AshleyMadison.com 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:

  • AshleyMadison.com 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 AshleyMadison.com.

Ashley Madison proposed TTC ads courtesy of Torontoist.com

Ashley Madison proposed TTC ads courtesy of Torontoist.com

This is just friggin’ amazing

One of my Alma Maters, Humber College, has hit the PR payload when four students built a radio and made contact with the International Space Station.

With polytechnics moving strongly with pro-active MR and GR, stories like this do wonders in tying research to colleges with the strategy to remove the stigma that college/polytechnic education is somehow “lesser” than university.  (I speak only to a popular perception, of course) 

The strategy tree reads: If x (where x is relevant stakeholders: potential students, parents, funders, politicians) believes (through some type of research) that college education is “lesser” (not respected by employers, not able to bridge to graduate studies, etc.) raise colleges profile by showing x that in fact colleges do conduct research, are granting degrees and are teaching the skills desired by the workforce. 

As if to say “Hey there Ivory Tower, while you’re navel gazing we’re talking to space.” 19 Stractical Points for aggressive underdog media-baiting. 

 

On transparency and authenticity…

I lose.

For not contributing nearly enough to this precious weblog. But while the hours in a day seem to diminish with every new month and I’m not able to update as much as I’d like, I still keep a very active blogroll of PR and communications-type vehicles that keep me in the industry loop.

One of these blogs, PR in Canada, is local, regularly updated and phenomenally written by Christie Adams. Go check it out. Really! Then come back.

………………………………………………………………….

Okay, welcome back. If simply giving praise to a blog may be considered mere lip service, I’ll prove my engagement by taking issue with a couple recent points that came across my Google Reader (articles = good, articles that provoke discussion = stractical).

From“Does Transparency Mean Corporations Can Reform Themselves Without Changing? Thoughts From The Shel Holtz Dinner,” Christie recalls a debate with Shel Holtz about a company’s ability to avoid changing behaviour (due to mediated pressure) by practicing total corporate transparency.

I think it is fundamentally wrong to assume that transparency trumps action in resolving crises or issues.  The relationship between a company and an exterior stakeholder group (generally referred to as “the public” as mediated through mass media but really any group that does not have a vested interest in the viability of the company like a shareholder or employee) is forever tenuous because of the disparity of negotiated principles.

Whereas internal stakeholder groups have specific negotiated principles with respect to the company — increase the share price or produce a dividend — the public’s relationship is less clearly defined. The public generally accepts populist frames like fairness, equality, underdog triumphs and honest disclosure and rejects the opposites of these principles like hypocrisy, obstruction, or asymmetrical conflicts (like layoffs). If you’re representing an oil company that is making huge profits and there is an environmental or gas price crisis, the public is not going to like you.

Transparency satisfies one of these populist principles, especially in the tobacco and Wal-Mart examples since the contentious issue relates to ethics. Tobacco companies lie and sell people death sticks and Wal-Mart locks their employees in their stores overnight according to public lore.  Both are, in the abstract, bad. Using transparency to clarify so-called “bad” (unpopular) policies is better than letting the unpopular policies fester in the public’s mind. But honesty only addresses one of these principles. If your company’s ethics are in question, disclosing the questionable policies is better than hiding your head in the sand, but it’s only one level up. A commitment to transparency should and must include a willingness and openness to amend unethical or other secret behaviour.

Now, I’m not saying that corporate transparency is always the right move for every company and every reputation management initiative — I believe (and I’ll post about this in the future) that often some moves companies make would never pass the public’s populist principles, even with savvy public relations support — but if you have made the commitment to disclose, you can’t ignore the prerogative to change and adapt without drawing attention to the fact that you are refusing to change and adapt.

A quick note on: “Popularity Defines A ‘Real’ Online News Outlet”

I agree that the line between bloggers and journalists is blurring. But the important point for PRtists, when assessing an outlet is not merely popularity, it’s suitability. The internet has brought a level of specialization in journalistic content in that there are blogs for enthusiasts for specific models of cars. When considering suitability to pitch or engage in media relations with bloggers, popularity is just one of the factors that we must consider. The most important factor is credibility. Like trade print publications, online entities can have small audiences that deem the outlet to be so credible and trustworthy that a product review, spokesperson defence, expert comment or other PR-centred activity will almost certainly be well received. Now, judging credibility speaks to PR measurement which is, as discussed here previously, a black hole but we should still recognize that spikes and trends in popularity may not necessarily point to spikes and trends in credibility.

Thanks again to PR in Canada for getting the blog rolling again!

Big Tobacco

Can they be honest AND evil?

Finger Lickin’ Good Proactive

So you think you’ve finally run out of ideas for proactive media relations? Sure you’ll never come up with an angle to get your product/brand in ink?

Shame on you. And 11 Stractical points (one for each herb and spice in the Colonel’s secret recipe) for KFC (parent: Yum!) for going back to brand basics with this one:

Brand brainstorming exercise for the week: Imagine a world without ______ (your brand)

iPhones and iBasketball

Rogers and the iPhone. iPhone and Rogers. A match made in… well… Canada. Here’s the story: Rogers announces iPhone price plans for the Canadian roll-out of the Apple phenom. Customers/consumers kick up a storm as the prices are seismically higher than in the US or anywhere else for that matter. Then Rogers announces a dramatic price drop.

Veritas’ Touchdown & Fumbles weighed in calling the original price roll-out a “fumble” but giving points for Rogers’ recovery.

Rogers Wireless Communications Inc. still dropped the ball in the run-up to today’s Canadian debut of the much-vaunted iPhone, with respect to rates for the kind of wireless package needed to support the device. Rogers was deluged with angry e-mails and phone calls, and more than 50,000 people signed an online petition protesting the announced package price of $100 per month for six gigabytes of data. The company was smart – and I think recovered the Fumble – by rushing out a $30 per month special price for the plan, provided you sign up by the end of August and commit to a three-year contract. It showed them to be responsive and listening to their customers. However, I say the original Fumble call stands, because Rogers failed to see the backlash coming despite the incredible amount of online chatter on blogs, social marketing sites, you name it – in other words, all over the geekosphere where the iPhone’s bulls-eye target market lives. Responding prior to launch is good, but not letting the wave of discontent get as huge as it did – when all they had to do was watch what was brewing right in front of them online – would have been much, much better.

I take issue with Veritas here. With a product roll-out, Rogers has only one chance to get it right. While supposedly listening to their customers and finally acquiescing, Rogers comes off less responsive and more foolish. As a potential iPhone purchaser, a dramatic price drop reminds me how arbitrary prices are set for this market. If prices can be lowered from $100 to $30 a month, why shouldn’t I kick up a storm and hope they go down to $10 in a few months? Rogers should have set a more reasonable price, yes, but if they had set $60 prices and kept relatively quiet, they’d be in better reputation shape right now.

The wireless industry is a hard nut to crack in terms of determining a fair price. Like airline tickets, it’s almost impossible to discern what goes into the pricing of a cell phone plan. Economics says Rogers should charge as much for the iPhone as consumers will pay. Maybe consumers will consider it a “rip-off” or “overpriced” but it is not in Rogers’ best interest to point out the seemingly arbitrariness of their pricing by slashing as soon as the blogs start to roll.

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From sloppy accommodation to responsive heroism, The Score, Canada’s perennial third sports TV network, showed how to listen to potential customers’ needs by picking up Team Canada’s qualifying tournament in Athens next week. Sports blogs and newspaper columns bulged with confusion as to why the last ditch effort for Canada to make the Olympics was not going to show up on anyone’s dial. Granted, the chances of centre  Samuel Dalembert and crew of making it out of this tournament were slim like Leo Rautins’ knees, but there was no denying the appetite for all things basketball, especially in sports-poor July.

The Score is establishing itself as the basketball station in Canada and with responsive moves like this, it’s not hard to see why.

The difference in responses: The Score saw a public demand and stepped in whereas Rogers took a chance, got slammed, and scrambled to recover. I can’t wait to watch YouTube highlights of Team Canada on my (imaginary) iPhone.

Beckham jersey ruins friendship

david beckham

David Beckham, moderately famous for playing soccer and extraordinarily famous for inexplicable reasons, has become the subject of a gurfuffle as he tossed a game-worn jersey to two ten year old former best friends. Former, because the ownership of that LA Galaxy sweat rag has torn the two apart.

“Okay” you’re saying to yourself, “has Stractical stopped commenting on public relations issues completely to focus on linking to hilarious news?” Well, let me tell you emphatically — sort of.

But read the last line of the article (that’s usually where the best/worst media relations happens)

Alexi Lalas, the Galaxy’s GM, had a solution.

“Cut the thing in half and give half to each,” he said.

Snide remarks are tremendously fun and effective in some situations but not here. David Beckham was brought over to Major League Soccer and given a $5 million per year contract (the average MLS player makes about $90 thousand) because he is a publicity machine. Most North Americans didn’t even know there was a professional soccer league until Becks crossed the Atlantic. With that in mind, its best to keep the goodwill flowing as the interest in the sport is so tied to one dude.

How much does a jersey cost? $60? How long would it take Beckham to bicycle kick a soccer ball in said jersey? Three minutes? How long would it take him to autograph the aforementioned jersey? 18 seconds? Are we figuring this out, LA Galaxy? Hey, maybe the crazies parents will still battle this one out in court, but at least you’ll have done everything you can.

One jersey for each boy with autographs and smiles. You don’t want to be the unforgiving parent here, teaching these lads about right and wrong and sharing and giving. You want to be the fun uncle who brings presents and good times and then leaves and everyone loves you. Be the fun uncle, Alexis Lalas.

Scrabulous talk keeps scoring

CBC Radio’s excellent Spark takes up the Scrabulous issue and comes to many of the same conclusions as Stractical: Hasbro/Mattel/other license holders saw a phenomenon rising and jumped on board, legally and communicatively.