Jul 27

Dog day afternoon: London style

Norbert the dog is a full-fledged member of Peppercom’s UK office. In addition to sitting, sleeping, Norbet_2 playing with his various toys, wagging his tail and barking whenever someone rings the bell at the front gate, Norbert has one main job responsibility: chief morale officer (and, he’s the nicest and smartest CMO I’ve met in some time, btw).

Despite being a huge dog lover, I’m not a fan of bringing canines to the office. That’s because I remember working at a firm where the creative director’s two dogs literally ran amok every single day. They’d sprint up and down hallways, rip sandwiches out of people’s hands and, on at least one memorable occasion, defecated outside the conference room just before a new business pitch. Talk about a bad omen!

Norbert, on the other hand, is just a very cool pup. He knows his place and role, minds his owner, Jacki Vause’s commands and, in my opinion, adds a very real and positive intangible to the London office workplace culture.

All that said, there’s no way in hell we’ll get a puppy in the NY office. It’s really nice to visit a dog-friendly business, but I just can’t see our 55-plus person NY agency finding a dog as perfect as Norbert. And, besides, who needs excrement outside the conference room?

Jul 25

Some things are better left unsaid

I’m about to meet Peppercom UK’s crack Managing Director, Jacki Vause, for dinner at a place called the Rivington Grill.

To get me there, Jacki passed along a set of directions from the restaurant’s web site.

On the printed page are directions from two area hotels: mine and the self-proclaimed, five-star gem, the Great Eastern Hotel.

Here’s the lead sentence describing the establishment: ‘…..The sleek interior by Conran and Partners blends in seamlessly with the gorgeous period building, originally constructed as a lunatic asylum.’

How lovely! I can’t imagine anything better than spending the money charged by a five-star hotel, knowing that once upon a time, London’s wackiest characters were holed up in the very same place.

Pardon the pun, but what idiot edited this text?

Jul 24

You can use your American Express card everywhere (as long as you stay in America)

As an American Express Platinum Card member I’m told by the company’s propaganda that I’m entitled Amexbadto the uber level of card member perks. You name it and I get it. Or, so they say.

Alas, as I’ve found to my chagrin, no one accepts the AmEx card in Northern France.

‘Jamais,’ I was told by one waitress. ‘Mais no monsieur,’ sighed another.

Thankfully, I also pack a Visa card which, like its brand promise "is everywhere you want to be."

American Express may have a certain panache, but until they secure a beachhead in Normandy and elsewhere, I’ll pack extra credit card ammo.

Jul 16

Let’s rename this service ‘DieBlogComments.com’

With the traditional and digital worlds still buzzing about the bogus posts of Whole Foods CEO John Mackay on his own company’s site, comes word of a 100 percent unabashedly ersatz new service called Buyblogcomments.com.

As the name implies, bloggers who want increased traffic and improved search rankings pay this service to generate "authentic" comments that link back to the blog. The service essentially spams the comment pages of other blogs and inserts backlinks to drive traffic and Google juice. The site says:

"Finally, you can purchase quality blog comments without the stress of finding someone to write the comments, or buying some high priced automated program. BuyBlogComments is NOT spam! When you purchase blog comments from us, you are getting quality blog comments. They wont be saying stuff like "nice site, check out these free insurance quotes".. the blog comments will be about the blog post that we are commenting on. You won’t even be able to tell our blog comments apart from the rest. So the blogger is safe, it will look completely like a legit comment that someone reading the blog post wrote. In fact, most bloggers will like the free comments to help with their community…"

How clever. As if bot spam wasn’t annoying enough. Now blog readers have to endure a new, more disguised layer of spam. Sadly, I’m guessing a few unethical firms will experiment with this service. Hopefully BuyBlogComments will die a quick death.

Jul 10

Meet the new Delta. Same as the old Delta

Delta Airlines recently emerged from bankruptcy with a promise to be much more customer-centric in Delta_2   everything they do.

And, at times in my back-and-forth travel to Rome this past week, they did a pretty fair job. But, any efforts at ‘winning’ me back went badly off course last weekend. First, we sat and sat at DaVinci Airport in Rome just so one ‘connecting’ passenger could make the flight. It was great for him, but caused a 90 minute delay for us.

After landing at JFK and clearing customs, we were directed to baggage carousel six. We waited there for 25 minutes. Then, we were re-directed to carousel one. We waited there for another 25 minutes before, yes, they directed us back to the original carousel.

Needless to say, all this turbulence had my mind (and stomach) spinning…Delta’s back all right. And, if my experiences are any indication, they’ll be making a final approach towards oblivion in the not-too-distant future.

Jul 03

Making a difference

Fresh from defeating his dad in two straight games of one-on-one basketball, Chris ‘Repman, Jr.’ Cody was tooling along Middletown-Lincroft Road yesterday when his car pulled up behind a town garbage truck, painted green and covered with various pro-environment slogans.

Stenciled across the truck’s rear were the words, ‘Making a difference.’ That’s when Chris, noticing the acrid smoke and pungent odors spewing forth from various parts of the vehicle, noted, ‘Yeah, they’re making a difference all right. A difference for the worse.’

I’m always amazed when an organization says one thing, but does another. The fast food chains are a great example of this sort of double talk: their slogans boast about fresh, fast, delicious food, but we all know their calorie and fat-laden lard is adding inches to America’s collective waistline every day.

The best way to keep these organization’s honest is to post complaints on their web sites or ‘out’ them in blogs like this. Hopefully, together, we’ll be making a difference.

Jul 02

I’ll have one large pizza with extra cheese and a lap dance to go, please

Cordato’s, a pizzeria in lower Manhattan, is offering an interesting value add: lap dances in a back Brooklyn_style_pizza712w_2 room.

It’s a novel line extension to a proven formula and a move that will, no doubt, produce a, er, ah, spike in short-term sales. But, will a stunt like this work? Will Cordatta’s set record sales numbers this summer? My gut (before ingesting any pasta btw) says yes.

I predict Cordato’s will do well and the pizza patrons will love their ‘to go’ order. But, I have to believe neighborhood residents will give the pizzeria’s owners agita before all the shaking and baking is said and done.

Bottom-line? A short-term image boost for Cordato’s and its lap dancing gimmick followed by lots of long term problems with residents, the police and, eventually patrons.

Jun 27

Americans simply don’t get a kick out of professional soccer

‘Fast’ Eddie Johnson was in town last night to get a feel for the New York scene and learn more about how we do things here. Eddie, you see, is our newest London employee and quite the amateur athlete: he plays cricket and soccer.

As we kicked around sports topics over a few drinks, Eddie inquired as to David Beckham’s impact on professional soccer in the States. I had to pause to recall that, indeed, the Euro soccer god with matinee idol looks was in fact toiling away for some American team.

That’s when I shook my head and told Eddie the sad truth about professional soccer here in the Colonies. Despite at least 25 years of all-out marketing, advertising and word-of-mouth, pro soccer has failed to take root in the States. Aside from a few avid fans (a la ice hockey), US pro soccer matches are primarily attended by ex-pats and foreign nationals. And why does this matter to soccer? Because America is the world’s largest market. Soccer could earn billions and billions in additional revenue if they could conquer the US market.

There are probably any number of sociological and psychological reasons why Americans have turned a cold shoulder to the sport. In my mind, though, it goes back to the product. For whatever reason we don’t find the product interesting. And when consumers don’t like a product or service, all the advertising and PR in the world can’t help.

So, Beckham can keep on bending it here in the States, but the only necks that will be bending to watch will be his fellow Brits and others from countries outside our borders.

Jun 22

JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge reflects poorly on company’s image and reputation

Why sponsor an event if you aren’t committed to making it a first-class experience?

Having just run the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Runners_2
Challenge in Central Park, I can state that it is the most poorly organized and, potentially, most dangerous race I’ve ever run. And, the JP Morgan Chase people either don’t know or don’t care.

To begin with, organizers permit way too many runners to compete in way too confined a space. They also do a horrendous job of separating the walkers from the runners so, at almost every half-mile or so, I was running right up the back of an unsuspecting walker. There’s absolutely no crowd control either, so we runners had to dodge everything from pedestrians trying to scoot across the course to, believe it or not, a woman walking her dog against the flow of thousands of runners. Someone should whisper in that dog whisperer’s ears. Talk about animal cruelty!

To add insult to injury, the official race clocks seemed to have had issues as well, so no one was quite sure what their time was.

Added up, these snafu’s make me wonder if JP Morgan Chase can’t manage a 3.5 mile race, how could they possibly do a good job with my assets?

It’s time for the company to either find something else they can manage well or get their act together on the race. Here’s one runner who has grave doubts about ever competing in a JP Morgan Chase event again.

Jun 20

Cadillac is more like caddy shack

When I was beginning my PR career in the late 18th century, my bosses would often refer to a Cadillac client’s/prospect’s product or service as aspiring to be the ‘Cadillac’ of its space.

In those days, Cadillac was synonymous with luxury and status.

As we now know, that was then and this is now. Aside from a few drug dealers and pro athletes who like to tool around in tricked-out Escalades, no one goes near the Cadillac brand. In fact, there’s new proof that, when it comes to luxury, the tables have really turned on the once mighty brand.

According to a Scarborough Research/Radio Advertising Bureau study, Volkswagen owners have a media household income of $77,914 vs. $59,565 for Caddy drivers. Volkswagen? Ouch! I can remember when the VW bug was seen as a low-end, counter-culture means of transportation to and from the Woodstocks and Monterrey Pop Festivals of the era. Now, though, VW is clearly leaving Cadillac in the dust.

Caddy is in a freefall and I, for one, see no way for them to avoid the abyss. When their aging owners finally die so, too, will the brand.