Posts filed under ‘Advertising’

A Tale of $10,000 Tweets

By Sally Saville Hodge

Despite being a faithful (if abashed) reader of celebrity publications like People magazine, I somehow missed the hubbub over one of my favorite pseudo celebrities (not): Kim Kardashian.

Kim, of course, is emblematic of a new phenomenon with the American public: The elevation to star status of people who have absolutely no discernible talent or skills, but have been smart enough to hire effective publicists. (See Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.)

She does have one thing going for her, however. She Twitters. Over 3 million people actually follow her tweets. That apparently gives her some degree of influence over the masses. And so, in a new twist on a time-honored marketing ploy, Kim is now in hot demand as a celebrity endorser via Twitter.

It’s called “sponsored Tweets,” a gentler term than advertising and presumably one that resonates more positively in an environment where authenticity supposedly rules.

Kim is at the top of this particular heap and reportedly rakes in a cool $10,000 per tweet. She’s not the only “publisher” to do so – just for lesser amounts. Dr. Drew is a big draw and so is Lindsay Lohan and her ex, Samantha Ronson. Even business groups with a big following – the CBOE and Stock Futures Forecast – are registered as being available via the leading matchmaking platform,

The whole business raises a lot of issues relative to transparency and authenticity, the ultimate barometers of successful social media interactions. claims that the endorsed tweets it brokers are identified through the “#advertising” disclaimer at the end of each post.

But a growing number of concerns are entering the fray and may not be so principled. And unfortunately, while the Federal Trade Commission issued guidelines on celebrity (and other) blog endorsements last year, requiring full disclosure, it somehow left the Twitter issue to fall between the cracks.

Ultimately, the $64,000 question is whether a Twitter post by Kim or Dr. Drew or even the CBOE is going to pay off with new business. At least one expert says, “Not so much.” At last month’s Ad Age Digital Media Conference, Yahoo’s principal research scientist Duncan Watts told the audience: “If I had a fixed budget, I could get more value from a small amount of very influential [influencers], or a lot of smaller influencers, on Twitter. If you recruit enough people who, on average, influence just one other person, you could get a much better return on investment if you aggregated them and altogether paid them a tenth of what Kardashian gets.”

I’d settle! And to that end I’ll need to build up my followers. Follow me at @sallyshodge so I can give Kim a run for her money.

May 14, 2010 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

Understanding and responding to the consumer mood

Sally Saville Hodge

Job No. 1 to creating a truly differentiated brand is developing a deep understanding of your customers and using that as a basis for words backed by actions that anticipate and meet their needs and concerns.

That’s true in good times and bad, but it’s a dictum that is particularly pressing in an environment like the one we’re living through today. The public today is both skeptical and fearful, and not particularly trustful of just about anyone in just about any position of authority.

Hyundai got that and got it early. It recognized (while the Big Three sat paralyzed) that people were avoiding car dealerships because they were scared to death of getting downsized and then stuck with a big-ticket financial commitment. Its buyer assurance program – allowing people to return their new cars if they got laid off after their purchase – made a huge difference for Hyundai in overcoming the fear factor that’s keeping pocketbooks shut tight. Its sales rose 5 percent in both January and February as a result.

JetBlue, despite the occasional and well-publicized toe-stubbing on the operational front, has always used its keen grasp of the customer’s relationship with air travel as a basis for its messages and action. It doesn’t want to live up to the typical low expectations that we have for an optimal customer experience.

A big part of its persona is irreverence. Here’s a three part series its corporate communications team produced that’s more than just irreverent. It hits the public sentiment chord exactly with spots worthy of SNL. Enjoy.

April 22, 2009 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

PR and the respect factor

Sally Saville Hodge

rdPublic relations has always been like the Rodney Dangerfield of the communications field. You know: We just don’t get any respect.

Our collective inferiority complex has been self-created, to a significant extent. The tendency by many in the profession to use overstatement and hype as their stock in trade hasn’t helped the cause. And high profile ethical lapses haven’t added any to the practice’s luster. (Remember Ketchum PR’s payment of $240,000 to minority radio broadcaster Armstrong Williams to tout on air and with his peers the No Child Left Behind program?)

That’s on the public side. Generally speaking, PR is low on the totem pole among business professionals as well. Never mind some of the more unfortunate associations that play down PR’s value. The term “free publicity” is emblematic.

I’ve always thought much of it related to how much of a budget PR commands and controls, particularly vis a vis the far weightier purse carried by Marcom and advertising. After all, money equals power, and it’s not unusual to see ad budgets of the big players in the millions of dollars – hundreds of millions, even. On the other hand, a million-dollar PR campaign is considered exceedingly healthy.

The irony is that for all the disrespect, and for whatever reason, it’s PR that really has the power to build a brand. For all of traditional media’s failings (and recent flailings, for that matter), it’s the news coverage that PR helps bring about that carries credibility, not the “they’ll say anything to make you buy” advertising messaging that’s so transparent to the public. And that’s only part of the powerful overall PR package.

We’re hearing more stories these days of some recession-hit businesses cutting their marketing budgets, but diverting more funds into PR programs instead. I don’t know that I’m ready to call it a trend, unfortunately. We just haven’t managed to do the job of convincing our partners in marketing (and higher up the food chain) that we can be more than simply masters of spin.

Or have we, but marketing leadership just can’t bring itself to respond accordingly?

Michael Dunn, Chairman of Prophet (full disclosure: a client since 2001) has just authored a book called The Marketing Accountability Imperative. It’s a heavy read, but a must-read for senior management. But apropos to this conversation, here’s a pullout worth thinking about:

    “Our 2007 senior marketer survey showed that B2B companies believe that public relations is the most effective activity for long-term brand building and the third most effective at driving short-term sales (after field sales activities and outbound marketing). No form of advertising came close to PR in its perceived long- or short-term effectiveness. Despite this, B2B marketers spend only about 1 percent of their budget on public relations and over 20 percent on advertising. The effectiveness of PR is also rated higher than advertising among B2C marketers and their contradictory spending relationships are even more pronounced.
    …[M]arketers’ behaviors seem somewhat puzzling – they do not believe that the marketing activities that they are spending the most on are the most effective, yet they are unwilling or unable to take the steps necessary to quantify this performance.

Puzzling, indeed.

April 6, 2009 at 5:17 pm 1 comment

Why PR investments should grow in 2009

Sally Saville Hodge

I’d like to think it’s true, but the cynic in me just keeps muttering, “Yeah, right.”

Media prognosticator Jack Myers recently issued a report suggesting that the bright spot in the current advertising depression will be public relations. He projects investment in PR to grow by 3% in 2008 and by another 3% in 2009 to over $4.5 billion.

There are a lot of reasons why this should be true.

  • In hard economic times, businesses need to grow their credibility with consumers. You get that with PR, particularly with an orientation that’s geared to inform, versus hammering away with heavy-handed sales messaging.
  • They also need to grow awareness. And while an ad campaign does that, so does a PR program. The difference is that PR features the credibility component, while advertising doesn’t. Furthermore…
  • …a PR program is a LOT cheaper than advertising or the majority of marketing communications programs to design and execute. That’s not to say clients ought to believe the “free publicity” misnomer of one aspect of PR, however. There’s still time and expertise involved, and that carries a price tag. But a $100,000 budget will easily be sufficient to create a robust PR program featuring traditional and social media aspects over the course of a year (providing you stay away from the larger, high-priced agencies). That kind of money will get you bupkis in advertising and not a lot more in some of the more traditional MarCom tactics.

So why am I cynical that the growth Myers projects may actually occur? Well, for one thing, the top dog for communications matters at most businesses is still a person who has a marketing title. As a rule, these folks are still pretty tied to tradition – the tried and true of advertising, direct mail, and the like.

Too many don’t have a great grasp of depth and breadth of traditional public relations approaches, much less how PR applies to the new media world. For example, in an article tellingly headlined, “Social Networks: Millions of Users, not so Many Marketers,” e-Marketer, an online newsletter, has projected a decline in U.S. social networking advertising, but pointedly observed, “Advertising is not the only way for marketers to participate in social networks.”

We’re heading into one of the toughest years for business that I can remember – and 2008 was hardly a cakewalk. PR investment may or may not grow by the projected 3%. But those challenged to do more with less in a difficult climate would be well-served to take another look at traditional and social media PR approaches and adjust their thinking accordingly. (more…)

January 5, 2009 at 10:00 pm Leave a comment

A few choice words: What makes a good slogan?

Judi Schindler

Having developed slogans and taglines for numerous clients over the years, I know first-hand how difficult a task it is to encapsulate a brand with just a few cogent words. It gives you an appreciation for the really good ones, which recognizes in a new list of the 10 top advertising slogans of all time.

Among them?

Apple – Think different
Wheaties – The breakfast of champions
Wendy’s – Where’s the beef?
M&Ms – Melts in your mouth not in your hands.
Miller Lite – Great taste. Less filling.
Nike – Just do it.
Maxwell House Coffee – Good to the last drop.
Clairol – Does she, or doesn’t she?
United – Fly the friendly skies.
Coca Cola – It’s the real thing.

They’re hard to argue with, although I would have preferred the Apple copywriters to think “grammatically.” I personally don’t relate to the notion that the last drop might taste different from the first – for any brand of coffee. And with the long-standing labor problems at United, it’s hard finding truth in the “friendly skies” tag.

On the whole, though, these all pass my personal criteria for a good slogan:

1. Is it memorable?
2. Does it ring true?
3. Is it distinguishing?
4. Does it speak to benefit?

Against that set of standards, here are a few on my own list of favorites.

Fed Ex – When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.

This worked for launching a brand new concept from a brand new company. The slogan both explains the service and makes it sound absolutely, positively credible.

Loreal – Because you’re worth it.
Volkswagen – Think small.
Smucker’s – With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.

All three are noteworthy for turning a negative into a positive. Loreal is expensive compared to competing products. The Volkswagen was introduced to the U.S. market when big, honking cruisers dominated the highways. And, with due respect to Mr. Smucker, he has a funny name. His agency wisely used that fact to advantage.

KFC – Finger lickin’ good.
Disneyland – The happiest place on earth.

Two more I like – simply because they are evocative. You can imagine yourself eating something so good, you want to savor the last taste off your finger tips. And what conjures better images than spending a day at the happiest place on the planet?

If you are interested in refreshing your memory or just want to look up old slogans, here is an online database with a very extensive collection. And please share your favorites – as comments – telling us why you like them!

September 11, 2008 at 3:29 pm 3 comments

New respect for PR? If Ad Age is any indicator, maybe so!

Sally Saville Hodge


That’s my somewhat gleeful chortle at the ironies of life as I ruminate on ongoing changes in the advertising/marketing/PR landscape, reflected in the pages of Advertising Age.

I really started paying attention back in January when the publication – considered by many as the Bible of the ad industry – actually named a PR firm as its Agency of the Year.  You could almost hear the collective gasps of surprise, chagrin, horror and what all as the big ad agencies and marketing firms opened their copies of that particular issue to find Richard Edelman’s smiling face looking out from the prized spot (subscription required) in the magazine.

What I found interesting was not just the nod to the job Edelman PR’s done in managing – being on the forefront, actually – all of today’s converging media. It was the implicit acknowledgement of the philosophy Richard espouses and that I, for one, agree with wholeheartedly. As he says on Edelman’s Web site: “PR should lead the communications mix because we uniquely engage all stakeholders in a dialogue that is timely, consistent and credible.”

Ad Age has only added insult to injury by continuing to play up PR-related trends and issues in prime real estate once devoted to the ad campaign du jour. On the front page of the June 9 issue, for example, it delved into how the spinmeister sector was coping with communicating about its biggest current issue: the slowdown in business. (Who’s glossing it over? Who’s actively concerned?)

And then…Ad Age had the nerve to opine that Jet Blue, beset with PR woes, actually NOT advertise (as per the carrier’s new push), but instead get back to the basics that set it apart to begin with:  “Customer service and good internal and external communication.”

I can’t say that I actively participated in the hand-wringing over the lack of respect that PR has typically gotten over the years from non-PR communicators, decision-makers, and, of course, the media in general. But it is nice to see that we’re getting some credibility outside of our own little sphere of influence.

Living up to the promise, though. That’s the challenge facing the PR brand moving forward.

June 9, 2008 at 9:30 pm 4 comments

Coming soon to a gas pump near you

Judi Schindler

Try Googling “digital out of home media.” In doing so this morning, I got 27,500 hits. My cursory research indicates that number will increase exponentially over the next few months.

What started as a kiosk in a hotel lobby or an occasional elevator video screen has now become a $2 to $3 billion industry with projections of $10 billion for next year. Some 900,000 screens are currently in place at gas stations, health clubs, coffee bars, train platforms – even men’s urinals. (Now there’s a thought.)

The advertising industry, which has been wringing its hands over the ever-slipping numbers for traditional media, is jumping on this bandwagon with both feet.

Many of the major ad agencies have formed special divisions to manage it. The media companies are delivering “narrowcast” programming. A new trade association (the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau) has been formed. And MediaPost, the online marketing publisher, held its first forum on the channel in April and launched Digital Outsider, a weekly e-letter, May 23.

And if there was any doubt about the legitimacy of the medium, the Nielsen Company, best known for its television ratings, is planning to launch a similar service for out-of-home media.

What’s all the fuss?

Proponents believe that out-of-home media is a way for advertisers to reach active, highly mobile consumers at times when they are more or less captive. They may be waiting for an airplane or train, sitting in the back of a taxi or waiting in line at a store – occasions when they have time to be attentive.

Media buys can be targeted by geography, interests, demographics. When combined with cell phones, out-of-home ads can be interactive. (Call or text for a free sample or coupon.)

Media Life Magazine says that travel, financial services and automotive are the top categories for out-of-home digital media. Local businesses like dry cleaners, real estate and healthcare providers are also said to do well with it.

While out-of-home may not be appropriate for all advertisers, others may well find it worth a test run. Success, however, will ultimately depend on targeting, messaging and integration with other forms of marketing.

May 27, 2008 at 8:08 pm Leave a comment

What’s to love about hating Sarah Marshall

Judi Schindler

In Chicago, you can’t help running into billboards that say “I am so over you, Sarah Marshall,” or “My mom always hated you, Sarah Marshall,” or cruelest of all, “You do look fat in those jeans, Sarah Marshall.”

So I bit. I went to to see what new promotional strategy was in play. What I found was a very engaging social marketing campaign for the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, starring Jason Segal (who plays Marshall on How I Met Your Mother) and Kristen Bell (best known for the title role in Veronica Mars).

The Web site purports to be a MySpace/Facebook site for Peter Bretter, a 26-year-old television composer. It lists his “Likes” (Muppets, Broadway Musicals) and “Dislikes” (Sarah Marshall Fan Club, people who mispronounce Dracula) and daily blogs since February 28, which chronicle his breakup with Sarah Marshall.

My favorite blog entries are camcorder videos that show Peter disintegrating from self-delusion to drunken despair. Daily entries keep viewers coming back for more.

I am not alone in taking notice of the campaign. The Slash Film blog had a posting a couple of days ago that calls the campaign “genius.” The NBC affiliate in Dallas ran a segment. And blogger Shandy King thought it was a novel way to promote a movie.

This kind of “teaser” campaign is actually not new. I remember Folgers Coffee’s introduction to Chicago decades ago, supported by billboards and newspapers ads for at least a month boasting “I will bring a mountain to Chicago – Captain Folger.”

What is new is the very targeted and integrated approach to reaching the 20-something marketplace. The billboards are concentrated on bus shelters and train platforms, which are heavily used by this demographic. Personal Web pages and blogs are still primarily “young” media. And the youthful language/humor helps create buzz among the target market.

The Sarah Marshall campaign reminds us that every marketing program geared to populations under the age of 40 (40 being the new 30) should have a strong Web component. Furthermore, it never hurts to entertain as well as inform. The use of humor can increase the number of people you reach exponentially, as your message gets passed along from one potential customer to another. Then the whole thing takes on a life of its own when you attract coverage from newspapers, TV and talk radio, not to mention blogs like this.

March 21, 2008 at 5:03 pm 1 comment

How higher ed can lower marketing costs

Judi Schindler

Institutions of higher learning typically benefit from a weak economy because unemployed workers are often forced back to school to learn new skills. With the current credit crunch, that may not be true this time around. According to recent press coverage in the Chicago Tribune and on MarketWatch, students who want to take out a loan to finance advanced education are encountering high interest rates or failing to qualify. Financing also has dried up for currently enrolled students.

That means lower enrollments for universities, colleges and trade schools, which are now scrambling to cut costs. Unfortunately, one place where most of the chopping occurs appears to be the marketing budget.

We all understand the need to trim. But the paring needs to be done with a scalpel, not an axe. And those wielding the sharp instruments should scrutinize the ROI of each item. Rather than simply reducing high-cost advertising and direct marketing campaigns, they may want to consider beefing up lower cost, targeted public relations and social marketing efforts.

Some ideas:

  1. Develop career and job placement stories for, and other Web sites geared to job seekers.
  2. Place feature stories on students or recent graduates in their hometown newspapers.
  3. Develop a career blog for each educational program and encourage contributors to promote their postings on their MySpace and Facebook profiles.
  4. Gain local visibility by inviting area residents and businesses to attend school performances, exhibits and lectures.
  5. Gain industry visibility by inviting a local company to sponsor a student, academic or career-focused competition.
  6. Develop a speakers’ bureau for your faculty and actively market these speakers for industry and chamber events.
  7. Look for opportunities for faculty and administrators to write bylined articles and/or op-ed pieces.

While such ideas are comparatively low cost, they do take time and effort to execute well.

It is easy to just hack away at the budget. But when you simply reduce spending, you also reduce your returns. In the long run, a more strategic approach that calls for reallocating part of the budget to new, creative initiatives will pay off in bigger dividends.

February 26, 2008 at 9:21 pm 4 comments

Is this a kingly way to treat brand loyalists?

Sally Saville Hodge

It’s difficult to argue against an advertising campaign that so clearly, definitively – and, indeed, creatively – demonstrates the role that brand loyalty plays in a business’ success.

And yet, while I admire the minds behind Burger King’s latest advertising campaign, there’s something about its basic premise that makes me very uncomfortable.

Few can have missed either the commercials or the viral buzz around the effort. In a nutshell: Take away the reason why the vast majority of Burger King fans visit its restaurants to begin with – the Whopper – and listen to the howls of protest. For two full days that’s exactly what Burger King did at two of its restaurants in Nevada. The ostensive rationale, deadpanned one cashier to a stunned customer: “…they got too popular. The sandwich got too big for the menu.”

As the Wall Street Journal reported, it all paid off quite nicely for the No. 2 fast food chain, helping drive up Burger King’s sales in the quarter ended Dec. 31 by double-digits. (Even as things were flat under the golden arches.)

It was all filmed by hidden cameras at two outlets in Nevada, using actors as cashiers. But the customers and their outrage over a Burger King without Whoppers were quite real, as footage, seen in commercials and virally (a special Burger King site and on YouTube), so aptly showed. Part of the act was to slip a competitor’s burger in customers’ bags and watch their befuddlement. “I didn’t bring that in here,” said one. “I hate Wendy’s!”

Interestingly enough, the Wall Street Journal used one word several times to describe the campaign, which might partially explain why it so discomfits me: Hoax. Synonyms would include “trick,” “swindle” and “ruse.” Other words that come to mind: Dishonest. Mean.

I think I’m probably in the minority in letting this bother me. But then again, I’m not a big fan of humor that involves pratfalls and physical pain, or of “reality” TV in general, for that matter.

Burger King got a great campaign out of this effort. But it was derived from a cruel joke on people who are its most die-hard fans. Is that any way to build a brand?

February 12, 2008 at 10:48 pm 1 comment

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