May 07

Hey, it could be worse. You could be Mikheil Saakashvili.

Sometimes it takes a compelling photograph, a tear-jerker of a story or the sight of a street person badly beaten down by life to remind me that I've got it really good. Sure, I worry about the economy, my kids' future and whether the Mets $36 million investment in Oliver Perez was, in fact, the huge mistake it now appears to be.

May 7 - wsj But, then, I see something like Wednesday's Wall Street Journal front page photograph of Mikheil Saakashvili, surrounded by AK-47-toting security guards and I breathe a sigh of relief. Who, you may ask, is Mr. Saakashvili? He's the president of Georgia (the country, not the SEC bastion of legendary college football running backs).

A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. And this one is a real beaut. It depicts the country's chief executive entering a Georgian military base where an attempted mutiny had just been squashed. The president's security guard 'heavies' look like set actors from The Sopranos and Saakasvili's expression is priceless. He's glancing to his immediate left and his eyes speak volumes: 'God, is that guy going to shoot me? Is that group about to kidnap me? Is that a grenade in that thug's pocket or is he just happy to see me?'

There's stress and then there's real stress. The next time I'm feeling a little down, I'm going to re-read this blog, check out the photo and thank my lucky stars I'm not president of Georgia (the country, not the home of America's finest peaches).

Feb 02

So Much for Forecasting

"Candidates Out of Tune in Social Media Use," shouted the May 27, 2007, headline of a PRWeek article I'd happened to come across. Intrigued, I read on.

Brian Reich, director of new media at Cone and the former briefing director for Al Gore, was analyzing the use of the Internet by the lead presidential candidates of the day. "The Internet staffs of these campaigns haven't proven anything yet," opined Reich, who went on to predict that "…it will be a couple more election cycles before politicians get the hang of it (the Blogosphere)."

Ouch. Talk about being dead wrong.

Of course, at the time, the leading candidates were Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and John McCain. A certain Illinois senator wasn't even mentioned in the PRWeek text. Barackobamatwitterprofile

It's easy for me to do a Monday morning quarterback assessment of Mr. Reich's prediction but, man, oh man, did Barack Obama prove him wrong, or what? Obama's absolute digital mastery was a key ingredient in his successful campaign and continues to be a hallmark of his administration (can you believe we have a president who is not only addicted to his Blackberry, but also Twitters at will?).

I'm sure someone can dig up some predictions of mine that stood the test of time about as well as Reich's, but this one has to be right up there with the movie and radio moguls of the 1930s who predicted that television was nothing more than a passing fancy.

Dec 18

Confused About Caroline

I don't know what to make of Caroline Kennedy's intention to succeed Hillary Clinton as New York's junior senator.     Kennedy

On the one hand, I adore all things Camelot. On the other hand, Caroline strikes me as about as qualified for the U.S. Senate as Sarah Palin was for the vice presidency.

For me, the deciding factor is the current economic maelstrom. If Caroline wanted to pursue her destiny in a go-go growth era, I'd say go for it. But, these dark, dreary days of debt and despair call for decades of decision-making experience. Toss in all the paparazzi nonsense that's likely to smother every second of Caroline's "run" and it all seems so unnecessary. Especially now.

Caroline Kennedy has a sterling image and reputation. And, while I'm sure she's responding to some higher, inner calling, I can't help but think this whole adventure will end badly.

But, hey, I've been wrong many times before. "Senator Kennedy" does have a certain familiar and reassuring sound to it. And, lord knows, the state and the country could sure use some reassurance right around now.

Nov 07

Train Yourself to Think Outside the Box

We all know who won the election, but what corporation leveraged the seismic event with a surprisingly street-smart guerrilla marketing effort?  Jackie Kolek reports from the wilds of Connecticut.

Following Barack Obama's historic win Tuesday night, counties across the nation were still counting the returns on Wednesday.  Yet many of us will now be looking to another set of returns: ones delivered by the stock market.  In a very savvy marketing move, a local Merrill Lynch representative was handing out a great research paper at the train station in Westport, CT on Wednesday.  The paper, "Elections and Sectors," provides an interesting overview of historic performance of the market following presidential elections.

According to the report, equity markets tend to do much better in the 12 months following a Democrat being elected.  Longer term performance favors Republicans.  Regardless of what party gets elected, market performance is significantly better when the President and Congress share the same party.  Since 1921, Republicans have held the office 47 years, compared to Democrats' 40 years.  The 12-month average return for the S&P 500 under the Democrats in office is 20.9%, while Republicans saw an average return of 5.3% (adjusted to exclude FDR's first year.  If you factor that in, the return is -6.4%).  The impact of an election on various sectors is mixed.  In the year following an inauguration, technology, industrials and utilities have been the top performing sectors when a Democrat takes offices.  Staples, telecom and discretionary sectors are the winners under Republicans.

The report was very interesting and a smart move by Wei Chen, a local Merrill salesman.  It also serves as a great example of leveraging breaking news and events to offer thought leadership.  At Peppercom, we look to do this on behalf of our clients through the ACT Program (Available to Comment Today).  We monitor breaking news and look for opportunities to offer our clients for expert commentary or a contrarian point of view on a specific issue.  It's a very successful way to get clients in front of the right media and showcase their expertise.

Tuesday night Americans sent a loud message about the need for positive change.  Let's hope the Markets agree.

Nov 06

The Close Relationship Between the UK and the US also Applies to the Media

How did the British view our election?  Today's blog by Sarah Wallace and Chris Cody provides a purely Brit view intertwined with that of an American in London.

So after months and months of anticipation, a new America is finally here!

The British public and the press have followed the race to the White House almost as intently as the Americans, and with good cause, as one British political commentator (I forget which one) remarked, “even though we don’t have a vote, it affects us all.”

Obama is heading for the White House. And it would appear the majority of the World, including the UK, is happy about this prospect.080727_obama_brown

It was of great interest to see, after the intense coverage this election has received over the past few months, what percentage of the media’s reporting would be dedicated to the result and it didn’t disappoint. 

On election day the newspapers and television were full of headlines, most of them referencing key words such as "historic" and "change" and of course the ever important by-line "America’s first black President".  Stories covered every possible angle from the initial reporting of the polls – African Americans and young people are finally getting out there and voting – to the challenges Barack will face when he is finally sworn in.  One article even covered what type of rug he will pick in the Oval office (apparently Bush’s rug cost $61,000!).

It seems that the UK public cannot get enough of this landmark election and our media is feeding this appetite. The British public have always had a good grasp of American politics, granted, the American President is the leader of the "free world" and America is the last remaining global superpower, so it benefits everyone to be up to date on his or her American politics, but there has always been a “special” relationship between these two countries, and this has been reinforced by the importance of this election and its ongoing coverage.

Most newspapers and websites have provided in-depth state-by-state breakdowns and analysis highlighting the early results right through to the final outcome.  Unsurprising, given that the UK has more than two million Americans currently residing here, most of whom are ardent proponents of British news coverage and would admit, often disdainfully, to changing the channel from ABC’s purported “world news” to the BBC’s legitimate world news, which provides astute political commentary and unbiased representations of both Republican and Democratic platforms.

The British press is well known across the World for its impartial and well researched reporting and just to reassert its credentials, The Times even went so far as to take out a full page advertisement, just to make sure that the British public are aware that since 1849 it has had a correspondent based in America.

It is clear that for months to come the British media will continue with this coverage and it will be of great interest to see whether this President-elect can really bring America back to what it once was: a country worthy of its status as a world leader.

Oct 03

You Betcha!

Let me preface this blog by saying I’m a Barack Obama supporter. That said, I’m absolutely amazed to see and read all the glowing reviews of Sarah Palin’s performance in last night’s debate.

Simply because Sarah didn’t have a brain freeze or ramble on and on in nonsensical non sequiturs, pundits and consumers alike seem to think she did amazingly well.

Not me. Her "You betcha!" and "Say it ain’t so, Joe!" quips didn’t resonate with me. And, she’s done absolutely nothing to convince me she has the depth of intellect or character to manage the myriad crises facing the next administration. Francesfargo

When I see Sarah Palin, I see Frances McDormand’s "Sheriff Marge" character in the movie Fargo. I see this quirky, down-home, part-time wife and part-time small town
sheriff trying to deal with a grisly murder. While Sheriff Marge rose to the occasion in the movie, I don’t see Candidate Sarah following suit. In fact, I see her as nothing more than an empty suit.

Did anything Sarah say or do last night change my thinking at all? Nope. Am I still voting for Obama? You betcha!

Oct 01

In Need of Life Support

What must others think of the U.S. in light of our economic meltdown and inability to fix it? Carl Foster and Zara Gibb, two senior members of Peppercom’s UK office, offer their thoughts…

The "Special Relationship" doesn’t just mean Britain following America into Iraq, or the TV screens of Middle England being filled with the best of HBO, it seems you guys can’t even have a financial meltdown without us jumping on the bandwagon.

The UK actually had the first major headline in this saga – last year’s nationalisation of Northern Rock, a major UK bank. Then along came Bear Stearns and our problems began to look miniscule in comparison, and all that was before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

9/11 made the world look at America differently – compassionately. Since then America’s reputation seems to have been in freefall. Regardless of our own debt-fueled decade of conspicuous consumption, all fingers point to the US when it comes to laying blame for the current global economic crisis. The attitude is: "America created this problem and so America needs to fix it." The front pages here lead with the surprise rejection of the bailout, many of them feature a gloomy photo of the Capital building.

Last week, the BBC’s business editor said of the bailout: “After leading us up the hill, it would be disastrous for American’s reputation if it failed to pass the measure.” In the words of John McFall, chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, U.S. politicians "turned off the life support system for the economy."

People in the UK (at least for these RepMan followers) are left perplexed by the shock refusal of Congress to agree to the bailout. Understood, hard-working taxpayers shouldn’t be left to carry the bill for the failures of the fat cats, and the finance giants themselves should sort this mess out – but that just ain’t going to happen.

So, the political wrangling that has taken place in America has left banking experts warning a complete "failure of the financial system." Now we’re not City whiz kids, but that doesn’t sound good. With many Republicans ideologically in favour of free markets, no bailouts for losers and winner takes all – we’re left wondering who the winner will be.

Sep 25

What Fresh Hell is This?

Dorothy Parker, bohemian author, raconteur and member of the fabled Algonquin Round Table was renowned for scanning the morning New York Times headline and exclaiming, "What fresh hell is this?"300_74771

I had the exact same reaction to the latest campaign machinations. At first, I thought McCain’s decision to suspend the campaign and return to DC to help fix the financial mess was pure genius. I thought it boxed Obama in the corner and made him look reactive at best. At the same time, it allowed McCain to point to his campaign slogan and say, "See, we really are putting country first."

Then, I listened to Obama’s response, suggesting that a president needed to multitask and that macro campaign issues could be discussed while he and McCain provided whatever assistance they could to the battered bastards of the Beltway.

And, then, there was Sarah’s interview with Katie Couric. Palin literally couldn’t name anything that McCain had done to warn Americans of the impending crisis or prevent Wall Street from subverting the deregulated markets. She’s such an empty suit.

And what are we, the voters, left with? A shattered economy, a divided country and two politicians who seem more intent on one-upping one another than fixing the mess of the last eight years.

As Ms. Parker would say, "What fresh hell is this?"

Sep 11

How Come Water’s Never Discussed at the Water Cooler

Our office is a microcosm of workplaces around the world. And, like their global counterparts, our people love to talk politics. You should have heard our loyal Republicans and Democrats discussing Sarah Palin the other day. They went back-and-forth on such issues as national security, terrorism, the economy, education, crime and gas prices, to name just a few.

But, they never mentioned water. Or sanitation, for that matter. As a matter of fact, I’ve yet to hear McCain, Palin, Obama or Biden discuss the global water and sanitation crisis. And, trust me, it’s a huge crisis. Millions and millions of people in Third World countries are suffering, if not dying, because of poor water and sanitation conditions. In fact, horrific water and sanitation issues have so impacted the Third World that it’s caused a ripple effect, exacerbating everything from poverty and disease to worker productivity and a country’s global competitiveness (or lack thereof). To put it in perspective, consider this: eight out of 10 of the major river systems in one Third World country are completely contaminated by arsenic.

Girls are much more severely affected than boys. Water and sanitation systems are so bad in most Third World schools that one in four girls refuse to use the facilities and, as a result, never complete their primary education (that’s compared to one in seven boys. I’m not sure what that says about us guys, btw).

I guess water and sanitation aren’t "hot" enough issues to register on our top politicians’ agendas. That’s why it’s refreshing to see the private sector step up. Our client, ITT, has just announced a partnership with an organization called Water for People.  TheLogo partnership is intended to improve the water and sanitation systems in schools in three initial countries: India, Honduras and Guatemala. It may only be a drop in the bucket (pun intended), but the ITT Watermark endowment will have a profound impact on the lives and futures of children in those countries.

Water and sanitation aren’t someone else’s concern. As a matter of fact, because we live in an increasingly interconnected global economy, it’s everyone’s concern. So, the next time you hear Sarah bashing Barack or Joe questioning McCain’s economic credentials, ask yourself why they’re not discussing the global water issue.

Sep 05

Mick Cody’s Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take it Anymore

Mick Cody is one angry dog. The five-year-old pit bull is incensed over Governor Sarah Palin’s recent comments at the Republican National Convention: "You know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."

Cody, who is co-founder and managing partner of the National Pit Bull Awareness Association (NPAA), says Palin’s negative remarks perpetuate misleading stereotypes. "We’ve worked tirelessly to change people’s misconceptions about pit bulls. If treated decently, we’re warm, compassionate and caring creatures, unlike a certain Alaskan politician."

Mick was reached for comment in Ohio, where he’d been addressing a local NPAA chapter. "The major parties and media are totally overlooking a powerful (and, I do mean powerful) voting block. Palin’s comments not only antagonize pit bulls, but they anger the 50 million dogs currently residing in America. And, critically, many of my fellow canines are of voting age (editor’s note: that would be three years old or older)."

Cody says the NPAA has offered speaking opportunities to both parties, but has been turned down cold: "Not so much as a whimper from either camp," he snarled.

As a result, Mick says he’s taking matters into his own paws and, along with his new eight-week-old little brother, Rooney, making a run for the presidency. "It’s time canines had a chance to run things. Sure, our life expectancies may not enable us to last for a full two terms, but we’d do a better job than the current occupants," he howled.

When questioned about his youthful running mate’s qualifications for the VP slot, Mick snapped: "Rooney’s been around for three months. That’s almost a full year in human terms. How much more experience does the hockey mom have?" Mick added that the only thing Rooney hasn’t mastered yet is field dressing a moose. "But, give the little guy some time," he chuckled.

The Mick/Rooney ticket hopes to hold a quick convention in the Cody backyard ("Our mom’s promised to clean it up first with a pooper scooper," noted Rooney.). They’ve also developed a campaign theme they say "….runs rings" around the others: "Paws for a change."

Mick says the double entendre will resonate with humans, canines and the all-important undecided Feline vote.

"Pit Bulls specifically, and dogs in general, are mad as hell with negative stereotypes. It’s time to muzzle Palin and her breed once and for all," concluded Cody.