Tappening Campaign of Wry Lies Against Bottled Water

I’m amused by, and sympathetic to the Tappening campaign.

Fiji Over Lake Michigan

Can an ad campaign turn bottled water into the new tobacco?

To encourage the public to drink tap water rather than bottled, an environmental group’s ads feature implausible “facts.” The bottled water industry started it, the group says.
Taking a cue from antitobacco campaigns, Tappening, a group opposed to bottled water on environmental grounds, has introduced a campaign called “Lying in Advertising,” that positions bottled water companies as spreading corporate untruths.

One poster claims “Bottled Water Causes Blindness in Puppies,” while another reads “Bottled Water: 98% Melted Ice Caps. 2% Polar Bear Tears.”

“If bottled water companies can lie, we can too,” the posters read.

The “lies” in question here are about the source of bottled water. Eric Yaverbaum, a co-founder of Tappening, charged that some beverage companies did not list the source of their water — and were using only municipal water.

[Click to continue reading Advertising – Tappening Starts a Campaign of Wry Lies Against Bottled Water – NYTimes.com]

Bottled water is multi-billion dollar business, but then so is tobacco. We would all benefit if bottled water became less of a staple of consumer culture: less environmental devastation, less plastic waste, yadda yadda.

I am So Clean

In this campaign, Tappening plans to spend $535,000 on outdoor posters in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago and Miami, along with an online component. The ads suggest viewers go to Tappening.com to find out “the truth” about bottled water, or to StartALie.com to spread an untruth.

Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos

Amazon has said it is purchasing Zappos for over $800,000,000. Why so high?

Bob's Repair Shine

Pete Blackshaw of AdAge speculates:

Zappos is a game changer, and it found value — and ferocious word-of-mouth and brand advocacy — in a place most of us leave for dead and certainly don’t consider even close to being a media channel: customer service. They took this “cost center” input and turned it into an unassailable asset, fortified by the founder-CEO’s sometimes “cult-like” (arguably irrational, by the typical marketing book) obsession with serving the consumer at all costs. It wasn’t flaky. He approached this with focus, discipline, real incentives and an obsession over a “different” set of numbers.

Zappos did this at a critical juncture for all of us. We know word-of-mouth matters. We suspect “advocacy” might be the metric that truly moves the needle. Even separate from the Amazon deal, Zappos probably did more to shape our collective mind-set around the importance of “paid” vs. “earned” media, and it titled us much toward the later.

[Click to continue reading Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos – Advertising Age – CMO Strategy]

At least for now, Zappos will still be an autonomous subsidiary, remain headquartered in Las Vegas, and maintain its same executive leadership.

I’ve been a long-time customer of both corporations for a long time, and if any of Zappos culture rubs off on Amazon, Amazon will be well served. Amazon is a fine company, but they are a faceless corporate behemoth, a Wal-Mart of the internet, selling a little bit of everything. Zappos on the other hand still feels like it is run by somebody who personally cares for its customers, a sort of mom-and-pop corner store that knows everybody on a first name basis. The kind of place that gives little Johnny candy when he goes by. Poor metaphor, bottom line, Zappos customer service is just spectacularly friendly in all interactions we have had with them.

Amazon, on the other hand, occasionally is bit Orwellian. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who upon hearing the news of the acquisition immediately twittered:so will Amazon steal into my house at night and reclaim shoes I’ve bought from Zappos.

I do hope Zappos maintains what it is that makes it Zappos.

A.P. Cracks Down on Unpaid Use of Articles on Web

Will be curious as to how this shakes out.

Taking a new hard line that news articles should not turn up on search engines and Web sites without permission, The Associated Press said Thursday that it would add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it, and that notifies The A.P. about how the article is used.

Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.

[Click to continue reading A.P. Cracks Down on Unpaid Use of Articles on Web – NYTimes.com]

Alternative Google

Websites like Google are going to be in for a bit of a dustup

Search engines and news aggregators contend that their brief article citations fall under the legal principle of fair use. Executives at some news organizations have said they are reluctant to test the Internet boundaries of fair use, for fear that the courts would rule against them.

News organizations already have the ability to prevent their work from turning up in search engines — but doing so would shrink their Web audience, and with it, their advertising revenues. What The A.P. seeks is not that articles should appear less often in search results, but that such use would become a new source of revenue.

Right, there is a simple addition that webmasters can add to their site that tells Google’s automated indexing software to “go away”:

The robot exclusion standard, also known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol or robots.txt protocol, is a convention to prevent cooperating web spiders and other web robots from accessing all or part of a website which is otherwise publicly viewable. Robots are often used by search engines to categorize and archive web sites, or by webmasters to proofread source code. The standard is unrelated to, but can be used in conjunction with, sitemaps, a robot inclusion standard for websites.

[Click to continue reading Robots exclusion standard – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Not a Good Sign

If A.P. did that, they would lose search engine generated traffic, but that isn’t really what A.P. wants. A.P. wants traffic, and to be paid for the traffic. I doubt it will happen as seamlessly they want, but we’ll soon see. Newspaper executives also don’t like blogs much:

Executives at newspapers and other traditional news organizations have long complained about how some sites make money from their work, putting ads on pages with excerpts from articles and links to the sources of the articles.

but I don’t know if that particular genie could ever be crammed back into its bottle; the bottom of the bottle is missing, and digital content flows wherever it can, instantly.

and this is puzzling:

Each article — and, in the future, each picture and video — would go out with what The A.P. called a digital “wrapper,” data invisible to the ordinary consumer that is intended, among other things, to maximize its ranking in Internet searches. The software would also send signals back to The A.P., letting it track use of the article across the Web.

If someone cuts and pastes an A.P. article from some other site, how is this magic technological bullet going to still be attached? Either there is more to the process than the A.P. admits, or else they are really deluded1.2

  1. not that it matters, but John Gruber, always an astute observer of these sorts of matters, agrees with me []
  2. corrected the URL, oopsie []

Reading Around on July 7th through July 8th

A few interesting links collected July 7th through July 8th:

  • Fox report suggests Pentagon policy nixing religious flyover is a sign Obama is anti-Christian | Crooks and Liars – The military was regularly providing flyovers at countless evangelical Christian events all over the country, not only violating the regulations prohibiting military participation in religious events, but spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money in the process.

    MRFF began exposing these events, which included flyovers on the five holidays when flyovers at civilian events are permitted, and even a few at National Day of Prayer events, and began to see some decline in their frequency, but we weren’t sure if the number of flyovers at these events was really decreasing, or if the military and organizers of these events were just being more careful not to make the nature of the events so obvious.

    Well, needless to say, the following letter denying, for the first time in 42 years, the request for a flyover at one Christian rally…was the best 4th of July present MRFF could have asked for.

  • Branding blunder gives Russia-Nigeria energy linkup a bad name – Russia’s attempt to create a joint gas venture with Nigeria is set to become one of the classic branding disasters of all time ‑ after the new company was named Nigaz.

    …the name has “rather different connotations” for English-speakers.

    It recalled other international branding mishaps including the Ford Pinto ‑ which in Brazil means small penis ‑ and the Pepsi slogan “come alive with the Pepsi generation”. In Taiwan this rousing motto translated as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”.

  • Living the “art” Life – … there is more, so much more to art…

Reading Around on July 6th through July 7th

A few interesting links collected July 6th through July 7th:

  • Sarah Palin Speaks to ABC News – ABC News – Palin said there is a difference between the White House and what she has experienced in Alaska. If she were in the White House, she said, the “department of law” would protect her from baseless ethical allegations.

    “I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we’ve been charged with and automatically throw them out,” she said.

    There is no “Department of Law” at the White House.

  • Where in the World Are the Federal Trade Commissioners? | Mother Jones – Since President George W. Bush appointed Kovacic to a Republican slot in 2006, he has averaged nearly 100 days of foreign travel a year. So far in 2009, he has been abroad for more than 60 days. (He spent the end of June in Taiwan, Rome, and London, and celebrated July 4th in China at a conference on competition law.)

    All this jetting about appears somewhat out of sync with the commission’s largely domestic role. The FTC’s wide-ranging mandate includes everything from enforcing used car sales regulations to ensuring that clothing manufacturers properly instruct consumers whether or not to put their shirts in the dryer. It runs the “do not call” registry to keep telemarketers at bay and cracks down on bogus weight loss cures. The agency also shares responsibility with the Justice Department for overseeing mergers and acquisitions of big companies and enforcing antitrust laws.

  • Retro Comedy: The 15 Creepiest Vintage Ads Of All Time – “What do murder, pedophilia, suicide and a baby tiger have in common? They have all been used to sell stuff in these amazingly disturbing vintage ads!

    These are real, untouched advertisements from the good old days. It doesn’t matter if it’s lovely ladies or adorable clowns, somehow these old-time ad wizards found ways to traumatize us while pedaling everyday products.”

    Some of these I’ve seen before, but some were new-to-me

Is Free the Future?

The New York Times allowing one of its staff to advocate stealing images from Flickr is one thing, but Chris Anderson wants to expand upon that equation.

“Free: The Future of a Radical Price” (Chris Anderson)

Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker reviews Chris Anderson’s new tome to the mantra, information is going to be free, bitches, so relax and enjoy it.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill in May, James Moroney, the publisher of the Dallas Morning News, told Congress about negotiations he’d just had with the online retailer Amazon. The idea was to license his newspaper’s content to the Kindle, Amazon’s new electronic reader. “They want seventy per cent of the subscription revenue,” Moroney testified. “I get thirty per cent, they get seventy per cent. On top of that, they have said we get the right to republish your intellectual property to any portable device.” The idea was that if a Kindle subscription to the Dallas Morning News cost ten dollars a month, seven dollars of that belonged to Amazon, the provider of the gadget on which the news was read, and just three dollars belonged to the newspaper, the provider of an expensive and ever-changing variety of editorial content. The people at Amazon valued the newspaper’s contribution so little, in fact, that they felt they ought then to be able to license it to anyone else they wanted. Another witness at the hearing, Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post, said that she thought the Kindle could provide a business model to save the beleaguered newspaper industry. Moroney disagreed. “I get thirty per cent and they get the right to license my content to any portable device—not just ones made by Amazon?” He was incredulous. “That, to me, is not a model.”

Had James Moroney read Chris Anderson’s new book, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” (Hyperion; $26.99), Amazon’s offer might not have seemed quite so surprising. Anderson is the editor of Wired and the author of the 2006 best-seller “The Long Tail,” and “Free” is essentially an extended elaboration of Stewart Brand’s famous declaration that “information wants to be free.” The digital age, Anderson argues, is exerting an inexorable downward pressure on the prices of all things “made of ideas.” Anderson does not consider this a passing trend. Rather, he seems to think of it as an iron law: “In the digital realm you can try to keep Free at bay with laws and locks, but eventually the force of economic gravity will win.” To musicians who believe that their music is being pirated, Anderson is blunt. They should stop complaining, and capitalize on the added exposure that piracy provides by making money through touring, merchandise sales, and “yes, the sale of some of [their] music to people who still want CDs or prefer to buy their music online.” To the Dallas Morning News, he would say the same thing. Newspapers need to accept that content is never again going to be worth what they want it to be worth, and reinvent their business. “Out of the bloodbath will come a new role for professional journalists,” he predicts, and he goes on:

There may be more of them, not fewer, as the ability to participate in journalism extends beyond the credentialed halls of traditional media. But they may be paid far less, and for many it won’t be a full time job at all. Journalism as a profession will share the stage with journalism as an avocation. Meanwhile, others may use their skills to teach and organize amateurs to do a better job covering their own communities, becoming more editor/coach than writer. If so, leveraging the Free—paying people to get other people to write for non-monetary rewards—may not be the enemy of professional journalists. Instead, it may be their salvation.

[Click to continue reading Malcolm Gladwell reviews Free by Chris Anderson: Books: The New Yorker]

After the Revolution is Over
[After the Revolution is Over]

So is it true? Are paid content creators going to be the 21st century version of hansom cab drivers? I’m still not convinced. If I have the choice, I’d rather pay The New Yorker for a subscription to their magazine1 so they can pay writers like Malcolm Gladwell instead of paying nothing and reading hacks like the writers of B12 Partners Solipsism on my kindle-like device. I would not assert there are zero non-hack writers who write for free, but if one made a list of all the blog writers who do their own original reporting without relying on the resources of paid journalists and journalistic institutions, the list would be surprisingly short. Especially since billmon retired.

Ballad of the West Loop - Kodachrome version
[Ballad of the West Loop – Kodachrome version]

Malcolm Gladwell is skeptical as well:

Anderson is very good at paragraphs like this—with its reassuring arc from “bloodbath” to “salvation.” His advice is pithy, his tone uncompromising, and his subject matter perfectly timed for a moment when old-line content providers are desperate for answers. That said, it is not entirely clear what distinction is being marked between “paying people to get other people to write” and paying people to write. If you can afford to pay someone to get other people to write, why can’t you pay people to write? It would be nice to know, as well, just how a business goes about reorganizing itself around getting people to work for “non-monetary rewards.” Does he mean that the New York Times should be staffed by volunteers, like Meals on Wheels? Anderson’s reference to people who “prefer to buy their music online” carries the faint suggestion that refraining from theft should be considered a mere preference. And then there is his insistence that the relentless downward pressure on prices represents an iron law of the digital economy. Why is it a law? Free is just another price, and prices are set by individual actors, in accordance with the aggregated particulars of marketplace power. “Information wants to be free,” Anderson tells us, “in the same way that life wants to spread and water wants to run downhill.” But information can’t actually want anything, can it? Amazon wants the information in the Dallas paper to be free, because that way Amazon makes more money. Why are the self-interested motives of powerful companies being elevated to a philosophical principle? But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Keep reading

  1. as I have done for nearly 2 decades []

Belching Out the Devil

Belching Out the Devil

New exposé of Coca-Cola that you probably won’t hear much about. Coca-Cola spent approximately $450,708,000 on advertising in the U.S. last year, that buys a lot of silence in the struggling corporate media

The company, Thomas contends, looked the other way as some bottlers in Colombia and elsewhere intimidated and attacked union organizers, who “walk with a gravestone” on their backs. Pressured to audit Colombian plants in 2005, Coke helpfully noted a substandard number of fire extinguishers at one, but didn’t address the charges.

Coke often doesn’t make its own Coke. It relies on a vast web of subcontractors, bottlers and distributors. Most have loose or no ties to the company, and are in countries where workplace laws are underdeveloped at best.

In India, Coke drained water from local villages but gave them fertilizer in return—which contained lead and toxins, according to a BBC investigation. A leading British poisons expert warned of “devastating consequences” for the local population, but Coke called the fertilizer “absolutely safe.”

The concentrate for 70 percent of Coca-Cola’s 1.5 billion drinks served each day originates in the tax haven of Ireland, where enough concentrate for 50,000 Cokes costs $2.60—including labor. The concentrate’s main ingredient? Caramel.

[From We Read It: Mark Thomas’s ‘Belching Out the Devil’ | Newsweek Books | Newsweek.com]

Coke Truck

The Amazon review:

Coca-Cola and its logo are everywhere. In our homes, our workplaces, and even our schools. It is a company that sponsors the Olympics, backs US presidents and even re-brands Santa Claus. A truly universal product, it has even been served in space. From Istanbul to Mexico City, Mark travels the globe investigating the stories and people Coca-Cola’s iconic advertising campaigns don’t mention such as: child labourers in the sugar cane fields of El Salvador; Indian workers exposed to toxic chemicals; Colombian union leaders falsely accused of terrorism and jailed alongside the paramilitaries who want to kill them; and, many more. Provocative, funny and stirring, “Belching Out the Devil” investigates the truth behind one of the planet’s biggest brand

I haven’t had a coke in many, many years: no need to consumer high-fructose corn syrup unless absolutely necessary.

Reading Around on June 2nd

Some additional reading June 2nd from 10:55 to 18:58:

  • Craigslist’s Forced Censorship of Erotic Ads Saves Journalism Industry | Threat Level | Wired.com – Craigslist’s new policy barring the publication of erotic ads has not only saved lives and stopped prostitution, it’s also saving the dying newspaper industry.

    After the site announced last month under pressure that it would no longer publish erotic ads, sales of erotic ads in local alternative weekly newspapers have soared, according to the Washington City Paper.

  • Good Luck With That – “There are commercial websites, not even bloggers, necessarily,” Bridis added, “that take some of our best AP stories, and rewrite them with a word or two here, and say ‘the Associated Press has reported, the AP said, the AP said.’ That’s not fair. We pay our reporters. We set up the bureaus that are very expensive to run, and, you know, if they want to report what the AP is reporting they either need to buy the service or they need to staff their own bureaus.”

    Bridis did acknowledge the importance of fair use. “Because we do it too, necessarily,” the AP news editor conceded. “If the New York Times has a story, we may take an element of it and attribute it to the Times and build a story around it.”

  • Marilyn Monroe – MARILYN: Never-Published Photos – LIFE – August 1950: A 24-year-old Marilyn, wearing a simple button-down shirt monogrammed with her initials, leans against a tree in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park for LIFE photographer Ed Clark. The negatives for these photos were recently discovered during our ongoing effort to digitize LIFE’s immense and storied photo archive, including outtakes and entire shoots that never saw the light of day. Click through to see more stunning shots of Marilyn, plus the reason why they may never have been published…

Reading Around on May 7th through May 8th

A few interesting links collected May 7th through May 8th:

  • Barack Hussein Obama’s un-American mustard choice – The latest blogospheric brouhaha? When President Obama ordered a burger earlier this week, he asked for it without ketchup — and with Grey Poupon. No, seriously. Not that this should be surprising by now, but even Sean Hannity has picked up on the story and broadcast it to millions of Fox News viewers. Naturally, in response, various liberal outlets are responding with equal fervor.…Why, then, am I writing about this? Well, because it gives me an excuse to link to a really fascinating article Malcolm Gladwell wrote for the New Yorker a few years back about the science of taste — why people like certain kinds of things like ketchup, spaghetti sauce, soda and mustard. Turns out that those store brand colas really aren’t very well-made, that Heinz really might be the platonic ideal of ketchup and that almost everyone prefers Grey Poupon to patriotic and manly (but lousy) American mustard. From the piece:
  • The Seattle Traveler » Waterfront Fun at Seattle Maritime Festival – Seattle puts its maritime prowess on display this weekend with the annual Seattle Maritime Festival.

    Saturday’s Family Fun Day is always a big treat, and the highlight is the Tugboat Races. These are the largest Tugboat Races in the World = with over 40 boats expected to participate.
    Photo credit: swanksalot @flickr

  • Lawmaker Defends Imprisoning Hostile Bloggers | Threat Level – “Rep. Linda Sanchez responded Wednesday to Threat Level’s tirade against her proposed legislation outlawing hostile electronic speech. Her answer: “Congress has no interest in censoring.”Sanchez, with the introduction of the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, clearly has a great interest in censoring.”

Cat Fight Emerson vs Bud

St. Louis cat-fight!

Taj Mahal

Emerson, one of St. Louis’ largest companies, is apparently steamed at what it thinks is rough treatment at the hands of Anheuser-Busch. The Ferguson-based manufacturer of cooling equipment, network power products, appliances and tools plans to boycott Anheuser-Busch products to protest stingier payment policies and what it claims are Anheuser-Busch’s cutbacks in funding for local non-profits.

In an internal memo obtained by Lager Heads, Emerson sounded off:

“With the InBev acquisition of Anheuser-Busch we have seen negative things happening in the St. Louis community and in regard to Emerson doing business with InBev. InBev payment terms with Emerson have now been stipulated as 120 days – take it or leave it!”

Before being taken over by InBev, A-B typically settled its accounts in 30 days. Emerson, an Anheuser-Busch supplier, is evidently mad at the change. It’s not alone, but this is the most interesting response – by far- to Anheuser-Busch’s new way of dealing with suppliers.

[Click to continue reading Emerson to boycott Anheuser-Busch | Lager Heads | STLtoday]

DDB Chicago has both petulant companies as clients, as Jeremy Mullman reports:

DDB, Chicago, finds itself in exactly that awkward position today following a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Emerson, an engineering conglomerate, has instructed its divisions to boycott Anheuser-Busch products in response to A-B’s new insistence on making vendors — including Emerson — wait 120 days for payments. Emerson also included among its reasons what it described as A-B’s cutbacks in funding to local nonprofits, including the United Way and the Girl Scouts.

The orders were contained in an internal memo obtained by the newspaper. “With the InBev acquisition of Anheuser-Busch, we have seen negative things happening in the St. Louis community and in regard to Emerson doing business with InBev,” the memo reads. “Effective immediately, we will not use Anheuser-Busch InBev products at the Emerson World Headquarters complex, Winfield Conference Center, on Emerson planes, or in Emerson suites at Busch Stadium (Cardinals), Scottrade Center (St. Louis Blues & concerts), and Edward Jones Dome (Rams).

“We want all divisions to comply and not purchase or stock any Anheuser-Busch InBev products. We suggest you use Coors, Miller, Modelo or Heineken products.”

[Click to continue reading Coors Light at Busch Stadium? – Adages – Advertising Age]

I’d be annoyed too if all invoices were paid after 120 days – that really would mess up our cash-flow. A few years ago we did a large marketing program with a major financial corporation, and because they paid their invoices within 60 days, we had to take out a bridge loan with a local bank just so we could stay afloat. Turned out ok, but money was more liquid a few years ago. Four months is a long time to hold someone’s money before paying it.

News America Purchases Floorgraphics

Whoa, that’s one way to settle a lawsuit that is going poorly…

Hanging Out on the Bean

News America Marketing, a unit of the News Corporation that produces coupon inserts and sells advertising in supermarkets, settled a lawsuit this week with a competitor that had accused it of anticompetitive behavior and corporate spying.

On Wednesday, News America bought the company, Floorgraphics, outright for an undisclosed sum.

The lawsuit was settled after witnesses began testifying in the trial in federal court in New Jersey. The original lawsuit was filed in 2004.

In a brief statement, a spokeswoman for News America confirmed the acquisition, saying, “We’re pleased to be expanding our network of stores to better serve our customers and we’re very excited to incorporate the quality network so ably developed by Floorgraphics.”

[From News Corp. Unit Settles Suit With a Rival, Then Buys It – NYTimes.com]

Surprising development, actually. Rupert Murdoch must have made FGI an offer they couldn’t refuse.

[more details at Jim Edwards blog: bnet]

News Corp Trial

We wrote about this case a while ago, and it seems to be getting juicy. [Source documents available here]

Tall statue aka Our Onion-headed Overlords

At issue is whether News America has lied, cheated and stolen to maintain its market share. FGI claims News America “engaged in illegal computer espionage by breaking into FGI’s password-protected computer system and obtaining propietary FGI information.” News America denies the allegations.

The saga began when, according to FGI’s complaint, News America made FGI an offer it couldn’t refuse:

At a meeting in July 1999, News’ Chief Executive Officer told FGI that News was interested in buying FGI, but if FGI refused to sell and chose instead to compete with News for in-store programs other than floor advertising — such as instant coupon machines, shelf ads, take ones or shopping cart placards — News would destroy FGI.

FGI chose to compete — and News America allegedly made good on its promise to kill FGI. The complaint:

“…on at least eleven separate occasions between October 2003 and January 2004, News intentionally, knowingly and without authorization breached FGI’s secure computer system and repeatedly accessed, viewed, took and obtained FGI’s most sensitive and private information concerning its past and upcoming advertising and marketing programs.”

FGI discovered this when one of its clients asked FGI how News America knew about a program that the client was only running with FGI. News America had blown its cover by asking the client why the program wasn’t also running with News America.

A breach of FGI’s computer system was later traced to “an IP address registered at the time to News,” the complaint states.

Following the computer break-in, FGI lost contracts from Safeway, Winn-Dixie, Piggly Wiggly and Basha’s.

[Click to read more Trial: Did News America Marketing Group Break Into Floorgraphics’ Computers? | BNET Advertising Blog | BNET]

Usually these sorts of business litigations are dryasdust, however, News Corp. isn’t most companies.

Snuggie Train

We were laughing about Snuggies ’round these parts recently. Looks so much like a Jim Jones kind of garment, just missing the cup of Flavor-Aid or a pair of Heaven’s Gate Nikes.1

The Snuggie blanket launched nationally on direct-response TV in October, just as the economy was slowing to a crawl, so the timing seemingly couldn’t have been worse. However, it turns out the timing couldn’t have been better.

The quirky little blanket with sleeves has become the raiment of the zeitgeist, with more than 4 million units sold in just over three months and more than 200 parody videos on YouTube.

[Scott Boilen, president of Allstar Marketing Group, Hawthorne, N.Y] said he’s heard reports of customers swamping stockers and grabbing all the Snuggies before they even reach the shelves at Bed, Bath & Beyond or Walgreens, the first two retailers to carry the blankets.

The timing worked well on many fronts for Snuggie. With conventional advertisers pulling back, remnant time for direct-response ads has swelled. And because apparel and other consumer-product sales are down, plenty of idle Chinese factories are eager for business.

Ads tout the Snuggie as a way to cut heating bills and let folks curl up on the sofa with their hands free. With a growing number of consumers hunkering down and looking to save money, two Snuggies and two book lights for $19.95 is starting to look like a pretty good deal.

And something about the Snuggie just matches the spirit of the times. “It’s a tremendous value in today’s tough economic times,” Mr. Boilen said. “In this type of economy, people are looking for a value, and this is certainly a value at the price point. … People are staying home more, and it makes them feel good.”

[From Humble Snuggie: Marketing’s New Red-Hot Seller – Advertising Age – News]


Is your life shrouded in a cold blue haze? Do arrows with $ symbols appear when you try to raise the thermostat? Is your blanket slightly too small? If so please join us, the Cult of Snuggie. There will be punch and pie.

  1. no, it wasn’t Kool-Aid, stop saying it was []

Mrs O Has No Regrets

Interesting write-up of the Mrs. O blog

Michelle Obama-at Blackbird

ON the blog Mrs. O, fans of Michelle Obama’s style can view photos of the outfit she wore on a recent date with the president-elect and find out where to buy the same purple designer coat.

The advertising agency behind the blog, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, does not work for Mrs. Obama or for the fashion designers the site features. In fact, mrs-o.org is not for a client at all. It is an entirely new business created by the Zag division of Bartle Bogle, which the agency started to invent new brands.

Mrs. O and Zag are part of a business model transformation in the advertising industry. Agencies are parlaying their expertise in marketing the brands of other companies into creating and marketing their own.

Zag got into the fashion blogging business in September, after Mary Tomer, a 27-year-old account planner at Bartle Bogle in New York, hatched the idea for the blog. She noticed Mrs. Obama’s style during the Democratic convention, yet could not find information on what she wore.

She decided to create a Web site, which she described as “a central resource for tracking her style and providing as much designer information and commentary as possible.”

Instead of writing the blog in her spare time after work, like most bloggers with day jobs, she approached her employers to see if they would bankroll her new hobby. They readily agreed.

“Mary was very sure about what she wanted, and when you read about the best brands, they are unrelenting,” Mr. Jenkins said. “That’s what I preached to my clients for the last 10 years, and now we have the chance to do that ourselves.”[Click to read more Advertising – Ad Agencies Create and Market Their Own Brands – NYTimes.com]

and this is how my photo ended up there:

Ms. Tomer and the site’s other writers find pictures of Mrs. Obama in newspapers or on the photo Web site Flickr and get permission from the photographers to post the photos free. They research her outfits by calling designers, searching on sites like Style.com and, when stumped, turning to the blog’s readers.

At first, Bartle Bogle thought of the site as an experiment in new media. Quickly, though, “there was a realization that there was a bigger idea here that was a very viable business opportunity,” Ms. Tomer said.

Ms. Tomer was very polite, professional, and of course I was pleased to be affiliated, even tangentially, with her website. I hope she’s able to parlay Mrs. O into a great success, for at least eight years…

Newspapers of the future

Unfortunately, my local paper has taken a decided downturn, close to becoming just a advertising circular, with a few stories thrown in here and there. Newspapers should have more reporters, not less, staff cutbacks is not the solution to restoring newspaper profitability.

As Felix Salmon says when you pay for the physical newspaper you’re not paying for the news, you’re paying for the paper. A newspaper is a big physical object. Creating it and distributing it on a daily basis is a hugely expensive undertaking. And subscriptions to newspapers are cheap — the amount of money being charged for home delivery of The New York Times or any other major paper only does a tiny amount to defray the costs of producing and delivering the object.

The problem newspapers are having with online isn’t that the readers won’t pay, it’s that the advertisers won’t pay. The reduced costs per reader make up for the reduced revenue involved in giving the product away, but a physical newspaper generates far more in terms of ad revenue per reader than does a newspaper website. Probably once physical newspapers all disappear, ad rates for news websites will go up somewhat merely because ad buyers won’t have as many options. But I think it’s plausible that even when everything shakes out online advertising revenue still won’t support the volume of staff that print advertising revenue once did.

[From Matthew Yglesias » News Without the Paper ]