Archive for June, 2007

The Kids Are Alright

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

While I often write about standards of decency and appropriateness in mass media and my fears regarding how a “lowered bar” may affect my kids and others, two recent conversations have me rethinking my level of trepidation.

While guest teaching a Michigan State journalism class on crisis communications last week, I provided the students with two separate adversity management scenarios, asking them how they would handle each. One strange but true case dealt with security at a local mall discovering an individual who had expired of natural causes in a restroom. The class had obviously listened to my lecture and presented action steps, including contacting the authorities and informing mall employees. A female student added another: redecorating the restroom; in turn, making it less ominous for future visitors. Somehow, I found that to be an incredibly endearing gesture and suggestion.

Later in the week, I attended the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) annual awards dinner where the table talk turned to MTV. “How do you police such programming where your kids are concerned,” I was asked. “You know what?” I answered, “They actually gravitate on their own to more wholesome programs—some that I used to watch as a kid—such as ‘The Brady Bunch,’ ‘Fresh Prince,’ and ‘Full House.’ It was a comforting realization. Maybe, amid the ‘leave me alones’ and ‘give me my space’ I was actually, somehow, getting through to my children after all.

“Teach Your Children Well?” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had it right. In today’s crazy world, I can’t think of anything more important.

I-Phone Takes Buzz To Another Level

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Someday, marketing and PR students will be learning about this week in textbooks.

The mainstream press is now writing daily about Apple’s new I-phone, following the lead of business and technology media. There is some advertising – on TV and online – but the marketing of the I-phone is PR driven, leading to almost unprecedented “buzz.”

Tech columnist Mike Wendland, who has covered many product launches, describes his points of view on how Apple controls the buzz.

This is a product that no consumer has yet seen – that few people outside of Apple of AT&T have ever seen – but demand is expected to exceed supply next week. That’s the Power of PR.

Volkswagen: You Can Come Home Again

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

It doesn’t take a historian to recall what helped fuel Volkswagen’s 1980s resurgence—music in their ads. And, not just any music but catchy, hip, alternative tunes by little-known artists such as Nick Drake and Trio, whose “Da-Da-Da” became, for a time, intrinsically linked with 20-somethings and the VW Golf (and vice versa).

Segue to 2007 and one finds a new ad agency with a similar, battle-tested tactic, albeit turned up, “one louder, to eleven.” As reported in Jewel Gopwani’s Detroit Free Press story this week, Volkswagen plans to use not just one song from Wilco’s new CD, “Sky Blue Sky,” but nearly half of the album’s offerings—perhaps five to seven songs—in their summer product ad campaign.

It would appear to be a “win-win” for all involved. Wilco could use the exposure (and I’m sure the job pays quite well). The collaboration will also serve, more importantly for Volkswagen, to provide the strong emotional link with its core audience that, critics have argued, has waned in recent years.

Under VW executive vice-president Adrian Hallmark and his team, Volkswagen is returning to its “sweet spot.” Generations X & Y are sure to take note—enjoying both great music and awesome rides along the way.

The “Little” Event That Wood(ward) Be King

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Did you know that the Woodward Dream Cruise—held the third Saturday in August each year—is the largest, one-day automotive event in the world? Apparently Madison Avenue, by and large the base of the PR firms and ad agencies that make event and sponsorship decisions for their major corporate clients, does not.

This was brought home once again by reporter Catherine Jun’s article this week in the Detroit News.

I experienced this disconnect loud and clear last November as I attended the SEMA aftermarket convention in November, while still serving as the event’s Executive Director. Two individuals, in town from New York, handling communications for the show for Michelin Tires, admitted, when asked, that they had never even heard of the Cruise.

It’s a shame—and not for lack of effort on behalf of event organizers. My team and I worked national and international media hard to spread the word on this special event to New York, LA and across the globe. Those efforts continue on a number of levels.

There is hope for the future. Earlier this year, Advertising Age (read by those Big Apple creative types!) named the Woodward Dream Cruise to their list of outstanding event sponsorship opportunities. Hey, 1.1 million people and 40,000 classic cars don’t lie and make a lot of noise. On Woodward Avenue’s 200th anniversary, wouldn’t it be fantastic if someone (read: major corporate sponsor) actually listened.

“The Price Is Right” Has Place In Marketing History

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Much is being written this week about “The Price Is Right” in conjunction with Bob Barker’s retirement, including this complete and frank piece by Mekeisha Madden Toby in the Detroit News.

Bob Barker is getting his due as an excellent broadcaster and legendary TV talent.

But one story isn’t being told. “The Price Is Right” introduced a form of marketing that is becoming more common and more effective – product placement. This was among the first highly-rated shows, if not the first, where advertisers could place their products into the “storyline” for visibility and branding more powerful than in a traditional TV spot. When the show was over, you wouldn’t remember the contestants but you would remember Rice-A-Roni, Calgon and whichever make was offered to the potenial winner of “A NEW CAR!!”

Bob Barker has been the icon. But consumer products have also had a starring role – a daytime innovation that has crept into prime time and movies in a significant way.

Long Live The Sopranos

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

My favorite TV show of all time is now only available in reruns and on DVD.

The Sopranos wrapped up tonight and proved, once again, that it is unlike any other show on television – ever.

Who ever heard of a cut-to-black right in the middle of a gripping scene?

Like with everything else over 86 episodes, The Sopranos kept us guessing and thinking.

The end of The Sopranos era marks the beginning of a new era in journalism. The instant TV review.
Check out this quick work, posted within 30 minutes of the show’s end.

The Long and Winding Road

Friday, June 8th, 2007

Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I’m 64?

Paul McCartney first sang those lyrics as a Beatle back in 1966, when he was 24. This week, just days before his 65th birthday, he has released his latest CD, “Memory Almost Full,” appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to promote it.

McCartney’s new offering, which looks back and reminisces about his storied past, provides the ideal backdrop for also reviewing how the music industry has changed over the past 41 years. Do the legion of today’s downloaders, Ipods firmly in hand, have even a passing knowledge of what a 45 record was and how they were once the music delivery mode of choice—for the DJs that played those first Beatle hits and the frenzied fans that flocked to record stores as a result?

Interesting, isn’t it? We used to purchase our popular music just like millions do today—one song at a time. Still, the record companies, who lament falling CD sales year after year, continue to charge exorbitant prices for often inferior product offered in an antiquated mode.

Artists—no, masters—like Paul McCartney, however, know their audience well. His fan base, now middle-aged, is still the largest consumer of CDs and the least likely to download tunes. Not only has he released a strong, full-body of work that harkens back to the critically acclaimed Wings sound of the 70s, he recorded it on the new Hear Music label. Hear, by the way, is a subsidiary of Starbucks. Guess where the CD debuted. Brilliant.

Not so the radio programmers and music directors that have largely ignored his records over much of the past 25 years and will, most likely, do the same this time around. The solution? Go have a latte with a living legend. He won’t be here, there and everywhere forever.

“Bridging the Racial Divide” Provides Important Perspective

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Media shapes perspectives of race. Race shapes perspectives on the media.

Those are two indisputable facts that emerged during the powerful look at the Detroit media’s impact on race relations that aired last week on Detroit Public Television (simulcast on WJR-AM and WDET-FM). I finally got a chance to see it on my DVR last night.

Co-hosted by Emery King and Paul W. Smith and populated by a panel of current and former journalists – but nobody from any of Detroit’s TV news operations – the program touched on subjects not normally broached on television. Positive credit should be given to the media representatives who did participate in the panel and pre-taped discussions – John X. Miller from the Detroit Media Partnership, Caesar Andrews from the Free Press, Rich Homberg from WWJ-AM, Steve Stewart from WJR-AM, Mildred Gaddis from WCHB-AM, Rochelle Riley from the Free Press and Nolan Finley from the Detroit News. They were joined by educators and former journalists Mike Lewis of Oakland University and Ben Burns of Wayne State, along with their students.

A few points worth remembering:

*Rochelle Riley astutely pointed out that “people underestimate the (power of the) media.” That statement is a reminder for citizens, leaders and journalists – something we talk about at Tanner Friedman every day.

*68% of the auditorium audience at Oakland University said that media has “negative” impact on race relations.

*When it comes to TV news, 90% of the audience said that TV has a “negative” or “very negative impact” on race relations. What makes that fact seven more significant is that the audience said TV news is their most frequent source of local information. My former Channel 4 colleague Mike Lewis said his research shows “night after night, year after year” coverage of minorities shapes opinions, generally negatively.

Thankfully, there will be a Part 4 of this ongoing series, this Fall.

Here’s Hoping One D, etc. Rate an A+

Friday, June 1st, 2007

As Day Two of the 2007 Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference comes to a close, the consensus I am sensing in attending sessions and talking to individuals from the diverse array of companies, corporations and civic, governmental and non-profit organizations is that, this year, progress is being made. Sure, there is rhetoric (much of it familiar), however it is talk with a purpose; words linked with action steps.

From the One D regional branding initiative to the ambitious Aerotropolis project detailed by Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano with Detroit Renaissance president Doug Rothwell and others, positive things are happening in Metro Detroit—and not a moment too soon.

Regional cooperation, innovative ideas, risk taking and the putting aside of politics is vital to a state reeling from budget woes, resident flight and overall economic uncertainties.

For those who have never experienced Mackinac’s “meeting of the minds,” I can report, first hand, that it is not just about drinks on the porch of the Grand Hotel and pecan nut rolls in the dining room. Rather, it is about positive attitudes and outlooks, fresh ideas and taking responsibility.

The clock is ticking. Let’s hope future report cards rate high marks.