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Archives: February 2013

Big Brands Encourage Supreme Court to Support Gay Marriage

Supreme Court of the United States An update in case you don’t follow judicial politics: The United States Supreme Court is about to hear a couple of cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), the 1996 legislation that effectively said “in the eyes of the federal government, marriage and related legal benefits can only occur between a man and a woman.”

Public opinion on the issue has shifted dramatically since that law passed, and now more than 200 of the country’s biggest brands are teaming up to let the Supreme Court know that this isn’t just a cultural or political matter–DoMA is making it harder for businesses to operate.

Brands ranging from techies like Facebook and Apple to consumer biggies like Nike and even financial titans like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs signed on to file what’s called a “supporting brief” or “friend of the court brief”. Their major point: DoMA effectively forces us to discriminate against our employees and makes the process of finding, courting and rewarding the talent we need that much more challenging.

How so, you ask?

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PR Win: Hot Wheels Hits Jackpot with Tweet-Powered Vending Machine

hot-wheels-camaromatic-vending-machineWe know that social media can power all sorts of things from brand recognition to customer interaction, and that making it worthwhile for customers to use your hashtags by offering prizes or incentives can sometimes prove a useful strategy — but what about using tweets as actual (not just digital) currency to literally power a customer vending machine?

That’s exactly what Hot Wheels and Chevrolet Canada teamed up with Canadian agency TrojanOne to create: a vending machine that accepts tweets rather than coins and dispenses limited-edition diecast toy car collectables rather than chips and soda. The companies built the customized vending machine (which was just a regular coil vending machine updated with special web-enabled computer components) in honor of the Toronto Auto Show. All toy car enthusiasts had to do was stand near the machine, enable location features on their smartphones and tweet at @HotWheelsCanada using the hashtag #ChevyCIAS. Ta da! A free toy car.

The machine dispensed about 2,000 of them over the 10 days of the auto show. Impressive, no?

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The Ticker: Smartwatches; Saving Hostess; Google Glass; Horse Meat; Avon’s Resurrection

United Airlines to Offer $9 ‘Premier Access’ Line at Security

The public has had a love/hate relationship with air travel for decades now. We love the excitement of going somewhere new or visiting people we love, but we hate having our flights cancelled, being frisked in our socks by strangers, getting hit with hidden fees and waiting in line for the infamous full body scanner.

Yet most of us accept these inconveniences as part of the reality of flying. You can’t blame an airline for the weather. Hurricanes happen. So does snow. Most airline passengers sense that we’re all going through this crazy experience together. But at United Airlines, $9 is about to change that dynamic. That is how much United is charging for “Premier Access” to fast-track security lines that offer customers reduced hassle and shorter waits.

How will the public react? This is a tough one. Sure, the airline industry has always offered special treatment to business flyers and the high rollers in first class–but this new “Premier Access” stunt has yet to pass the public’s sniff test. Read more

Dads to Brands: We’re Not All Idiots, You Know

Guys with Kids Here’s a universal truth: many marketing and PR campaigns play on gender stereotypes. Two of the more popular tropes are “girls only like girly things” and “all dads are bumbling idiots.”

Things are changing, though–slowly but surely. Fathers, like mothers, are a little tired of being portrayed via dumb cliches, and they’re responding quite well to campaigns that feel targeted to them rather than their “nagging wives.”

At a recent “daddy blogger” conference in Houston, brands asked dads: “What do you guys want?” Their answer: we want to be treated as equals and competent parents, not mocked as clueless oafs who barely know how to use a microwave.

Dove Men+Care is one of the most prominent brands spearheading this trend by recruiting such “guy’s guy” dads as Shaquille O’Neal and a conveniently handsome “nonactor”/firefighter to let dads aged 35 to 44 know that it’s OK to use a facial scrub and a moisturizer.

As Jason Lin, VP and digital strategist at Ketchum PR, told The New York Times: ““The payoff is huge if you get dads right.” Can we think of brands beyond Dove that are getting dads right?

Major Media Companies to Launch ‘Educational Campaign’ on Violent Content

Joe Biden In the wake of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook, quite a few national personalities and organizations like the NRA tried to place blame on the nebulous “media”, which supposedly encourages such horrific acts through its glorification of a “culture of violence” in movies, TV shows and video games.

Now representatives and lobbying groups representing major media companies have vowed to take initiative, creating a “nationwide educational campaign” designed to reassure skeptical parents and fulfill a promise made to VP Joe Biden that they would “be part of the solution to curb gun violence.”

Details of the campaign are scarce at the moment, but it will include TV PSA spots, social media initiatives and a relaunch of the sites TVBoss and FilmRatings. The larger point is to remind parents that ratings systems are there to give them a choice regarding their children’s media exposure and that they can use tools provided by the industry to assert greater control over what their kids watch. Participants include the Motion Picture Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the American Cable Association (ACA) and member companies.

Will this campaign affect the public debate? Will it make use of related research? We don’t know–but it should be interesting. We’ll follow closely.

Jon Stewart Clips Secretaries Gibbs & McLellan, Begrudgingly Respects Fleischer

Breaking news: Political spokesmen sometimes bend the truth! Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart devoted six minutes to shooting those messenger(s). Stewart lambasted Barack Obama’s first press secretary Robert Gibbs for the way he came clean, during his new gig as an MSNBC analyst, on his stonewalling two-step over the administration’s use of remote drones to kill suspected terrorists.

Stewart compared the glib Gibbs with the seemingly emotionally damaged Scott McClellan, George W. Bush’s second spokesman, concluding that neither are any good at protecting the POTUS in their respective retirements. “Either way, secrets spilled,” Stewart finds. “What you need is a jaded believer. Boom.”

When McClellan came out with his admissions of lying, guess which Bush surrogate went after him? Boom, Ari Fleischer.

‘Like’ This Post and We’ll Donate Money to Charity!

Just kidding; we would never condescend to you like that. But quite a few brands would and do–and it seems to work on some level. Here, for example, is an update posted on the Papa John’s timeline yesterday:

Everyone agrees that charity is a good thing and that no child in a developed nation like the United States should face the prospect of going to bed hungry. Also: We understand that this post fits within the “social media best practices” guidelines by featuring a positive message, an aggressive call to action and an emotionally manipulative stock photograph. But it won’t win Papa John’s any “responsible citizen” awards.

And as you can see from the thousands of comments on the post, many users see it as an act of shameless self-promotion. Quite a bit of the thread consists of bickering over the health care controversy sparked by CEO John Schnatter‘s earlier comments.

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You Don’t Say: Budweiser Sued for Watering Down Its Beers!

Today we were shocked to learn that some people think Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest “brewery”, makes products that closely resemble alcohol-flavored water! But that’s not all: According to three $5M lawsuits filed by customers in three different states, the company skirts the law by adding water to Budweiser, Michelob and other famously awful beers, then “overcharg[ing]” customers and “unjustly enrich[ing]” itself by printing inaccurate alcohol content percentages on its packaging.

Oh, and before you ask, frat boys: these allegations apply to Natty Ice as well.

Of course AB InBev reps deny it all with highfalutin language about adhering “to the highest standards in brewing our beers”. But the brand should get ready for a bruising: the info supposedly comes from former employees at its 13 American breweries. Attorney Josh Boxer says that “We believe this is a corporate policy that comes from AB InBev and trickles down.” Touche, sir!

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Male-Targeted Shows’ Huge Female Viewerships Defy Marketing Clichés

Once upon a time, at the same time every week, one of my roommates and I had to ditch our apartment (occupied by a few fellow young women) for a guy friend’s abode so that we could watch South Park as it aired — our own TV was occupied by banter delivered at tongue-twisting-speed by The Gilmore Girls, which aired at the same time as our beloved Kyle and Cartman. So when this female fan of shows like Rescue Me, Archer, and The Following read AdAge’s article discussing the popularity of male-targeted shows among women, the first thing I thought was, “I knew it wasn’t just us!”

In fact, the highest-rated cable show among women so far this year is not FOX‘s female-targeted New Girl or Lifetime‘s Dance Moms, but AMC‘s gore-filled zombie apocalypse drama The Walking Dead. According to Nielsen, the February 10 mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead drew a 5.0 rating/11 share among women 18-49 (almost twice that of its nearest competitor). To give that number some context, shows like ABC’s Once Upon a Time and CBSThe Good Wife are lucky when the same demographic comes in above a 1.5.

So does that mean that women are seeing past gore and violence to intricate story lines and interesting characters? It’s not that simple. Horizon Media research director Brad Adgate says gore isn’t necessarily a turnoff for women. “If there’s one genre that’s really popular with men and women, science fiction is it—anything that deals with the occult really.” To support his point, Adgate mentions long-running procedurals like CSI and Law & Order: SVU, which boast an overwhelmingly female audience.

It seems we ladies aren’t wading through the scary stuff–we are wholly engrossed in it. Girls may be sugar and spice and everything nice, but we also like to watch shows about serial killers.

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