Jul 15

Jobs tonight. Earth tomorrow.

Today's guest post is by Ann Barlow, President, Peppercom West & Director, GreenPepper.

We need jobs now and we need the earth later.  Why can’t the two go together? 
Broc_obama_2

According to an Economix blog earlier this week, green jobs, even with the spotty help they’ve gotten from government and private investment, are growing at 2½ times the rate of the rest of the jobs out there.  With the dire need for jobs and a job-led economic recovery, isn’t this something to build on?  God knows, we have a ton of work to do to become as energy efficient as Europe and even China at this point.  And renewable energy must be integrated into our existing infrastructure if we are to rely on something more advanced than burning the liquid and the rocks we dig out of the ground.  So why in the world can’t we address these two huge needs through one comprehensive, government-led program that will provide tens of thousands of jobs now while building for our future?

Oh, I can hear all of you ‘big government is our enemy’ folks yelling now, “That’s all we need! Another government project funded by the taxpayers!”  You’re not wrong; a wasteful, poorly managed program is the last thing we need.  But look at what can be done when the power of this nation’s government is wielded, power that is supported by a public that puts everyone’s needs ahead of their own personal ones.  Bridges and dams and parks and roads get built.  Power sources and grids.  Think of all of the people who were able to feed, clothe and house their families thanks to FDR’s New Deal, and the legacy they left for generations to come.

I hope this President, who came to power with so much promise for taking on the big problems, can seize this moment, becoming the Architect in Chief of a program that will relieve the suffering felt by so many millions right now while preserving the planet for their descendants. 

Jul 14

A different type of pitch for this PR guy

Pictures 060 Thanks to freelance publicist extraordinaire Greg Schmalz, this blogger had the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at last Friday night's Lakewood BlueClaws game.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but to a guy who grew up loving all things baseball, it was huge. I'd even call it a bucket list kind of thing.

It was unbelievably cool to take the mound in front of 7,200 fans (most of whom had naturally turned out to see the heralded RepMan's pitching debut). And, I need to thank Tommy Powers, the David Clyde of credit unions, for warming me up prior to my big moment.

Once given the ball, I'm pleased to report that I grooved a high, hard one right down Broadway and smack into the catcher's mitt. In fact, I think I spied a feint puff of dust explode from his mitt as a result of the ball's impact. And, like a crack addict, once I'd thrown one pitch, I needed to throw more. Lots more. I was ready to toss seven or eight strong innings had the BlueClaws felt the need to call upon the skills of a crafty, veteran lefty. Alas, no such summons was forthcoming and I dutifully returned to my seat in the stands.

Now that I've thrown out the first pitch in a professional baseball game, I need to move on to new, and even cooler, challenges. Maybe Sir Paul McCartney needs a stand-up comedian to open for him on his next tour? Maybe not.

Jul 13

My Best Friend

If someone had told me 25 years ago that Chris RepMan, Jr., Cody would one day be my best friend,
Kilimanjaro 015 I’d have asked for an ounce of whatever he was smoking. But, I’m thrilled to say that Chris is, indeed, my best friend. I share this personal tidbit because it flies in the face of a highly controversial New York Magazine cover story entitled, “I Love My Child. I Hate My life”.

The article, which is based on mind-numbingly extensive research, says becoming a parent doesn’t make one happier. In fact, it makes people sadder and undermines relationships. Experts quoted in the text say the findings “…expose the gulf between our fantasies about family and its spiking realities.” Holy counter-intuitive!

The article tracks a parent’s happiness from childbirth on and shows that it’s extremely low in the first few years of an offspring’s life (thanks to zero sleep), peaks when the child is between six and 12, and then tails off big time during the teens (no surprise, there). But, get this: the more children one has, the less happy one becomes (so much for twins). And the richer the parents, the greater their misery. Holy lose-lose!

And, talk about a relationship buzz kill. The cover story says parents spend less than 10 percent of their time ‘alone’ and that 10 percent is typically spent “exhausted and staring at a TV set.” Sound familiar? If one needed a coup de grace to the entire ‘parenting is what life is all about’ argument, check this out: 40 percent of all arguments between spouses are about their kids. Game. Set. Match.

So much for the image and reputation of becoming a parent. But, here’s the real kick in the head. Single people surveyed near the end of their lives always list ‘not having a family’ as one of their biggest regrets. So, it’s a classic damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

As for this blogger, I’m thrilled with my kids and very proud of them. Has raising kids adversely impacted my marriage? Probably. We still argue about them all the time. But, I know I speak for Angie when I say we wouldn’t have passed up parenthood for the world. And, how many dads can say their son also happens to be their best friend? That’s my bottom line. What’s your POV?

Jul 12

Was Isaac H. Brown the George Washington of PR?

Depending upon who you ask, Edward Bernays or Ivy Lee is typically credited as having
11brown-cityroom-articleInline 'invented' modern public relations.

But, if one agrees that the average American believes PR is little more than party planning (and PR Week lends that ersatz supposition credibility by naming Kelly Cutrone to its list of PR's 25 most powerful people), then Isaac H. Brown should be seen as our industry's George Washington.

A fascinating New York Times article says the 339-pound Brown was the original Manhattan party planner. In fact, from 1845 until his death in 1880, Brown was the go-to guy for New York's monied class. He'd plan the most minute details of weddings, parties and must-attend events. A chronicler of the era lauded Brown's “…efficiency and authoritative manner.” I wonder if he screamed at his lackeys and played head games with them a la Ms. Cutrone?

Like Ms. Cutrone and her badly abused minions, Brown knew “…just the right merchants from whom tables, chairs and appropriate linen could be rented.” Man, would the housewives of New York and New Jersey not kill for a party planner like the I-Man?

If we are willing to abdicate the image and reputation of PR to party planners, why not go all the way and create an Isaac H. Brown Society (a la The Arthur Page Society, which honors the legacy of America's first corporate communications executive to serve as officer and member of the Board of a major public corporation.) The Brown Society should be highly selective in its membership criteria, choosing only those party planners who have rammed their Mercedes SUVs into Long Island restaurants, besmirched the image of public relations in a long-running television and movie series (think “Sex and the City”) or publicly berated underperforming employees a la Ms. Cutrone. I'd also limit membership to party planners of 25 years of age, or under (Ms. Cutrone and her ilk would be 'grandfathered' into the Society and be named permanent members of the executive committee). The female gender would constitute 90 percent of the Brown Society's membership. Poor behavior would be encouraged at the annual spring conference and backbiting encouraged throughout the year.

Based upon party planning's meteoric rise, I could see the Isaac H. Brown Society becoming our dominant industry organization. There really would be no need for Page, PRSA, the Counselors Academy or IAB since more and more high school and college students aspire to “…do, like, cool parties and like, um, check in celebrities at black tie events and, um, yeah, cool stuff like that. And, wear, like uber cool clothes and stuff.”

Wherever he is, I'll bet Isaac H. Brown is laughing a hearty, 339-lb belly laugh. Manhattan's original party planner was way, way, way head of his time. And, how sad is that for him, for today's party planners and, for the declining fortunes of PR's overall image and reputation?

Jul 09

Tat’s all, folks!

Is it just me, or is there an ever-increasing percentage of people sporting tattoos? Is there also  
Bibby2
a  simultaneous increase in the percentage of available skin being devoted to tats? I sure think so.

I believe I reached the tat’s tipping point this past Sunday when I spied one on the calf muscle of my good friend and cycling partner, Greg Drury (publisher of The Holmes Report). Justifiably proud of having completed six triathlons, Greg’s right calf is now adorned with a bright red ‘tri’ logo. Man, I thought, if ‘they’ got Greg Drury to sport a tat, they’ve got everyone. Don’t ask me who they are, but they’ve won nonetheless.

I’m not a big fan of tats. I especially hate the over-the-top tats that seem to run amok on the torsos of NFL and NBA players. Some players have their kids’ names tattooed on their biceps. That’s cute. Others feature verses from the Bible (hoping, perhaps, that God will let them make that three-point shot at the buzzer?). And, some have those Japanese and Chinese letters on them. They look very cool, but what’s the point if no one understands what they say or mean?

If I were going to sacrifice my skin permanently, I think I’d charge money for it. In fact, if the price were right, I’d consider adorning my calves, biceps and triceps with any number of hip, but environmentally-sensitive, sponsor logos. I like Mammoth outdoor gear, so that would be one. I wear Saucony running shoes, so their logo would make the cut. And, I’d also want the world to know I’m a man of discerning tastes, so I’d go with a Zegna or Armani icon on, say, my wrist.

Tats are a personal image and reputation statement. But, I’m not sure exactly what statement is being made. Is a tattoo nothing more than a plaintiff cry for attention? Is it a must-have fashion accessory that, unlike a watch, can’t be taken off every night? Or, is it a peer pressure kind of thing? (i.e. “If Lindsay and Heather have tats on their shoulders, then I have to have one on mine. So there.”).

All this tat thinking has me thinking. If it were trendy at the time, would Lincoln have had a tat? My guess is he’d have gone with the opening line of the Gettysburg Address and put it on one of his biceps. The rail splitter had to have been cut. I’ll bet Napoleon would have had multiple tats. He did have a Napoleonic complex, after all. And, my guess is Winston Churchill would have had that big, fat cigar permanently tattooed on his neck.

If and when I do decide to follow Greg Drury’s lead and get a tattoo, I know what it will be and where it will go: it’ll be the Peppercom logo and it’ll be right smack on the small of my back. And, yes, it will be a plaintive cry for attention. Tat’s all, folks.

Jul 08

Motown’s macho man

Imagine picking up a newspaper or turning on the tube to learn your significant other has fallen
4fcaa6ba3e21 in love with someone else. Well, that's figuratively what happened to Greg Anderson, CEO of ad agency BBH, who read his agency had been fired by Cadillac in Advertising Age! No warning by the client. No note thanking the firm for its work. Nothing. Talk about being blindsided. To make matters worse, the exact same fate befell Susan Gianinno, CEO of Publicis, a month earlier.

Both had fallen victim to Motown's new macho man, Joel Ewanick, the VP of U.S. Advertising for General Motors. Ewanick has been in his job for exactly two months. In just 60 days, he's destroyed his own image, further tarnished GM's already tattered reputation and decimated two fine ad agencies. Now, there's something to tell the grandchildren one day (“Curl up on grandpa's lap and let me tell you about the time I whacked two hot shot ad agencies in less than 30 days. You kids will just love it!”).

Prior to GM, Ewanick had toiled for Nissan, Hyundai and a
yacht maker. Something tells his internal ethics compass went awry on board one
of those yachts.

Kudos to Ad Age for once again providing a valuable reader service by outing such horrific behavior. I wish our PR trades would follow suit. Trust me, Ewanick is not unique (and, try saying that three times fast).

If I were the Motown macho man's new agencies, though, I'd be sure the invoices were paid promptly. This guy put the 'v' in volatile.

We've been 'Ewanicked' a few times in our storied history, but it was never as sinister as this. We once pitched the division of a Fortune 500 company, for example, and were told a decision would be forthcoming shortly. Naturally, that was followed by complete radio silence. Then, sure enough, O'Dwyer's printed an article announcing the corporation's new agency of record. I was upset, so I e-mailed the prospect. He responded a few days later saying he thought he'd sent a letter to the losers. Nice. No apology. No explanation. Nothing. Just lots of wasted time and effort on our part and yet another misbehaving prospect not held accountable.

If there's a god (and one wonders nowadays), Ewanick will get his just desserts one day soon. Ideally, he'll wake up in his Grosse Point Farms estate, shuffle to the front door, pick up a copy of Automotive News and read the following, 'Ewanick Sacked. Smith to Head GM's Advertising.' I'll bet a lot of BBH and Publicis staffers would lift a glass of champagne to toast that decision.

Jul 07

If not us, who? If not now, when?

Two recent blogs on the subject of the ad industry awards event at Cannes both missed the
2010 Cannes Logo mark for different reasons.

The first, authored by Paul Taaffe, chairman and CEO of Hill and Knowlton (my alma mater) is a cautionary tale. In it, he laments the PR industry's poor showing in the recent competition. Taaffe worries that, if PR doesn't do a better job of putting our collective best foot forward, we'll lose future opportunities to the more creative and dramatic advertising types.
That's a flawed POV for a number of reasons. First, Paul forgets that ALL ad agency creative directors are frustrated Steven Spielberg wannabes. They create campaigns to win awards, not to sell products (which is one of the reasons why advertising finds itself in such a sorry state, BTW). Second, advertising has been operating in a 'video' medium for years so, naturally, their submissions would run rings around the typical three-ring binder we enter in a Silver Anvil competition. Third, who cares who wins the most awards? Clients want firms who can solve business problems, not win awards.

Paul Holmes weighed in on the Cannes competition as well but, predictably, had a different suggestion. Rather than sweat how many awards we don't win, Holmes suggests the PR industry needs yet another awards program (one that, presumably, would match the glitz and rock star quality of Cannes).

What we don't need right now is yet another awards program, especially when a double dip might be in the offing. Nor does PR need to prove itself the equal of advertising. We've already won that battle.

Instead, organizers of awards programs should focus on making them more equitable. Right now, every competition charges a fixed entry fee. That's wrong. It immediately skews the competition. It enables large agencies with big marketing budgets to submit scores and scores of entries. I recently judged a single category that contained 70 entries. No fewer than 20 were from Weber Shandwick. When I complained, I was asked to excuse myself from the judging.

Instead of fretting about besting our advertising brethren or convening yet another high-profile, high cost awards shindig we should, instead, be leveling the playing field. I'd like to see the two Pauls and their peers at the largest agencies and PR media properties put their heads together and figure out a tiered pricing solution for awards programs. Sure, Ketchum may not win another 117 Silver Anvils (which it proudly proclaims is more than any other PR firm in an ad), but wouldn't it be great to see lots more entries from small, emerging contenders?

It's high time our industry's power brokers paid attention to a real inequity. As Paul Holmes asks at the end of his blog, "If not us, who? If not now, when?”

Jul 06

There are morons. Then there are cigarette smokers.

Thomas Jefferson’s words notwithstanding, all men (and women) are not created equal. Some
No-smoking-ad are gifted athletes. Others are Nobel Prize winners. Most, though, while away their lives staring vacantly at reality TV shows. I’d place cigarette smokers in the latter group. Can there be a more clueless and moronic class of human beings than cigarette smokers? Not only are they knowingly destroying their health, they’re paying huge amounts of money to do so.

I’d leave smokers to their inevitable plight if it weren’t for a new survey I happened across in a recent Daily Dog. It shows that one-third of smokers surveyed by GlaxoSmithKline misunderstand the health impact of ‘light’ or ‘mild’ cigarettes. Almost half (44 percent) say they typically smoke light or ultra light cigarettes, with one-quarter of these nincompoops saying they do so because they mistakenly believe light cigarettes are less harmful and easier to quit than regular cigarettes. Oh baby. And, I thought that two-year-old, chain-smoking Indonesian kid was clueless. He doesn’t hold a candle (or, lighted match for that matter) to American smokers.

The GSK survey was timed to coincide with the government’s intention to ban such words as light, low and mild on all cigarette packaging. Well, there’s a few more million dollars down the tube. The warning won’t matter. Smokers are too dumb to get it.

I wonder if the same morons who believe the words mild or light indicate a less toxic cigarette would accept similar adjectives if placed in front of other known killers. To wit:

1.)    Al Qaeda Light (“Honey, I’ve just been recruited by a real sweetheart of a guy named Osama. Even smokes light cigarettes.”)
2.)    A new, mild 9mm from Glock (“They say they’re safer, babe. They use softer, lighter bullets!”)
3.)    Low tar BP oil (“Surf’s up, hon. Let’s do some snorkeling in Gulfport!”)
4.)    Iran Light (“So what if they start building nuclear weapons? They’ll be nuke lights.”)
5.)    Wall Street Light (“Those AIG guys are 100 percent honest. They earned every nickel. So what if it was our nickel?”)

Maybe if we just referred to the Great Recession as ‘light’ smokers would happily puff away believing their life savings haven’t gone up in smoke? Might smokers also dismiss the Catholic Church hullabaloo as much ado about nothing if the Vatican started positioning the pedophilia cases as ‘mild’?

According to the same survey, smokers also think cigarettes are safer if they’re contained in light colored packaging! Maybe the Taliban should change from black-hooded robes to teal instead? I’d have to believe the Bloods and Crips could start recruiting smokers to their ranks if they began marketing a kinder, gentler line of gang clothing. Perhaps mocha and lime? And, if those Montclair-based Russian spies were really diabolical, they would have sought out American smokers within the intelligence community, donned light-colored clothing and asked for some mild intelligence and light secrets.

I ask you: is there anyone dumber than a smoker?

Jul 02

What’s become of doing well by doing good?


July 2
What’s
more important, preventing brain cancer or selling more cell phones? You’d
think the answer is obvious, but not so for the telecommunications industry.
Allow me to explain.

A
recent Swedish study that followed young people who began using cell phones as
teenagers reported a whopping 400 percent increase in brain tumors! That
disturbing report, along with similar ones, has prompted San Francisco to become
the first city in America to pass legislation making cell phone retailers
display
radiation levels. That’s a biggie. Now, every Bay-area consumer will be able to
see how much radiation his or her cell phone emits
before making the
purchase. And, that does not sit well with telecommunications types.

According
to a Maureen Dowd column, different cell phone models emit anywhere from
0.2 watts per kilogram of body tissue to 1.6, which is the legal limit. That
may not seem like much, but consider this. Have you noticed how our nation’s
kids have their cell phones positively glued to their ears all day long? As a
result, they’re constantly bombarding their brains with radiation. In fact,
when one considers how many hours our nation’s kids collectively use their cell
phones each day, one can appreciate why the S.F. board acted the way it did.

Unless,
of course, one works for the telecommunications trade group, the CTIA.

Not
wanting to be painted as yet another big, uncaring industry a la Wall Street,
oil or tobacco, the CTIA warned San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom they’d invoke
‘the nuclear option’ and come down on him and his city ‘like a ton of bricks’
if the legislation were passed.  How? Months before the bill passed,
Newsom says he received a disturbing letter forwarded by the local Marriott
hotel that had been selected to host the CTIA convention in October. In the
note, the CTIA warned Marriott they would cancel the event if the legislation
was passed. Nice. They also told Marriott that they’d been in contact with
Apple, Cisco, Oracle and other big, SF-area companies who are involved with the
trade group, and urged them to yank their events from San Francisco as well.
Yikes! Since when did telecommunications companies start acting like the Mafia?

Sure
enough, once the legislation was passed, the CTIA said it would relocate all
future exhibitions to another venue. In one fell swoop, the City by the Bay
lost an event that annually attracted 68,000 exhibitors and attendees and generated
$80 million in business. Talk about
not doing good in order to do well.

The
big loser isn’t San Francisco, it’s America’s youth. The telecommunications
industry doesn’t want Americans to know about the radiation levels in its cell
phones, so it’s punishing anyone who tries to raise a caution flag.

I’m
amazed the CTIA’s heavy-handed scare tactics haven’t generated more adverse
publicity. To say their Tony Soprano-like strong-arming reflects poorly on the trade
group (and its member companies) is like saying the pedophilia scandals have
negatively impacted the Church’s reputation. It’s a no-brainer (sorry). So, how
come no one is speaking up and condemning the action?

Is
it just me or is big business becoming ever more ruthless in putting profits
before ethics. I just hope our kids’ addiction to cell phones doesn’t produce a
simultaneous rise in brain cancer. If it does, though, watch for the CTIA to
turn to the Big Tobacco play book for best practices in delaying, denying and
obfuscating. The industry has deep pockets and will spend what it must to
protect its profit margins. And, as the San Francisco fracas shows, the
industry is willing to hurt anyone who dares get in the way of profits.

What’s
become of doing good by doing well?

Jul 01

Where are they now?


July 1
It
was 31 years ago today that Sony introduced the once-ubiquitous Walkman. I have
a personal connection to that launch since I worked for the public relations
firm that helped make the product a true cultural phenomenon (note: I was only
eight years old at the time. This was before child labor laws had been
enacted).

Geltzer
& Company devised the P.R. strategy and tactics for the Walkman campaign.
Our overarching theme was simple, but memorable: 'Hearing is believing.'

Howard
Geltzer made sure we held massive press conferences in major markets (and, in
those days, one could attract 75 or more reporters to a seminal event like the
Walkman's intro). Howard made sure, though, that these events weren't your
typical, boring technology demonstrations. Instead, he persuaded Sony
executives to bring 75 Walkman prototypes to the event. We handed them out to
reporters as they arrived. Then, on cue, we asked them to place the headphones
over their ears, press play and just listen. The broad smiles, looks of
astonishment and rapid scribbling of words on reporters' notepads told us we
had a hit. And, the Walkman really was, as the Japanese executives liked to
say, 'epoch-making.'

Howard
also made sure we distributed Walkmen to every art director at major
advertising agencies, suggesting they use it as a prop in their photospreads.
That was genius. Suddenly, models such as Christie Brinkley and Brooke Shield
(she was older than me at the time, btw) were strutting their stuff sporting a
Walkman.

Howard
really hit a home run, though, when New York was crippled by a major subway strike.
He positioned us account types on either end of the Brooklyn Bridge. We handed
out the Walkman product to tired, angry and frustrated commuters who were
walking to and from work, suggesting they listen to their favorite music as
they crossed the legendary bridge. Oh, and he had us pitch all the local and
national media about Sony's 'selfless' gesture to help ease the pain of
stranded commuters.

It
worked like a charm.

I
was part of a team that helped make the Sony Walkman a true cultural happening.
We even had the Walkman placed on permanent display in the Smithsonian.

Sadly,
Sony somehow took its eye off the ball and never really advanced the Sony
Walkman platform. Instead, a guy named Jobs running a company called Apple came
up with something called the iPod. And, that was all she wrote for the Walkman.

Whenever
I think of the Walkman, I think of Geltzer, and the amazing people who worked
there. What a training ground! It spawned the likes of:


Chris Atkins, head of Standard & Poors corporate communications


Gaye Torrance, who has run her own very successful IR/M&A firm for years


Richard Jones, head of PR at Guardian Life Insurance


Marv Gellman, one of Ketchum's top publicity gurus


Pat Lamb, a top publicist who has been ably serving Sony's hated rival,
Panasonic, for years


Alec Shapiro who, ironically, is now a top muckety muck at Sony


Lorraine Raguseo who, sources tell me, now consults to New York State wineries.
Talk about a sweet job.


Angela Cody, who reported to me on the Sony account at Geltzer and to whom I've
been reporting ever since

The
Walkman may have faded into oblivion, but the Geltzer/Sony team remains one of
the best with whom I've ever had the pleasure to work.

With
the Walkman, hearing was indeed believing. And, at Geltzer, doing was learning.
I arrived as a green-as-grass account executive and departed as a battle-tested
vice president ready to take on new challenges. Looking back, I couldn't
imagine a better training academy for public relations professionals.