Coca-Cola Brings Happiness to the Highway

It is a universally acknowledged truth that rush hour traffic is absolutely despicable bumper-to-bumper traffic is the worst, and traffic jams are the bane of all drivers’ existence.

Taking this into mind, Coca-Cola decided to live up to their motto and “spread the happiness” to a situation teeming with displeasure.

To promote their new, smaller sized Coke Minis, Coca-Cola transformed a highway in Bogotá, Colombia into an outdoor theater. Models were hired to hand out typical movie theater refreshments– popcorn, nachos, and of course the new Coke Minis– to the lucky drivers stuck in traffic.

A screen was erected to show a film, synced with a radio station for the accompanying soundtrack, giving drivers the full movie theater experience.

It seems foreign to see so many smiling faces in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but it’s certainly attention-grabbing. In fact, this is probably the only example where drivers weren’t in a rush for the traffic to start moving again.

Check out the video below to see how Coke “spread the happiness” in an unlikely situation:

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.

Has Sheen’s Ship Sailed?

When a celebrity crashes and burns, hundreds of media outlets across the globe stand to attention. The public can’t get enough of hot messes straight out of Hollywood. Thankfully, Charlie Sheen has decided to provide us with enough fodder to last a lifetime.

I can’t help but comment on the recent ‘tomfoolery’ (his word, not mine). Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Sheen. I believe him to be the real-life embodiment of Lord Licorice from the childhood board game Candyland. Sure, he turned out a reasonably good performance in Wallstreet, but his overall acting ability is sub par. Contrary to Sheen’s own boastful claims, he really is “nothing special.” Or at least, he wasn’t special until he decided to crash and burn with a fervor that would make Lindsey Lohan jealous.

From drugs to spousal abuse to anti-Semitism– Sheen is covering all his bases, leaving no group free from offense. While his public downward spiral began with ranting radio interviews, as of yesterday Sheen has taken to the medium of television, where we get to both hear his gravely voice and look into his sunken eyes. There is no doubt that the man looks unhealthy– he’s lost weight, he face speaks of exhaustion– I found myself wondering if the whole make-up department was out sick. In one interview, Sheen chainsmokes while simultaneously boasting his impressive ability to quit narcotics and alcohol cold turkey, without the help of AA. In fact, Sheen goes on to bash AA– once again, leaving no stone unturned with his offense. Sheen comes across as egotistical, calling himself both a warlock and rock star in two interviews. His cocky gloating only helps to null and void his claim of selflessness in wanting to start back on Two and a Half men. Formerly the highest paid actor in television (2 million an episode!), Sheen insists that his eagerness to start back up at work is motivated by a need to support his family (did you know the man has 5 children? FIVE! That’s five little ones running around with his genes…).

But this post is more than my own personal rant about Charlie Sheen, it’s a recognition of a Public Relations fail.

While I don’t know much (or anything) about Sheen’s publicist or how Sheen himself has been trained to handle these situations, I’m quite sure that the wrong approach is being taken. Suddenly Sheen seems to be on every television station, giving ‘exclusive’ interview after ‘exclusive’ interview. It’s understandable that Team Sheen wants to do some major damage control, but the interviews are doing more harm than good. While his mind-blowingly offensive radio interviews didn’t seem to be enough to convince the Team that Sheen’s interaction with the media should be limited, one would have supposed his first interview would have. Instead, Sheen is being scheduled for more and more face time with television audiences. At each sitting he manages to offend a whole new target audiences while sinking himself deeper and deeper into the pits of career suicide. At this point, it almost seems like Sheen’s publicist is purposely trying to destroy him (perhaps he/she was among the many offended). And yet, do you think a good PR campaign could have saved him? Or possibly still can?

Even before his outrageous radio interviews, it was doubtful Sheen’s career could ever be salvaged. Afterall, the only star to ever reemerge from such a critical situation is the preternatural Robert Downey Jr. RDJ, however, possesses something that Sheen’s interviews prove the TV ‘star’ severely lacks–charisma. Now, for Sheen it is just a matter of a slow descent, with the public delighting in even obnoxious and toxic word he utters. Consider Sheen’s career over.

[Here’s a brilliant idea! How about Emilio Estevez (Charlie Sheen’s half-brother) returns to mainstream acting, or acting at all, and takes over the Sheen’s role on Two and a Half Men. Pull a Spin City kind of move, when Sheen took over for the always charming Michael J Fox. Just saying.]

Great Article about Sheen’s PR Flop: http://www.pamil-visions.net/charlie-sheen/223210/

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?

NY Welcomes a Week of Social Media

As if we needed another reason to get hooked in by all of our social networking sites. This upcoming week, February 7-11, is Social Media Week. A globally recognized event first launched in  2009 by Toby Daniels, SMW is “a global platform that connects people, content, and conversation around emerging trends in social and mobile media.” While the center of this conference will be in NYC this year, the events are worldwide–from London to Paris to Hong Kong.

The official website describes the event:

Delivered primarily through a network of internationally hosted biannual conferences and online through social and mobile media, Social Media Week brings hundreds of thousands of people together every year through learning experiences that aim to advance our understanding of social media’s role in society.

There will be over 150 events throughout the city, utilizing New York’s various hot spots, including the UN and the Guggenheim. The highlight of the event will undoubtedly be keynote speaker Dennis Crowley, the CEO of Foursquare. Other activities include a panel on social media and music as well as an event from the UN dealing with global social media. Sponsors include Nokia, Pepsico, NY Public Library, and a variety of marketing and PR-based companies.

With the growing importance of social media in both our professional and personal lives, what better way to educate and celebrate the trend. I’m sure several companies will have wisely taken advantage of this conference. Wish I could be there!

Know what I Meme?

The internet can be a mystifying place. And I don’t just mean the labyrinth-esque routes to websites, nor the complex jargon. No, I’m talking about all those memes out there.

What is a meme? Well, I’m glad you ask, because despite being what I had assumed was ‘hip’ to the internet lingo, I still only learned this term during the past year. To discover the definition for myself, I turned to faithful Wikipedia, just another internet creation that couldn’t live without. Wikipedia defined a meme (which they first told me is pronounced to rhyme with cream…good thing I had never actually had a chance to speak it aloud because I’m quite sure that I would not have pronounced it as such) as “ideas or beliefs that are transmitted from one person or group of people to another.” Vague, right? So I read on: “A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.” Still vague. Here I was, thinking that a meme would automatically be in reference to the internet– how foolish of me, living in the digital age, to assume such. In fact, the concept of a meme comes from the analogy that “as genes transmit biological information, memes can be said to transmit idea and belief information.” They are applicable throughout culture, including in spheres of religion, models of racism, and anthropological theories.

But to focus once more on the internet meme, this term is used to describe to describe concepts transmitted through the internet. Once more I had been hoping for a better explanation, but by coming across these indistinct interpretations I began to understand that the whole point was the memes weren’t as simple as they seemed. I was hoping for a specific definition that I could grasp and pass along, but the truth is that memes are all around us on the internet. By using sites such as blogs, social networking, and (my latest favorite) tumblr, we are constantly transmitting these memes. The internet is the society, and the memes are the culture.

To me, memes are best represented by the internet phenomenon. My internet-saavy suitemate will often show me YouTube videos or silly blogs that, despite obscure or non sequitur references, somehow gather a cult following. These are memes. But there’s more to them than just silly ways for hipsters to pass their time. Public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals have all taken advantage of using memes in viral marketing. Memes help create buz about a company, product, or service. They’re inexpensive and, if conducted properly, can become quite popular, especially with niche audiences. They’re also a great way to show creativity. Often the film industry will use memes to generate attention for movies.

For further information on memes, I highly suggest the website Know Your Meme. You will find yourself bombarded with hours of useless information and entertainment.

 

 

Communicating with the generations.

During a daily trolling of the PR/Media blogs, I came across this interesting little cheat sheet from Ragan’s PR Daily. Titled How to communicate to different generations, it gives a brief synopsis of what a variety of age groups best react to in messages from companies. Connect to the article here for more information, but here’s a brief run-down and some parts I found most interesting:

Age Group: Oldest generation (WWII generation),

communication preferences include:

  • Concise summary, sometimes known as the ‘Reader’s Digest approach’
  • Highly specific
  • Linear and sequential presentation of the information
  • Greater emphasis on formality

Age Group: Baby Boomers,

communication preferences include:

  • Experience that allows individuals to share own views/experiences
  • Democratic approach
  • Sense of equality and fairness is ‘critical’

Age Group: Gen Xers,

communication preferences include:

  • Hands-of approach
  • Visuals and graphics, with minimual text
  • Perceived sense of expertise from messenger
  • Relevance
  • Use of technology
  • Feedback and affirmation without strict intructions

Age Group: Gen Yers,

communication preferences include:

  • Collaborative learning setting
  • MOST visual (i.e. demonstrations) and technologically adept
  • Want to know exact expectations
  • “Active” learners

It’s interesting to see how differently each generation will react to a message. It certainly makes one pause and wonder how each individual interprets a single message– such as an advertisement or even a blog post. Since I assume that the majority of bloggers are of the younger generation, I guess I should start using more visuals. But, according to Gen Xers, I better make sure those visuals are RELEVANT.

So what do you think about this little guide to generational communication? What most surprised you?