Blog Archives

The Hunger Games Teaches Us That Timing Really Is Everything

I’ll be honest with you: I think I made my way through all three books of The Hunger Games series in less than a week. So, when the studio slowly started releasing images and interactive web sites associated with the first movie, I was in the loop and sharing the content with my friends. We were so excited about all the hype surrounding the movie that we even went to see it at midnight when it opened, and we were not disappointed—or ashamed. Maybe we should have been. (Although the most embarrassing part of the whole experience was this completely ridiculous teaser for the final movie of the Twilight Saga.)

You didn’t have to be an advertising industry expert to see how Lionsgate slowly built hysteria around The Hunger Games. The whole thing was like a scavenger hunt, giving Hunger Games fanatics the opportunity to interact with the series directly through traditional and non-traditional media, and build a connection with the movie before it even opened.

And to great success. The Hunger Games was predicted to make $90 million during its opening weekend—it raked in $155 million.

It goes without saying that the real star of The Hunger Games movie wasn’t Jennifer Lawrence or the incredibly good-looking Liam Hemsworth—it was the social marketing push, which the New York Times’ Brooks Barnes sums up nicely in this article about how the franchise generated “must-see fever.” What brands can learn from The Hunger Games is that the more subtle, phased approach builds suspense and drives interest in a product—even if the audience already knows the story. By serving products up piece-by-piece, brands make fans feel like they discovered them on their own. It is that sense of ownership that builds true loyalty, and in return, a record-breaking opening weekend.

So, when you’re working on your next campaign, think about the who, what and where—but also think about the when. Knowing the best time to reach your audience is what will get you ahead in the game.

How Much Have We Really Changed?

In the weeks leading up to the season premier of AMC’s Mad Men, various business publications had a field day showcasing the sexist ads of earlier eras.

As astonishing as some of them are, it’s legitimate to ask just how much society and the industry have evolved, especially when you consider that the percentage of women comprising the advertising workforce has remained flat—holding at 55 percent since 1982, the earliest available data from the 4A’s.

Belvedere vodka recently ran an online ad that was suggestive of an attempted rape.  A steakhouse in Georgia thought it was funny to post on Facebook the name of one of its sandwiches—the Caribbean black and bleu–in honor of Chris Brown and singer Rihanna. And who could forget last year’s Chapstick ad?

In all three instances, the ads went viral, not because people thought them clever, but because consumers wanted to express anger and disgust at words and images that were demeaning or made light of violence against women.

Even though the companies apologized for the ads, it’s tempting to lament that societal attitudes about these issues haven’t changed much. However, the speed with which consumers can and do shame brands on social media regarding questionable messages gives us reason to hope.

Book PR in a Digital World

Sometimes when you attend a panel here at SXSW, you wind up hearing a topline conversation of things you already know and not a deeper dive into things that you really want to know. Discoverability and the New World of Book PR offered a refreshing instance of the latter with a variety of tips for today’s authors.

While the discussion on the changing media landscape, use of social media and basic pitching were things we know and practice, Rusty Shelton and Barbara Henricks – book PR specialists – made it clear that timing and access are critical to success in this digital world (sounds familiar).

With fewer reporters and publications, authors need to begin the process earlier and earlier to build proper momentum and enhance success after a book is published. A bottom up approach – starting with social media and working your way to top-tier broadcast — while seemingly slow at first can have greater impact than an initial hit or two.

To kick-start your book marketing journey and enhance PR efforts, consider the following:

Timing: Start talking up your book as soon as you have a title and topic. This will help gather interest from your inner network of respected friends, family and associates to get the buzz started. Waiting until the last minute will put you behind the eight ball when it comes to securing more traditional coverage.

Social Media: Begin talking about your book or topics closely related to it on Facebook, Twitter, a blog and with bloggers to share your expertise and engage with potential readers. Once the book is available for review, these supporters will be the first to offer a positive review and start spreading the love. And don’t feel like any outlet is too small – optimization is your best friend — so take advantage of those blog opportunities.

Video: Don’t have the time necessary to dedicateto social media? Start small with an hour per week and progress from there. In the meantime, create a video for your website that allows visitors to visualize you as an author and engage based upon your passion and expertise (not to mention help with broadcast pitching efforts).

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to write a good book; it’s up to you, your community and PR team to help make it a best seller. With the proper timing, community and tools in place, this can be a reality.

When in Austin…

A group of DGCers is heading to Austin, TX, for SXSW Interactive again this year (March 9-13), and since they are now “experienced” attendees, we asked them what people should know to get the most they can from the experience, which seems to get more overwhelming each year.

Tips for attending: 

  • Don’t be afraid to approach speakers after attending their sessions. It’s all about networking—go shake hands!
  • Pace yourself. There is a LOT to see and do.  Study the schedules (panels as well as parties) and prioritize to make the most of your experience.
  • Missed the daily keynote because you were busy networking? Check it out online at http://sxsw.com/interactive/live.
  • Attend parties. There are many that are free and open to anyone with a badge (for a guide click here: http://austin.sanfranfreesco.com/event/filter?tagFilter=26). Try to attend:
    • The Mix at Six presented by Can We Network (3/9, 6pm)
    • The Interactive Opening Party presented by frog design and Microsoft (3/10, 8pm)
    • Mashable SXSWi House 2012 (3/11, 9pm)

Despite the high-tech atmosphere, it’s a good idea to take lots of business cards with you. Yes, the print kind. Maybe  Freshbooks and Shoeboxed will collaborate again as they did last year. This article tells how their brilliant promotion helped attendees organize all those wonderful new contacts people made at SXSW.

And check back here at The Hit Board which will be updated regularly by the on-site DGC team with trends, attendee insights and more.

From Across the Pond: Every Little Added Value Helps

Sometimes it’s refreshing to hear a PR person share her thoughts from a consumer perspective on what brands should be doing to improve shopper loyalty and marketing programs. Claudia_M at Eulogy recently shed light on the fact that today’s consumers – even across the pond – want the brands they use day-in and day-out to listen to their desires and reward them for their continued business.  Take a look below at her opinions on Tesco, BBC and Starbucks, and let us know your thoughts on the matter. For one…Many DGCers would welcome the chance to have an extra shot of coffee in our tall mocha every morning…

It’s common knowledge that the marketing services sector has never had to work harder to gain consumer trust and as a consumer and PR professional alike I feel that this is how it should be. I don’t want to be told what to do, I will make up my own mind whether I choose to buy a product or use one service over another. As consumers we’ve never been so powerful – we can pick and choose where we spend our hard-earned cash and have disloyal love affairs with different brands. “Customer is king” and all that jazz. But seriously, it’s one thing for a consumer to buy a product and a whole different matter for a brand to expect us to be their long term “friend.” Brands must adapt, particularly as we’re increasingly inclined to jump ship for better value. I have been working with marketing agency {united} who are keen to tease out the balance that brands provide in value but also in standing up for their values. This has got me thinking about how brands go beyond selling a product – it’s everything (and added extras) that comes with it. So beyond the cheap price tag, what brands are giving back a little more to the consumer?

Marketing services has a strong role to play in improving people’s lives and helping us to live them. Just a few weeks ago the senior vice-president of marketing at Unilever warned that the profession has become about “selling for selling’s sake” and that it needs to move beyond a pure commercial stance to promote products that “create progress and improve lives.” It was a bold argument which I wholeheartedly agree with. I question the marketing strategies of some of the most well-known behemoths. Take Tesco. Or should I say ‘Detestco.’ Tesco imposes itself on every one of our communities like a stranger that arrives uninvited. In return we receive a highly prized 2-4-1 offer! It has such a great strapline, ‘Every little helps.’ However, it doesn’t do anything in little proportions. Tesco marketing department should perhaps look more deeply into the meaning behind such a promise. Having been largely responsible for changing the look of retail, driving out independent stores by selling everything from clothes to irons, I’d like to see Tesco helping and educating customers to live a little better. Could it remove all plastic carrier bags from its stores perhaps? And the recent halving of Clubcard points awarded per pound of purchases was not such a good idea – it looks to many shoppers as if it is giving with one hand and taking with the other. It is its own fault for getting customers addicted to points in the first place.

Yet, there are some brands out there that are taking steps to listen to consumers’ needs. The beautiful BBC for one. It was no surprise that the world’s best known broadcasting brand made it to 5th place in the recent Consumer Superbrands index. What I admire about it is how it increasingly engages with and responds to consumers’ desires. Choosing to listen to social media groundswell when supporters of BBC 6 Music tried to save it from closure really sticks in my mind as an example of healthy brand-to-consumer friendship.

I have until recently been rather skeptical about Starbucks in terms of its brand values (although I am admittedly swayed by a skinny Frapa-dappa-ccino, or whatever they’re called). Starbucks hasn’t always been friendly to its customers in giving them a little extra to make them want to return, especially with the likes of Cafe Nero providing a good loyalty card scheme. But Starbucks is now providing such a scheme and even better news came last week that it will be pouring an extra shot of coffee into our cups at no extra cost. Amazing! And it’s all down to customer taunts that its coffee isn’t as good as Costa and Cafe Nero. Improving a service directly in response to their customers should keep them sweet and tempt others into the Starbucks fold.

These are just two random examples showing that brands can be aware and attentive to the consumer. As we move deeper into 2012, and with a raft of highly lauded marketing opportunities afoot for brands to capture the public’s attention, it’s time for venerable marketing to be woven into the fabric of the profession.

The ‘goody two shoes’ brand, that honors the consumer, has never looked so appealing.

New Public Relations Definition Needs More Show Less Tell

Thanks to the Public Relations Initiative and all the people who voted, I now have a definition of what I do so my mom and dad (or kids for that matter) can talk somewhat intelligently about my employment.  As you might have heard, it has been decided that Public Relations has just redefined itself as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”  Sounds great, less filling.  Now, please remind me how this changes anything?

The truth is, the PR industry has had identity crises for some time.  Having worked at several PR agencies for well over a decade, the one common denominator was that they all fell short of promoting their work – which is not to say, they didn’t do great work.  Although we might not have the same sexy visual appeal as advertising, PR is very much “a see it to believe it” industry.

I was recently reminded of this shortcoming when I began writing a collection of case studies for DiGennaro Communications.  I thought a good starting point for my research would be to look at case studies across all facets of the PR industry as a frame of reference.  Unsurprisingly, this task wasn’t very easy.  Case studies were outdated, lacked detail and in many cases (no pun intended) were difficult to find on agency websites.

This is the root of the problem.  It’s not about definitions and wordplay.  While you can play around with the definition of public relations all you want, we need to SHOW how our stories changed the way people live and do business – one client at a time.  Focus on the experience not the definition.  Besides, PR is beyond definition.

Social media channels are presenting us with more opportunities to strut our stuff more than ever.  There is an abundance of opportunity to SHOW not TELL.  There is a method to our madness that can only be explained through visual case studies, a deeper focus on numbers/metrics client vignettes and testimonials, and of course, word of mouth.

Inside the Super Bowl Economy: A Behind-the-Scenes Peek at PR’ing This Year’s Super Bowl Ads

This post was originally published on Commpro.biz

Brian Pittman’s spotlight: Samantha DiGennaro, Founder, DiGennaro Communications

Over 173 million people will be watching the Super Bowl this Sunday, according to the latest stats from the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association. Yes, that’s a record. So are estimates for total Super Bowl spending by consumers—now forecast at $11 billion.

So what drives all of that spending? Super Bowl ads, of course. And who drives the buzz for those ads? PR firms like DiGennaro Communications, that’s who.

For a behind-the-scenes look into getting the word out about these entertaining, highly anticipated ad campaigns, we spoke to Samantha DiGennaro. An 18-year communication strategist, she launched DiGennaro Communications in January 2006. Since then, she has built a highly reputable business-to-business public relations agency that boasts a roster of clients ranging from global media companies to full-service advertising agencies to digital and design outfits.

And this year, four of the agency’s client partners are running ads during the Super Bowl. Pretty impressive. Read on for her insights on everything from how social media is being incorporated into Super Bowl advertising campaigns this year to lessons for other PR, communications and marketing pros:

How many Super Bowl advertisers are there this year—and what is the average budget?

Firstly, on behalf of DGC, I want to say how happy we are, year after year, to play such a big role in the Super Bowl economy by promoting the ads that entertain millions of people during the game. This year, there are more than 30 advertisers, of which 11 are auto brands.

Some 30-second ads are going for $3.5 million, but not everyone is paying that price. And some advertisers are buying packages, including the Olympics. In addition, some brands have more than one spot, and as you will see, many are going beyond TV. They are investing in social, apps and user-generated content.

How many clients does DGC have in the Super Bowl?

We have four agency clients who are doing ads for major brands, and we—in partnership with our clients and their clients—are promoting ads from the following brands:

How is social media being integrated into campaigns?

The Super Bowl has always been a social experience and now technology makes it more so. That is why we see advertisers and their agencies embracing social media so fully. In fact, Mashable is running a piece on the most shared 2012 Super Bowl ads, which demonstrates that marketers are looking to maximize the return on their ad dollars. Advertisers today want people to see them before, during and after the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, consumers are enjoying the fun—and they get to feel even more part of the game. Kudos to our client Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for their work with the popular Dorito’s teaser: http://mashable.com/2012/01/23/most-shared-2012-super-bowl/#3usaGfn7r0w

This is also a chance to show how fun live TV can be, and not just at the Super Bowl. Clients of DGC’s such as BrightLine and Organic, Omnicom’s global digital agency, are talking about how social technologies and advanced TV help the audience participate with content in entirely new ways. It raises the creative bar. The increasingly social nature of the Super Bowl will be a precursor to trends we can expect to see at other highly-visible live events, such as the Oscars, Olympics, elections, etc.

Why is user-generated content tied to Super Bowl campaigns so successful?

User-generated ad campaigns are successful for a couple of reasons: Super Bowl is a national pastime, and there are millions of people in the US, and even around the world, who want to feel like they are a part of the game. Combine that with the fact that people have been producing and sharing their own content on the web for several years, and the Super Bowl, advertising and user-generated content make a perfect trifecta.

A large part of the Chevy ad campaign, created by our client Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, is built around user-generated content, and people can vote for the best ad. We believe Chevy will stand out by offering an app that viewers can use during the game to play games, interact with one another through Twitter and win prizes. The free Chevy Game Time app is available at the Game Time site http://www.chevrolet.com/gametime and at the Apple App Store and Android Market.

Crash the Super Bowl, Dorito’s user-generated Super Bowl campaign created by Goodby, is likewise inherently social, as people get to vote for and share their favorite ads. The most-viewed user-generated ad is about a guy who wants to share his Dorito’s recipe. Instead of making the chip, he makes gold!

Who are some of the newcomers and innovators in this year’s Super Bowl adscape?

Our client Red Tettemer is doing Century21 Real Estate’s work this year. This will be Century21’s first foray into the grand stage of Super Bowl advertising, and the work features Donald Trump; professional Football Hall of Famer and NFL Analyst, Deion Sanders; and eight-time Olympic medalist, Apolo Ohno.

With a rallying cry of “Smarter. Bolder. Faster.” the 30-second, third-quarter ad matches a formidable and unflappable Century21 Agent with these well-known business and athletic icons as they participate in the home-buying and selling process.

Behind-the-scenes footage, teaser premieres and the final Super Bowl spot will be released on facebook.com/century21 in advance of the game. Also, in the coming weeks leading up to the big game, via Twitter, the talent will announce key milestones, drive votes to the USA Today Ad Meter, release teasers of the spot, and use the hash-tag #C21SuperBowl.

In addition to the third quarter spot, Century 21 will have 11 pre-game spots and will be sponsoring the 3:30-4:00pm block of the pre-game show.

We are incredibly excited for our Red Tettemer client, as this is their first Super Bowl campaign.

On another front, David & Goliath is leading Kia’s third consecutive year of Super Bowl advertising.  Kia is the first brand to preview a Super Bowl ad in cinema. The spot goes live at midnight on February 2 on the Kia YouTube channel and officially launches during the game. There will be synergistic Facebook and Twitter branded experiences, leveraging the campaign look, tone and feel. On February 2, you will see flash banners driving people to YouTube, a Yahoo homepage take over; on February 7, Kia will take over the MSN home page, so you can see a multi-pronged campaign from Kia and David & Goliath.

What other trends should we be watching?

We are seeing several important trends emerge this year.

Companies are spending millions of dollars to reach more than 110 million people around the country during the game. And while national TV buys are a major component of the advertising strategy, recent viewing stats during the NFL playoffs from our client TVB, the not-for-profit trade association of America’s commercial broadcast television industry, show that there is a huge opportunity for smaller, local advertisers to reach 305% more eyeballs in key football cities during the Super Bowl.

We are also looking at advertising in a much more integrated fashion, and watching where new technologies and apps take us.  According to MediaCom, a WPP media-buying and planning company, TV remains the most important channel as it provides the spark to create conversations about brands. In fact, advertisers are stepping up and securing their Super Bowl TV buys much earlier than in years past.  That said, other channels are clearly driving the interest in ads: YouTube creates buzz; mobile apps and content give people snackable content they can share during the game; and paid search helps marketers increase their visibility when people search for them by name or for related products and services.

And of course, as advertising evolves in the digital space, so do we at DiGennaro Communications. The DGC team is actively blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and posting Super Bowl coverage and content in real time.

What are the traits of successful Super Bowl ads?

Racy ads are not necessarily the ones that win hearts. Clever humor typically fares well. Yes, endearing spots with a strong knack for storytelling are often times the most crowd-pleasing. Last year, Volkswagen won big with “The Force” about a young boy trying to empower things to move while dressed up as Darth Vader. It has had nearly 50 million views on YouTube alone. And this year’s VW ad, “The Bark Side,” already has 7.8 million views on YouTube. So we are seeing the power of a big brand echoing the power of another big brand, but in a charming, human and in this year’s case—dog-loving way.

How do ad agencies brainstorm killer creative with clients for the Super Bowl?

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners is one of several companies that Business Insider talked to about the making and buying of Super Bowl ads and you can check it out here.

Any other lessons or tips that come out of this for advertisers and marketers?

Don’t wait for Super Bowl Sunday to air your ad—we are seeing incredible brand power and recall by going public beforehand.

Think viral. Think social.

Engage your PR department or PR agency to promote your work. There’s a method to the madness of Super Bowl PR. Better yet, it’s an art.

What are the biggest challenges around undertaking PR for these campaigns before and during Super Bowl season?

From a business and communications perspective, we love being part of the Super Bowl. Here at DGC, we have a robust team of PR pros pitching our clients’ expertise in Super Bowl advertising. Like I said, we have secured several news stories, with more than 50 outlets expressing interest in talking with our clients and their marketers/clients this Super Bowl season.

Outlets are asking for pre-game and post-game advertising analysis; some even welcome real-time blogging, ad critiques and judging. And of course some clients’ campaigns are getting major coverage in The New York Times, USA Today, and Ad Age, among other publications. It’s really gratifying to know that some of our clients are behind that work.

And while it’s not a challenge per se, we do need to be mindful of the fact that we cannot PR the work until the client blesses it. There are lots of moving parts—and people—involved, so timing needs to be impeccable. For each client, it’s a different set of rules—a different timeline. And we work carefully with our clients on that. We are all part of a team.

What will you and your team be doing on Super Bowl (hopefully, having some fun!)?

I am sure we will all be watching the game but the team at DiGennaro Communications will likely be very interested in the creativity and production value of the ads and the resulting real tine chatter in the social media space. In fact, we are proud to say that our clients and our DGC team will be fueling that conversation!

Not Sure What To Expect In 2012? Don’t Worry—There’s A Resolution For That.

With every New Year comes a new set of resolutions. “My diet starts January 1.” “I’m going to ride my bike to work.” “No more checking my Blackberry at the dinner table.”

Although those of us in the PR world probably wouldn’t last a week resolving to do the latter, the DGC team has resolutions of its own that it intends to keep this year:

  • Get rid of the garbage. PR would be the perfect profession for a hoarder—we are terrified to throw away anything that might be remotely important. But, our projects change on a daily basis, so it’s crucial to keep a clean desk and orderly files.
  • Print less paper. Half the battle of keeping yourself organized is killing fewer trees. If you’re running into a client call and need an agenda, skip the printer and read it off your iPhone. This is the digital age, after all.
  • Add it to the list. The only thing better than the power of creating a to-do list is the satisfaction of getting to cross those items off once they’re finished.
  • Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. By now we all know not to underestimate the power of spell-check, but more importantly, if you’re sending a mail-merge, make sure you’re not a mass message to the same reporter who you grabbed drinks with last week.
  • Eliminate industry jargon. If you cringe every time your clients describe their work as “innovative,” then you shouldn’t use that word either. Cleanses are all the rage right now—why not try one for your vocabulary?

Unnecessary abbreviations and heightened green practices aside, the unanimous theme of 2012 seems to be a shift toward embracing the human element of the business.  That means more face-to-face interaction, picking up the phone instead of emailing and improving work efficiency to drive more meaningful results. Business is not just about making money—it’s about building relationships.

Do you have a New Year’s PR resolution? Let us know in the comments section below!

Redux for La Redoute?

The web is abuzz this week about a French clothing retailer whose children’s catalog contained a photo of four cute tow-headed tykes on a beach. Far in the background, barely noticeable quite frankly, is the image of what appears to be a nude man wading in the ocean.

The company, La Redoute, has issued strenuous public apologies now that the photo is viral, acknowledging that the inclusion of a nude man was not intentional.  Is this a PR nightmare?

Not really. The company has managed the situation as well as can be expected and has removed the photo from its web site.

Whether its international consumer base will forgive and continue to buy the company’s products depends largely on how they felt about the brand in the first place. If La Redoute is a destination for quality, affordable clothing and good customer service, it needn’t worry. Consumers have short memories and will forgive, maybe even feel sorry, for a brand it loves. They may even feel sorry for La Redoute and its current travails.

After all, many larger companies have committed greater offenses to the public health and well being with scarcely an apology or even sincere remorse. We’ll decline to name them here but we’re confident you can think of a few.

Moustache + November = Movember

I am not a man (hopefully that goes without saying), but I imagine that shaving one’s facial hair isn’t necessarily a favorite pastime. So what could be better than having a legitimate reason to go “au naturel” for a whole month? I know that for some baby-faced men out there it may not be the most exciting way to celebrate November, but for seasoned veterans like Tom Selleck there really couldn’t be a better way to stand up for one’s fellow man.

For those who don’t know, Movember is a month-long awareness and fundraising campaign for men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer and depression. The program originated in Australia, and now has its own web sites across the globe, with a strict set of rules for participants:

  1. Once registered at Movember.com each “Mo Bro” must begin the 1st of Movember with a clean shaven face.
  2. For the entire month of Movember each Mo Bro must grow and groom a moustache.
  3. There is to be no joining of the moustache to your side burns. (That’s considered a beard.)
  4. There is to be no joining of the handlebars to your chin. (That’s considered a goatee.)
  5. Each Mo Bro must conduct himself like a true country gentleman.

Since its inception, many have reinterpreted and expanded Movember to include “No Shave November” and “Novembeard,” but no matter how men choose to show their pride and support the cause, it’s hard to deny that Movember is one health campaign that has truly gone viral (see what I did there?). In 2010, Movember’s numbers nearly doubled across the board, with more than 440,000 new registrants (men and women—Mo Sistas) and raised funds of more than $80.7 million. Overall, the campaign has raised $174 million and has 1.1 million registrants since it was officially established in 2004. As we near the end of 2011, and the middle of Movember, the brotherhood shows no signs of slowing down.

Movember is proof that campaigns infused with humor—despite the circumstances—can help make the word a better place. So Mo Bros, get out there and flaunt your finest facial hair. Or if you can’t grow your own, there are always these Mo Sista favorites.

%d bloggers like this: