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Newton Associates holiday card 2004

This card reprinted an inspiring agency contribution to the 1974 Eagles yearbook and made an amazing link.

We’re coming up on nearly a decade since our agency sent out a holiday card to clients that carried an extra-special meaning and message, linking past with present via an inexplicable moment of foreshadowing. It also chronicles the generosity of Leonard Tose, the Eagles organization, and fans, the vision of Drs. Audrey Evans and Milton H. “Mickey” Donaldson, and the history behind the Philadelphia Eagles’ “Fly For Leukemia” and the birth of the nation’s first Ronald McDonald House right here in Philadelphia. I would normally save this for the holiday season, except I have an ulterior motive. I am hoping any good karma it generates will motivate readers to visit my personal fundraising page for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night walk to raise money for treatment of all forms of blood cancer. Here is the link if you find yourself so moved:


And here is the holiday card retelling. . .



I’d like to share a story with you. It isn’t a holiday tale, but it is appropriate for this annual time of reflection. This story is personal, remarkable, humbling, and downright Capra-esque.

It begins back in the 1970s in the early days of Newton Associates when Jon Newton and Harry Streamer had some high profile local accounts in the Philadelphia Eagles and the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a heady time, especially for the sports fans in the office. But it wasn’t all fun and games. Through the Eagles in particular, Jon and Harry became involved in some worthy charities that the football club was helping to launch. Personal involvement at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia led Eagles executives to start Eagles Fly for Leukemia and to collaborate with McDonald’s on the first-ever Ronald McDonald House, which as you probably know provides a home away from home for families who need a nearby place to stay while their sick child is hospitalized for treatment.

Back then, Newton Associates created promotional materials for both charities. And in the 1974 Eagles yearbook, in an article reprinted here, Jon chronicled the efforts of a lot of generous people, who opened their hearts and their pocketbooks on behalf of numerous sick children and their families.

If you have a moment, I encourage you to read this article; not because it is Jon’s finest prose, but because it is filled with inspirational examples of people making a huge difference. I came across it myself going through agency samples in preparation for a new business pitch. When I read it, I did so with more than casual interest. And by the end of the article, I’d had a genuine epiphany.

For the reasons why, you need to fast forward from the 1970s to September 1999. When my youngest of three sons was a month shy of his first birthday, he developed some unusual bruising on his right thigh. A visit to our family doctor led to testing at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood leukemia. Needless to say, this was devastating news and a difficult time for my family. Thanks to the medical team at CHOP, my incredibly strong and determined wife, Drina, and the assistance of a network of amazing friends, church members, neighbors, and in some cases, total strangers, we somehow managed to complete three and one-half years of chemo treatment for my son. In remission for the start of this protocol, he remains healthy and cancer free today, just celebrated his sixth birthday, and entered kindergarten this fall.

There’s more to this story, however, and I continue to wrestle with it in my own mind to define whether it represents a mind-bending coincidence or my own personal version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” At the end of Jon’s article, he concludes with a hypothetical example to encourage readers to keep on giving because back in 1974, there were a lot more sick children to cure and many more medical advances needed. He gave this hypothetical sick child a name — Peter.

That just happens to be the name of my youngest son.

I don’t see any point in debating the unfathomable odds of picking that very same name, 24 years apart. I do know that the odds of a child surviving common childhood leukemia increased from 50% in 1974 to well over 90% when my son was diagnosed in 1999. And I know that those statistics didn’t increase by coincidence, but rather through the hard work and generosity of a never-ending stream of people, some of them encouraged no doubt by the early work for Eagles charities done by Jon and Harry.

It doesn’t hurt once in awhile to remind ourselves that we can make a positive difference in each other’s lives in ways we can never ever begin to imagine. And that something good we do today can yield surprising results even decades later. It is in this spirit that your friends at Newton Associates would like to make a donation to Ronald McDonald House Charities. In honor of Jon Newton and Harry Streamer for their early efforts on behalf of that organization. And in your honor as a valued friend of this agency. Best of the season and the New Year to you!


Dan Ditzler

Newton Associates


Philadelphia Eagles 1974 Yearbook

The 1974 Yearbook chronicled the Philadelphia Eagles efforts on behalf of "Eagles Fly for Leukemia" and the first Ronald McDonald House.

And reprinted from the 1974 Philadelphia Eagles yearbook. . .

Reflections In A Passed Hat

by Jon Newton

Maybe you were there.

It happened on Sunday afternoon, November 25, 1973. The Eagles were taking on the New York Giants in front of a Vet full of typical fans.

It was a 100 percent football day. The Eagles had just come off a loss to Dallas. Earlier in the season they were tied by the Giants. The fans definitely — but definitely! — were in no mood for another tie. Everybody was still smarting from the embarrassing 42-41 loss to the Giants in Princeton in the pre-season.

Just before the kickoff, an announcement was made that the hat would be passed during the game. It was hard to believe. In the midst of 20th-century football with all its sophistication, in front of 63,000 hard-nosed fans, the Eagles were passing the hat!

Most of the newer football fans in the Vet that day probably didn’t even know what passing the hat meant. Some of the old-timers probably just smiled, remembering when that’s the way it used to be. Not in pro ball so much, but certainly in semi-pro and neighborhood ball.

The fact is, passing the hat is an American tradition as old as the origins of football itself. When pro ball was trying to get started along the railroad tracks of the Midwest, and on empty lots and high-school fields in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, passing the hat was it. There was no other team income.

The very first professional football game of record was a hat passer. Latrobe, PA August 31, 1895; Latrobe 12, Jeanette zip. The teams split the hat and divided it up among the players. Latrobe quarterback John Brailier, who was guaranteed ten bucks, went home high man.

Seventy-nine years later, with $12.50 seats, $100,000 ball players, and multi-million dollar television rights, passing the hat — for any reason — seemed pretty bush. But maybe that helped to make what happened at the Vet that day even more significant. Oh there was football all right. Plenty of it. And there really was a collection taken up in the stands. Actually, the two came together beautifully. Because just as the hats were going through the crowd, Gabriel uncorked a scoring pass to Zimmerman. People were on their feet, cheering and emptying their pockets simultaneously.

The Eagles won that day. In a small measure, so did mankind. Because when the game ended it was Eagles 20, Giants 16, leukemia $20,055. Twentieth-century football and traditional American hat passing had gotten along fine. Just fine.

It proved something. It proved that the football fan, the ultimate ball player, is still willing to make the payments. That he is still the greatest source of revenue — for professional football and for charity. Sure, he’ll bitch about what inflation has done to the price of ball park beer and hot dogs. And rightly so. But he still has the capacity to dig into his wallet and contribute this much and more, to help fight some disease that he has trouble spelling, much less understanding. It say something for the football fan. It says something for the American way.

Most of the time the fan doesn’t get any recognition for tossing his well-earned money into the hat of a charitable cause. It is the popular high-salaried player, donating his time to appear at fund-raising functions, who gets the acclaim. Let us acclaim both. Their contributions are equal.

The hat passing was the first really organized move in an effort that has come to be known as “Eagles Fly For Leukemia.” It’s hard to say precisely how the effort got started and who was responsible. Right there from the beginning was ex-Eagles player Freddy Hill. It was Hill who announced that the hat would be passed at the Vet last November. Hill is very close to the whole thing because he’s very close to his daughter. Kim Hill is eight years old. She has leukemia.

Fred Hill, along with his neighbor, Stan Lane, has been trying to raise funds to fight leukemia ever since his daughter was diagnosed five years ago. Back then it was just the two of them — one man with a very personal stake in a victory over leukemia; one friend who wanted to help. They stomped the neighborhoods, put out coin boards with Eagles emblems on them, and gathered players and wives together for fund-raising fashion shows. They did as much as two guys could. And they raised some money.

But leukemia is a big disease. It would take big money to beat it. And that would take Eagles participation in a big way.

Last fall Freddy Hill made his case, as only as man with his singularly heavy burden could, to Jim Murray, Eagles administrative assistant. Murray got involved. Instantly. Completely. In turn, he involved Eagles owner Leonard Tose. Tose involved Roman Gabriel and Mike McCormack. They involved the whole team. Doctors Audrey E. Evans and Milton H. Donaldson, oncologist and assistant oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, got involved. Some pretty important people and some pretty big organizations also got involved. But greater than the sum of all these, the average Philadelphia Eagles football fan got involved.

Joe Scirrotto is an average Eagles fan who runs a Gulf station at Rising Sun and Van Kirk in the Northeast. He has a great sense of humor. Ask him for a key to the restroom and his eyes narrow in mock seriousness.

“You’re in luck,” he says. “I got one left.”

Joe Scirrotto has an even greater sense of obligation. By the time you read this he will have raised over $10,000 for “Eagles Fly For Leukemia.”

That’s a real piece of work. But then Joe Scirrotto is a real piece of work. He thinks somewhere between Norman Vincent Peale and P.T. Barnum. Last year, just about the time the leukemia thing was getting off the ground, Joe saw some of the fun going out of his business. He had also seen the life go out of six of his customers and relatives of customers because of leukemia. Scirrotto decided to somehow do something about both. “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” became his vehicle.

Scirroto began by donating one cent on every gallon of Gulftane — a brand being discontinued — his station pumped. That wasn’t enough, so Joe started badgering the Eagles office with things to do.

He got the Eagles helmet cart up to his station and charged for kids to have pictures taken in it. He got football players to make personal appearances. He sold Eagles memorabilia ranging from knit hats, to decals, to color photos of Roman Gabriel. He plastered his gas station with so many posters and handmade signs that it became hard to tell it was a gas station. It still wasn’t enough.

When Gulftane ran out, Joe carried his cent-a-gallon donation policy over to the regular brand. . .pretty remarkable since he was already selling it at 49.9, probably the lowest price in the city. But again, it wasn’t enough. Scirrotto began to conduct weekly raffles: a set of radial tires, 100 gallons of gas, 50 gallons of gas. When somebody gave him a load of hot dogs, he raffled them off in 30 pound lots. He raffled off glassware and tableware as well. A customer brought in some stained-glass green and white eagles she had made. Joe sold them at $10 a copy.

Another vendor donated a lot of penny bubble gum for Joe to do with as he saw fit. Joe saw fit to sell it at 10 cents a piece, two for a quarter. The sense of humor never faded. Neither did the drive. He sold all the bubble gum and looked around for more. More of anything. His calls to the Eagles office became increasingly frequent — more photos, more decals, more players. Once he asked for eight players to appear at the same time to sign autographs. Can you believe it? In the middle of an NFL strike he wanted eight players!

Scirrotto set himself a September 15 deadline to raise the $10,000. What’s he doing now that it’s all over? You got to know Joe Scirrotto. For him it isn’t over until there is a cure for leukemia. Right now he’s probably still trying to get those eight players. So what if it’s the middle of the season!

If an average guy with an above-average sense of duty like Joe Scirrotto could raise $10,000 would could some carefully selected high-powered organizations do? Jim Murray and Hugh Ortman, special projects coordinator hired to run “Eagles Fly For Leukemia,” decided to find out.

Murray and Ortman made a pitch to NFL Charities. It was unusual. NFL Charities does a lot of good work on a national basis; getting involved in something as pinpointed as “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” was new to them. The proposal went to the League Office in New York. Murray and Ortman went too, and walked away with $20,000 earmarked to sponsor a fully-qualified doctor to do basic and clinical leukemia research for one year. Dr. Allan H. Arbeter started the job early in September at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a designated national cancer research center.

Once the Eagles players and fans really began to fly for leukemia they found they were not flying alone.

Bobby Clarke, the NHL’s most valuable player, presented $400 in cash collected from his Flyer teammates. A midget football league in Kensington passed the hat at its championship game and then went door-to-door. They collected $1,000. A mini-bike raffle conducted by a Harley-Davidson dealer in Norristown raised another $300. The South West Used Auto Parts Association asked for Bill Bradley or Po James to appear at their annual banquet. Both appeared and the fund was $1,500 richer. A 24-hour basketball marathon run by St. Bernard’s CYO raised $315. Several Eagles players went to the opening of Dunfey’s Sheraton Inn at the airport. They took a fish bowl along and came back with $700 in it. A Villanova inter-fraternity softball marathon was rained out but still managed to collect $285. Liberty Mutual Insurance raised $200 in a social club raffle. Roman Gabriel and Hugh Ortman worked out a golf tournament with Radley Run Country Club. It raised over $3,000. A gal named Barbara Kuchenmeister took it upon herself to organize a dinner-dance in Glenside. Roman Gabriel made an appearance. So did Steve Zabel and his wife, Susan. So did 450 people. In the end, over $7,000 was raised. The Vet ushers were so impressed by the November 25 hat passing that they donated part of their pay for the day. Pop Warner League football players of the Northeast Suburban Athletic Conference going door-to-door with a goal of collecting $15,000.

Not all the donations to “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” have been in the form of money. They have been no less valuable.

Continental Bank officiated at the Vet hat passing and provided tellers to count the money. It continues to provide free banking services to the fund. Stan Lane enlisted over 500 volunteers to help with collections and various administrative chores. Hundreds of others have called to help.

Everyone who did anything deserves a mention here. Unfortunately, that is impossible — partly because there are so many and partly because many people joined forces as an organization in order to accomplish more than they could individually. One such organization was McDonald’s.

There’s a sign in front of all McDonald’s. You’ve seen it — something about 18 billion served. It refers to the number of hamburgers McDonald’s has served. The Philadelphia area McDonald’s could well put up another sign about the hundreds of leukemia victims they have served through their efforts in “Eagles Fly For Leukemia.”

Remember the green shakes McDonald’s serves every year during St. Patrick’s Day week? This year there was something different about them. For one thing Roman Gabriel went on television and radio to push them. Now any day you can get Roman Gabriel to go on TV and push anything of any color, you have to do something pretty special in return. McDonald’s did. They donated the profit on every green shake served. It came to a fantastic $32,218.30.

Later in the year, Harold Carmichael made an appearance at the opening of a new McDonald’s at 13th and Market. Half the proceeds of the day were donated — another $1,900.

The money raised by the McDonald’s operators and managers who participated in “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” went to purchase a guest house near The Children’s Hospital. The house, now being converted into a boarding-type facility, will be called “Ronald McDonald House,” and will be used by leukemic children and their parents who must travel long distances to the hospital for treatment. It is impossible to image the emotional and financial strain  on parents whose children are stricken with leukemia. The Ronald McDonald House will help relieve both, by providing free accommodations to parents and providing the opportunity for them to share thoughts with people who carry a similar burden.

Up until a few months ago the Ronald McDonald House was just that. A house. The interior needed a lot of work before anyone could live there. John Canuso, a South Jersey builder, heard about the need at The Children’s Hospital. He goes there often. His daughter has leukemia. John Canuso is completely renovating the inside of Ronald McDonald House. Free.

The Ronald McDonald House was based on a concept of Dr. Evans and Donaldson. Jim Murray took the idea to advertising man Don Tuckerman. He took it to the McDonald’s operators and managers. Green shakes became the vehicle to make the idea a reality. It is typical of the many great ideas that have come from “Eagles Fly For Leukemia.”

Jim Murray still had what was perhaps the best idea: to get the Eagles team and the Eagles fans pulling together for leukemia in the first place. If that is true, his second best idea had to be the victory party held after the successful hat passing at the Vet. It proved to be the biggest single money maker so far.

Like everything else in “Eagles Fly For Leukemia,” this victory party involved more giving than celebrating. It was decided to tie in two elements of the party, a $1,000-per-couple ticket charge and a fashion show, with kids phoning in pledges directly to their favorite Eagles players. Some way was needed to get the word out on a broad scale. WIP provided that way. It threw the efforts of the entire station behind the project, including a full night of air time for the victory party “radiothon.” Sixty telephones were installed in the Eagles offices to handle the response. As it turned out that wasn’t enough.

To handle the tickets for the party a committee was formed by Len Tose’s friends — Herb Barness, Sidney Forstater, Whitney Kerchner, Harold Honickman, Billy Hyndman, III, John Taxin, Wally Leventhal, and Roy Peraino — all men who know other men who could afford $1,000 for tickets. Together they sold 40 of them.

The radiothon got an early start with a plug on the Eagles-49ers game a week before the party. The phones started ringing. Along the way Dandy Don Meredith plugged it again on NFL Monday Night Football. More calls came in from that, and from almost incessant mentioning of the radiothon by WIP personalities.

But it really wasn’t until about 7:00 pm, December 5, the night of the victory party, that all hell broke loose. Ever see 60 phones light up and stay lighted for hours on end? It was like an early Christmas with thousands of Santas calling in presents. The party was a long one. When it was over, more than $80,000 had been raised. The Eagles weren’t flying for leukemia anymore. They were soaring!

To date, better than $200,000 has been raised. That’s a lot of money. It might help to know where it’s all going.

It’s all going — every cent of it — to equip the leukemia in-patient, out-patient, and research laboratory facilities at the new Children’s Hospital, 34th and Civic Center Boulevard. Every cent? That means every cent after expenses, right? No. It means every cent, period. All the costs and expenses of “Eagles Fly For Leukemia,” and they are considerable, are coming out of Leonard Tose’s pocket. He wouldn’t have it any other way. And because of the kind of man Len Tose is, we’ll never know the value of his contribution in dollars and cents.

We can’t even guess what his bill will be. The salary of a full-time coordinator. The cost of telephones. The tab for good and drink for hundreds of people at the victory party. Secretarial labor. The cost of thousands of  Eagle souvenirs. The cost of making his players available for personal appearances. It’s all on Len Tose.

The $200,000 raised so far is a lot, but it is not enough. Not nearly enough. What is the goal then? For Dr. Audrey E. Evans, a most remarkable woman who heads the oncology department at The Children’s Hospital, anything would have been a godsend. The day she told Freddy Hill it would cost $800,000 to equip the entire oncology floor it was beyond her wildest dreams that this would become the “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” goal. Freddy Hill never dreamed of it either. Jim Murray saw the possibilities. Len Tose made it definite. This, then, is the goal. $800,000.

And it will take every penny of the goal to do the job. Leukemia treatment and research requires sums of money that boggle the mind.

A simple microscope with a dual-reading head (so it can be used simultaneously for clinical research and teaching) costs $2,500. The hospital has three; it should have twice that many. A refrigerated ultra-centrifuge used to differentially separate the proteins in biological fluids is a basic tool of leukemia research. It costs a basic $15,000. Most of the other sophisticated equipment carries a similar price tag. Still, these are the low-end items. A life island unit, which Dr. Evans describes as “a special area we set aside for the little people who require very special isolated treatment,” costs $50,000. It only accommodates two children.

The treatment of leukemia is also incredibly expensive. The cost of an average visit to the oncology out-patient clinic is over $300. Some current leukemia chemotherapy requires a drug so expensive that it is impossible to buy. The value placed on it is so high that no one could possibly afford it, so the government has to make it available at no cost.

There is no known cure for leukemia, a disease that causes white cells to multiply in number to a point where they displace other normal blood-forming elements. Most of us know leukemia as cancer of the blood. It actually starts in the bone marrow. This year 350,000 people will die from cancer — about one person every two minutes. Of these, over three thousand will be children. most of them will die from leukemia.

Is it all worth it, then? As cruel as that question may seem, isn’t it possible that leukemia is a disease for which there is no cure now and perhaps never will be?

Consider a child with leukemia. Let’s call him Peter. As little as 25 years ago leukemia would have been fatal to him. Anywhere from six weeks to six months after diagnosis. Peter would have been dead. Today, he has a 50 percent chance of surviving for at least four years after diagnosis. By the measure of a healthy child these are still pretty rotten odds. But in the measurement of progress it is nothing short of miraculous. Because for Peter there is now hope where once there was none. Hell yes, it’s worth it.

When the Eagles were Saints. Len Tose and other benefactors help Dr. Audrey Evans battle leukemia in a big and lasting way at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

When the Eagles were Saints. Len Tose and other benefactors help Dr. Audrey Evans battle leukemia in a big and lasting way at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Audrey Evans knows it’s worth it. She doesn’t talk about curing a child with leukemia, but she never stops talking about the hope for a cure. It is not a false hope. The cure for leukemia has to be just around the corner. But which corner? It will take time and money to find out. For now the best doctors can do for a child with leukemia is achieve a remission — an arresting of the disease and a rollback of its effects. For how long? It varies. The progress made in lengthening remission time has been remarkable. But it is still never long enough.

Dr. Milton H. “Mickey” Donaldson knows about periods of remission and the hopes of lengthening them. He has what must be the toughest job in the world. Mickey Donaldson helps kids battle against leukemia. He never wins. The best he can do is prolong the ultimate defeat. How many of us could do this job — a job that is measured by how long it takes a child to die.

Mickey Donaldson doesn’t see his job that way. He talks instead about how long he can keep a child alive. Because for every minute gained there is the chance that a new drug, a new method of therapy, a cure, will end the fight for good.

Mickey Donaldson’s children are what “Eagles Fly For Leukemia” is all about. They are the reason why the hat has to keep passing. It must stop only long enough to be emptied, and then it must be passed again. And each time you put something in it, a child with leukemia might live a little longer. It is the only way in God’s earth that we can actually buy time. If we spend enough, we may buy that child a complete life.

It’s not so remote to think of it all in a football context. You’re losing and it’s a fourth and inches situation. There isn’t any real question is there?

You go for it.

Philadelphia Eagles Fly For Leukemia

Philadelphia Eagles Fly For Leukemia

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I am about to piss off 1,200 CEOs. Or I will if any of the participants in the “2013 Global Marketing Effectiveness” online survey read this blog. A short article in BtoB Magazine summarizes the results of that study with a gut-punch headline reporting that “78% of CEOs say ad agencies not performance-driven enough.”

But first some advice to ad agency CEOs — get off your asses and start educating prospects and clients what it is that we do. I know you are already spread thinner than private label peanut butter, but prepare to add proselytizing about the power of advertising (not just your agency’s credentials) to that daily to-do list. Advertising is the business of great ideas. Ideas that stop people in their tracks. Ideas that inspire people to take action (including making purchases). Ideas that build brand loyalty. Ideas that cause other shops to subsequently copy and ultimately water down what was original and ground-breaking. Ideas that often scare C-level execs looking for immediate results. Clearly, when 936 CEOs (or 78% of 1,200 for those CEOs who think agency people can’t quantify) believe our business does not focus on generating quantifiable business results, we all have our work cut out for us.

The survey went on to add that 76% of respondents believe agencies are not business-pragmatic enough, 74% think agencies are disconnected from short and medium-term business realities, and 72% say agencies are not as data and science-driven as expected. To that I would add 87% of the same CEOs believe agencies are as worthless as chewing gum (or worse) on the bottom of their shoes. The study noted that the 1,200 CEOs represented small, medium, and large companies globally. So, it doesn’t matter whether they answer to a board and investors or to themselves as entrepreneurs, these CEOs don’t believe agencies have anything much of value to bring to the table. What would John Wanamaker say, who recognized that 50% of his advertising budget was wasted but was satisfied because the other 50% was working wonders?

Don Draper would answer a call for performance results with storyboards that tell stories.

Don Draper would answer a call for performance results with storyboards that tell stories.

More importantly, what would MadMen’s Don Draper do? I think he would turn the tables and ask tough questions of today’s CEOs. Clearly, we are living in the age of data and with so much of it at their disposal, CEOs have become know-it-alls. Miserly, risk-averse, short-sighted, attention-deficit, know-it-alls. Here is a list of additional questions that the Fournaise Marketing Group might have added  to their survey if Don Draper had gotten his hands on it.

Have you ever truly partnered with an agency before? Explained what your unique business challenges are, helped educate them about your business and industry and competitors, and made them an integral part of your team?

Do you realize that if you devalue marketing and entrust it to junior people inside your own company, who parcel out parts and projects to a variety of firms, your branding, corporate identity, and overall messaging will likely suffer and deliver sub-par results?

Can you chart a direct correlation between how little you budget toward branding, marketing, advertising, and PR and how flat sales are?

Are you satisfied that your marketing content and materials look and read like your competitors’ and do you expect commoditization or would you yourself prefer to be excited by on-target creative work that elevates your brand?

How well do you know your own prospects and customers? Are you capable of putting yourself in their skins or do you believe that they will naturally gravitate to the greatness of your products and services? And become aware of them through osmosis (thought I’d throw in a gratuitous science term)?

Do you recognize how truly fragmented the media universe is today? How few shared experiences remain out there from a mass audience standpoint? How much power has shifted to purchasers and how critical it is to hire the best communications people you can find to build awareness, communicate your messaging, your unique selling propositions, and your overall brand value to them?

Can you truly appreciate why the world of advertising is characterized by mad men? Creative geniuses who don’t fit into MBA textbooks? Graphic artists and videographers who can tell your story visually, compellingly, and uniquely? Agency types who willingly work long uncompensated hours because they appreciate clients who put their faith in them?

Are you willing to settle for mediocrity and short-term blips in profits because striving for greatness is scary and carries with it greater public attention and pain in the event of failure?

Does your company’s current advertising/branding/marketing carry your stamp or is it legacy work whose coattails you are riding on?

Are you the market share leader in all of your markets? Any of your markets? Are you a follower of competitors in your marketing efforts or do you blaze your own trails?

Do you honestly believe that most agencies don’t want to deliver performance? What is more important to you, the ability to measure the results of every expenditure or to be surprised and excited by creative that no one saw coming?

What are you going to do with all that additional data? Will it pay for an expansion of your business? Will it convince you that cutting more costs and staff was the right thing to do? Are you constantly checking your smartphone in today’s meeting because someone is telling you something that truly rocks your world or are you just bored?

Are you like 78% of the CEOs out there and the world of advertising makes you uncomfortable because it doesn’t fit easily into a spreadsheet? Where are the visionary entrepreneurial CEOs of other eras who built great products and understood they still needed great advertising and they insisted upon it?

Last one I can truly put in that category was Steve Jobs. Do you want to be like him?

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Lots of things happen for a reason that isn’t always clear at the time (more on that later). Earlier this year, Mike Bodnar, GM of Security Partners, a Lancaster-based central monitoring station and security services provider, reached out to me to ask if I’d do a presentation on security marketing at their first-ever dealers conference. Impulsive me, I said sure. In April, when I visited their hospitality suite during ISC West in Las Vegas, I asked Joseph Mitton, Marketing Director for Security Partners, more about the event. He told me that they had done a survey of their dealers and marketing was the topic that the majority were interested in. That both surprised and encouraged me.

As the event drew closer, Debbie Stremmel, who was coordinating the conference for Security Partners, shared more details and I was struck by something obvious — the complete event package was a terrific way for Security Partners to market to, and solidify relationships with, its existing customer base.  Smart guys.

Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World

Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World

Generous, too — Pat Egan, Principal of Security Partners, paid for accommodations for 50 plus of his dealers from across the nation at the very cool Lancaster Arts Hotel, had presentations and a second day mini products expo at the Lancaster Barnstormers minor league ballpark, wined and dined them at Lombardo’s one night and on a murder mystery dinner excursion on the Strasburg Railroad the next.

The view from the Lancaster Barnstormers' main hospitality suite

The view from the Lancaster Barnstormers' main hospitality suite

Security Partners hosted their dealers conference in one of the Lancaster Barnstormers hospitality suites.

Security Partners hosted their dealers conference in one of the Lancaster Barnstormers hospitality suites.

Scenes from the Accelerate dealers conference of Security Partners

Scenes from the Accelerate dealers conference of Security Partners

Everything was neatly tied with a branded bow under the conference theme of “Acclerate” as in accelerate your business — from PowerPoint templates, to printed conference materials, to even welcome and sponsor messages on the Barnstormers’ digital scoreboard.  There was a nice blend of presentations: from “Trends and Overview of the Security Industry Landscape” by Shannon Murphy, VP of Sales and Marketing for Electronic Security Association; to “Business Growth Strategies” by Rob Pianka, Coach, of ActionCOACH; to “Attrition Management” by John Brady, Principal, TRG Associates; to me with “Marketing Security to a Short Attention Span World.” Day 2 featured that mini product exposition followed by several roundtable discussions with Noah Bilger (, Dean Mason (AlarmNet), Tad Lamb (2GIG Technologies), David Donovan (Honeywell Alarm Security), Alicia Pereira (Video IQ), and Ed Warminski (Videofied). Over the years, I’ve been to a lot of these kinds of events and this was one of the best, which is saying a lot given it was a first time for Security Partners. It surely resonated for all of the dealers who participated locally and from across the country.

A murder mystery dinner on the Strasburg Railroad was a great way to cap off a day of sessions at Security Partners dealer conference

A murder mystery dinner on the Strasburg Railroad was a great way to cap off a day of sessions at Security Partners dealer conference

EC Key, makers of a smartphone controllable/Wiegand compatible access control add-on, was a sponsor of Security Partners' dealer conference

EC Key, makers of a smartphone controllable/Wiegand compatible access control add-on, was a sponsor of Security Partners' dealer conference

The Lancaster Barnstormers' scoreboard is a great promotional addition to events held there.

The Lancaster Barnstormers' scoreboard is a great promotional addition to events held there.

The value for me was sharing a lot of agency history and experiences in security marketing: over 18 years with Linear, several more with SafetyCare, more recently with 2GIG Technologies, Secure Wireless, and Time and Parking Controls; plus, the way that the marketing landscape keeps changing dramatically on all fronts, creating new opportunities, especially through technology. But there is also the benefit of getting feedback from dealers. It was useful to hear how hard it is on the sales side to get access to quality leads, especially in quantity, to do phone sales for a product that most homeowners need but few currently have — a security/home automation system remote controllable from anywhere by smartphone (yes, there’s an app for that). On the business-to-business side, it is equally tough to find the right marketing message and media to reach decision-makers with current needs.

Ironically, the one thing that has stayed with me the most since the conference was a point I made that came back to haunt me the next day. I stressed that when you are building a web site today, you should avoid Flash because most mobile devices do not support it. Of course, a dealer came to me the next day to tell me something I already knew, that our main web site uses a lot of Flash videos that do not play on iPhones. It is a nagging problem we have lived with in recent years, but I decided to see if anyone had developed a recent workaround. A Google search led me to a promising conversion application, so I posed it to George Rothacker, Renaissance artist/marketer, long-time agency friend, Flash expert, and collaborator on our web site. George, problem-solver that he is, saw the process through to a semi-gratifying conclusion. While this app can’t convert large complex files like our web site videos, it can be used to convert smaller Flash-based files that DO play on mobile devices and are consistent cross platform and across all web browsers. George has been able to perfect the technique for a series of Berenstain Bears online games for a credit union client of his. Lemons into lemonade. If anyone out there would like to use Flash on mobile devices to do animation and effects, talk to me. The answer all began with a conversation at another highly effective marketing technique — a dealers conference.

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I am fully prepared for the page views of this blog to drop by 50%, because sadly we just lost our most loyal reader, a family friend who even at 90, was the living embodiment of the phrase “Carpe Diem,” (Seize the Day for all you non-English majors).

Speaking of which, for those of you who didn’t know Charlotte Melville, she might sound like a fictional character, but trust me when I say she was the realest person I have ever met. My last correspondence with her (again, it started with a reaction to a blog post) was December 2. In every contact I had with Charlotte, I always learned something (and often something extraordinary about her). In this latest instance, it was that she had once performed in Gilbert and Sullivan productions in Philadelphia during the 1930s. She was returning to her home in Bristol, PA mid-month from an extended stay with daughter Ann and husband Jeff, who currently live in Budapest working for the foreign service. Everyone would be home for Christmas. She was already planning her next international excursion, to Burma in the fall of 2013. Unfortunately, a few days upon her arrival here, Charlotte suffered a stroke, followed by a brain hemorrhage on Sunday. Very early Thursday morning, she died at home surrounded by her family.

If Dos Equis beer had a “Most Interesting Woman in the World,” Charlotte would be her. Everything about Charlotte was fascinating, starting with growing up in a privileged family in Bristol, a descendant of the founder of the D. Landreth Seed Company, which began in 1784 and introduced to the United States the Zinnia, the white potato, various tomato varieties, and Bloomsdale Spinach. Landreth remains in operation under non-family ownership as the oldest seed house and the fifth oldest corporation in America.

Charlotte's family founded the D. Landreth Seed Company, the oldest seedhouse in America.

Charlotte's family founded the D. Landreth Seed Company, the oldest seedhouse in America.

Early on, Charlotte developed an appreciation for just how wide and diverse Planet Earth is, and she became a global traveler abroad and a hostess with the mostest at home, welcoming foreign visitors to this country through various organizations. At times, she seemed like she knew everyone in every country, on every continent. This last trip at age 90 included the following itinerary: Croatia, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and to celebrate her birthday, a gondola ride in Venice.

Despite a Social Register type upbringing, Charlotte eschewed luxury accommodations for hostels, huts, and the homes of her many contacts. For instance, last summer in Lublijana, Slovenia, she stayed in a prison converted into a youth hostel. Despite roughing it, Charlotte had very few unpleasant travel surprises — one of the few was finding herself behind the Iron Curtain during a Soviet crackdown  in 1968.

Charlotte was a force of nature, proving that if you rest, you rust. Every morning, she took a long, brisk walk with her good friend, Herta Mackay. If you were a friend of Charlotte, you knew that she never stopped talking or walking. Energy drinks would be lost on her because she had so much natural get-up-and-go.

There wasn’t anything she wasn’t curious about, from history, to culture, to politics. When she was home, she wrote travel articles for the Bristol Pilot community newspaper. She attended meetings, outings, and lectures. She kept in touch with a myriad of fellow travelers, old friends, new friends, and personal acquaintances.

If you can believe it, Charlotte also squeezed in a stint in the U.S. Marines into her busy, busy life. As a result, she made a point in recent years of attending the annual USMC Ball. Most recently, she was the oldest marine there at the one held in Hungary in November. She was honored in the same fashion at an earlier USMC Ball in Beijing and got to meet President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush.

Charlotte was honored as the oldest marine at two recent USMC Balls in Hungary (here) and earlier in Beijing.

Charlotte was honored as the oldest marine at two recent USMC Balls in Hungary (here) and earlier in Beijing.

While back home in Bristol during the late 1980s, Charlotte met Gregory Peck when he was in town to see his daughter in a production at the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Charlotte had a knack for being at the right place, at the right time, with the right people. By comparison, Forest Gump was a piker.

Even now, I am having a hard time imagining life without Charlotte. She was a wonderful neighbor and friend to my in-laws. She was a great mentor and friend to my wife when she grew up with Charlotte’s daughters. She instantly became my friend, too, after my wife introduced us several decades ago. She has been a terrific role model to my kids. She has been an amazing mother to daughters Ann and Linda and a loving grandmother to her two grandsons.  And she has been both a great patriot and a world citizen. Not a bad resume for someone born to tremendous privilege, who, while enormously proud of her own heritage, chose to make her own way and her own name.

Charlotte passed away at home, less than half a mile from where she was born. That’s a pretty poetic circle of life for someone who has been one of the great globetrotters and goodwill ambassadors. Semper Fi, Charlotte. Semper Fi.

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It’s been an amazing season for mainstream movies. Argo, an incredible backstory to the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Lincoln, a transporting journey with the President during his fight to pass the 13th Amendment. Skyfall, arguably the best Bond movie ever. The list of cinematic gems goes on and on.

Silver Linings Playbook really nails the manic energy of the Philadelphia sports fan. The fact that it can be attractive to Jennifer Lawrence is icing on the cake.

Silver Linings Playbook really nails the manic energy of the Philadelphia sports fan. The fact that it can be attractive to Jennifer Lawrence is icing on the cake.

In particular, one of them resonated on many levels, most of all the local level. Silver Linings Playbook may be the quintessential Philadelphia movie (I know, Philadelphia Story it ain’t). If you haven’t caught it yet, please do, because it is a marvel on so many levels, not the least of which is how families and individuals grapple with mental illness, a matter that really matters especially at this sad moment in America.

David O Russell is a moviemaker who understands how much place plays a vital role in films. His last film, The Fighter, captured the down-on-its-luck industrial grittiness of Lowell, MA. Here, in Silver Linings Playbook, he absolutely nails the identity that an NFL franchise gives to its citizens. Along the way, he takes us on a wonderful visual tour of the city and Delco neighborhoods.

Philly may be behind other cities on a variety of initiatives, but it has long been way ahead in having its own film office to attract movie and tv production to our town. The list of films set here for all or part of storylines is long and memorable.  Credit Sharon Pinkenson and all the leaders who have supported her efforts to land location shootings as a way to showcase tourism and civic pride in our town.

In Silver Linings Playbook, Russell has assembled a great foundation adapting Matthew Quick’s novel, and a stellar A-list cast with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as the romantic leads and note-perfect supporting performances by Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Anupam Kher, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker and others. Cooper and Lawrence do a sensational job of conveying a full range of emotions and human frailties while finding themselves and each other amidst a lot of wreckage from past events.

Not surprisingly, it is Philadelphia Eagles football that is the glue that binds the Solitano family together, so much so that Pat Sr. (De Niro) can only watch the games from home, because of all the fights he has gotten into in the stands (sound familiar, Philly faithful?). Russell really manages to spotlight the crazy streak that sports fandom generates. Fortunately, the story is set in a happier time —2008, a year when the Phils were World Series victors and the Eagles managed to make it to the conference championship game.

Perhaps the final gift that Silver Linings Playbook gives is that it helps Eagles fans forget for a little while the debacle that this season has been and which will likely lead to the departure of head coach Andy Reid, whose prior record more than speaks for itself, although no one says it so eloquently as Bill Lyons.

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"Bill Gates, did you or did you not build intrusive little user prompts into ever square inch of Word?"

"Bill Gates, did you or did you not build intrusive little user prompts into every square inch of Word?"

My business partner, Gerry Giambattista, and I both want to be named hanging judges if there is ever an international war crimes tribunal assembled to consider the cumulative havoc that Microsoft has unleashed on the world since its inception. We have a long list of questions for Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, which we will present as intrusive yellow pop-up panels, not unlike those that used to populate a Word document whenever the masters in Redmond, WA wanted to anticipate which word you were attempting to type, so they could replace it with another. Forget all the people Microsoft employs in all its divisions. Forget all the good that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done around the globe. Forget the excellent X-Box gaming platform. This is personal.

Admittedly, we are long-time Apple products users, so we should probably recuse ourselves. However, we have both harbored long-time grudges against the software industry, Microsoft specifically, and would like a chance to settle the score in a Hague-like setting.

We know of no other industry that is allowed to operate so capriciously, integrating itself into the daily operations of essentially every business on the planet, then forcing users to routinely jump through crazy hoop after crazy hoop, because of software incompatibility (often between different versions of the same product), security issues, constant debilitating updates and key feature changes with little logic behind them, all with few other options for workarounds.

My teeth are set grinding every time I hear a commercial on my car radio for the Business Software Alliance targeting employers who run unlicensed copies of software or who pirate programs. How about if the software industry starts policing its own myriad of customer and tech service issues before spending millions to get employees to rat out employers for possible violations. Normally, I appreciate the bravery of whistle blowers — here I envision an entire accusatory industry dressed as Captain Hook. Pot, kettle, black.

This is also an industry that devours its own. Competitors are routinely driven out of business or marginalized, not because they are lackluster, but because they make a better product that is harming the product that the bigger company makes (usually Microsoft). Case in point is Word Perfect, which many eons ago was the preferred word processing software for virtually everyone operating a business. Then, along came Word, which Microsoft bundled as an enticement with Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage or Outlook as an Office suite. It took many years for Word to resist its urge to interrupt users every other keystroke with “innovative” efficiency-enhancing features. We all had to endure years of that nonsense. Today, Word Perfect is still available from Corel, but it appears to be a niche product for legal professionals.

Anyone remember Netscape Navigator? It was the preferred web browser of many users during the 1990s until Microsoft did everything possible to torpedo it with Internet Explorer.

That brings me to a moment of great personal satisfaction that will have to suffice until that international tribunal is assembled. Advertising Age was good enough to spotlight a parody last week of Microsoft’s self-congratulatory Internet Explorer TV spot. In this case, the parody does a better job of delivering truth.



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Last week, I wrote about how even something that we could seemingly all agree upon — fighting cancer —has become politicized. Specifically, how cancer has been divided between cancer types in an effort to attract the most fundraising. Here is the latest on the Susan G. Komen fund’s attempt to recover from its dust-up with Planned Parenthood.

This week, I was struck by a different realization. It used to be that politics and religion were the two off-limit subjects that most people kept in different compartments. Separation of church and state. But since part of the health care debate over the Affordable Care Act has meant staking out coverages and beliefs on sensitive social issues such as birth control and abortion, including at religious-based employers, things have gotten a lot messier.

Personally, I follow politics and don’t mind the free flow of information, but I am suddenly finding myself completely campaign fatigued by the sheer volume of messages, including in some unlikely places. Technically the unofficial start of the Presidential race isn’t until after Labor Day. Right.

Here’s a rundown of places that have now become fair game to insert politics.

Mailbox — Been that way for a long time, but the number of political mailings between now and Election Day will become a tidal wave. And a boon for recycling centers.

Emailbox — The fundraising appeals keep piling up in direct proportion to all the forwarded hot button emailings from friends and family. Some of these are gems. But others turn out to be purposely slanted by their original creators, passed along by hordes of others, and easily dispelled via and similar sites.  The flip side of viral is that too often it is accompanied by a fever and aches and pains.

Airports (And Diners, Restaurants, Bars, etc.) — Because of its 24-hour news format, CNN has become the de facto wallpaper of digital screens everywhere. Even as its overall ratings are in decline. When a major news event actually occurs, people tune in. Otherwise, the round-the-clock talking heads nature of CNN gets into perpetual politics and tends to lead many places to turn the sound way down.

Cabs, Gas Pumps, Bank Drive-Throughs — More screens everywhere. And most play syndicated networks featuring comedy, entertainment news, and sometimes community events. However, I found it really odd that my bank drive-through recently featured news about the Occupy Wall Street movement, given that one of the movement’s goals is to bash and punish banks.

Home Phones, Mobile Phones— The robocalls are coming. If you haven’t heard from candidates or pollsters, it must be because you keep your phones unplugged, on silent, and out of earshot.

Warning: Morning Joe has been politicized and I don't mean Scarborough.

Warning: Morning Joe has been politicized and I don't mean Scarborough.

Beverages — My stop for coffee on the way to the office led to the following eye-opener as pictured in this week’s blog. 7-Eleven has evidently been running this unique promotion during the last three Presidential campaigns. (I must have strictly been hitting Wawa and Starbucks four years ago, because I don’t remember it).  Anyway, now when you purchase a cup with your candidate’s name on it, you are voting in the convenience store chain’s mock election (forget delegates, primaries, registered voters, and Electoral College — this is as much caffeine/ballot box stuffing as you can handle for the next two months). According to 7-Eleven, their coffee cup voting promotion has been right in 2000, 2004, and 2008. Maybe we should give up on voter ID and just register with our favorite barista.

With apologies to Green Day, wake me when November ends.



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Hooters is looking to expand their demographics.

Hooters is looking to expand their demographics.

I consider myself a red-blooded American male, but I have a confession to make. I have never set foot inside a Hooters restaurant. Timing was always bad when male friends gathered at one for a round of drinks. I sure never felt unselfconscious enough to drop by alone for a beer and plate of wings. And I knew I might have an uphill battle convincing my wife that we should have a family dinner there. However, I always assumed I was in the minority. This article in Advertising Age about a new campaign suggests otherwise.

There was a time that Hooters totally owned the tacky territory of well-endowed waitresses in skimpy uniforms. They even extended the brand briefly to an airline (no flotation device jokes, please) and to supermarkets with their signature brand of wings hot sauce.

Now, the market segment Hooters invented has a name — breastaurants — and the chain has smaller chain competitors in Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt. Truth be told, there are very few male-dominated bars in America that don’t follow the Hooters hiring model in selecting waitstaff.

Incredibly, the new consortium of private-equity firms that owns Hooters since the death of its founder in 2006, has brought in a new management team with new ideas. Unfortunately, from the Ad Age story, it sounds like they may know the chain restaurant business, but not the dangers of tampering with brand equity. Hooters, if it can be believed, is in the process of reinventing itself. The chain wants to expand by appealing to “younger people and women” and by becoming “an option for more dining occasions” (maybe now I can convince my wife about family dinner).

But just wait a wing-dipping minute. First of all, you can’t be all things to all people. Hooters is a place guys go to drink and eat man cave food with buddies, while enjoying the politically incorrect outfits of the waitresses. Most women, other than Hooters waitresses, have a visceral reaction when they hear the name Hooters and would never consider entering the establishment unless it was as part of a pitchfork mob. How you suddenly convert this chain into a place for date night or another Dave and Buster’s or Olive Garden is beyond me.

So, whom did the chain turn to in order to tackle this seemingly impossible assignment? Their first lead agency, Fitzgerald & Co., and Jody Hill, the director of that HBO-exclusive Shakespearean drama “Eastbound and Down” have collaborated on new commercials that create an inner dialogue a potential customer might have in his head (or on his shoulder) between an angel owl and a devil owl reminding him of the virtues of Hooters. Sounds funny, and it is clever, but the results are edgy and still seem aimed at the male funny bone. Media buys on ESPN and Fox Sports also skew heavily toward the testosterone crowd.

I am pretty damned sure that this new campaign is not going to change anything in the minds of Hooters key demographic —guys who like to ogle while they eat and drink. The danger is that by adding 30 different salads and probably bringing in a decorator who likes ferns but not big screen TVs or just big Ts, the new management team could be tampering with Hooters DNA. If I didn’t know better, I’d say NYC Mayor Bloomberg was behind this politically correct plot.  I promise to keep you updated on this tempest in a D cup.

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Some stories are just too good not to follow and share. This one has two parts. The first is about badvertising — a creative concept that should have been killed by the agency before it ever reached the client. The second is about social media being wildly unpredictable and entertaining.

When ad and social media campaigns go bad.

When ad and social media campaigns go bad.

Adweek’s Ad Freak does an admirable job of presenting both accounts, going so far as to question whether the first one is worst campaign of the year. The badvertising is for the product of a new start-up company called Energy Sheets. You probably remember a similar product —breath freshening strips that you drop on your tongue. The effect is a hit of super-concentrated mouthwash triggered as the strip instantly dissolves. Presumably, Energy Sheets delivers the equivalent of a 5-hour energy shot via a similar quick hit. Incredibly, LeBron James is a key investor.

The entire campaign relies upon a dumb double entendre, “I Take A Sheet In The ______,” to include the pool (Caddyshack flashback anyone?), the library, and in an ad featuring the hot rapper Pitbull, on the stage. Even if you appreciate bathroom humor, as Adweek notes, do you want to promote a product that you put in your mouth with a headline that “references defecation?”  Can’t wait for the “Who gives a sheet?” gift cards.

On such dubious footing, it makes perfect sense that Energy Sheets would work with retailers like Wal-Mart to leverage the popularity of Pitbull via a social-media based contest. Like your favorite Wal-Mart store on Facebook and win a visit to that store by Pitbull. Sounds okay in theory, but the wild world of social media always has room for the unpredictable and unexpected. Enter one David Thorpe, a writer for the Boston Phoenix, who decided to have a little fun. He and a friend researched the most remote Wal-Mart store in the chain store’s chain and launched their own social media campaign to send Pitbull to Kodiak, Alaska, reachable only by plane or ferry. Already at 60,000 likes and climbing fast, the Kodiak Wal-Mart is looking more and more like the destination for Pitbull, who calls himself Mr. Worldwide. If that happens, Pitbull will have to reorient himself from hot, steamy Latin rhythm dance clubs to arctic landscapes. However, in the process, he may be able to finally answer the question, “Does a polar bear sheet in the woods?”

Update: Wal-Mart has a winner. Looks like Pitbull had better start packing his parka and lined boots for Kodiak, AK. As they used to say in the old Shake and Bake commercials, “And I helped.”

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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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