Apr 09

How do I love BBC America? Let me count the ways

I am seriously fed up with domestic news coverage. It's banal, repetitive and parochial. And, that's on a good day.

April 9 If one were to watch a batch of NBC, Fox, CBS, CNN and MSNBC coverage, one would think the world begins in Hawaii and ends somewhere in Maine.

It doesn't. That's why I've wholeheartedly embraced BBC America as one of my primary sources of news and information.

Where else would I learn of the Iberia Airlines/British Air merger? Where else would I learn about the unrest in Kyrgyzstan? And, where else would I see commercial plugs for the latest installments of 'Dr Who'?

There are many reasons why the sun is setting on the U.S. empire. One of the prime drivers is our incessant and myopic view of life. We believe the rest of the world, if not the entire universe, revolves around the United States. Sadly, the inverse is true. America is increasingly less relevant. As our global deficit rises, our relative importance declines.

That's why it's so important for those of us in communications to understand what the REST of the world thinks is newsworthy. They're not concerned about Charlie Sheen's latest spousal abuse charge. Nor do they care about American Idol, the start of yet another major league baseball season or the Tea Party's views on what's wrong with Washington, D.C.

With BBC America, you'll see far less coverage of Obama's game of HORSE with CBS's Harry Smith and far more insight into what really matters: namely, the latest Middle East news as well as what's happening in emerging First World powers such as Brazil, India and China. You'll see little, if any, mention of the latest Hollywood scandal (think: Sandra Bullock) and nothing about the latest murder/suicide in Boynton Beach.

It's far too late for America to turn back the clock. But, American PR types like you and me still have a window of opportunity with which to understand how dramatically the world has changed (and how we can continue to play a key role in the dissemination of news and information).

Whether you're a student, a PR professional or, heaven forbid, a medical supplies executive, do yourself a favor: pick up a copy of the F.T., listen to BBC Radio or, better yet, tune into BBC America's nightly newscasts. I guarantee your P.O.V. will change faster than Ms. Bullock's marital status.

Dec 07

Does breaking news sponsorship put steak’s image at stake?

I receive an RSS feed from CNN Breaking News. So, throughout the day, I'm peppered with incoming news items that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

December 7 Lately, I've noticed that Omaha Steaks has been running a special 66 percent promotion along the bottom of each news feed.

I let it pass once or twice but, then, after reading a CNN Breaking News about 40 people being killed in Pakistan, I came to a complete standstill.

What 23-year-old media-buying genius decided to sponsor a breaking news feed on Omaha Steak's behalf? What's the logic? How does one equate whatever the news of the moment is to ordering steaks? '…..Hey honey, check it out! At least 40 people were just killed by an explosion in Pakistan! Let's buy some steak online.'

It got me wondering: Did CNN Breaking News coverage of the balloon boy's epic non-adventure produce a sudden spike in orders of petite filet mignon? Or, maybe Tiger's recent mishaps prompted readers to order some extra rare New York strip steak.

This is one media buy that totally belies logic. If I were Omaha Steak's chief marketing officer, I'd think twice about running a special promotion alongside a newsfeed that broadcasts bulletins about mass murders, natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

I've heard of 'feeding the media beast,' but this is one brand that should find a better location for its online ad spend. Having said that, I must admit that last week's RSS feed announcing Obama's 30,000 Afghanistan troop surge made me pine for a juicy prime rib.

Jul 09

Who’s to blame when we’re all at fault?

Is there a more disgusting spectacle on television than the now-annual Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest?Hot_dog
As almost everyone knows by now, the contest’s goal is to challenge contestants to ingest as many hot dogs as possible within a given time frame. Cash awards are enormous. The competition is fierce and the media coverage has escalated into, dare I say it, a veritable feeding frenzy.

Juxtapose this truly gross spectacle against the reality of our country’s childhood and adult obesity epidemic and one is left to ponder: what’s become of corporate social responsibility and/or good old common sense?

Why are ESPN, CNN and all the major networks airing segments from the franks feast yet paying short shrift to the latest set of recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics? Alarmed at the wave of obese kids in our nation, the nation’s most influential group of pediatricians is recommending that docs start testing overweight kids for high cholesterol at the age of two!

It’s absolutely mind boggling to contemplate that some of today’s kids are already in trouble within 24 months of leaving the womb. On the other hand, it’s not so surprising at all.

Why is Nathan’s dismissing the health and well-being of our country’s kids by promoting a hot dog eating event that literally sickens contestants and viewers alike? Why are the sports channels and mainstream news networks covering the spectacle with jocular, lighthearted segments? And, why are Americans attending the event in person and watching it on TV?

You know our country’s out of control when no one takes responsibility for mitigating a disaster like this. If I were asked, I’d allow the event to continue (free speech, and all, etc.), but I’d display all sorts of warning labels, posters, and admonitions as well as have myriad spokespeople available to warn viewers, readers and listeners to avoid hot dogs if they have any hopes of leading a long and healthy life. I’d also run a few, up-close-and-personal case studies of morbidly obese Americans who’ve gorged on garbage like hot dogs and paid the ultimate price.

To paraphrase the Bard of Avon, the fault lies not in our stars, but in our stomachs. Nathan’s: stop promoting unhealthy eating. ESPN and others: stop publicizing this crap. My fellow Webizens: wise up and stay away from junk like hot dogs. We’ve got to stop the madness now.

Jan 16

Our not-so-green world

Green is today’s gold. At least in American marketing circles. Every company touts its carbon-neutralRecycled_desk
goals, its green-friendly products and services and its commitment to protect the environment for future generations.

And, surveys will come along to support such thinking. CNN just released one taken of recent college graduates who overwhelmingly said they’d prefer working for a green-friendly company. Duh. Who’s going to say they’d like to work for some manufacturer purposely poisoning our air, land and water?

Yet, at the same time, one wonders how long the green hype will continue? For example, another survey just released by Nielsen showed that American shoppers couldn’t care less about patronizing grocery stores that provide ‘recyclable bags and packaging. Much more important were ‘good value,’ ‘better selection of high quality brands and products’ and, get this, ‘easy parking.’ Ouch. Talk about priorities.

And, then there’s Africa. Having just visited several countries on the ‘dark continent,’ I can confirm that green/sustainability efforts are non-existent. Cars and factories spew all sorts of toxic gases into the sky, and forests, grasslands and other natural resources continue to be trampled down and abused at will.

Last, but not least, there’s the looming recession. Going green is a ‘smart, socially-conscious’ business move when the economy’s booming. One wonders, though, how many CEOs will stay the course when their boards and shareholders squeeze them even harder for improved quarterly profits.

So, color me ‘yellow’ for cautious when it comes to green’s long-term future. It’s a great idea but one, I’m afraid, that will take a back seat as more pressing realities come to the forefront.