Thursday, September 13

Resurrecting Porcupines: New Balance


With so many restrictions being floated around about social media, including who can blog and under what conditions and with what support, is it any wonder some spokes figures are making a comeback in social media? They are more manageable than CEOs, less accountable, and in some cases (but not all cases) are fun and entertaining.

Originally I was going to write about a spokes figure we helped develop, but then I came across JD. JD is a porcupine who gets a second lease on life after a driver resurrects him using the positive energy found in New Balance shoes.

An Ontario native living in Massachusetts, JD’s MySpace page has all the vitals, including the :30 second back story, his own song, and about 163 friends. If that and his “chipper” attitude aren’t enough to make you feel good, pop over to the interactive Web site, play around with the signage, and enter the enter the balloon-popping contest to win a Jeep, sports equipment, and cash.

JD and the campaign is the brainchild of Almighty that aims at influencing culture. You can find out more about the creators at Ad-titude.com. Like many very creative ideas in advertising, we’re not sure if the ads translated into shoe sales.

That question will best be answered if JD has three lives instead of two. New Balance has named five finalists in an ad agency search that includes Arnold, BBDO, BBH, Cramer-Krasselt, and Element 79 to oversee the $15-20 million ad budget of New Balance. The Almighty could easily retain JD’s piece ... or not.

For the sake of feel good social media, we hope JD survives — even if one of the new shops creates a campaign that aims to bring us back to reality. The concept of the spots, by the way, is linked to NB Zip’s “high performance cushioning technology.” Yeah, okay, sure, the defibrillator shoe soles idea was a bit of a stretch in terms of connecting the dots, but we still like many of the campaign elements that came out of that idea.

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Wednesday, September 12

Spotting Convergence: Procter & Gamble


When I began writing that company-driven digital media was an emerging trend to watch with tangible income marketing potential, some people weren’t too keen on the idea.

Two days ago, Brian Steinberg with Advertising Age reported that Procter & Gamble (P&G) is in the early stages of producing a pilot focused on sketch comedy and the travails of the comics who devise it, which it hopes can become a primetime reality series for broadcast or cable. While this doesn’t connect all the dots between Internet-based digital media programming and traditional broadcast television, it does raise interesting questions around the concept well beyond the Cavemen.

"If it's not entertaining, then it's not going to engage, and if it doesn't, then it's a failure," said Peter Tortorici, president of WPP Group's Group M Entertainment. "Consumers aren't looking to be entertained by brands. They are looking to be entertained by characters and stories."

Tortorici is right. Under the existing model, advertisers rely on networks to develop and nurture entertaining shows to capture an audience. Then, assuming the measures are right, they buy time around those shows. However, most people agree that the old model is broken.

"The market is so fragmented, and because you have DVRs out there, we know that people are fast-forwarding through the commercials,” contributed Pat Gentile, head of P&G Productions, to the article. “If you can create something that is interesting and that resonates with the consumer, for Procter & Gamble, that's a pretty big deal."

It is a very big deal. P&G is among the biggest spenders on network television despite steadily shifting away from television advertising since 2005. Considering P&G currently commands an advertising budget of $6.7 billion, producing its own pilot it seems like a modest investment.

Some might say it’s almost a necessity. Even Fortune’s Geoff Colvin framed up his question to P&G’s James Stengel this way: Fortune’s Geoff Colvin: “Now that mass media is losing its dominance, what's the new model?”

“It's about understanding these consumers in a complete way. Our research has changed a lot. We do much more immersion research, much more anthropological research. We really try to get at what we can do through our brands to make a difference in people's lives,” Stengel said.

Although P&G is developing a pilot for broadcast or cable this time, we would not be surprised to see even more immersive experimentation in digital media, which provides better tracking through analytics and an ability to nurture niche markets. (We can think of hundreds of programs that P&G could develop to engage audiences on the Internet.) As Steinberg pointed out in his well-written article, P&G already has precedents.

Hmmm … suddenly, company-produced programs doesn’t seem so silly anymore. And while I am not suggesting that company-produced programming will or should completely replace broadcast penetration, it does make a lot of sense to consider programming as a viable part of the marketing mix.

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Tuesday, September 11

Thinning The Workforce: Those People


With increasing fervor, some bloggers are thinning America’s workforce into desirables and undesirables. Who’s undesirable?

Those people, of course.

“Those people” are people with kids, according to Penelope Trunk. When she shared ten tips on how to start a business, she wrote “In general, when I have started companies, I tried not to hire people with kids because they are less able to jump for investors, more torn between where their head and heart are at any given time, and anyway, today’s parents generally do not work insanely long hours.”

She defends her statement here, a contrast that doesn’t appear on her own blog. But “those people” are not only people with kids. Fat women have to go too.

“One thing I learned is that fat women don't have a lot of empathy and defendants usually try to strike those jurors,” Trunk said as quoted by David Maister, who defended her statement by surmising she was not advocating anything (Maister, she advocates all the time) before pointing out the obvious.

Some companies are hiring people based on looks, which means “those people” may as well include anyone who is less attractive. Playing the appearance game isn’t always as easy as that. Stephanie Bivona wrote about a talk show conversation she heard on the radio, where one caller “even said she ‘uglied’ herself, just so she could be taken seriously.”

So, as crazy as it sounds, let’s toss the “overly attractive people” into the mix of “those people” too. And, based on the comments alone in another Trunk post, men, because they cannot handle assertive women as several Trunk readers pointed out. Especially those who choose to stay at home. And women. And Hispanic people. And black people. And white people. And conservatives. And liberals. And reglious people. And atheists. And those of differing sexual orientation. And Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.

Those people.

Sometimes I wonder — as each group based on race, gender, lifestyle preference, and appearance all try to outdo one another as the bigger victim — if we’ve learned anything.

In the 1930s and 40s, Nazis, originally under the banner of being discriminated against, also armed themselves with statistical information. It’s not hard to do. “Those people” also veiled their words as simple observations and personal experiences like Trunk and now Maureen Sharib, who wrote: “Speaking as one small voice, I can tell you this, I have run a company and I have experienced the mind sets of those with kids and those without.”

To all of it, I say gumballs. Give someone a statistical study and they can vilify or victimize any group you want to pool together, even if it is based on something as ridiculous as blood type.

Discrimination in our country not only exists, but it is much more pervasive than we like to admit. Anymore, the truth is that “those people,” the victims, have become each and every one of us.

If we are ever going to break away from this apparent need to label each other, it will take a general willingness for individuals to make the decision not to discriminate based upon whatever divisive characteristics people dream up. As Geoff Livingston said in an unrelated but pointed post, maybe we all need to lighten up.

Not just in this country. Americans aren’t alone in labeling people. It is a Korean problem, an Australian problem, and a Nigerian problem. It is a human problem.

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Monday, September 10

Acting Responsibly: Crime Bloggers


Communication remains one of the most powerful but underutilized tools for any business, organization, or community. And while most have remained slow to embrace it, I anticipate some sweeping changes as more best practices and fewer abuses receive public attention.

Just one story that caught my attention last week demonstrates the positive power of communication, community, and social media in a very profound and personal way. Joy Roy, who maintains Southern Sass on Crime, Robert Bush, who publishes American Proud, Warriors for Innocence, Perverted Justice, and others have all played a role in tracking Jack McClellan, a self-labeled pedophile who has avoided prosecution to date.

McClellan originally came to the attention of authorities because of the Portland-based organization Perverted Justice. According to the Los Angeles Times, the group began monitoring McClellan because he had created a Web site on which he posted photographs of children in public places and discussed the best local places to watch little girls.

While the Web site was eventually shut down by his provider, McClellan still managed to publish his information for months, placing information in the hands of those who might abduct children even if McClellan himself never intended to. After being exposed and ordered to stay away from minors, McClellan decided to leave his last state of residence because, he said, “I can’t live here under Orwellian protocol.”

Since he has never been charged as a sex offender, he does not have to register with the authorities, leaving it up to private citizens to take matters into their own hands. What McClellan doesn’t realize is that what he did might even be worse than committing a direct crime against children: his original Web site and subsequent actions make it easier for criminals who are more likely to take action against young women and minors.

This is a growing problem that requires immediate attention. It is also one that I am increasingly sensitive to given our Las Vegas headquarters, where stories of missing persons and human trafficking is becoming all too common. One immediately comes to mind: Glendene Grant’s daughter went missing from her home in Las Vegas in March 2006 after living in the city for about 10 months. (You can read the story here).

Better use of social media might have made a difference in this case (and it is still not too late) if citizens and authorities begin to develop dedicated social media applications across the country, funded or supported by social networks and other technology providers. While some steps in this direction have been taken, much more work needs to be done.

Specifically, notifications of missing children and missing people need to be actively promoted beyond missing persons. Recently Missing Children is one example of what can be done They have a national widget that is a step in the right direction, but more state-by-state public-private widgets need to be developed (we’re adding Wayne Wirs’ Recenty Missing Children widget to our community service blog and space for Ad Council public service campaigns soon).

For additional information about missing persons in Nevada, please visit PINow.com. From there, you can access information for other states.

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Sunday, September 9

Writing Fan Fiction: Myles McNutt


On August 31, we announced the winners of an unofficial Expanded Universe Short Story Competition fan fiction contest to promote Jericho for the fans, expand its universe (outside of the town where it largely takes place on television), and demonstrate the possibilities of its rich story line. Today, we’re proud to present the work of Myles McNutt, who also writes about television on his blog Cultural Learnings. We hope you enjoy the story that takes the show's universe far forward. And congratulations to Myles McNutt!

Dear Journal by Myles McNutt

Dear Journal,

People tend to exaggerate things when they talk in the post-bomb era. They don't have statistics or facts; it is commonplace to hear people throwing around statements like "everyone's lives are more difficult because of the bombs."

I stand an exception to this statement, a constant reminder that blanket statements are still a faux pas, even in our new nation. In all honesty, my life was easier in the wake of the attacks. Business was better than ever, in fact.

A world traumatized with fear is a psychiatrist's dream come true.

I won't deny being opportunistic after the bombs dropped. Before I had always approached my job with the greatest of care, treating each patient with my utmost attention. However, I was lured in by the curvy temptress of “opportunity,” who provides a bright, bountiful, and selfish future in this time of great turmoil.

Hundreds of patients walked into my office suffering from fear and anxiety. Before, I had to dig deep to find the root of their issue. Now, I listened to their concerns, nodded my head, and informed them that I thought their problems stemmed from the bombs. It was always the bombs.

Off they would go with a prescription that might never be filled, thanks to the government’s tight control of the drug supplies. I sat back with my cheques and wondered whether I was being honest with myself.

It was when I sent poor Ms. Gillis back off into the streets of the Big Apple with her worthless prescription, knowing full well I did little to earn the $500 sitting in front me, that I heard a noise.

"Excuse me, Dr. Forest?"

The voice at the door startled me. Her silhouette was tall and curvy. I swallowed.

"That's my name," I said in the disinterested voice I didn't have before the bombs. "You here for an appointment? There's a long waiting list, I'm sure that my reception…"

"I've already spoken to your receptionist, she said you'd be free," the woman informed me as she stepped further into the room. Electricity being at a premium, the lighting is always dim. I could make out her long brown hair and business suit. She didn't look or sound as if she was damaged goods.

"Well, I guess I could see a patient during my lunch…"

"Actually," she interrupted again, "I'm not a patient. My name is Keri Thorne and I represent an agency doing work in the … relief effort. We were wondering if you would like to assist us with a project."

I was intrigued: I had heard of some psychiatrists going out with relief teams to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, but I had never been approached.

"What kind of project? I have appointments booked for a month or so, but I can head out into the field at the end of…"

"Actually," Thorne said with a bit of an impatient tone, "We don't do field work."

"Oh. Well then…"

I was too perplexed to guess at just what she did, but too nervous to ask. She was standing dangerously close to my desk.

"We work with those individuals who are getting in the way of the relief effort, if you will."

I still didn't know what she was talking about, so I simply nodded and she continued.

"It has come to the point where communities that once fought one another are turning their eyes toward the government's actions or, as it may be, their inactions," she said. "And so, we need to keep them from becoming a problem."

"So, why do you need a psychiatrist?" I managed to spit, the question burning in my mind.

"We're having some troubles in rural areas and some of the radicals are becoming more difficult to deal with. They are fiercely led, and those that we are capturing are … anxious, if you will."

I could have sworn she winked at me when she said it.

"Um, so, what do you need me for? If you're working for the government, which I think you are, surely you have access to…"

"Oh yes, Dr. Forest, we have all the tools we need to keep the situation under control," she said. "We just need to make it seem more, you know … official. Having a doctor present would make all the difference in, well, closing their prying eyes."

I finally understood what they were asking. They wanted me to be the doctor who gave them permission to destroy the minds of the people fighting for their communities, their livelihood. I swallowed loudly, again, and I think she noticed.

"I'm sorry," I said slowly as a shiver came over my body, "But I won't be able to do it. I, well…"

"I'm disappointed, Dr. Forest. From what your receptionist said, you've been willing to take advantage of these people before. I figured that serving your country might be…"

"You call that serving your country?!"

I was shocked by my own outburst, but Thorne simply frowned and started walking toward the door.

"Dr. Forest, this conversation never happened. Someone else, someone luckier than yourself, will benefit from our new future," she said, walking out the door. I never saw her again.

The next day my medical license was revoked and I learned that my colleague a few streets down had resigned from his practice and headed west with the government. I lost my job and my livelihood in that moment. But I regained something greater — my conscience.

I write this from a refugee camp in the Midwest. In front of my tent, there is a line of people waiting for me to ease their fears and help their condition.

They are no longer cheques to me, but people. And my job, in the post-bomb era, is to make their lives easier.

Dr. John Forest

Disclaimer: "Jericho and its related characters are the property of CBS Paramount Television Network and Junction Entertainment. This contest is solely for entertainment purposes. Neither Myles McNutt, Richard Becker, nor Copywrite, Ink. is affiliated with CBS or Junction Entertainment.

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Saturday, September 8

Challenging Reality: Jericho Jinx


The first to feel the sting was Mark Burnett’s failed reality series, Pirate Master. The show ended with a whimper on Aug. 28. The final episode aired online, more than a month after CBS had yanked the first program to be targeted by Jericho fans.

Now, Kid Nation, which is CBS’s second attempt to put up a new reality show, this time into the 8 p.m. Wednesday timeslot, is at risk of becoming an advertising ghost town, according to Advertising Age.

Procter & Gamble Co., General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Pepsi-Cola Co. and Anheuser-Busch all have taken a pass on the program that begins Sept. 19. P&G offered the most pointed comment: Kid Nation is just not in our brand strategy at this point. Several more advertisers would not comment.

While media buyers and advertising gurus expect the first episode will generate respectable ratings, companies are beginning to wonder if low cost reality shows have oversaturated the market. Critics are wondering too, with some mentioning that CBS already has a backup for the public relations marred Kid Nation, which has been plagued by questions of the legal, moral and ethical issues arising from its unconventional production.

Will the show prove its potential as a child star marker or simply cause more headaches than it is worth? Looking back, one can only imagine that CBS might feel drained by the decision to ever cancel Jericho, which, ironically, is its number one most talked about show despite an insecure start date and only seven episodes being produced.

Even though the show supposedly lost steam, it still managed to pull in better numbers than anything else CBS has since thrown up in its place. Not to mention, many Jericho fans are quick to point out that the midseason break, poor marketing, and the lack of a suitable rating system — not the show — all contributed to what now seems to have been an erroneous perception.

On CBS’s side at the moment is the simple fact that Jericho fans are becoming comfortable that one day, their show will return to a different time slot (while Pirate Master was unlikely to succeed, the premiere had also suffered from a Jericho fan boycott just prior to the decision to reverse the cancellation). CBS is also looking for more ways to market while creating unique revenue streams. Recently, it purchased SignStorey, a US company that broadcasts advertising-supported television in retail outlets. The price: $71.5 million.

The acquisition may make sense as a short-term investment. In many ways, the increasingly popular concept of in-store advertising that targets shoppers just before they make a purchase is an early predecessor to mobile advertising. Hmmm… maybe they could market shows when other advertisers aren’t buying up the time.

While sometimes preempted reruns on Friday nights haven’t necessarily convinced everyone that Jericho’s return will be able to outperform its initial run, there is no question that everybody, even critics, are hoping for a Cinderella story. So one question remains: if Kid Nation does flop (which we don’t know that it will), what will it take for CBS to end what might one day be called the Jericho jinx?

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