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Hurricanes have a way of getting your attention. Being part of the Mid-Atlantic path of Sandy has made me aware of many things out of the normal course of daily business. Storms of all sorts are increasingly opportunities for local news stations to push weather expertise and project themselves as round-the-clock regional communications centers. The result is typically a lot of supermarkets benefiting from bread and milk sales and a lot of snow shovels and sidewalk salt sold at Lowes and Home Depot.

Erie Insurance and State Farm took to the air pre-Sandy promoting emergency preparedness.

Erie Insurance and State Farm took to the air pre-Sandy promoting emergency preparedness.

However, the potential for serious flooding, property damage, and power outages with Hurricane Sandy over such a wide path of the Eastern seaboard has upped the ante in many directions. Yesterday, a number of smart retailers like Wal-Mart and Office Depot had moved essentials to the front of their stores, including bottled water, flashlights, batteries, etc. Perhaps the only exception — portable generators are still tough to be had at a time like this.

Especially surprising were some smart radio commercials yesterday by two different major property/casualty insurance giants — State Farm and Erie Insurance. Both spots were direct, full of good preparatory advice, and reassurance that they would be there for policyholders. That is a solid message for corporations to send ahead of what will be a costly quarter for them as they help customers settle claims post hurricane. The media buy was expensive, but likely more than offset by the new customers they will gain from competitive property/casualty insurers who don’t treat their insureds well in the days ahead.

Travelers sent a safety email to customers in advance of Sandy.

Travelers sent a safety email to customers in advance of Sandy.

I wondered about my own company, Travelers, but found a similar message emailed to me, along with important details on storm preparedness and claim follow-up. This is a terrific use of a Customer Relationship Marketing database, and while it may seem like a no-brainer, it requires advance planning on the part of the insurance company’s marketing department, along with coordination with all the departments within the company to ensure accuracy of information.

One of the biggest concerns related to Sandy appears to be about loss of electricity from downed trees taking down transmission lines and water affecting the power grid. I had one unexpected level of assurance from my friend Steven Brush posting to Facebook on Sunday — he snapped a smartphone picture of electrical crew trucks traveling north from Alabama via I-95. Now, that’s emergency preparedness and much appreciated out-of-state assistance even before it is officially needed.

Power crews from Alabama already headed north in advance of Sandy.

Power crews from Alabama already headed north in advance of Sandy.

In the information age, all of us are getting better prepared to handle whatever nature throws our way, certainly following painful lessons learned during Katrina. And government, utilities, media, non-profit relief agencies, and businesses are getting smarter in helping citizens weather these storms.

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A new web site by Ben and Jerry's is lobbying against corporate lobbyists and big money donors.

A new web site by Ben and Jerry's is lobbying against corporate lobbyists and big money donors.

A week after ranting about the politicization of absolutely everything, I find myself ranting again. My Facebook page hasn’t gotten any less political, but it has gotten muddled. Tonight I noticed a paid Facebook ad, promoted by Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, asking for help to Get The Dough Out of Politics. Admirable, Don Quixotic thought, but also a little like trying to make water less wet. What’s more, there are a few contradictions here.

There has been a lot of sound and fury lately about whether corporations are people. The video for Get The Dough Out of Politics helps answer this. A lot of passionate individuals, men and women, young and old, speak to the issue of campaign finance reform. They all are employees who work for two guys named Ben and Jerry, who happen to be a decent sized corporation that makes really fine ice cream. So, yes, corporations are people who have livelihoods tied to common business interests. Sometimes companies or entire industries hire lobbyists and contribute funds to political campaigns to support candidates and programs that advance their business interests.

Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that Ben and Jerry’s would like to see overturned by constitutional amendment, ruled that such corporate efforts, including paid lobbying and political advertising, is free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Ben and Jerry’s and I share a common opinion that it is imperative to protect the free speech of U.S. citizens. Ben and Jerry’s thinks to do so, we must drive money out of the equation. However, they are paying for ads and videos to advance that cause. I am glad to see them exercising their own right to corporate free speech as protected by Citizens United. Actually, I am glad to see anyone investing in anything at the moment.

As Ben and Jerry’s would quickly point out, they are just two peace-loving guys who also love to make ice cream and occasional questionable marketing decisions. In other words, there is a world of difference between them and the Koch Brothers, who the Left is convinced is capable of buying elections. The Koch Brothers are popular targets — Dan Ackroyd and John Lithgow play thinly veiled versions of them in the wildly funny film, The Campaign. Meanwhile, those on the Right lodge the same complaints about George Soros.

Money does buy political messaging and it is ripe for abuse. But it costs a lot to run political campaigns. And not all political messaging is bad. I am sure Ben and Jerry’s is convinced of the purity of its purpose. The problem is that every time Washington DC introduces campaign finance reform, they seldom get it right. They make the process cumbersome. Political committees figure out workarounds (Super Pacs).  And the danger grows that free speech will be eliminated (it can’t be for just the other guy — federal laws cut both ways). I’ve heard others suggest that the way to approach this is to introduce full transparency — make it a requirement to disclose who is contributing to which candidates and how much. However, to that thought, in this political season, personal contributors (not corporations) to one candidate have been targeted in advertising and with questionable allegations about them made by the other candidate. Naturally, the result has been personal harrassment. Money, power, full disclosure, and dirty politics. What a mess.

Might be time for some new Ben and Jerry’s flavors — Campaign Cashew and Freedom Brittle.

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Joe Paterno statue

Joe Paterno has been synonymous with Penn State. It will be hard to change that.

Last November, we had some wait and see recommendations on the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal. In the ensuing months, Sandusky has been convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse, and this week, the Louis Freeh investigation results landed on the university like a well-deserved ton of bricks. The report provides extensive documentation of school officials creating a false Sophie’s Choice between protecting the football program or protecting the kids in Sandusky’s Second Mile program.

It is hard to imagine how the reputations of Penn State University, the football program, and Joe Paterno could be damaged if they had dealt with news of Sandusky’s activities at the time they learned of them. While there might have been some initial bad press, no one would have judged the institution and its officials badly because of the acts of a sick individual. Fourteen years and many additional victims later, however, there emerges from the wreckage, a remarkable amount of institutional and personal complicity.

There are two kinds of public relations: the PR that comes from an institution’s own communications with the public via media (including now social media) channels AND the PR that results naturally from being a good local, regional, national, and global citizen.  Penn State needs to start practicing both forms. Immediately.

Here are some overall thoughts on PR via good communications practices and Penn State’s unique situation:

  • Start doing the opposite of what PSU did during this dark period. Hiding things (very bad things) and misrepresenting is what got university officials into so much current trouble. PSU needs to be transparent. Share information, more than less, when asked. Unless a university attorney is advising against making a specific statement (and even then press the point with legal), speak accurately and honestly. The truth shall set you free.
  • The nickname for PR is spin. Although politics is involved, this isn’t about winning a campaign. PSU needs to worry less about putting the worst news in the best possible light and worry more about sharing information that is clear and coherent and factual to the audience it is sharing it with.
  • Make some tough decisions ahead by remembering to put the interests of students first and with a goal of restoring the brand and integrity of the institution. For instance, much of Philadelphia talk radio yesterday was abuzz about what to do with the Paterno statue and his name on the library. Tough calls, but one host made the point that especially in the case of the statue, seeing it is only going to spark immediate associations with the scandal (it isn’t next to a scale of justice statue determining whether all the good outweighs the bad). Also, there is never going to be a consensus opinion about this man, so don’t look for one. Use the prism of what will be best for PSU and its current and future students.
  • There are going to be many other voices on the landscape for  the foreseeable future via the past administrators on trial, the Paterno family, attorneys for all, and of course everyone with even a modest connection to PSU with a strong opinion. Some of this represents the parties involved, but the rest represents the court of public opinion. Avoid being sucked into public battles. In fact, the more that some of the parties involved speak directly or through hired mouthpieces at the moment, the worse they sound.
  • Accept that some events are going to be out of the university’s control (court rulings, NCAA decisions, etc.), so however much that rocks your world, be prepared to accept the results, act on them responsibly, and move on as best you can.

Where Penn State can make a huge difference is by making a huge difference. It is largely too late to make any good come out of this very bad situation. So focus on doing good, day in, day out, on many other fronts.

  • Repair any town and gown fallout locally. This may mean gradually de-emphasizing the football program, which created such an integrated Happy Valley economy by cooperatively helping to create more year-round tourism opportunities to visit State College and surrounding towns. Work to partner with the communities around PSU, so the university isn’t looked upon as an 800 pound gorilla with a football helmet on. Penn State is its own community, but it is interconnected with a wealth of others around it.
  • Beef up academic and social outreach programs that teach and practice ethics and morality in business, government, and daily life, especially those that protect and aid the weakest members of society. It is shocking how so many grown men in this situation could not recognize the right thing to do when the welfare of children was at stake.
  • Renew an emphasis on excellence in everything, by not letting the scandal distract from important current programs and activities that have nothing to do with the Sandusky mess except a Penn State logo. Look for new initiatives locally, nationally, internationally. One example is an ongoing effort — every year, without fail, kids from Penn State visit the Philadelphia area and many other communities to raise funds for children with cancer. They do this with little fanfare. I suspect by the number of students involved, they raise an amazing amount of funds. As a father of a childhood cancer survivor, I will never ever judge PSU as a whole on the basis of this scandal, because of the annual enthusiastic commitment I see from these students.
  • Become Penn State proud again. Don’t let the actions of an unfortunate few define the whole vibrant campus. Look in the mirror and remind yourself that you are going to help many others restore the Penn State name through your own deeds and conduct. Step in when you see a fellow Penn Stater doing something that is going to create a negative impression of the university.

Scandals come and go. The tarnish from this one is not going to easily rub off. But a lot of positive energy over time can diminish the memory of some very bad events and set a course that ensures that something so odious won’t ever happen again. The culture of Penn State needs to change. The university needs new leadership in Old Main and can’t allow itself to be controlled by the gate receipts at Beaver Stadium ever again.

Coda: Ironically, as I finished this post, I received a NYTimes e-alert with a link to this story. There’s no time like the present to begin rebuilding the PSU brand.

 

 

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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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I got a real chuckle out of viral video link my son sent me. It is likely you have seen it already given the speed with which such clips get shared these days. A few days after I saw it, the clip got coverage in Advertising Age and Creativity. And a few more days later, it makes its debut here at NewtonIdeas. Syndication reruns are soon to follow.

In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the fun. Here is the video:

Now, that the show is over and the dust has settled, I have some questions.

When did Turner Broadcasting define the TNT brand as the “Drama” network? (I have to admit I don’t watch a lot of TV and am partial to AMC because of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.)

Did anyone grasp the irony of selling a network dedicated entirely to weekly dramas by staging a stunt built around a hugely comic premise? (Larry David, Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell need not apply.)

Was this a one-and-done for video only effort? (That’s a rhetorical question, but I can’t imagine being a bystander witnessing the epic results of pushing that button and not wanting to press it again and again.)

TNT's site for Benelux pushes its "Drama" shows front and center.

TNT's site for Benelux pushes its "Drama" shows front and center.

How successful has this been in its core purpose — introducing TNT as a new cable offering in the Benelux countries? (While buzz has definitely been generated, I suspect all those TNT drama shows will have a tough time following this act for ongoing entertainment value.)

Why are European town squares so conducive to planning and executing elaborate viral video stunts? (Here is a link to an early Angry Birds promotional effort.)

What is TNT doing to translate that viral excitement over here? (I suspect Occupy Wall Street has spoiled the chance of any US town squares being taken over for promotional purposes the rest of this year.)

I don’t have answers to any of these questions. I just found myself surprised by how much effort went into a single surprising moment of fun, how that moment runs somewhat counter to the brand message, and how little follow-through in the way of integrated marketing communications is in place to take advantage of all the buzz that’s been generated. No one said the advertising business is easy.

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Earlier this week, I was distressed to read (online) that long-time b2b publisher Penton had made a decision to give up on print. At first, I thought the move to all-digital applied across the board to each and every Penton trade magazine. Turns out it is strictly their tech group titles. With the cost of paper, ink, and press time combined with the explosion of tablets and e-readers, it is mighty tempting for publishers to give up on their print properties, especially if pages are down and advertisers are off.

I’m a print guy and always will be. I’d far rather hold a newspaper, magazine, or book in my hands, than strain my eyesight scrolling, adjusting screens, and absorbing pixels. Also, as our art director pointed out this week, doctors and hair salons are never going to fill their waiting rooms with stacks of Kindles and iPads.

However, some publishers are making the most of digital platforms and they are making it harder for print to keep up. QR codes and MS Tags are being used (some would say overused) to link ads to relevant online content and measurability. Meanwhile, ICIS and others are producing digital platforms that integrate rich media. Our client, Graham Engineering, was able to run a full page ad in the print issue. Then, we adapted it for their digital issue on the Ceros platform, integrating an extended video clip within the space of the ad (see page 6).  Sure beats banner and pay per click advertising.

The other way to look at this is for publishers being in the content business and connecting with readers (viewers?) in the way(s) that each prefers — print publication, digital version of print publication, web site, video clips, e-newsletters, webinars, in-person at events (and virtual events), and of course, all the flavors of social media.

It can be done and it is working . I had that reinforced by Michael Pitts this week, a hard-working ad sales rep doing his job the old-fashioned way, making face-to-face appointments with new prospects. What was he selling? The Philadelphia Tribune Media Group properties. Yes, the oldest, continually running African- American newspaper (since 1884) is still going strong. It was thrilling to hear that weekly print circulation is at 221,977, the vast majority of delivered to subscribers’ front steps. That’s a loyal and engaged readership.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Tribune hasn’t been content to rest on its considerable laurels either. In recent years, it has launched Metro editions taking it to specific Philly neighborhoods, as well as the Delaware and Montgomery County suburbs. It has also added special print publications like the Sojourner, a quarterly visitor’s guide to the region, and the Tribune magazine, with special editions on the Most Influential African Americans, Top African American Attorneys, and Women of Achievement.

Of course, like most newspapers, the Tribune has made its web site its 24/7 news platform, off which to build content for print via what is happening right now, what is engaging readers, and what demands the longer, more thoughtful coverage that print allows. Also, getting two-way conversations going via social media community pages. As Michael noted, the tragic passing of Whitney Houston has generated the kind of interest locally that it has nationally. PhillyTrib.com offers some outstanding run of site ad opportunities, as well as rich media ad units that are going to reward sponsors generously.

I tire of the debate that digital is killing print. I’d far rather see examples like a 125-year-old newspaper continuing to successfully publish by delivering great content that doesn’t divide print and digital, but balances it instead.

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Gillette spends a lot of money on big budget well-made razor and blade advertising.

Gillette spends a lot of money on big budget well-made razor and blade advertising.

In a digital marketplace crowded with marketing channels and marketing messages, businesses are faced with the age-old question — How do you cut through the clutter to get attention? With awesome creative, of course!

I just watched a late-night tv commercial from Gillette for ProGlide shaving cartridges that promises to last 5 weeks before dulling. It was aimed at the young male 20something demographic. It featured global travel, exotic locales, and the idea of around the world on a single blade. It was excellent in a big budget epic way. I’ve recently seen another well-done Gillette commercial for the Fusion ProGlide Styler featuring noted music and acting personalities with facial hair, André 3000, Adrien Brody, and Gael Garcia Bernal. A fresh approach in a competitive category. I’ve also stopped by the men’s shaving aisle during a grocery run and been overwhelmed by blade choices. Survey Gillette’s product lineup here for what I mean. Add in Schick’s offerings and it can be genuinely stupefying to remember what brand and version is in your own medicine cabinet. What’s more, razor blades now all come in plastic lockboxes that need to be opened at checkout in order to prevent shoplifting of these increasingly high-priced personal care necessities.

I’m guessing Michael Dubin found himself similarly challenged to buy and pay for a razor and blades when he conceived his new start-up DollarShaveClub.com. A blade of the month club? Sounds like it may have been something tried and failed during the dot.com boom and bust period. Wrong. This enterprise is 2.0 conceived, built, and rolling.

I dare you to watch this YouTube viral gem without chuckling multiple times at how well-crafted on a micro budget it is. This isn’t Victor Kiam “I liked the shaver so much I bought the company” — it is Michael Dubin taking you behind the scenes at his entire start-up operation to cheekily demonstrate why his blades are so inexpensive and such great values at the same time. The clip is so entertaining that it has already been featured content on Mashable , All Things D, and Huffington Post and is already over one million views on YouTube.

The DollarShaveClub web site is very focused and offers good, better, best choices.

The DollarShaveClub web site is very focused and offers good, better, best choices.

But the terrific creative doesn’t end there. The DollarShaveClub.com web site itself is a model of smart sales copy, good/better/best consumer choices, terrific graphic design, and ease of e-commerce. In other words, creative and commerce are in collusion for maximum results. Big package goods corporations have a lot invested in brand identities and line extensions, including big ad production and media budgets to feed the sales pipeline. Michael Dubin doesn’t have those luxuries. But he does have a winning concept and an awesome creative vision.

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My wife is a daily reader of obituaries because she always learns some interesting bits of local, national, or personal history about the decedent. I am the opposite. Reading obituaries causes me to check my pulse.

Some weeks, however, the pace and nature of the obituaries can’t be ignored.  I’ve been intrigued for days about the passing of  conservative firebrand Andrew Breitbart, who died very suddenly at age 43 walking home from a local bar. I was glad to see this account because it could help nip conspiracy theories in an election year that is already generating its share of sideshows. Breitbart was a Zen master at driving the Left crazy and exposing their worst practices. When I heard that Matt Taibbi, Contributing Editor of Rolling Stone and a firebrand in his own right (left?), had written this provocative headline and account (very bad language alert), I was prepared for the worst of where this country was in terms of politics and personal destruction. To his credit, Taibbi captured why Breitbart successfully got so far under his skin and offered grudging admiration for his fearlessness. For that (and because too many never read beyond the headline), Taibbi (and his family) were repaid with digital mischief and angry death threats. It is a sad coda, because it underscores how badly we continue to treat each other over political disagreements.

If you need further proof, just plug in “Rush Limbaugh” as a search term on Twitter. This week, Rush has generated a firestorm of anger, hate, and threatened advertiser boycotts following his taking the Congressional testimony of “reproductive rights activist” Sandra Fluke to its logical economic and marketplace conclusion, converting $3,000 in annual contraception costs into sex as an occupation. While I am agitated myself at the transparent attempts to spin the Obamacare provision of requiring religious institutions and employers to pay for health benefits that is against their religious tenets into a personal right to have an employer pay for contraception, and the use of this young woman as a political prop, I am troubled at how this has now devolved into a war of insults and righteous indignation. I may not agree with Sandra Fluke, but how is calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute,” even in exposing the absurdity of her case, going to advance the strong “on its own merits” case against this provision? Here is Limbaugh, in his own unapologetic words, making his points again. As Taibbi and Limbaugh learned this week, it is painful to be a lightning rod.

Co-creator of the Berenstain Bears with late husband Stan, Jan Berenstain passed away this week.

Co-creator of the Berenstain Bears with late husband Stan, Jan Berenstain passed away this week.

That brings me to the first obituary of the week, which is the local loss of Doylestown, PA-based Jan Berenstain, creator with her late husband Stan, of the wonderful, long-running Berenstain Bears children’s book series. There was a time when our older kids were younger that I under-appreciated the Berenstains’ books, because there were just so many of them.  I had the impression that they were cheap and mass-produced and Mr. Rogers corny. Then, I read a few of them to my boys at bedtime. Each one was lovingly and intricately illustrated in a style whose graphic consistency corporate brand managers could learn a ton from. Didn’t hurt that they had a Random House editor and mentor by the name of Theodor Geisel. The stories were always engaging , humorous, and each one taught meaningful, universal life lessons and the importance of  family, friends, neighbors, and respect for one another. The inherent decency is easy to dismiss, but as evidenced above, we are in desperate need of it in the adult world. Jan Berenstain will be sorely missed, but thankfully, she and Stan, in addition to building a model marriage, a joint career, and an entire industry, managed to also balance a family life, and have two sons, Michael and Leo, who are carrying on the Berenstain Bears brand and business.

I was also amazed to learn of another local loss. First, I was amazed to hear about the sudden passing of Davy Jones of the Monkees fame, then to discover his long-time local connection.  This link will take you to a phone interview by the King’s College radio station in Wilkes-Barre, on Friday, February 24, just days before his passing.  Jones talked about his PA ties, having seen a house for sale in Beavertown (Snyder County) in 1986, where he split much of his time between there, Florida, and the road (touring). Mike Sisti, who works with Newton on new business development, confirmed all this, having run into Jones in a Selinsgrove “pub” but didn’t know it was a brush with fame at the time. He wondered who was this guy in the heart of PA Dutch country calling everyone “mate” and was stunned to learn he’d met a Monkee. Biography just reran an earlier feature that included Jones’ purchase of an old country church in Beavertown. He wanted to revive the beautiful building and said “Everybody has to have a dream.” From his King’s College interview, you can tell that Jones was full of life and still living his dream until his heart gave out last Wednesday.

Hug your spouse and kids every day. Multiple times. Treat with respect even those with whom you adamantly disagree. Think and live large. Carpe diem!

Update: We all live in Internet time and before the day finished, Rush Limbaugh decided a personal apology was in order for Sandra Fluke. The blogosphere and twitterverse were buzzing about the squashing of free speech, but I really believe that Limbaugh recognized that he’d allowed his anger to get the better of him, losing sight that he had misdirected some pretty ugly invective at a young woman.

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Latest Facebook movement is on behalf of kids with cancer.

Latest Facebook movement is on behalf of kids with cancer.

As 2012 starts, we are suffering from a dearth of leadership, and the larger the institution or company, the more likely that no one wants to step up and steer the ship. Latest example is Mattel, which has a social media storm developing outside its corporate walls and it is over something that could be turned into such a positive for all and on all levels. If you haven’t heard about the Beautiful and Bald Barbie Facebook page/group, here is a good primer on it. Essentially, someone came up with a brilliantly simple idea to support little girls going through cancer care and attendant hair loss (as well as those whose mothers are) — a Barbie, the universal doll symbol of beauty, minus all her signature golden locks. With every other possible celebrity and situational version of Barbie, it is amazing that Mattel did not think of this themselves, and therein lies the problem. So far, the official response to this Facebook movement is that official corporate policy is to not accept ideas from outside.

I suppose Mattel is grappling with a lot of legal questions as to who owns this idea and how are they compensated on future sales. Incredibly, this story adds another layer — that early last year Mattel custom-produced a bald Barbie for a single little girl undergoing chemo. So, there is even precedence here.

I have a unique perspective on this, being from the PR industry, and having had a child successfully treated for leukemia. A children’s onco ward can be a scary, lonely place and little gestures of caring and kindness go a long way. How can Mattel be so tone deaf — kids with cancer and a chance to do something socially redemptive — it seems like the easiest corporate green light ever.  Where is the downside?

No response to Bald Barbie movement on any Barbie or Mattel pages.

No response to Bald Barbie movement on any Barbie or Mattel pages.

Instead, with the Beautiful and Bald Barbie Facebook page now approaching 100,000 likes, and a lot of negative comments posted about Mattel, the official Mattel and Barbie Facebook pages, apps, and web site pages do not have any responses to this movement. However, you will find this bit of mission statement gobbledygook:

“”Leadership” at Mattel is the ability to develop and communicate a compelling picture of the future that inspires and motivates others to take action. Leaders at Mattel align themselves with Mattel’s core values, exhibit leadership competencies and drive for success in our business strategies. In this way, we will work to achieve our vision, “Creating the Future of Play.” Every day as Mattel’s 30,000 employees worldwide strive to realize that vision, our leadership team is guiding the way.”

Someone on this page at Mattel needs to stop talking about leadership, throw policy manuals out the window, and actually lead.  It’s the smart thing to do, the right thing to do, and the ONLY thing to do.

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The Mütter Museum is a Philadelphia Must-See.

The Mütter Museum is a Philadelphia Must-See.

If the question is “May I take photography inside of all your marvelous medical oddities, curiosities, and maladies?”, the answer is a definite no. But actually, my question is “Can I blog about Philadelphia’s infamous Mütter Museum?”, and I’m just going to plunge ahead, not waiting for an answer, and beg forgiveness later.

If you are a Philadelphia area resident and you have never ventured to 22nd Street between Market and Chestnut, to the College of Physicians’ amazing, disturbing, and eye-opening (and in some cases, oozing) Mütter Museum, you owe it to yourself to put it on your New Year’s Resolution list. A visit will cure you of thinking hypochondriacs are crazy, it will give you new respect for the medical pioneers who have helped us achieve the healthcare available to us in the 20th Century, and it will create empathy for some remarkable people who have had to endure some physical handicaps, indignities, and challenges that underscore the strength of the human spirit.

If you are from outside of Philadelphia, I have good news for you — the Mütter is now available to you every Monday via its very own YouTube channel with a video minute starring its current curator. I would like to salute the Museum’s marketing team for its social media inventiveness (you can also connect with the Mütter via Facebook and Twitter). They are leveraging digital and social to connect in an educational and entertaining way with a wide audience of museum members, followers, and potential new converts. Marketing creativity has long been a strength of the Mütter, however. A good many years ago, a former curator was a semi-regular guest on David Letterman’s show. Earlier this fall, the Mütter premiered an art film by identical twins, the Quay Brothers, who were likely drawn to the collection by the saga of conjoined twins Yang and Eng. The museum really understands that its halls are filled with exhibits that are offbeat at best, off-putting at worst, and that it needs to play to its strengths, but with 365-days-a-year unconventional outreach.

As great as the new YouTube channel is (deep, too, with around 100 videos), you need to visit in person to get the full Mütter experience. The Soap Lady needs to be seen in the flesh (or in all her saponified glory). There are several preserved ovarian cysts that are (I’m not exaggerating here) larger than our Butterball Thanksgiving turkey for 12. Then, there is the mega-colon (also preserved and on display) from a man whose bowels’ nerves were contributing to the worst constipation problem anyone could ever possibly conceive of (until you see it on display). Perhaps the most amazing thing I learned was that the Hahneman of yesteryear found nothing they could do, so they discharged the poor man (not the hospital’s finest hour).

The Mütter is a tourism treasure of the City of Brotherly Love and needs all the love it can get. Here is a holiday card in the form of a very entertaining Gamestop commercial from Christmas season 2010 that has nothing to do with the Mütter, but as you’ll see, everything to do with the Mütter:

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