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Battle of the Brands

Starbucks Goes Stealth for SoCal Testing of Beer, Wine Sales

We can only imagine the sophisticated levels of market analysis that preceded the decision to start testing “Starbucks Evenings” beer and wine sales in California at just two SoCal locations: Calabasas and Rancho Santa Margarita.

OC Register restaurant reporter Nancy Luna recently checked out the latter location with the newspaper’s “Good Libations” columnist Paul Hodgins. It’s not clear if the chain’s after-4 p.m. alcoholic-beverage options will be in future more prominently featured on the menu and advertised. For now, Luna notes that Starbucks is approaching it very subtly:

The barista counter does not showcase any bottles of beer or wine. A few small signs promote the upscale ["Small Bites"] food and wine list, but they are easy to miss. Paul and I agreed that the uninformed visitor would never know the cafe is selling alcohol.

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Jingleballz.com Decks the Internet with Really Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Have you yet attended an “ugly Christmas sweater party?” If today’s press release for the November 23 launch of Pleasanton, CA based online retailer jingleballz.com is to be believed, these gatherings are an of-the-moment strand of the North American hipster social fabric:

“Ugly sweater parties are hot right now, but to really stand out you need more than just a gaudy Christmas tree or flashing reindeer nose. That’s where we come in,” said jingleballz.com founder Shawn Nohr. “Whether it’s a gift for yourself, a friend or for the White Elephant gift swap, calling these cheeky sweaters a ‘conversation piece’ is an understatement.”

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Newhouse Alum Seeds Ambitious ‘Social Commerce’ Student Track

Jim Weiss, founder of strategic communications firm WCG, graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 1987. Twenty-five years later, he’s committed to helping a new generation of students navigate a marketing world upended by digital, social and mobile media.

Weiss and his Alma Mater have formed the W2O Group Center for Social Commerce, seeded with a $100,000 personal gift and anchored to WCG’s San Francisco-based parent company. The goal is to help students learn the rules of “social commerce,” the ever-changing confluence of online content, commerce and social connectivity:

The partnership will provide opportunities for Newhouse students and professors to rotate through the various W2O Group offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, New York and London, interact with the firm’s clients, and learn from experts in analytics, digital, social, corporate, technology and research areas. In return, senior W2O Group leaders will guest lecture at Newhouse and work with the university’s faculty to create new courses and update existing ones.

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San Diego Opera Enlists Occupy Oakland Artist

This is simply fantastic. To promote a San Diego Opera production of Aida, media relations director Edward Wilensky has the benefit of a most unusual PR partner: Occupy Oakland image-maker R. Black.

Per a report by U-T San Diego music and art critic James Chute, the above image is the beginning of a beautiful 2012-13 season friendship. All sparked by Wilensky’s eagle eye and-or fine-tuned Google News alerts:

In several Occupy-related interviews, when asked what he wanted to do next, Black said he wanted to design an opera poster. It didn’t take long for Wilensky, a former buyer for Off the Record and a big Black fan (who even had a copy of Black’s 2004 book Futura: The Art of R. Black), to make an offer Black couldn’t refuse: design a poster for each of the opera’s five presentations and an overall season poster.

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New Ad.ly CEO Will Take Ten Photojournalists Over One Kardashian

Walter Delph says he has spent the past six months cleaning up the mess left behind by Charlie Sheen at social media PR firm Ad.ly. The newly installed CEO tells Fast Company he is intent on forging a #winning formula that has little to do with fatuous celebrity zeitgeist.

The Kardashians are still free to use ad.ly, of course, but the firm is looking to expand its roster to include less expected “publishing partners”… “GE, for example, will not be a good match for the Kardashians,” Delph says. “If we’re working with Nikon, for example, I’d prefer to have 10 photojournalists over one Kardashian [sister].”

A couple of early comments to the article question Delph’s take. They suggest that Sheen, regardless of the way the actor’s 2011 rants and raves eventually tailspinned, did the celebrity-Twitter-influencers outfit a huge launch phase favor.

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SPY-ing a Manufactured Billboard Controversy

Even a corporate PR person with bad eyesight could have seen this one coming a mile away: A billboard along Highway 101 in Encinitas that reads ‘HAPPY TO SIT ON YOUR FACE’ generating angry complaints and, this morning, apologetic removal.

It’s a tailor-made faux PR controversy. While the folks at Carlsbad-headquartered SPY Optic eyewear will never admit to this publicly, they are without a doubt privately celebrating as they bookmark, print (and frame?) coverage on NBC San Diego, KFI AM 640 and elsewhere.

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Perusing the Beckham News Briefs

While this morning’s LA Times story about the arrival of ten-foot metallic David Beckham statues near a couple of LA H&M store locations has all the facts, the headline leaves a lot to be desired. It reads: “Statues of David Beckham in his underwear go on display.

We understand this is a family newspaper, so we’re not looking for any salacious Bend It Like Beckham crotch references. (In fact, reporter Austin Knoblauch sources a variation of that territory in his final sentence.) But the LAT headline writer was definitely asleep at the wheel. Tribune sister publication Zap2it has an equally yawn-inducing headline.

Much better are the following headers from Adweek, Splash News and UK’s Evening Standard newspaper:

David Beckham Looms Large as H&M Erects Silver Statues

The New Statue of David

Silverballs! Giant statues of David Beckham capture the public’s imagination

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Advertising Whiz Recalls Casting LA’s ‘Craziest Actor’

In the new book Advertisers At Work, marketing professor Tracy Tuten interviews 20 leading industry execs and entrepreneurs. Leading off this dynamic compilation is Chris Raih, co-founder and managing director of Venice-based creative agency Zambezi.

Raih reveals that from a very young age growing up in Minnesota, he harbored dreams of writing for Sports Illustrated. But things took a turn for the ad world when the print journalism major interned at local agency Fallon. Today, Raih counts the Los Angeles Lakers as a client, has opened a field office in Shanghai and oversees with co-founder Brian Ford some three dozen employees just steps from the beach.

The irony is that Raih gets to work at Zambezi with various sports superstars. In the summer of 2010 for example, the agency put together a vitaminwater campaign with Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Petersen. As he explains in the interview, the icing on the cake was a certain voluble actor:

“The concept was freaking zany – basically that this athlete retained an attack-dog lawyer to try to sue Fantasy Football guys who had Adrian on their team… We cast for the craziest actor we could find and trust me, we found him! We got Gary Busey to play the lawyer…”

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Kobe Bryant’s NBA Jersey Most Popular in the World

We all know Kobe Bryant is a household name not only just in Los Angeles but across the world.

But in case you need further proof, Bryant had the top-selling NBA Jersey internationally this past season, based on sales at Adidas locations outside the United States.

Exact sales figures were not released but Bryant is tops in China, Latin America, and Europe.

The one list Bryant didn’t top this season was the most popular jersey in the U.S. — that honor went to Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls.

Luncheon Celebrates Orange County’s ‘Ten Most Trusted Brands’

In the current issue of OC Metro magazine, the editors reveal the results of a recent local consumer survey designed to identify the region’s ten most trusted brands for 2012. Alongside such heavyweights as the Anaheim Ducks and the Discovery Science Center, there is also – somewhat surprisingly – Wahoo’s Fish Taco.

Today, over lunchtime at the Disneyland Hotel, the success of these brands is being honored by means of the Third Annual Trust Summit. Events include a panel discussion moderated by Iconoculture vp Mandy Levenberg.

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