Aug 15

McDonald’s has become the Disney of fast food

A new study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (which sounds like a fun read, btw)C482ba8af0f895
shows that kids aged three to five overwhelmingly prefer McDonald’s-branded food items to generic ones. In the test, the tikes consistently reached for MickeyD french fries over those in plain white bags. They also opted for hamburgers, chicken nuggets and even carrots enclosed in wrapping paper with the golden arches.

This is scary stuff and shows how insidious and infectious TV advertising can be to little kids who stare at their sets hour after hour. There’s no doubt they are clearly connecting to the McDonald’s TV spots. It wouldn’t be so outrageous if childhood obesity wasn’t at all-time record highs.

So, what’s McDonald’s response to the study? A spokesman said "….. (It) was important and McDonald’s has been addressing it for quite some time." Yeah, sure.

McDonald’s, like big tobacco, has hooked millions and millions of Americans on their horrific food items and they’re not about to abandon future generations. Sure, they’ll add a salad or two to the menu, but TV commercials highlighting artery-clogging fries and burgers are just as important to Mickey D’s ongoing success as Pinocchio, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid are to Disney.

In my opinion, McDonald’s is paying lip service to the problem (pun intended). It’s up to parents to police kids’ TV viewing if they want today’s tiny tikes to avoid becoming tomorrow’s two-ton teen time bombs.

Aug 14

Not walking the walk

I’m always fascinated to attend industry seminars and see my peers grappling with
business developmentIst2_187726_self_promotion_2
and branding issues. They know exactly how to counsel clients on the best and brightest ways to break out from the pack. Yet, when it comes to agency marketing, most firms simply don’t walk the walk.

A new survey* undertaken by marketing consultant Robb High substantiates this alarming trend: namely, 76 percent of 132 marketing communications firms surveyed have no regular outbound communications directed to marketing decision-makers. And, more than two-thirds of the 118 client decision-makers surveyed couldn’t name more than five agency brands. And, that spells trouble with a capital ‘T’.

So, while a select few agencies focus on fine-tuning their positioning, creative campaigns and strategic partnerships, the average one isn’t even attempting to communicate in the first place. When I ask agency owners and senior executives why they don’t consistently and clearly communicate their ‘value-adds,’ they typically say they’re focused on billable client work. Or, they’ll say they’ve tried it once or twice but, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, ended up assigning the most junior person who invariably fails.

Over the past 12 years, we’ve always treated our firm as a critically important client. We’ve allocated the necessary time and manpower and assigned our very best people to promoting Peppercom. And, it’s paid off. Big time.

While I’d like to think that most agencies will wake up and pay attention to High’s stats, the likelihood is that the majority will remain in denial and just keep their noses to the grindstone. And, that would be a fine strategy if client-agency loyalty really did still exist.

*From Robb High Tuesday August 7th 2007
Results of a survey among 132 Markeing/Communications  firms and 118 client marketing decision-makers:
76% of MarCom firms have no regular outbound communications directed to client marketing decision-makers (regular = more than 3/year).
68% of client decision-makers cannot name more than 5 agency brands (aside from their current agency or agencies.) 59% of those who know 5+ brands rate their depth of familiarity as "agency brand name only."  68% of MarCom firms with outbound communications send to a list of fewer than 100 companies, even though only one in 16 clients conducts a review in any given year. 79% of MarCom firms with an outbound communications program use only land mail. 97% of decision-makers select email as their "preferred" form of business communication.

Aug 13

Yeah, but what about Fernando Valenzuela?

Peppercom’s Chicago office (namely, Trish Hoban) and I attended Thursday night’s White Sox-IndiansFernando_valenzuela_album_1_2
game in the sweltering heat of Chi-town’s South Side.

As I sweated through inning after inning of an eventual Tribe victory, I noticed the names of White Sox heroes whose numbers had been retired in tribute to their greatness (Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, etc.). I also happened to notice a tribute to Jackie Robinson, whose number 42 has been permanently retired by every team in MLB as a tribute to the first Black ballplayer in the game’s history.

And, that got me thinking. If Jack Roosevelt Robinson’s number is retired (and, it should be), why isn’t the same tribute being given to the first major league Asian, American Indian, Latino, etc? Why is it politically correct for us to honor Jackie Robinson, but not, say, Fernando Valenzuela (who was among the first Mexican ballplayers in MLB)? And what about Aparicio or Minnie Minoso, who were among the first Latin ballplayers? Or, digging deep in the recesses of my personal baseball trivia library, why hasn’t Albert ‘Chief’ Bender’s number been honored? The Chief was a formidable pitcher and among the very first American Indians to play at the major league level.

It seems to me this is one of those ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ situations that MLB would rather not address. But, I’m asking: “So, what about Fernando? When will his number be honored?"

Aug 10

Proselytizing on PR’s behalf

I had the unique opportunity to address a group of chief marketing officers and advertising executivesImage810
yesterday at the Association of National Advertisers annual conference in Chicago.

It was a great platform from which to ‘spread the gospel’ among the uninitiated. As I sat and waited my turn to speak, I heard one senior Fortune 500 executive after another share best practices for ‘breaking through’ and connecting with customers via traditional advertising and other unconventional means (digital, word-of-mouth, outdoor and, oh yes, PR, or ‘unpaid media’ as one executive called it). There was some recognition of PR but, frankly, only in passing.

So, when I finally had the chance, I spoke about the unrivaled power of third party credibility, the role of partnerships in expanding awareness and reputation and why I believe PR is best suited to lead the digital discussion.

I saw a few nodding heads, a few blank stares and more than one scowling face. But, it was very cool indeed to be addressing a group of top marketing and advertising executives and having an unfettered and unfiltered bully pulpit from which to spread the gospel of all things PR. At the moment, I feel like the Joel Osteen or Billy Graham of the public relations world. Or, maybe I was more like a Christian in ancient Rome being fed to the lions? I’m not sure which.

Aug 09

A Bright Spot in an Otherwise Gloomy Day

Today’s blog is a guest post by Jackie Kolek

I had the displeasure of attempting to fly out from JFK to San Francisco during Wednesday’s nightmarishImage_809_2
thunderstorms.  The normal one-hour trip to the airport took over three hours. I missed my plane, fought unsuccessfully to get on another flight and was left stranded at the airport.  Through it all, my trusty car service driver, Chris, emerged as the hero of the day. 

Not only did Chris drive through torrential downpours, floods, accidents and floating man-hole covers to get me to the airport safely, he refused to leave me there until he knew flights were taking off.  Luckily, he had the good sense to give me his card with his cell number on it.  For when I could not get another flight out, I couldn’t even get through to the service dispatcher.  Chris had picked up another passenger, but tried to get through to the dispatcher for me and then called a friend who was also a driver to see if he could pick me up.  When that failed, Chris suggested to his current passenger that perhaps she wouldn’t mind if he swung by the airport to get me.  Remarkably, she was okay with it.

When I called the dispatcher back to make the reservation, I was told there would be an additional charge for requesting a specific driver.  To me, Chris was worth every penny and I’ll definitely ask for him next time I travel.  So, a major hats off to Computer Car’s Chris and his passenger Marilyn, who was an additional two hours late to work after sitting in airport traffic.  Who ever said New Yorkers are rude?

Aug 08

Forcing employees to be healthy is penny wise and pound foolish

Clarian Health, an Indianapolis-based health care system, announced it will begin fining employees ifImages_3
their blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index and glucose levels are too high. Ditto for smoking.

Clarian says rising health care costs are forcing them to enforce such Draconian measures. And, according to various reports, they’re not alone. Other organzations have done the same thing and more are expected to follow suit.

Scaring employees to become healthier may sound like a smart business idea on the surface. But, I believe the constant threat of monetary punishment (Clarian will charge empoyees $5 per infraction per paycheck) will cause a boomerang effect. In fact, I can foresee the ‘solution’ causing more problems than it was designed to solve. I think it will cause heightened employee stress while destroying morale. And, while the Street and shareholders may initially applaud such cost-conscious management practices, I believe they’ll change their minds if worker productivity suffers as a result.

I’m all for fitness and smart living. But, penalizing employees because they’re 35 pounds overweight or can’t maintain a recommended blood pressure level reeks of too much ‘big brother’ in my book.

Aug 07

Contrarian points of view can be cool. Except when they’re wrong

I received an unsolicited e-mail the other day from TSE Sports and Entertainment proclaiming that not807_image_3
only will animosity towards Barry Bonds dissipate over time but, get this, he will actually
be ‘celebrated’ by future marketers.

The TSE folks who ‘….work to lock (yes, lock) athlete and celebrity talent for endorsement and appearances,’ must be injecting and applying some banned substances themselves if they actually believe Bonds’ image can be resuscitated.

TSE President Robert Tuchman predicts: ‘As we move further away from his playing career and the issues at hand he (Bonds) will find himself with a wealth of opportunities to change his image.’ Yeah, right.

There is no way any sane marketer would touch ‘Barroid’ now or in the future. The guy is pure poison and has become the poster child for everything that’s gone wrong in professional sports: drug use, selfish play and boorish behavior, to name just a few.

Bonds is a bad man. Why would any future marketer want his or her brand associated with such a destructive personality?

If Tuchman believes that time heals all wounds and American consumers will one day want to purchase an item because Barry Bonds is shilling for the manufacturer, he’s borderline delusional.

Nor does he know his sports marketing history. Before he proclaims Barroid’s future marketability, Mr. Tuchman might want to check with Pete Rose and OJ Simpson. Unless I’ve missed something, quite a few years have passed since their transgressions and both remain totally untouchable from a marketing standpoint.

Aug 06

Disaster is the crack cocaine of broadcast journalism

As could be predicted, the broadcast media went on a pure feeding frenzy after the horrific Minneapolis bridge collapse. 806_image_3

The disaster was dissected and deconstructed time and time again. Eyewitnesses, experts and anyone else who could walk and chew gum were interviewed and asked what they saw, thought and felt. Sidebar stories showed local bridges that, like the one in Minneapolis, had structural defaults.

Intrepid reporters strapped themselves into crash simulators and walked us through best practices for escaping a submerged vehicle.

I’d list all of the above as sound, responsible journalism. Where the media beast went over the line, though, was in the showing and re-showing of the bridge collapse itself. I wish I had a dollar for every viewing.

Spectacular calamities have become the crack cocaine of TV news coverage. How many times have we seen JFK and Jackie hanging a left-hand turn into Dealey Plaza? Or, how about the Challenger hurtling skyward until it explodes into a thousand pieces? And, of course, the Twin Towers come crashing down each and every time Al Qaeda issues a new warning.

It’s all about the ratings and, sadly, shock sells. So, the media continues to cross the line and show too much negativity too many times. The end result is that, like JFK, the Challenger and the Twin Towers before it, the images of the Minnesota bridge collapsing into the Mississippi River are now seared into our collective memory banks. And, to what end?

Aug 03

…And, please, do NOT get me any Chinese bookmarks this Christmas

Just when you thought you’d heard it all about weird, sub-standard or

downright dangerous products
from that manufacturing colossus of the East, China, comes an offering  that’s totally off-the-wall (and, I’m not referring to the Great Wall, either).

I guess the Chengdu Breeding Base deserves an ‘A’ for creativity but, personally, I’d just flush these product ideas and start over.

Thanks to Greg Schmalz for the idea.