Oscar Mayer

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Over the past two days, I’ve spent a lot of time on the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76), which naturally makes me think about parking. Thanks to its legendary jams, the Schuylkill is purported to be the inspiration for The Soul Survivors’ regional hit, “Expressway to Your Heart.” Yesterday’s standstill on my return trip from the city was due to a regatta and a lot of rerouting along the river drives. Tonight, after picking up my son from the Bolt bus, I got stuck in traffic leaving the Sixers and Phils games.




However, it was all worth it because on my way into the city this evening, I passed one of the all-time great advertising icons — the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. Definitely a sight that commands your attention, even in the dark. Guess I can cross that one off my bucket list.

Hot dog! I passed the Wienermobile on the Schuylkill Expressway!!

Vehicles of all sorts have been on my mind ever since Thursday when I attended a seminar put on by one of our clients, Time and Parking Controls, at the National Constitution Center. Spend a day with these guys, the manufacturers they represent, and their clients, and you realize how critical parking solutions are — to municipalities, to hospitals, to private city lots, to companies with secured employee facilities. We all drive. We all need a place to leave our cars, day and night.

The Constitution Center has its own underground lot off Race Street. When I came up on the elevator to the lobby, there was a car parked IN the lobby. It was the classic Corvette that Bruce Springsteen purchased when he could first afford one following sales of Born To Run. The Bruce exhibit, “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land,” is featured at the Constitution Center till September. In the words of a certain California governor, “I’ll be back.”

As it turns out, the Constitution Center, besides being a great place to learn about the namesake document, and its amendments, that have served our nation well since colonial days, is also a terrific site for hosting an educational event. Time and Parking Controls lined up two excellent speakers to address very different concerns under the banner of “Parking Operations – Internal and External Threats That Affect Your Business.”

Time and Parking Controls is one of many VARs of Lenel, the leading provider of access control and security software. Mick McDaniel provided an excellent overview of the United Technologies owned industry giant, which works with just about every major government agency and large corporation you can think of. Its impressive suite of solutions puts tremendous monitoring and control capabilities in the hands of key security personnel (and always just two mouse clicks away). Access control points and CCTV cameras, coupled with a variety of enterprise databases, enable amazing response time and instant decision-making, with parking lots being a critical first line of activity and defense.

Larry Donoghue, Parking Fraud Consultant Zen Master

Larry Donoghue, Parking Fraud Consultant Zen Master

Following Mick to the podium was Larry Donoghue, a member of the Parking Hall of Fame and a one-man consulting dynamo for parking lot operators with automated revenue control equipment who need to detect fraud and prevent it. Larry’s 65-year career puts him at a very youthful 93 years old. This man came from Chicago, loaded with case histories that stunned me and other audience members with the ingenuity that parking lot patrons and parking lot employees employ in figuring ways to cheat business owners out of recurring revenue. There is big money to be made in parking. And also big money to be lost in parking. Larry has made a career identifying the ingenious ways in which people game systems and line their own pockets.

Capping off the seminar was a visit from a Philadelphia mystery guest whose knowledge of parking seems stuck in the horse-drawn carriage  era, although his kite and key experiments are finally helping spur development of electric-powered, rechargeable cars. If you ever need to hire Ben Franklin to add colonial authenticity and wit to your next event, he is a personal friend of this marketing agency and he knows how to party like it is 1776.

Last night gave me plenty of time to ruminate on the importance of having a good, safe place to leave your vehicle whenever you venture into the city. Parking on the Schuylkill Expressway has that effect on people .

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Philly fave Tastykake is now owned by Flower Foods but is going national.

Philly fave Tastykake is now owned by Flower Foods but is going national.

This week, two stories got my attention in an interconnected way. The first was the news that Tastykake had been sold to Flowers Foods, a Southern baked goods company. It is depressing that ownership of another of the brands most associated with Philadelphia is moving out of state. However, given Tastykake’s debt troubles, at least the brand will live on and the new plant down at the Navy Yard will stay, along with most if not all of those jobs (that at least delivers some value for the extensive state funding poured into Tastykake in recent past). Better still, Flowers Foods has plans to take Tastykake from regional to national.

That brings me to the other story, which was a regional-to-national success from yesteryear. I heard it by chance on my car radio because Mike Gallagher was celebrating how a multi-generational Chicago area family meat packing business exploded on the national scene in an unexpected way. One of the ad agency execs was recalling for Gallagher how it happened. At the time, the company was on its second generation Oscar and he was a typical, hard-driving CEO of the era.

He called his agency in for a meeting one day and announced that what they needed was to be on the radio with a jingle. The agency folks thought to themselves that TV was the place to be, but Oscar Mayer was driven by limo to work every day and was an avid radio listener. A few weeks later, hoping Oscar would move on to other things, the agency was surprised to be called to his home and to be serenaded by the piano-playing hot dog magnate. The song was an old ditty that the Mayer family used to sing together — even the old man admitted that it was not very good. He added, though, that the agency had 30 days to deliver something better or he was going to go on the air with his song.

The agency turned to a number of jingle writers, one of whom was especially talented as a songwriter, but not as a performer. So, he got his kids to perform his amazingly simple but memorable melody. Despite some early trepidation about the jingle being too childish, the Oscar Mayer jingle was rolled out to instant popularity and memorability and the brand skyrocketed to national status and innocent fun that as this video demonstrates carries over to today.

Could Tastykake follow a similar regional-to-national brand trajectory by pursuing the Oscar Mayer jingle path? Even Oscar Mayer moved away from its own jingly roots last year. While they already have their own memorable “Nobody bakes a cake as tasty as a Tastykake” tune that is well established here, it is a digital world now and even a hyper-creative viral video might not be enough to win the day nationally (I think the taste of Tastykakes elevates them about typical snack food fare and is their greatest asset).  At least they don’t face the challenge faced by a global baked goods company with its US headquarters in the Philadelphia area — getting people to pronounce the Bimbo brand as B-E-E-E-E-M-B-O.

All this jingle talk also made me sad, because it reminded me that the area lost its own great resource in 2009 when Andy Mark passed away way too prematurely at age 58. His Philadelphia Music Works was responsible for many local and national gems. We were fortunate to work with him on music for Buten —The Paint and Paper People, Shop ‘n Bag, and Thriftway. Andy would have loved hearing this week’s tribute to the Oscar Mayer jingle.

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