AgencySpy LostRemote TVNewser TVSpy FishbowlNY FishbowlDC GalleyCat SocialTimes


‘Me Walls’ and Vanity License Plates Reflect Personal Brands

Having a active presence on the latest social platforms is the main focus for many self-promoters. But ‘me walls’ and vanity license plates have been around far longer than Facebook posts and Twitter handles. They offer creative personal branding options for car owners and execs with corner offices.

‘Me walls’ “display photos of a person posing with President X or foreign leader Y,” according to Mark Leibovich, author of the recent best seller, This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral – Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking in America’s Gilded Capital. He was referring to the decorated office walls of Washington D.C.’s power players, but the term also applies to the corner offices at PR firms, corporations, sports agencies and Hollywood studios.

For top-level executives who aren’t stuck in cubicles, floor-to-ceiling exhibits include impressiive photos, exotic travel souvenirs and trophy cases. ‘Me walls’ offer a chance to show off one’s accomplishments and high profile contacts in a personalized setting. They’re the visual equivalent of name-dropping, also serving as conversation-starters for visitors. Since scandals can arise at any time, rotating displays are preferable. Photos of David Petraeus and Lance Armstrong were likely replaced this year, for example.

Vanity license plates: Car owners willing to pay the Department of Motor Vehicles an extra fee have the opportunity to convey their essence in fewer than ten characters. Back in New York, while wandering around locally, we spotted some catchy career-related plates. These may belong to editors, pr execs, techies, financial speculators or sports enthusiasts: MR EDIT, SPYNDOC, RISK MAN, SURFR GRL.

Read more

Breaking Bad PR Motor Home to Sell Marketing Meth to Public

We love Breaking Bad just as much as the rest of the public. So when we see a motor home not being driven by an octogenarian, we know nothing good is going on inside that roving lab of illegal activity.

Since the recession rained down on our industry like a sci-fi meteor shower, PR companies across the globe have slashed travel expenses and relied on technology and old-fashioned ingenuity to execute strategies to reach the public in convincing ways.

So we were more surprised than Pinkman buckling his belt on a rooftop to learn that VP&C, a New York public relations agency, shelled out $50,000 to drive a motor home from New York City to Des Moines, Iowa, and back to promote products such as, according to this article in the New York Times, a “Dornbracht kitchen faucet, Mohawk carpet, J.C. Penney home goods, dinnerware by Q Squared and cabinet knobs from Rocky Mountain Hardware.”

This road trip which includes “five executives and staff members of the agency” is being touted as a marketing effort with the motor home being used as a mobile showroom. We can only guess that this group has named their mobile showroom “Los PR Hermanos” because they’ve got to be smoking some serious crystal blue to think anyone with a home built on a foundation would buy products showcased in a motor home in some crappy parking lot.

According to the aforementioned article, Los PR Hermanos has had to alter its schedule and cancel an appearance in Pittsburg because of traffic delays due to slow-moving tractors in the western part of the state.

As with Breaking Bad, we’re just dying to know how this ends.

Honda Launches Campaign to Save the American Drive-In

No two things go hand-in-hand quite like a car and a drive-in movie theater — especially in the context of American nostalgia. The shift toward digital film, however, threatens to send the drive-in the way of the dodo. Stepping in to help keep this American icon from utter extinction is automaker Honda.

By the end of 2013, Hollywood is expected to stop distributing 35 millimeter film to all U.S. movie theaters. While most indoor theaters have already made the switch to digital projection — a move that costs roughly $75,000 per screen — hundreds of drive-in theaters will find it difficult to manage such an expenditure, given their limited ticket sales (most drive-ins close during the colder months, after all).

Part of Honda’s goal is to raise community awareness of the perilous situation in which beloved local drive-ins find themselves. The campaign’s website,, features a video (below), which visitors are encouraged to share via social media. Supporters are also asked to pledge to see one movie at their local drive-ins. Read more

This Mercedes-Benz Song is So Bad it’s Good…Nope, Wait, it’s Just Really, Embarrassingly Bad

We usually like to make you smile on Fridays, but I’m afraid the only smile this new musical Mercedes ad will bring to your face is the Oh-God-I’m-So-Uncomfortable-Please-Make-it-Stop kind.

The new Mercedes-Benz Service Song, sung from the point of view of a Mercedes car in desperate need of the sort of…um…handling that only a Mercedes repairman can provide, features lyrics like: “I like them to be strong, that they can catch me when I skid/Like them to turn me on, I thought that some of them did/But just as I needed a helping hand, so many men were ‘out of service,’ not like you … You only give your best, won’t stop until I smile.”

Oh, and in the 5-minute extended version (yeah, that exists AND we listened to the whole thing) nearly a full 30 seconds is dedicated to throaty, over-the-top “oh yeah’s.”

The atrociously cheesy, over-wrought song is accompanied by an equally terrible video, chock full of overly-Photoshopped images of heroic mechanics, smiling families and glistening sunsets. It seems the ad is trying to be nostalgic, sexy and epic all at once, and failing miserably on all counts. Read more

Toyota’s ‘Meals Per Hour’ Video Generating Hundreds of Thousands of Meals for Sandy Victims

Remember Superstorm Sandy? Though it’s been a long time since the devastating storm made headlines, it remains fresh in the minds of east coasters still recovering from the punishing winds, rain and surf unleashed upon them last fall.

In an effort to re-rally support for those still struggling to put their lives back together, Toyota released the below video last week, titled “Meals Per Hour.” For every time the video is viewed (up to 1 million views), Toyota has pledged to provide a meal to Sandy victims still struggling to feed their families. As of yesterday — one week after the video’s release — the short documentary-style film had already generated 892,000 views/meals. As of this writing, that number has jumped to 905, 695.

In the video, we see that for many in the Rockaways of New York, life has yet to return to normal. We are introduced to the Metro Food Distribution center, a local food bank struggling to provide enough food to those who need it. One volunteer says that even though workers are dedicated to providing assistance, part of the problem is that “there isn’t really a system set up…if you have a good system, the work takes care of itself.”

Enter Toyota, which has had a fair amount of practice creating efficient systems (cars don’t just manufacture themselves, you know). The Toyota Production System (TPS) is based on the idea that “the summation of many, many small, cheap improvements can have a big impact.” One Toyota representitive, who shares TPS with non-profits around the country, explains, “These basic principles of the Toyota Production System apply to any kind of process — it doesn’t have to be manufacturing.” Read more

Ten Years Later, Honda ‘Cog’ Ad Inspires Ten-Year-Old Girl

Anyone who ever had a science teacher assign a project centered around the creation of a Rube Goldberg machine — an overly complex contraption that uses a chain reaction to accomplish a simple task — was likely awed by Honda‘s “Cog” ad when it debuted over a decade ago. Ten years later, it seems the spot still possesses the power to amaze — a mark of truly inspired advertizing.

Neil Christie of London agency Wieden + Kennedy received the below letter on Monday morning from a 10-year-old girl:

Read more

‘Apple’ and ‘Volkswagen’ Unveil the ‘iBeetle’. Yes, Really.

So…it seems the iBeetle is a thing.

While a car featuring Apple-compatible features is nothing new, the Volkswagen iBeetle takes that integration to an entirely new level, working with your iPhone to allow both the car and the device to do things never before possible.

Because if there’s one thing drivers need, it’s more tech-related distractions!

Thanks to a docking station, drivers will be able to use their iPhone for navigation, hands-free calling, and listening to their favorite iTunes playlist. Also, a special Volkswagen app available through the App Store will include extra dashboard extensions and access to Spotify, social networks like Facebook, and the iPhone’s camera (so you can take a picture of the cliff you’re about to drive off while updating your Facebook status and rocking out to Justin Bieber).

The car even looks like an Apple product with its silvery color, sleek design, and chrome trim, so Mac enthusiasts who have always wanted to crawl inside their McBooks and live there will be able to make that dream a reality in the near future. The iBeetle will be abailable in two different models sometime in early 2014, and if you just can’t wait that long, you can pre-order the car in October 2013.


Hyundai Apologizes for Ad Depicting Suicide Attempt

For the second time this month, a company is apologizing for making light of suicide in their advertizing. While these unapproved McDonald’s posters were distasteful and insensitive, Hynudai’s “Pipe Job” spot, which actually depicts a failed suicide attempt, takes the decidedly un-funny joke to an entirely different level.

The ad shows a man attempting to end his life with carbon monoxide poisoning by breathing the exhaust of a new Hyundai. The joke’s on him, though; the car’s emissions are so clean, he lives to see another day.

Yeah. We’re not laughing, either.

In fact, because some of us have immediate family members who have suffered with depression and have attempted suicide, we just can’t muster our usual “lighten up” attitude for this one — it’s just plain offensive (and potentially harmful). There is ample data showing that careless depictions of suicide can actually cause more suicides to occur. And this ad not only depicts a pretty detailed blue-print for how to kill yourself, but it also neglects to show any evidence of the impact that this man’s actions would have on others, or suggest that there is any kind of help available to him.

A spokesman for Hyundai told Forbes via email that the video was created in Europe by a European agency (Innocean Europe), and said that Hyundai Motor North America was not involved in any way in its production or posting. He also passed on the following statement from Hyundai Europe:

“We understand that some people may have found the iX35 video offensive.  We are very sorry if we have offended anyone.  We have taken the video down and have no intention of using it in any of our advertising or marketing.”

Hyundai North America has since publicly issued the following statement:

We at Hyundai Motor America are shocked and saddened by the depiction of a suicide attempt in an inappropriate UK video featuring a Hyundai. Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment.

While we do feel that this apology and the decision to pull the ad were appropriate damage-control responses, we are a little surprised the ad made it that far in the first place without someone somewhere along the line saying, “gee, guys, it’s clever and all, but this goes quite a bit too far”. Mental illness is still a fairly taboo subject in many respects, and those suffering from it often feel too ashamed to talk openly about what they are going through or to seek help. We don’t see ads making light of other life-threatening disabilities, so why is depression any different?

On principle, we weren’t honestly sure we even wanted to include the video in this post, but realized readers would likely want to see what we’re talking about. The ad is below the jump, but we personally found it disturbing enough to suggest you use discretion before viewing.

Read more

Can Japanese Auto Brands Use PR to Stand Out After Recall?

Japanese auto brands have walked a tenuous PR line for decades now. They enjoy a reputation for being reliable, durable and aesthetically pleasing, but the brands behind them also run the risk of blurring into a single, amorphous marketing entity.

Because the public groups Japanese cars and most other Japanese products under the same national umbrella, these brands must work extra hard to differentiate themselves from each other. They even suffer through the same PR fails! For example, the latest auto recall scandal involves Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda and 3.4 million vehicles whose passenger side airbags could “deploy with too much force, sending shards of metal into the passenger area”. OK then!

This revelation presents a litany of PR challenges, the most notable being the public’s collective question, “If these brands all use the same airbags and airbag technology, what actually makes them different?”

Read more

Ford Apologizes for Kidnapping the Kardashians in Ad Spot

A note to PR/marketing folks planning to build campaigns around C-list celebrities: just because the public hates them doesn’t mean we won’t get offended on their behalf. Despite the fact that recent polling found the Kardashian family to be slightly less popular than the U.S. Congress (which boasts as dismal 9% approval rating), the Ford Motor Company still had to apologize this week for a couple of very weird overseas print ad spots, one of which depicted Kim and her sisters in a…compromising situation in the back of the brand-new compact Ford Figo driven by one Paris Hilton (ugh).

The strangest thing about this story is probably the fact that the spot, created by Ford’s Indian ad agency WPP, was never meant to be seen by the (Indian) public.

Read more