pitches creative to a tee

With apologies to golf metaphors, adulterous dating site has successfully launched a full-on marketing PR campaign based on merely the notion they might engage in, well, marketing.

The background:

  • attempts to purchase TTC advertising space and the Rocket (allegedly) refuses
  • Mock-ups of the ads are released and chaos ensues

That’s really it.

From a stactical prospective, this controversial service embraced controversy through (allegedly) sincere attempts to market using uncontroversial advertising media. The content of the ads are published for free using earned media with an explanation of what the service does. Gaining earned media from creative work is at its base, a coup for marketing PRtists, as it expands the reach of the ad campaign without adding to the ad buy costs (see: the strategy behind Super Bowl ads)

So, strategy goes, if the ROI on a creative campaign is increased by piggybacking earned media, imagine the increase to ROI when the creative doesn’t even need to be produced, let alone bought media for.

This strategy is risky, yes, but it vibes in stride with the risqué identity of the brand.  Let’s send 60 swinging stractical points to

Ashley Madison proposed TTC ads courtesy of

Ashley Madison proposed TTC ads courtesy of


When sick pigs fly?

GTA boy dies.

Mass panic for vaccine.

Short supply.

And now the Canadian government is on the defensive, reaching for Stractical Points. And after all the media reports of grannies turned away from vaccine clinics after lining up for hours, Ottawa is in tough as the architect of Canada’s pandemic strategy.

The government needs a two-pronged approach in reaction but so far, we’ve only seen one:

1) The “we’re not wrong, we’re right” approach. Effectiveness: Tactical.

A difficult thing to prove in the blusterous court of public opinion, especially when it comes to a public health issue.


A federal official said with 6-million doses of the vaccine already in circulation, Canada is ahead of the rest of the world on a per-capita basis.

“There is no shortage,” the federal official said.

What the official meant, I interpret, is that there will be no shortage — folks who want the vaccine will get it… eventually. But in the media/public vortex, the “shortage” means what’s available now. Normally, full points for using a comparison (Canada vs. the world) but in the context of public health, this declaration reads disjointed compared to the story being created around flu concerns.

But they help their case by backing it up with numbers:  Ottawa is releasing data saying over a million doses have been distributed already nationally. A lesson in the effect and simplicity of a statistic to capture a point which carried this “we’re right” approach from gut-reactive to tactical.

2) The “what we’re doing to make things even better” approach. Effectiveness: Stractical.

While approach 1 hinges on defence, approach 2 is how you put points on the board (so many apologies to Touchdowns & Fumbles for co-opting football metaphors) To do so, the Ottawa needs to communicate what happens next. What’s the timeline? What should people expect? But the government still appears hesitant to commit to comment on when vaccines will be available for everyone who wants one or why most of us aren’t in dire need of the vaccine this week.

And they probably have good reason to avoid this area: they just don’t know and are afraid to say. But until the Canadian government can bridge approach 1 to approach 2, only half a Stractical point is all they collect.

Now, anyone for bacon?

Swine Flu

Ways to, and ways not to Harp

The arrests of the ship captains of the anti-seal hunting vessel, the Farley Mowat has brought increased media coverage to controversial practice.

Let’s examine statements from both Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson and Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn.

First Watson, who in framing the context of the seizing of the vessel with the ultimate fate of the seal hunt says:

“We haven’t seen any evidence of a humane hunt here,” Mr. Watson said. “We’re presenting this evidence to the European Parliament. They are going to pass a bill to ban seal products. That will end the Canadian seal hunt. We’re looking at the end of days for the seal hunt.”

The statement pushes back the story away from the seizure and the arrest (ie the anti-seal hunters acting illegally) and re-frames the concept of the hunt as an archaic, soon to be obsolete practice. The last line is a little more inflammatory than an advocating statement should be, but groups that protest like unions, social or environmental agencies can get away with fiery language.

Now, let’s look at Minister Hearn’s statement. First, he denies that the government is blocking observers:

“We have issued over 75 permits this year for people to come visit within 30 feet of the hunt,” Mr. Hearn said. “If you have a permit, you can do that. … The boat did not have a permit.”

This appeal is to policy which may not be exceptionally compelling but is acceptable, especially from large organizations and governments — as long as the policy is reasonable, or at least, procedural. But then, inexplicably, the Minister gets cute:

Mr. Hearn said the incident has garnered international exposure, exposing Mr. Watson’s group as one that flouts the rules with little regard for international law.

“Observe is one thing, obstruct is something else,” he said. “It’s like the old days in Dodge before Wyatt Earp. This is the new Dodge, Mr. Watson. Welcome to Canada and welcome to the new Dodge City.”

Now Minister Hearn leaves the comfort of a policy defence by making allusions to the Wild West and martial law. The statement is overly aggressive and suggests an overzealous threat against seal hunting opponents. Analogies in media statements should act to simplify a complex position. This analogy only aggrandizes the perception of the government as an out-of-touch bully.

4 Stractical points for Mr. Watson and we’ll take away a Colt .45 from Minister Hearn in honour of his self-proclamation as Canada’s Wyatt Earp.

seal hunt

McGuinty 180s, calling for smoking ban in cars with children

 Daulton McGuinty

Changing your mind in politics is never easy; flip-floppers I think they call them. PRtists know that spinning a reversal only leaves you dizzy so why not opt for a policy of openness, honesty and frankness. To that point, we award 16 (for the magical age in which second-hand smoke will go from illegal to merely frowned up) to Ontario Premier Daulton McGuinty for taking the piss out of an opinion adjustment:
The announcement marks a reversal for McGuinty, who once called such an idea a “slippery slope” toward a nanny state that infringes on individuals’ rights.

He says he was convinced to act by mounting evidence that smoking in cars is much worse for children than in a home. The premier also credited the doggedness of Sault Ste. Marie Liberal MPP David Orazietti, who introduced a private member’s bill banning smoking in cars with kids last year, and lobbying from Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best.

“I changed my mind,” McGuinty said this morning at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “I think it’s the right thing to do for our kids.”

Changing one’s mind is human. People (voters) like human. Weaseling out of a decision by re-writing history is political cliche. McGuinty also picked the perfect location, Sick Kids Hospital, to make the announcement. The story is now about improving the health prospects of Ontarians, not Daulton’s loosing estimations of civil liberties.

“It’s for you…”

Stractical would like to stay away from the cavalcade of slung communication tactics known as the Presidential primaries/election. Not because the Hillary vs. Obama vs. McCain vs. talk radio topic is uninteresting or doesn’t illustrate sound communications lessons. It’s just that, well… once you dive into the deep end of political communication, you may not be able to swim back to the ledge.


Piggybacking on the last post, we just couldn’t help ourselves from talking about the flipside of earned-media-from-paid-media strategy. The Toronto Star reports on Hillary’s new attack ad playing in Ohio and Texas. The premise of the Cold War-style ad is that a phone is ringing and its an emergency (red phones = serious)…

“It’s 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep, but there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing,” says the narrator in Clinton’s ad.

“Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call, whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military – someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.”

The commercial plays up Sen. Clinton’s experience but in a way that can only be described as heavy-handed. And while getting her commercial picked up by credible, unpaid news outlets should be a coup for Hillary, a controversial attack ad was bound to be cut to pieces by the media. In political reporting, anytime there is an attack, they assign space for a rebuttal. And since attack ads play out as unpopular (even if they might sway voters in the end) Obama gets ample earned media space to deride the tactic. Her media money = his good press.

The lesson? Be prepared to defend your advertising to the media. If there’s controversy, you’ll rarely get the last word so make sure the first words are powerful. And ensure that your integrated strategies are similar in tone and message. If you’re going to release an aggressive ad, pro-actively communicate why it’s aggressive. Using paid media for PR purposes can be a terrific strategy, especially when trying to create news value where there is little. But remember that any paid-media exposure can stir up media coverage, positive or negative.

Students expelled from kissing on a bus – were their tongues going round and round?

A story out of Richland County, South Carolina reports that two high school students were expelled for kissing on a school bus. Apparently kissing violates the school’s “sexual misconduct” rules. The parents of the two students are appealing the decision. I just had to post the school board’s statement:
“The district does not discuss disciplinary action taken against individual students because of the confidentiality rights of students. Generally speaking, incidents of this nature are investigated by the appropriate school administrators, and students are disciplined according to board policy JICDA Code of Conduct. Rules of student conduct and consequences for violations are necessary for the orderly operation of the district’s schools and buses. The district stands firmly by any decisions made by the district administration and school board in student discipline matters.”

A fine bureaucratic boilerplate response for an initial media request but the school board must realize that this story has legs and should be crafting a defence of the specific policy, not just policies in general, lest the parents, students and late night talk shows control the message. If they can’t defend the decision in to the media, they’ll have a tough time defending it to the citizens of Richland County.