PR and Social Networking, sitting in a tree…

What do Marc Jacobs, BP, Toyota and Domino’s Pizza – among others – have in common? A soap-opera’s share of PR and Crisis Management drama – and none of them are entirely blameless in each of their situations. Tread carefully with whom you dish your twitter passwords out to, or how you treat your employees; that little website called YouTube is just one place they can flex their unhappiness.

Public Relations is the art of making the consumer see your business as you would like them to see it. Now is the time to believe that Social Networking is PR’s BFF. Well, in a perfect world that would be the case, but in reality, it all depends on whom you have typing your 140-character sentiments up; something Marc Jacobs and his organisation learnt about the hard way recently when they let a young intern loose on their twitter account. Obviously not a happy chappy – and certainly not a fan of big MJ or company CEO, Robert Duffy.

“You have no idea how difficult Robert is … Roberts a tyrant … I don’t have the energy for what is expected … Spelling is hard for me…”. The ‘anonymous intern’ was definitely not having a grand ol time trying to leverage the brand via twitter. It’s a pity because there are hundreds of people who would kill for that job – and they gave it to someone they obviously didn’t respect and who has a problem with spelling. That’s PR blunder #1. Sure, you don’t have to lavish expensive gifts on the petulant child who is in charge of steering your social networking page – but then choose the right candidate to begin with. Somebody that actually wants the job might be a good place to start.

Unhappy employees can no longer be overlooked. If this was 1988, you could just ignore the problem or bury them with double the work load and half the pay, but somewhere between big hair, blue eye shadow and the constantly-online world we now live in, a shift happened that evened out the playing field (to say the least). With your organisation’s reputation very much at stake, the power to go online is something that people have to respect and be very, very careful of. “Anyone with a camera and an internet link can cause a lot of damage,” says the reporter in NBC’s news report on the Domino’s employees who took hygiene care to the dark side – and filmed it for sh*ts and giggles.

The power for something to go viral is immeasurable and what may be funny to two idiots on a random day at work may not be funny to an audience, the collective organisation or the brand’s reputation. If everybody stopped buying Domino’s, the company would have to close its doors and you would have thousands of unemployed people who, for the most part, spend everyday doing an honest day’s work to bring home the pizza. How funny would your video be then, Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer?

How companies respond to issues like these is paramount to their survival. Sure, not many of Marc Jacobs’ twitter followers have a personal relationship with him, and – thanks to movies like The Devil Wears Prada or John Galliano’s recent rants – we don’t expect fashion stalwarts to be angelic. Still, there is something to be said for knowing that a revered brand’s CEO has an unnecessary, nasty personality behind closed doors or dangerous, lurking anti-semitic sentiments. Jacobs’ organisation responded to their little twitter-gate with a clean and clear message that all is well and implied they had simply been hacked.

Nothing memorable or particularly impressive, but decent enough. Maybe playing it down is not a bad thing. At least they didn’t pretend it never happened which is more than we can say for those charmers at BP throughout 2010. Their eventual reactions were so bad – “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume,” BP CEO. Err… No reaction would have been better! The whole fiasco proved that, unless you have impermeable business operations that are devoid of any possible error, be sure you have a super-effective crisis management and PR strategy.

Toyota has suffered many blows to their brand and reputation. I’m almost starting to feel sorry for them. When what you are selling is built on safety and reputation, you face a massive problem when you have to admit that those very same elements are in question. It has been a long journey for the motor vehicle giant; one that led to production of this commercial no doubt. Reputation fix? I’m not convinced.

It touches a nerve if you ask me. Too close to what they are still dealing with and, as they say in the business, you can’t rebuild a house in a hurricane. There is no doubt that this is a very pretty commercial, I just think it will be wasted on the audience at this time. They they will scoff at its message and say ‘yeah right’. Moreover, I think it is trying to say a lot without actually committing to anything concrete. So you created this glass body? Show us what happens to it when you drive the car into a wall.

Mending business wounds is a tricky business and one that professionals probably only have to learn about as they walk that unexpected road. One thing the Toyota commercial does highlight for organisations big and small is their need for PR and Crisis Management strategies: We’re all fragile – especially on the inside.

Can viral marketing beat the bullies?

Would you think it ok if boys threw your pencil box from the third floor balcony at school or pushed your head into a locker? Would it be ok if you were hospitalised from a beating based on your sexual orientation? Probably not. But there are horrible, angry people out there and bad things happen to good people.

So? What makes an ok day for you?

What makes an ok day for Casey Heynes is not being beaten up or duct taped to a pole. Who is Casey Heynes? Right now he is the hero of every underdog ever pushed, beaten, ridiculed or taunted. He is the Australian schoolboy who fought back at the cowardly runt who picked on him one time too many.

Because the set-up was malicious from the start, the altercation was filmed (with a different outcome expected no doubt). The video has since gone viral and can be found on YouTube, embedded within online news reports from around the world and featured in interviews with Casey Heynes himself. Here the power of viral marketing is obvious and while teachers and bullies alike are backtracking and preaching innocence and shock, the fact is, it took the explosion of this issue in this boy’s life for the bigger picture to be seen – by a MUCH bigger audience.

It has been shown that when one person has an impactful online experience, he or she will tell 12 more people. This is the dynamic that powers viral marketing. This is the dynamic that makes for fast-track superstars like Lily Allen and Justin Bieber. In this case, it is the dynamic that brought this young man some help – from around the world.

It’s staggering to read worldwide statistics on bullying and the connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in children and teenagers (according to a new review of studies from 13 countries by the Yale School of Medicine). How this happens is beyond me. We all come from something so beautiful. Still, because of this disease, organisations like the Give a Damn Campaign and the Trevor Project have been formed – with every superstar and figurehead known (including Barack Obama) getting behind them. The message to bullied, lost or suicidal kids out there? It Gets Better.

Singers like P!NK and Taylor Swift (to name just a few) are using their medium to wage war on bullies and celebrate the beauty in being different. So if you’re too school for cool, and you’re treated like a fool, you could choose to let it go… or you can go viral. It’s your channel to use. The world is online. The world is listening.

So now? What makes an ok day for you?

If there is somene out there to whom you now feel you have something to say, get in touch.

It will make your day more than ok.

Even losers can be cool at the High School Reunion


Most people would rather read the phone book to their incontinent grandmother than go to their high school reunion looking like the loo-hoo, ze-her that hasn’t made-good since graduation. There are options however; you could say you invented post-its, or you could let your ride talk for you by making sure you pull up in something swank. Lucky for some, Avis will give you that leg up (to get your leg over) with a tidy ride from their rental-for-show-off’s range.

Ireland/Davenport is no stranger to making car-communication look cooler than cool. Their work for BMW is nothing short of flawless, so the choice couldn’t have been hard for this account. The Luxury Car Rental print ad for Avis shows how it’s not only an 1100 Yaris or silly Atos (toasters on wheels) to choose from when renting a hire car – and if you haven’t made bank by the time Reunion rolls around, you can always pretend you have.

Nicely shot, styled and treated, the Class of 2001 Reunion print ad for Avis says what it needs to without having to say too much.

I like! Do you?

Credits: Creative Directors: John Davenport, Philip Ireland; Art Director: Lida Fourie; Copywriter: Anthea Weber; Photographer: Clive Stewart; Retoucher: Marko Mandusic.

Zimbabwe’s hope for 2011

It was an unforgettable image – the Pulitzer award-winning photograph by Kevin Carter from the Sudan famine of 1994, where a little girl was hunched, starving, as a vulture lurked nearby. She was trying to get to a food camp 1km away while the vulture was waiting for her to die. Kevin took the photograph and then left the area.

The world threw its arms up in furore while journalists and artists argued for the role of a photographer and their right, will or obligation not to interfere. Whatever your stance, you have to respect the power of an image to evoke interest and create awareness. As advertisers, we live to do the very same; seldom as intense, but never indifferent. It’s when it’s not about the sale of a product that things get really interesting.

The convenience of a commodity is fascinating, especially when you think it might be taken away from you. Then, compared to something more than that – like your voice or your human rights – even more so, right? Right. This is the reality that TBWA Hunt Lascaris leverages to create awareness in their campaign for The Zimbabwean – a newspaper published in South Africa and the UK by a network of Zimbabwean journalists. These professionals have no place in Zimbabwe’s current state due to forced evictions and fear for their own lives. Their plight to bring news to Zimbabweans (and the world) about the truth of what is going on there comes alive via what I interpret as one very poignant question: when was the last time you had something taken from you?

‘Give a voice to the voiceless’ aims to uncover and expose exactly what they are looking to keep silent in Zimbabwe – atrocities on her people. To fight the deafening silence on the potential for change, TBWA sent requests to journalists for their photographs from the last two years, added an empty speech bubble (in the shape of Zimbabwe) and the payoff line to each of the images received and selected for the campaign.

Shine a light on the issue and you may help to heal it – even if just a little. Look at the awareness that Kevin Carter’s picture ignited for what was happening in the Sudan. There are a lot of naïve people out there but it doesn’t mean they don’t or won’t care. A little coaxing may help them make the jump, and if these images help some people do at least that – then it has been a very good day for advertising.

You too can help. Click here to find out how.



Do anything (with anything)

Getting some things into odd spaces can pose some very different problems to different people. Whatever the reason – necessity or passion – you made find you need a little artificial help. This is exactly what JWT Paris, France was getting at with their print campaign for this “intimacy assistant” – TRY lubricant.

I’m not judging, but, if you ask me, a bowling skittle, a telescope and / or a dog bone is more on the side of passion-killer rather than a passion-maker. Though who cares if you have TRY lubricant right? With it you can do anything (with anything).

I like these print ads because they are easy-going and somewhat (even expectedly) amusing. It’s sexual lubricant after all. What else can you say about the stuff? The market has at least half a brain and the time and place for it begs a sense of humour to say the least (even if you don’t think so at the time). And after all is said and done, I’m sure that to some people these objects aren’t the furthest thing from what’s needed lubricant before…

What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard of?

Credits: Creative Director: Ghislain de Villoutreys; Art Director: Jean-Baptiste Berthelom; Copywriter: Thomas Sabatier.