Characters in this sci-fi flick are barraged with virtual display ads as they walk through public places. Six years ago this concept was crazy, like hovering skateboards; seems we’re now a few years away from it actually happening.
Companies will begin targeting you with personalized ads on digital screens, reports The Wall Street Journal. Marketers are tailoring these ads based on your previous purchases and soon based on your appearance. WSJ said Dunkin Donuts is among the first to try the concept.
Forget the creepy, sci-fi aspect of these ads and instead consider the potential embarrassment. One morning you have a bear claw craving. You dash away from the office, buy four and greedily gobble them in a bathroom stall.
Months later you’re at Dunkin’ Donuts with an attractive co-worker and standing before a digital screen an ad appears for six packs of bear claws.
“Ha, ha, that’s weird,” you mumble. “Why would I want six bear claws?” Then, as your stomach rumbles, you order a glass of water.
Now imagine this scenario. You just gobbled six bear claws and your self-esteem is fluttering. Out for a stroll you pass a digital display that creates personalized ads based on your appearance. What pops up? Dog food.
“So your marketers think I look like a dog?” You complain.
“No, no,” a company spokesman says. “You look like a dog owner.”
“Why do I look like a dog owner?” You reply. “Because you think I’m needy?”
I like arugula. It’s my favorite leafy green. A few slices of tomato with balsamic dribbled over it, maybe a sprinkle of pepper, and mmm mmm good.
So why won’t John McCain leave arugula alone?
What did this plant ever do to him, beside tickle Barack Obama’s taste buds? Take this recent example of arugula bashing from McCain staffer Brian Rogers.
“Does a guy [Obama] who worries about the price of arugula and thinks regular people ‘cling’ to guns and religion in the face of economic hardship really want to have a debate about who’s in touch with regular Americans?”
Mr. Rogers, I worry about the price of arugula. What's wrong with that?
So, on behalf of arugula—not Obama—let me do a little pro bono PR work for the brow beaten plant. This isn't about politics; this is about my favorite leafy green getting a bum rap.
Arugula is no elitist; it is a survivor. Although native to Mediterranean areas, the plant is more akin to hard scrabble, pull yourself up by the bootstraps American ideals than almost any other vegetable—potato included.
After more than two thousand years of cultivation, arugula remains a difficult plant to domesticate. That’s right brother, don’t tread on me. But if you do tread on me—often the case with arugula since it grows on dry disturbed ground—there’s little need to worry because this plant is tough.
Also, the average person can easily grow arugula in a backyard garden making it the people’s green plant. However, getting it to seed, and therefore domesticate, is tricky; that means arugula is a plant of the people, but no socialist. It is an individualist.
So to hell with iceberg lettuce. Given all arugula's American traits, it might as well be red, white and blue. In fact, I propose we rename arugula “Patriot Leaves.”
Poor Vanity Fair editorial assistant Bill Bradley. He had to make 10,000 friends by August 5 or he was out of a job.
The go-getter with black-rimmed glasses worked from his gray cubicle as the young mastermind behind a PR campaign to guilt people into joining Vanity Fair’s Facebook page.
Bill tried everything. He even pleaded with sweaty tourists and onlookers in New York’s Times Square for help. Covering his front and back with a sandwich ad board of the latest issue of Vanity Fair with Angelina Jolie, Bill tried to make new friends.
Bill went with the free walking ad campaign as compared to what would be $125,000 to run an ad for eight minutes an hour, 24 hours a day, on the jumbo screen in Times Square. (He did check into it but was in no position to buy.)
But on August 6, the party was over. His editor called him into his office and gave him the boot.
The editor explained he was fired since he didn't make 10,000 fans on Facebook.
Bill pleaded with him, asked for another week but his boss wasn't budging.
Next thing you know, two heavy-set men dressed in dark suits appeared and dragged Bill out of the office.
Enough about China and its public relations. From Newsweek to the Baltimore Sun, China’s PR for the Olympics has been one hot news topic.
There are reporters seemingly obsessed with China’s public relations campaign. The ones covering it must feel awfully proud; they’ve revealed Red China’s insidious PR effort.
Oh the naivety. China and its PR firm of record, Hill & Knowlton, have pulled off the ultimate shell game. These reporters and editors are so interested in covering the nation’s PR that they are stealing attention from the issues that seem to infuriate them so much: China’s human rights abuses, pollution, Olympic ruses.
If you are China, coverage of your public relations campaign is better than images of beaten monks and smoggy skylines. Plus, the Beijing Olympics are as much about Michael Phelps as they are about China’s emergence as a modern nation—and modern nations have PR representation.
So if China and Hill & Knowlton are the clever grifters enticing lost tourists to play the shell game, then the media are the lost tourists certain they have the scheme figured out. And we all know how that turns out—the tourists make everyone dumber, or was that the media?
Olive Garden has a problem worse than its food*—Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend loves the place. Loves, loves, loves it. And that, The Wall Street Journal reports, makes execs at Olive Garden’s parent company and ad agency uncomfortable.
“I don’t feel comfortable talking about this … because it is a complicated issue for the brand,” Michele Kay, executive vice president of WPP Group’s Grey advertising firm, told WSJ. WPP oversees Olive Garden’s ads.
Poor Kendra Wilkinson, Hefner's girlfriend, the beautiful, busty, blue-eyed blonde—and Playboy model—who just wants to show her love for Olive Garden’s artichoke dip, salads and, of course, breadsticks.
Items she calls her “soul food,” WSJ reported.
(I’m going to let that comment hang … momentarily … so you can really soak it in.)
Wilkinson is co-star of the reality show, “The Girls Next Door,” which is about Hefner’s girlfriends. On the show, Wilkinson not only expresses her love for the restaurant but also sent a call to Olive Garden waitresses: Who’s the hottest? The winner gets a spread in Playboy magazine.
That’s a huge celebrity endorsement—for free! I imagine the company behind Steven Seagal’s Lightning Drink pays the actor (for lack of a better word) a fortune for his name. Olive Garden could save a bundle on its B-list, sorry, D-list celebrity endorsements.**
Problem is Olive Garden goes for that family-friendly atmosphere (“When you’re here, you’re family”). Imagine how uncomfortable dad and teenage son will be when the centerfold from that Playboy they unknowingly share is their waitress.
So what is the restaurant chain doing? Not talking about it, WSJ said. They want to maintain the family-friendly vibe without offending Wilkinson.
Apparently this is a problem for brands: what do you do when you don’t want the endorsement? Some political candidates, the biggest brand names of all, have balked at celebrity endorsements.
For instance, Hillary Clinton undoubtedly appreciated OJ Simpson’s primary vote, although she probably wished he’d kept that to himself. When MTV reality star Heidi Montag endorsed John McCain, the candidate probably cringed given his Obama attack ad comparing his Democratic rival to celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears—oh wait, no, McCain has actually welcomed the Montag endorsement. Never mind.
In an interview with WSJ, Pete Blackshaw, of Nielson Online Strategic Services, called these unsolicited endorsements the “double-edged sword of brand advocacy” insisting such a thing is difficult to manage.
While WSJ offers no true solution to this conundrum, it illustrates what Starbucks does: Don’t say anything, good or bad. Whether it’s the Dalai Lama or Vladimir Putin clutching a venti latte and appearing on magazine covers, the company’s policy is to stay mum.
And that, too, is Olive Garden’s approach, where “when you’re here, you’re like the disgraced relative no one wants to talk to.”
*I have no idea if Olive Garden food is good or bad for you and today I’d probably enjoy a meal from the restaurant; however, my college roommate served at the restaurant and after every shift brought home leftover bread sticks. I ate my weight in those delicious treats and one night grew violently ill—no doubt from my own lack of self-restraint—which soiled future experiences at the eatery.
**Just for fun, I searched both Wilkinson and Seagal on MySpace and learned Wilkinson has a whopping 728,646 MySpace friends, while Steven Seagal registers only 8,269 friends. (As a point of reference, Barack Obama has 448,400 MySpace friends.)
The Free Download on MyRagan this week explains why communicators should teach their executives to say, “I don’t know.” But what happens when communicators don’t understand the importance of these magic words?
They do gymnastics with the truth.
Take this recent example. On Aug. 1, news reports said comedian and actor Bernie Mac had been hospitalized for pneumonia. Mac’s publicist, Danica Smith, said the comedian was “responding well to treatments and should be released soon.”
Got it; he’s hospitalized, doing fine, we’ll see him soon.
Two days later, Aug. 3, sources told Chicago newspapers Mac was in “very, very critical condition.” His condition had worsened, the media reported. And Smith’s reaction to the development?
“Absolutely untrue,” she said, calling the reports “horrible rumors” and insisting “nothing has changed.”
Mac and his family deserved privacy and discretion during his final days—no doubt about that, but why did Smith have to fib? Why not tell reporters, “I don’t know the exact extent of Mac’s condition,” or simply, “I can’t comment on those reports.”
Danica Smith is a high-powered Los Angeles-based publicist so maybe she knows better than me—I don’t know.
Edwards, women’s fencing and the best career move in Washington
So it turns out John Edwards did cheat on wife Elizabeth, the brave cancer victim he didn’t mind parading across the country mid-chemo treatment during his run for president.
Seems The National Enquirer, which broke the story last October, should be vindicated and celebrated for its intrepid reporting, but no, the rag took it on the chin by mainstream media outlets. CNN, ABC and others failed to adequately give National Enquirer its due and instead snickered at the grocery store weekly for its suggestion that Edwards actually fathered the child.
And why shouldn’t CNN, ABC and others take him at his word? It’s not like he lied about this before?
I say well-done National Enquirer (makes you wonder what else the paper got right—does Oprah get her weight loss ideas from aliens after all?); mainstream press should congratulate the rag and now concentrate on the real story: did Edwards’ use campaign cash to shut up his mistress, Reille Hunter?
Edwards’ PR plan of attack, from October until now, was deny ‘til you die (Elizabeth, by the way, was complicit in the deceit). A former FOX News staffer, now a Ragan employee, speculated Friday that Edwards appeared on Nightline because a news outlet was readying a bombshell story that would prove his guilt—or perhaps Hunter was taking it public.
I think he wanted to take control of the story; that is some aggressive PR. Go on Nightline, tell the public how much you love your wife and what a terrible mistake it was; then deny the child is yours and that you gave your mistress hush money. The news lead becomes: “John Edwards admitted and apologized to having an affair, but denied fathering a child with his mistress …”
Bam! He seized the story.
Great timing for that announcement, by the way; it coincided with opening ceremonies of the much ballyhooed Olympics. Everyone’s talking about the games, China and who will take home gold. Not to mention Nightline is an ABC program, not NBC—home to the Olympics—the station everyone will watch over the next two weeks. By giving ABC exclusive rights to the story NBC news won’t have a chance to drop its own bomb.
What Edwards had to pray for—and he sure claims he’s praying—is early Olympic gold for the Americans. Get the limping country whooped up about its athletic prowess and come Monday everyone in America is chanting “U-S-A” and not burning effigies of John Edwards.
Sure enough, the women’s fencing team pulled through for Edwards, capturing gold on Saturday. The American weekend breaks with news that … we already won gold! It’s going to be a great two weeks. Maybe, just maybe an influx of gold to the nation will help stabilize the housing market.
Now that’s some deft PR on Edwards' part, although it’s probably too little, too late.
But let’s now forget about Andrew Young, Edwards’ top adviser who claims he fathered the love child. Never mind Young has a wife of his own and, if it’s true, the Edwards campaign is less champion of the common folk and more like the cast of “Swingtown.”
For Young, there's also the 18 years of paternity payments. Makes me think of the Kanye West song, “Gold Digger”: “18 years, 18 years; She got one of yo’ kids, got you for 18 years … 18 years, 18 years; And on her 18th birthday, he found out it wasn’t his.”
If the child isn’t his then Young actually made the best career move anyone in Washington ever has; his peers are green with envy; Capitol Hill interns are taking notes. Young fell on his sword and told the public: “It’s not my boss who fathered this child out of wedlock, but me, I am to blame.”
That’s hara-kiri of the highest (actually lowest) sort. Politicians coast to coast (as well French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian leader Vladimir Putin) were on the phone Saturday morning offering this guy a job.
Despite the last-minute PR trick, Edwards killed his political career; Young pushed his adviser credentials into hyper drive. And the US Olympics fencing team, unbeknownst to them, gave this story its pretty little bow. The whole thing is pure gold.
‘Janet’ fools the Twitter community but does anyone care?
What can a company really do to prevent someone from using social media to blab about them?
Exxon Mobil Corp. isn’t quite sure yet.
A Twitter bio by “Janet” says she’s “taking on the world’s toughest energy challenges” from Irving, Texas. She tweets about Exxon Mobil’s philanthropy, answers questions about company policy and praises the oil giant’s corporate citizenship.
Janet’s latest Tweet: “I am an employee of ExxonMobil, who has decided to put forward her pride in her own company."
But when a reporter asked Exxon Mobil about Janet, a spokesman replied, “that’s not us.”
That’s it? Should there be more? Are they truly unaware if their employees are using Twitter?
Maybe Exxon Mobil doesn’t know how and if their workers use social media, but this goes to show it should. What if Janet wasn’t offering glowing comments about the company, but spreading inaccurracies? They probably won’t admit it, but I bet the communication team is closely following this so-called Janet person.
Communications consultant Shel Holtz offered up some free analysis on his blog.
When the Exxon Valdez issue hit Twitter, Janet responded that the oil spill didn’t rank high in such incidents.
“Clearly, Janet has had no communication training, since that response would provoke anger and hostility,” Holtz wrote.
Meanwhile, Twitter gets free PR and waits for Exxon Mobil to act.
“Exxon can contact Twitter if they believe that there is a case of impersonation, and we will review the account,” Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, told the Houston Chronicle.
So who is this Janet and what should the oil giant do about her? (If she’s really a she).
Tell us how you manage unrealistic expectations, meet reporter needs, churn out news when there is none, deal with a client you can't stand, and what you say to people that slam PR. Or anything else that's on your mind.