what's next.

I'd add a fourth one: endurance. In my opinion, success is a marathon, not a sprint.

But, before I line up for the long-distance soliloquy, let's address the power couple's troika of triumph:

1.) Authenticity. Jack & Suzy (why not call them JaZy?) believe authentic executives rise to the top because they hold fast to their core values (despite what the corporate culture may say to the contrary).  That's an interesting observation, considering the rough-and-tumble culture Welch himself created as CEO of GE. But, it rings true.  I failed miserably as president of Brouillard Communications (a now defunct division of J. Walter Thompson) because I tried to be what the CEO (and the culture) wanted me to be: autocratic, conservative and political.

I've succeeded at Peppercomm because Ed and I have created a culture that mirrors our self-deprecating, work hard, play hard personalities. So, I am who I am and I thrive as a result.

2.) Resiliency. After each, and every, setback I've managed to pick myself up, dust myself off and charge right back into the fray. Resiliency cannot be underestimated. Success is an ephemeral lover. You can be riding high in May only to find yourself shot down in September. Clients and people come and go. The key to success is never getting too high or too low, and treating wins and losses with the same even-keeled demeanor.

3.) What's next. As far as possessing a 'sixth sense for business' as Team Welch refers to it, I've always trusted my gut to tell me what might work in the business world. That's why I've pioneered the use of stand-up comedy as a cultural game changer. And, my firm was rewarded by just being named NYC's top workplace by Crain's New York Business. Our other top people have also had the ability to 'see around corners' as Jack and Suzy put it:

- Jackie Kolek organized our first digital/social media offering
- Maggie O'Neill created our events group from scratch
- Ann Barlow pioneered our Green and sustainability offerings
- And, Ed's created one of the industry’s best measurement systems, called Business Outcomes.

Jackie, Maggie, Ann and Ed also possess huge reservoirs of endurance. They've weathered every storm and grown stronger as a result.

Since founding Peppercomm in 1995, I've seen countless supernova, A-type PR personalities come and go. Many of these superstars were named PR professional of the year, adorned the cover of one of our trade journals or even rose to the ranks of Fortune's Most Powerful women. And, then these very same individuals faded into oblivion. The same holds true for agencies. Most of the dotcom darlings are long gone, having either gone Chapter 11 or been swallowed up by a holding company.

So, yes, Jack and Suzy, one does need to be authentic, resilient and prescient. But, without endurance, the hot shot executive of the here and now will only be remembered (if he's remembered at all) as yesterday's one hit wonder.

What about you? What qualities do you think are critical to success?

Mar 19

A bucket of warm piss

BbbucketN.C. State's all-time great basketball star, David Thompson, said it was for “losers”.

The 11-time N.C.A.A. champion U.C.L.A. Bruins refused to hang its championship banner from the rafters of Pauley Pavilion.

And, when teams with a slim chance of earning an N.C.A.A. berth late in the season find themselves losing at the end of a game, opposing fans will taunt the players with chants of: 'N.I.T!  N.I.T!  N.I.T!'

The N.I.T. (or National Invitation Tournament) is the me-too event of the sports world.

It's a college basketball tournament that has even less relevance than a cameo by Twiggy (should I insert Kate Moss instead?) on 'The Biggest Loser'.

To those of you not in the know, the N.I.T. pits those highly mediocre college teams that were excluded from the Big Dance (AKA March Madness; AKA the N.C.A.A. Division I College Basketball Championship, etc.).

In other words, the N.I.T. picks the next best teams AFTER the top 68 squads have secured a berth in the brackets that matter. What do N.I.T. winners say: “We're number 69! We're number 69!”

Lots of top schools have refused to participate in the past, including: Oklahoma State, Louisville, Georgia Tech and Georgetown.

So, why does the N.I.T. still exist? Their website points to a rich heritage and unique format in which teams get to play on their home courts before four finalists compete for the title at Madison Square Garden. Oh.

I think the real reason the N.I.T. still has a pulse is purely economic. The schools need the revenue. So, too, does the N.C.A.A., which in an ironic twist, bought the ailing N.I.T. a few years back. But, no one, and I mean no one, else cares about the second-rate tourney. My alma mater, Northeastern University, is playing in this year's N.I.T., but you won't see me trash-talking about it. I'd rather forget it altogether.

In a 24×7 sports world already chock full of leagues, all-star games and tournaments, someone should step up, do the right thing and euthanize the N.I.T. It would be the humane thing to do.

America doesn't need a tournament that could be best described in the same way John Garner once defined the vice presidency: “It's not worth bucket of warm piss.”

Mar 18

The Pinocchio of marketing

AaaaaaaaaGlobal powerhouse, McCann, just partnered with the 4As, advertising's leading trade group, to publish a survey that may be the most disingenuous body of work since Clifford Irving penned a completely bogus biography of the legendary Howard Hughes.

Respondents of the co-branded survey about advertising provided the following head-shaking, jaw-dropping information:

- 77 percent said ads '…entertain me and make me laugh' (these people must not get out very often).
- 40 percent said they “loved” advertising (that cohort must be ingesting some serious prescription pain killers).
- And, get this, 72 percent say they think advertising has the power to make the world a better place!

I'm surprised the survey pool didn't also point to advertising as mankind's last, best hope for:
- ending war,
- eliminating poverty,
- and, curing cancer.

The results are truly laughable, especially in light of countless other research that consistently shows people think advertising is complete rubbish.

In addition, consumers everywhere are DVRing their favorite TV programs in order to fast forward past mind-numbing adverts. Or, they're buying a Hopper from Dish Network, which erases commercials faster than a Mafia hit man can dispose of a stool pigeon.

Laura Simpson, McCann's global director of 'Truth Central', the agency's thought leadership initiative that co-engineered the oh-so-dubious survey had this to say: “Surprisingly, the majority of consumers think advertising can change the world for the better.” LOL! Laura's even funnier than her brother, Homer.

Anyone with half a brain HAS to view the McCann/4As poll as having less credibility than Lindsay Lohan and Lance Armstrong combined.

Were the survey to come to life and be a person, it would unquestionably be Pinocchio, and the nose would just keep growing longer and longer, as each additional preposterous finding is revealed.

Mar 14

My all-time favorite pitch

1878_in_initialspark_l-sliced_1I've had the privilege of leading or participating in many memorable new business pitches over the years. Some have been memorable for all the wrong reasons. Others, though, have been worthy of an Oscar for best direction, writing and performances by the lead and supporting actors and actresses.

Among the very best were:

- Turning the conference room of my one-time agency employer into an exact replica of a New York subway car to pitch the TransitCheck account. The team dressed as train conductors, ticket booth personnel and your average strap hanger. We won the account.
- Transforming Peppercomm's old fifth floor conference room into an exact replica of the soiled, sordid habitat of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to pitch the 25th anniversary of the fabled troupe. We even served pizza (and had our plan written in Magic Markers on the inside cover of the pizza boxes). We won that one as well.
- Transforming the very same fifth floor conference room into an uber cool, after-hours cocktail bar to pitch the Absolut Vodka account. We had several team members dress as liveried waiters and waitresses to take the prospect team's lunch and drink orders. Alas, we not only didn't win the business. We never, ever heard back from the Absolut folks. Absolut silence!

My all-time favorite new pitch, though, remains our wild and wacky presentation to one of the oldest and most respected names in business & industry: GE.

Back in 2000, Jeff Immelt had succeeded Jack Welch as CEO and immediately changed the conglomerate's business model AND brand promise (which went from: 'We bring good things to life' to 'Imagination at work').

Because we had earned rave reviews from GE's financial services people, the then tiny Peppercomm team was invited to 'wow' the GE corporate big wigs with our imaginative presentation and thinking.

We went all out (figuring we were a long shot from the get). Knowing that Thomas Edison had founded GE, and was easily one of the most imaginative homo sapiens since DaVinci, we brought him along to the pitch.

That's right, we dressed team member Ted Birkhahn as Edison's body double, had him hide in a men's room until just the right moment in our presentation and announced that Thomas Edison had returned from the grave. Ted/Thomas strolled into the Airbus 300-sized conference room to announce he was running for the presidency and launching a new third party with a single plank: injecting imagination into the political process (ironic considering today's Beltway malaise, no?).

Ted/Einstein proceeded to read a speech announcing his candidacy and we told GE how we'd use their locomotives to recreate an old whistle-stop political tour whose intention was not to elect an Edison lookalike but, rather, to re-position GE, drive home the new imagination theme AND inspire Messrs. Bush and Gore to inject more imagination in their thinking.

We were hired and implemented the imagination at work campaign (sans Mr. Edison, though. The Edison Foundation told us that was a non-starter). We also won lots of awards and kudos for GE, and my favorite PR firm.

It's rare to see the ideas that win a new business presentation actually be implemented. Rather, the meetings are intended to demonstrate an agency's thinking and capabilities while assuring there's a real chemistry mix between both parties.

I'm really proud of our out-of-the-box pitches, especially Ted's Tommy Edison knock-off. That said, I'm STILL waiting to hear back from Absolut. Maybe they should run an Absolut Rude advertisement as a long-overdue apology? Or, how about one entitled: 'Absolut Genius' starring Ted as Edison?