Jun 14

You can fight City Hall

It’s heartwarming to see Kellogg’s pull its Saturday-morning advertising support of six food products, Fruitloops_2 including Apple Jack and Fruit Loops.

The products, which are chock full of sugar and other nasty stuff that can contribute to childhood obesity, may also be removed from the market entirely if Kellogg’s can’t re-constitute them and make the gook less, well, gooky.

I’d gladly stand-up and salute Kellogg’s for this seemingly strong statement of corporate social responsibility, but based on the New York Times article, their actions seem to be based more on self-preservation and less on altruism.

So, the actual ‘hats off’ salute goes to the two consumer activist groups who made sure their message and multimillion dollar lawsuit threats reached the corner office in Battle Creek, Michigan. It’s nice to know that average people still can make a difference.

Thanks to Rob Longert for the idea.

Jun 13

With a name like Smucker’s…..

My mom is in the intensive care unit of a New Jersey heart hospital called Deborah (da-BOR-uh).

To say that Deborah is inaccessible would be akin to equating a climb of Mt. Everest to a walk in the park. Located somewhere deep in the bowels of the Garden State’s Pine Barrens, Deborah is almost impossible to find. Major arteries such as the Turnpike and Parkway are at least 25 miles away, leaving the driver to maneuver back roads through a dense, thickly forested area known as the Pine Barrens. At several points on the ride, I half expected cast members from the movie ‘Deliverance’ to emerge from the underbrush.

Two major military installations, Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, are in the vicinity, and add to the surreal feeling. So while one winds his way around yet another hidden curve, a group of Humvees carrying battle-ready G.I’s can come barreling out of the foliage at any time. And, then there are the F-15 fighter jets who, like their ground-based allies, simply appear out of nowhere, skimming the treetops at a deafening Mach 2.0.

By the time one finally arrives at Deborah Hospital, a stiff drink is the first order of business.

So, here’s hoping that the absurdly remote locale is more than justified and the heart specialists on staff are as good as advertised. Borrowing from the time-worn slogan, ‘With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good,’ I’d suggest the marketing folks at Deborah adopt something like, ‘With a location as alien and inaccessible as Deborah’s, the heart care has to be the best.’ Or, at least, I’m certainly hoping it is.

Jun 12

Sometimes advertising can be smart and funny at the same time

Every now and then an advertising strategy comes along that is smart, funny and memorable (and, for an advertising campaign to get my attention, it has to have all three qualities in spades).

Anyway, I was genuinely impressed to see how creative HBO was in promoting the upcoming season Big_love_3 of Big Love, a very cool series that had me hooked midway through the very first episode.

To reach potential viewers in new and unexpected ways, HBO has placed ersatz ads alongside the wedding announcement sections of the New York and LA Times. The ads promote funny, but faux, products and services for polygamists. They’re very smart and very irreverent (just like the series itself). In fact, when’s the last time you saw TV ads alongside wedding announcements?

My favorite ad is for Polygaworld, a travel agency specializing in destinations for polygamists. That’s beautiful. In fact, I can just picture the Club Med for men and their plural wives.

Anyway, hats off to HBO and its agency for creating an advertising campaign that I actually paid attention to.

Thanks to Ms. Vividor for the idea.

Jun 11

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it

I was saddened to learn that American Heritage, one of my favorite personal reads, will no longer be Ahmag published by Forbes, inc.

American Heritage provided a great snapshot into trends and issues of the past that helped shape who we are today. With so many Generation Y-types being virtually clueless about events prior to, say 1990, the loss of another archival benchmark bodes ill.

At the same time, we’re seeing various test scores indicating school kids know little to nothing about current events or geography. So, it’s not just the past that today’s kids find challenging, it’s the nature and scope of substantive matters in the world around us as well. The operative word in the preceding sentence, by the way, is ‘substantive.’ If, and when, our news organizations focus more on, say the G-8 Summit or the carnage in Darfur and less on the fairness of Paris Hilton’s jail sentence, the sooner we’ll make strides towards educating an increasingly lazy and out-of-touch society that is not only doomed to repeat history’s mistakes as Abe Lincoln warned, but show every indication that the worst is yet to come.

Jun 06

We have met the enemy and he is us

The biggest challenge facing the public relations industry remains, in my mind, the abysmal state of writing at all levels of the profession. How can we represent the best and brightest of the global multinationals when we can’t consistently and coherently communicate?

You know the problem is becoming widespread when the trade journalists covering the PR field fall prey to arcane and obfuscating prose. Case in point: the title of PR Week’s upcoming global conference. Check this out:

"PR Global International Reputation Summit: Balancing Your Local and Global Voice to Build a Consistent Corporate Identity in an Interconnected and Instantaneous Media Climate."

Oh baby. Ernest Hemingway has to be spinning in his grave. I’d expect this sort of hyperbole and superfluous word use from an IT guy or a management consultant. But, what does it say about PR when PR Week comes out with something like this?

As the cartoon character, Pogo, famously exclaimed, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’

Jun 06

Trying my best not to be ‘everyman’

Philip Roth’s new book, ‘Everyman‘ is a poignant portrayal of an average Joe who, having just died, reflects on his life. We learn about ‘Joe’ from his own first-hand accounts, as well as those of his older brother, his daughter and his two sons. Then, there are the ex-wives and their tales.

Joe, you see, wanted to be a serious artist. But, the times were tough and instead, he settled on becoming a creative director at a New York ad agency.

While it paid the bills, the job left Joe unfulfilled. He worshipped an older brother who was more gifted athletically and wound up making millions on Wall Street. He walked out on his first wife, alienating his two sons. He cheated on his second wife, and never saw her again. Joe’s only meaningful relationship was with his daughter, Nancy, a single mom who was too busy raising her own kids to pay much attention to Joe.

And, so, we see an increasingly depressed Joe’s health gradually decline and with it, his hopes of ever finding the right woman, becoming an accomplished painter or becoming close again to his estranged family.

It’s a tale of ‘what if’?

Joe’s lifetime full of regrets got me thinking about my own situation.

Continue reading

Jun 05

Different houses. Same image problem

Two very different women, one already in the ‘big’ house and another one aspiring to the White House, have very different goals but very similar image and reputation problems.

Paris Hilton, serving time for one of her many petty transgressions personifies the vapid, ‘look-at-me-celebrities who populate today’s Paris_2
entertainment landscape. Along with Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, Hilton rose to the top with little or no talent and even less in the way of social graces. And, yet she seems proudly defiant of, and indifferent to, her less-than-stellar image. And, shame on us, her various transgressions have done little to stem our obsession with her.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, would love us to love her. Yet, despite her best intentions and efforts, she is easily the most polarizing presidential candidate. Ask 10 people about ‘Hill’ and you’ll get 10 very visceral reactions. Love her or hate her, people react to Hillary.

Take, for example, her handlers’ recent efforts to involve the electorate in selecting Clinton’s campaign theme song. Hoping to mimic something a la hubby Bill’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ in 1992, the Hillary web site was, instead, inundated with suggestions like ‘The Bitch is Back’ and ‘Cold as Ice.’

Poor Hillary wants people to believe there’s a warm and compassionate person beneath that glacial countenance. Hilton, on the other hand, has no substance whatsoever below the surface and could care Hillary less what people think.

Hilton’s in her ‘house’ for now and will undoubtedly make many more such visits to similar establishments in her sure-to-be sordid future. Hillary, though, will never overcome her image challenges and convince a majority of Americans to elect her to the highest office.

In their own ways, both women are sad, but fascinating, examples of how image and reputation can mean nothing in one instance, and everything in the other.

Jun 04

Mickey and Donald better apply an extra layer of SPF 35 before heading out

Men’s Health Magazine just conducted a first-of-its-kind survey to determine where men were most likely to contract melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

To do so, MH first checked the list of America’s sunniest cities. It then checked the melanoma rates among men from the National Cancer Institute. Finally, they looked at melanoma’s toll from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anaheim, home of Mickey, Donald, Pluto and those other horrific Disney characters, topped the list Mickey_2
followed, as might be expected, by other southwestern hot spots such as San Diego, Tucson and Las Vegas. But, check this out: Bangor, Maine, was listed as America’s seventh most deadly city. Bangor, Maine? Could there be a more godforsaken place? The weather is perpetually cold, windy and rainy. So, what gives? I could see Bangor topping a list of cities with the highest suicide rate. But Bangoe doubling as MelanomaCentral? Maybe the rare rays of sunshine that actually do break through the murkiness are so pissed off that they wreak havoc on unsuspecting Bangorians (Bangorites?).

Regardless of Bangor’s plight, New Yorkers can rest easy. We finished way down the list. As did Chicago, Buffalo and our nation’s capitol. The safest city for dodging melanoma? Anchorage, Alaska.

Getting back to Anaheim for a moment, their problem could be a marketer’s dream. If I’m calling the shots at, say, Coppertone, I’d offer to ‘adopt’ Anaheim, provide the entire population (including Pinochio) with a year’s supply of my gook and challenge Men’s Health to undertake the very same test 365 days from now. It’s a no lose situation for the city or the marketer. Even if it doesn’t work, how cool would it be to see Disney issue a new, updated ‘Sleeping Beauty’ with Prince Charming slowly dying from the ravages of Melanoma? Will Sleeping Beauty wake up in time to see her prince, or will the deadly disease beat the evil Millificent to the punch and finish him off first? I know I’d be sitting on the edge of my seat.

Jun 01

Lessons in image rehabilitation

I saw a simply superb play last night. Entitled, ‘Frost Nixon,’ the play depicted the epic, four-part Frost_3 series of televised interviews between talk show host David Frost and President Richard M. Nixon (or, ‘Richard E. Nixon,’ as Archie Bunker always referred to him). Michael Sheehan and Frank Langella were tour de force as Messrs. Frost and Nixon.

The plot revolves around the attempts by both men to rehabilitate images and resuscitate careers that were in sorry states of disrepair. Frost had lost his way as a Brit alternative to Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett and Merv Griffin. Nixon was desperately seeking ways in which to return to the limelight in the three years that had passed since his resignation.

Frost ultimately prevailed thanks to some dogged research assistants who uncovered transcripts from the notorious Watergate tapes that proved Nixon had lied about his knowledge of, and involvement in, the bungled burglary that led to his downfall.

Frost again became the toast of the town while Nixon remained, well, toast. For anyone interested in image and reputation, the play provides multiple examples of what to, and what not to, do.