Baldwin & Krasinski: Baseball Battles

I just want to take a moment to comment on how much I love the Yankees vs. Red Sox/Alec Baldwin vs. John Krasinksi commercials. These ads, while not overtly obvious, are actually for the New Era Cap Company.

Now, I have to admit that I’m not actually much of a sports fan. I like the Yankees, but that’s simply because I’m afraid that if I didn’t like them my family would have disowned me by now. Both my father and step-father are hard-core Yankees fans, not to mention my 91-year-old Grandmother’s team devotion (which I’m convinced is partially due to her crush on Derek Jeter). I have therefore grown up rooting for the Yankees, which according to these commercials makes me Team Baldwin– perfectly alright to me.

I love both the actors involved, and I love the whole campaign even more. Whether you’re a rabid sports fanatic, an occasional viewer, or a family-forced fan like myself, these commercials are hilarious and fun. Checking out the New Era Cap Company’s Facebook page, you can find even more information about the company and their campaign. You can even vote for which “team” you are on– and it’s quite a close race. At the time of this post, the loyalties were tied 50/50!

So maybe, like me, baseball isn’t exactly your thing. Well, lucky for the rest of us, Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski, especially when put together, are quite fantastic. Here is the latest commercial, which prompted this post. Too perfect.

Hertz says Hi to Horatio

Let’s face it, car rentals are super cool!

Or at least that’s the message Hertz is trying to get across with their latest campaign. Like so many companies before them, Hertz has decided to introduce a mascot in an attempt to spice up their image. Said mascot is named Horatio (see below) and is voiced by Owen Wilson, right on the eve of the release of Wilson’s big movie, Cars 2 (convenient timing). While getting a big name celebrity to help out is pretty awesome, the mascot itself seems a bit one-dimensional and lackluster. Then again, perhaps judgment shouldn’t be passed until we see the little guy in action.

Further adding to the campaigns intrigue is Tucker Gates, the man Hertz has gotten to direct these above mentioned commercials. While his name isn’t household knowledge, the shows on which he has worked certainly are: The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Weeds.

Working with DDB of the Omnicom Group and the digital agency G2 Worldwide, the campaign is estimated at costing over $10 million! Catherine East, account director of DDB, explains the campaigns ultimate objectives as helping to refresh the Hertz image and “help us re-establish ourselves as a cultural brand.”

The target public for this campaign is defined as “20-something-year-olds,” an interesting choice and always a tricky market. While most car companies rent to those only 25 and older, Hertz has recently instituted a policy allowing for those as young as 20-years-old to rent for additional fees.

In association with Horatio, Hertz is introducing two live characters, Brake and Gas, who will also appear in a series of funny tv spots. For more information on both of these extensive campaigns, visit the website or check out the article from The New York Times.

Fun fact: Horatio, the mascot was named after Horatio Nelson Jackson, a physician who was one of the first people to drive a car across the United States.

Lessons Learned: Gotham Inc.

Remember this post? Where I gushed on and on about how neat it was that Denny’s was doing a web series for their social media campaign? I mentioned that DumbDumb, a group started by actors Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, was responsible for the videos. Apparently, however, I failed to dig further and discover the true group responsible for bringing this hilarity to the web.

Then, yesterday, I attended a guest lecturer at our school–an alumni who has made quite a name for himself in the marketing and advertising industry. His name was Peter McGuinness and his company is Gotham Inc., an integrated marketing company. The presentation was spectacular and thought-provoking, and while it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite part, I was especially interested when McGuinness started talking about Gotham’s own work. Lo and behold, they were the masterminds behind the Denny’s campaign.

McGuinness and his group were given the daunting task of completely revitalizing a great American brand that had lost its heat. Focusing on the idea of “openness,” the group enlisted social media, marketing and advertising. The success was evident and the media were enthralled.

For my part, I was bit starstruck when I found out they had been responsible for the “Always Open” videos that I love so much. It took all my willpower to resist shouting out: “I blogged about that!” I managed to resist making a fool out of myself, while taking away a few valuable lessons in the process. Here are some of those lessons:

  • Evolution and innovation are continuous
  • Social media is more than a fad. It is pervasive and powerful– and here to stay.
  • Brands have become democratized: The consumers are in control and companies must work to “earn” their time.
  • The foundation of a successful brand/consumer relationship is reciprocity.
  • When executing a campaign, truth is more important than ever.
  • It’s important to remain curious, personally and professionally. Broaden your perspective and horizon.
  • And finally, when applying to jobs “package yourself in a unique and compelling way.”

While I never got to ask the most burning question on my mind (Is your company’s name a reference to Batman?), the event was certainly valuable. In the end, it got me all the more excited to enter the career world!

Old Religion Meets New Media

Years ago, the concepts of tweeting, poking, and tumblr would have just seemed like derogatory terms. Certainly not actions condoned by the Church. There’s no denying that life is not the same as the world depicted in traditional holy texts; but now, in the changing world, religion has found its own use of new media.

While the Vatican has long embraced social media such as YouTube and FaceBook in an effort to stay relevant in a media manic society, smaller factions have only recently come to discover the possibilities of the world-wide web.

A group of Benedictine monks residing in Portsmouth Abbey in Portsmouth, R.I. have turned to the internet to solve a problem of their own. Totally 12 in all, the monks are aging, with five octogenarians and the youngest being a nimble 50. While their peak numbers were no more than 24 in 1969, the monks still feel an added isolation that has kept modern-day society from inquiring about their faction.

Said Abbot Caedmon Holmes,head of the abbey since 2007: “We’re down in numbers, we’re aging, we feel the pressure to do whatever we can. If this is the way the younger generation are looking things up and are communicating, then this is the place to be.”

The monks have hired Partners and Simons, an advertising agency, to help recruit members and instill interest in the Abbey. Their campaign involves an ad campaign featuring videos, blogs, and even a Gregorian chant ringtone for those true devotees. The campaign revolves around portraying the monks as approachable and friendly. On their Facebook page, they have uploaded photos and testimonials. A new website has also been set up and answers questions the public might have, specially in relation to becoming a monk.

“If 500 years ago, blogging existed, the monks would have found a way to make use of it,” Abbot Holmes said. “Our power is very limited. In the end it’s God who is calling people to himself and calling to people to live in union with him. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our part.”

For more information about this story, check out the New York Times article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/business/media/18monks.html?_r=1&ref=media

Making History Hardcore

Sifting through my daily tumblr dashboard, I came across what appeared to be a really interesting advertising campaign by the Smithsonian Museum. Upon further research, it turns out that these posters/ads were actually created by a former student, Jenny Burrows, for a class project. The ads, which followed the campaign theme of “Historically Hardcore” soon went viral and people around the web were sharing the images. After all the attention they received, Burrows was actually asked to remove any mention of the Smithsonian museum. Despite the small revision, the ads remain up and are quite interesting and fun. It seems to me that if the Smithsonian doesn’t want the campaign, some other museum should scoop it up. With the theme “Historically Hardcore,” these posters would be a great way to reach out to an audience that doesn’t typically look to museums as a source of entertainment. Plus, history is pretty hardcore when you think about it.

Tell me what you think! And be sure to check out more work by Burrows here.

Kraft’s Crafty Campaign

I will not lie. As a college student, Kraft Mac & Cheese makes up a large part of my diet.

And now, more than ever, am I interested to tell this to the world, thanks to a sneaky new Kraft Foods social media campaign. Working with ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Kraft is playing the childhood game of “Jinx.”

Over the past few weeks, anytime two individuals separately tweeted the phrase “mac & cheese,” Kraft would send each a  link The first to click the link and respond with their home address receives five free boxes of mac & cheese and a t-shirt. The promotion is going by the name “Mac & Jinx.”

It’s nice to see a brand using Twitter as their primary campaign platform. Often, Facebook is used in conjunction with these contests, but Crispin Porter + Bogusky seem to be onto something. This agency is also responsible for the Burger King advertising over the past decade or so (which, for the most part, I find incredibly creepy and yet do their job since I can’t quite seem to get them out of my head).

Perhaps you have seen some of the other Kraft mac and cheese ads the agency has worked on, including the TV ads featuring kids complaining about their parent’s  less than worthy Mac and Cheese. I found these commercials endearing and hilarious, and am glad to see that these smart ads were more than just a fluke.

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some yummy tweeting to get done. Fingers crossed!

 

 

 

 

Old Navy: New Ads, Same Camp

I think the time has come that I dedicate a post to acknowledging a very serious issue that plagues are country today…

Of course I am talking about the Old Navy advertisement campaigns.

While the “Supermodelquins” have been dismantled to make room for a new campaign, the perky Kim Kardashian-esque singer is equally frustrating, leading to a serious introspective Q&A with myself– why on earth can’t I stop shopping there?

First of all, let’s be honest. If there’s a store whose clothes and products we enjoy, a silly commercial isn’t going to keep us from going there. Sure, we may grunt and groan as we hear the store’s speakers blare their latest mantras, but we will grin and bear it. With that in mind, I sometimes wonder if Old Navy is really just trying to test us…or is it just me?

Let’s begin with the newly departed Supermodelquins. Plastic display mannequins dressed in Old Navy fashions. And they can talk. Oh, and how they talk! Often their ‘witty banter’ gets frightfully close to making sexual connotations that personally make me feel uncomfortable (hint, they play up the ‘plastic’ thing a lot). The commercials were colorful yet campy. And yet, it was this exact cornball attitude that they hoped to put forth. Assisted by Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, Old Navy hoped to return to their so-called “campy” marketing roots.

The latest campaign, while not outright campy, certainly makes a mark of its own. The commercials tout the theme: “Old Navy Records. Original hits. Original styles.” The stars of these latest spots are a group of sings and dancers. While the acts are said to change as time goes on, the current group is a trio called Audio Threadz. The ads have been getting a lot of publicity due to the lead female singer’s eerie resemblance to Kim Kardashian (coincidence?). Supposedly influenced by the success of Glee (but what isn’t nowadays), the company says research has shown that their own consumers are music fans as well. While time will tell how successful, or possibly just annoying, these commercials turn out to be, one thing is for certain– they stick with you. For better or for worse.

Old Navy identifies their target customer as women ages 25 to 30, typically moms. And, while I can’t speak for myself seeing as I’m part of neither category, apparently supermodelquins and pop numbers are the way to go. Afterall, so what if we like the commercials, it’s the fact that we remember them, that we write about them, that we spend time thinking about them– and thus thinking about Old Navy itself.

 

 

Public Relations: Perception Predicament

There is no end to the irony of the situation: Public Relations has an image problem.

Negative portrayals in the media (i.e. Entourage, Spin city– no offense to Michael J. Fox, yes offense to Charlie Sheen) and misrepresentation contribute strongly to this problem. Public Relations is primarily associated with public scandals and corporate emergencies, leading to a warped perception of the field in general. According to W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay in their book “Does Society Need Public Relations?”, the 6 major themes of PR criticism are:

  1. The public is ignorant of public relations because they are ignorant of what is really going on in the world
  2. PR can never escape its “wicked roots”– think propaganda and WWII
  3. PR is to blame for the power of large companies and more sinister organizations. This comes from a rise in distrust of big corporations– i.e. tobacco companies, Enron
  4. PR is undemocratic because only rich companies can hire PR– blatantly false! Much PR is done pro bono or for non-profit organizations
  5. Society must teach people how to resist the power of PR– while I won’t argue with the benefits of teaching a basic understanding of the media, there is truly nothing to combat about PR. It promotes open discussion; it does not brainwash publics into a singular belief.
  6. PR is only publicity

I would add to these themes that many people are frightened of PR. Often used in comparison to Advertising, the simple fact that while people can actively recognize an advertisement, they cannot always recognize an act of Public Relations. This fosters an idea that PR has some nefarious master-plan to plant subliminal messages in the minds of the masses.

But perhaps more than a fear, the public simply does not understand what Public Relations is. As mentioned in the themes, most individuals assume that PR is all publicity. The press-agentry model is most often discussed in the media, conjuring up images of P.T. Barnum and his sensationalized circus. But PR is so much more than publicity and press coverage. Most people fail to understand the scope of PR.

Since my very first classes in the subjects, my professors have insisted on one particular definition of the word. Public relations is a “management function that establishes mutually beneficial relationships.” To expand upon this, PR is about promoting positive interests and feelings. It involves managing and counseling. Rather than telling the public what to think, PR encourages the free flow of information. There are no devious or underhanded attempts to exploit the naivety of a group. PR specialists believe that the public should be critical thinkers, not mindless drones. I’ve always been taught to encourage the “human component” of PR– we want to push people to think, not implant our own thoughts and opinions.

For a number reasons–the economy, interest in social networking and media– Public Relations is gaining popularity. Even in comparison to advertising, many companies and individuals have embraced the effectiveness and cost efficiency of PR. Because of this increased usage, I feel it is even more important than ever for individuals to understand what PR truly is about. I hope this article clears things up a bit, or at least makes you pause in reflection.

So what do you think? Will PR always get a bad rap?

Yo Quiero Taco Bell’s new Ad campaign?

The other day I was reading an article discussing whether or not (and how) Taco Bell should publicly acknowledge the lawsuit brought against them. The suit claims that the fast food chain’s beef filling is more like ‘beef.’ The taco filling, they maintain, is not up to FDA standards.

While the possibility of this lawsuit critically affecting Taco Bell’s financial status are slim, the company has decided to publicly, and creatively, address the issue. Starting on Friday, Taco Bell is launching an advertising campaign in such mass print newspapers as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and others. The purpose of these ads, says Taco Bell’s president Greg Creed, is to “set the record straight.”

Creed insists that the lawsuit is “bogus and filled with completely inaccurate facts.” Perhaps demonstrating the truth to this statement, the company has committed itself to this rather expensive advertising campaign. While no official price tag has been released, the ads are full-page, color, and in major publications; adding up to a hefty price tag.

The page boldly declares, “Thank you for suing us. Here’s the truth about our seasoned beef,” followed by a rundown the meat’s true ingredients.

While this case has made headline news, Taco Bell didn’t necessarily have to address it. Opponents might have argued that by addressing it publicly, they are bringing more attention to a case better left to fizzle out on its own. As mentioned, despite the coverage, Taco Bell’s reputation and finances would not necessarily be dramatically effected. However, the fast food restaurant’s confidence in their own product has led them to take a stand. Does this ad campaign just add more fuel to the fire, or is Taco Bell being smart in acknowledging the claims brought against them?

With all of the debate going on, all I can think of is the days of the Taco Bell Dog ad campaigns. Oh to return to those days…Yo quiero Taco Bell dog.

 

Tostitos adopts PR campaign tactic

Tostitos brand tortilla chips are just one of a number of brands that have turned to social media and public relations to sell their product. As a division of the Frito-Lay corporation, Tostitos are a well-established product within the market– their appeal is known, and constant reminders of their taste or texture will only be so helpful in selling the product. Therefore, the company has turned to social media and PR tactics to emphasize emotional connections with the brand. The campaign, known as “Tostitos Reunite America,” stems from the Frito-Lay initiative to highlight their role in making “connections among consumers.”

To kick off the campaign, Tostitos sponsored Monday’s college football Bowl Championship title game. During halftime, Tostitos arranged for surprise reunions between some troops and their families. Such reunions are a basic foundation for their campaign which is “focused on reuniting consumers with relatives, friends, former teammates and lost romantic partners.”

Tostitos has especially taken advantage of the social networking site Facebook. By visiting the Tostitos Facebook page, consumers are greeted by the following message: “Facebook is great. Face-to-face is even better. Tell us which Facebook friend or family member you’re dying to reunite with. If you’re picked, we’ll set you up with a once-in-a-lifetime reunion.” The page includes more information about the campaign, including instructions on participating. Consumers can upload video clips explaining why they think they should win a “once-in-a-lifetime” reunion. Rather than focusing on the product itself, Tostitos is making a connection at the emotional level. Says Nancy Reyes, member of the “Tostitos Reunite America” team, “the emotional benefits drive people to be closer to the brand than the functional benefits…It’s nice to focus on the emotional part of the brand and live out its purpose.”

So what are the benefits to this PR and social media driven campaign? Well, most importantly, especially in comparison to modern-day advertising, employing social media is an effective and inexpensive way to drum up business. While the company has not released the monetary figures for the campaign, it can only be expected that, even with the cost of the reunions (an amount that has also not been as of yet released), this campaign will cost significantly less than past campaigns. Plus, the unique approach Tostitos is taking, and their initiative to embrace the social networking sites, shows forward thinking and is sure to catch attention.

 

For more information on the “Tostitos Reunite America” campaign, visit the Tostitos Facebook page, or read the New York Times write-up here.