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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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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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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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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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The holiday season opened with a very black Black Friday punctuated by pepper spray and other crazed shopping ugliness. Now, it is winding down with a water cooler moment delivered via a lone FedEx driver and YouTube.

If you have yet not seen the clip, taken by the surveillance camera of a customer whose delivery of a Sanyo monitor was shot put over a driveway gate, here it is.

Hard to tell what was going through the driver’s head — a tight timetable that did not correlate with the backlog of packages in his van, class warfare envy that the package recipient lives in a gated home and he doesn’t, the turbo ingredients of his 4th energy drink of the morning. . .could be just about anything. If he has shared those thoughts with FedEx, they have not shared them with the world. Here is a link and a blogpost to FedEx statements since the video has gone viral. They have taken the driver off the streets, reassigning him within the company. That has triggered a secondary PR backlash judging by the posted comments — unemployed capable people are incensed that this clown still has a job at FedEx. Worse, as Corky notes: “No the delivery man isn’t working with customers any more, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t throwing packages around a warehouse somewhere. Most of us would be fired for doing something like that. FedEx, you are hurting your other employees by keeping one who does such public relations damage to your company.”

FedEx, normally the model of reliability and efficiency, has been challenged by the actions of one driver and its own HR policies.

FedEx, normally the model of reliability and efficiency, has been challenged by the actions of one driver and its own HR policies.

So, yes, this delivery man will go through the rest of his life as that crazy Christmas delivery loon. However, the venerable FedEx has managed to make itself look foolish, too, by projecting a mysterious at best, clueless at worst image by responding to this viral video fiasco in a nebulous squishy-HR manner. FedEx made things right with that single customer, then managed to cause everyone else to question management judgment on what appears to be cut and dried grounds for dismissal. FedEx’s statement sounds vague in light of the video —“We do take this matter extremely seriously, and have initiated action in accord with our disciplinary policy, while respecting privacy concerns. Without going into detail, I can assure you that this courier is not delivering customer packages while we are going through this process.”

Just one more example that the people running America’s biggest corporations and institutions don’t understand crisis PR, let alone social media. It is sad when you think about how much money FedEx has invested in positive PR and advertising programs to build brand image. The initial damage done was inflicted by one poor excuse for an employee, but then management has compounded that damage by failing to act decisively to show that such outrageous conduct will not be tolerated.

And on that note, happy holidays and a wonderful and profitable 2012 to all!

Update: This is the 5th time I have had to repost this entry. FedEx lawyers must be working hard through YouTube to get all the viral video clips in the public domain taken down. It is a shame they did not put as much effort into their PR.

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The Digiday Agency conference was a wealth of information on the ever-expanding digital ad world.

The Digiday Agency conference was a wealth of information on the ever-expanding digital ad world.

This week, it dawned on me that the world of digital advertising has become a morning commute from hell. I envision sun glare, tractor trailers overturned on off ramps, gaper delays, highway construction crews, crumbling infrastructure, and side streets not designed to handle the traffic they are swollen with.

What led me to that conclusion was sitting in on the excellent, well-attended Digiday Agency conference on Monday. Digiday assembled a sterling lineup of industry experts from the agency, publisher, and technology sides who made individual presentations, participated in panel discussions, and offered wide-ranging articulate opinions on the landscape of all things consumer digital advertising. I was probably the only business-to-business guy and one of the few creatives present, so I came to listen and learn. Here is what I came away with:

  • Things continue to morph faster than anyone can keep up with, let alone get ahead of. Digital now encompasses digital display, search, social, video/rich media, mobile, and more across a vast span of publisher and affiliate sites, plus desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphones that accept advertising. Throw in TV advertising that leverages and attempts to cross-link digital, social, etc. and you have media planning that often collapses under its own cleverness and targeting potential.
  • Analytics and metrics are overrated. One of the more incredible statements of the conference was a derisive one about digital display advertising measurement being still stuck in the stone age — specifically, the continued importance placed on click-through rates. The speaker noted that the demographic of those most likely to click on display ads is populated with low/no income types, online gamblers, and assorted tire kickers.
  • Video, Social, and Mobile are the future. Pretty obvious shift driven generationally and by tablets and smartphones. Of course, by the time that the ad industry sorts it all out, we will be on to other new technologies and tools.
  • Remarketing (retargeting) via browser cookies of those who visit advertiser web sites is only going to get bigger. A number of speakers used the funnel analogy of awareness advertising at the top and very targeted, directed messaging at the bottom to catch buyers when they are now informed and ready to make a purchase.  The theory is great. I just don’t believe that ads relentlessly targeting people whom cookie data has identified as hot prospects is going to be ultimately successful or a great idea. I still believe that the average person is suspicious of Big Brother approaches and privacy concerns trump marketing opportunities.
  • Digital media buying has been reduced to an RFP process. Publishers spoke about how hard it was working with agencies in digital space because the media planning contacts are all junior people and there is a revolving door between agencies. Not much time or room for relationship building and value adding when it becomes a “give me your best deal” RFP request.
  • Agencies are being courted as digital advertising venture capitalists. That seemed like a completely foreign concept to me because running lean and mean continues to be the norm outside of Madison Avenue; however, a number of shops spoke very intelligently on this subject.

Ironically, a couple of days after the conference, I came across this article on Adobe investing heavily in traditional agency territory and challenging Madison Avenue in the data sweepstakes of this space. There were a lot of technology companies like Google present at the conference, but Adobe wasn’t one of them. I suspect they will be heavily discussed when Digiday holds the west coast version of this event in Los Angeles in early 2012.

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One of the many pleasures of watching Mad Men is to get a glimpse of advertising reflective of the era’s very different but not so long ago societal viewpoints. Call it un-PC, non-diversity-trained, unsustainable, pre-regulatory, “anything goes” pitching (or sexist, racist, homophobic, capitalistic, every other variety of irresponsible or unenlightened), but it is never less than fascinating of how times have changed and changed quickly.

I was reminded of this when I came across this link on Philly.com to a collection of 72 print ads from Inquirer archives from the 1950s. It is a trip down Memory Lane just to be reminded of all the old local retailers, from John Wanamaker, to Gimbels, to Lit Brothers.

Sugar Crisp was once golden (and now renamed that) at Post. Now, it is the S word.

Sugar Crisp was once golden (and now renamed that) at Post. Now, it is the S word.

This morning, I had a bowl of Post Golden Crisp, but this ad is a reminder that Sugar was once not a dirty word. Poor Sugar Bear had to go into the witness protection program some time around 1995.

Meanwhile, at  local long-gone icon Horn & Hardart, before there was vending self-service, there was evidently white glove service for captains of industry.

 The lunchtime meeting of Ajax Inc.’s diversity committee will now come to order.

The lunchtime meeting of Ajax Inc.’s diversity committee will now come to order.

In terms of TV spots, Duke University Libraries holds a terrific archive of commercials produced for clients of D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and now held in the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History collection and accessible free through ITunes University — AdViews Collection. Here is the AdViews web site.

YouTube is also a great repository of old spots that will suck you in and keep you revisiting “The Golden Age of Advertising”.  An old Bob and Ray spot for Piels Beer is a good departure point.

Finally, lots of interesting collections of old commercials are available through Amazon and eBay.

Vintage commercials collections DVDs are plentiful.

Vintage commercials collections DVDs are plentiful.

This compilation DVD of 1001 Classic Commercials kept me entertained in my man cave throughout the holidays last year. Down there, you can still swill beer, play with GI Joes, crack questionable jokes, and ogle January Jones and other Barbie-like women.

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Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" 2-minute SuperBowl spot

Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" 2-minute SuperBowl spot

Originally, I was only going to devote one post to SuperBowl commercials. However, a lot of blog-worthy controversy erupted over two banned spots going into the game. By last Sunday, the majority of spots were posted to YouTube and elsewhere prior to the game that I was able to blog about my favorites even before kickoff. This week, on to other marketing matters. Well, not quite.

Last Sunday’s SuperBowl set the all-time TV viewership record, 111 million viewers, eclipsing the prior year’s Saints-Colts matchup of 106.5 million viewers, which had finally beaten the long-held record of 106 million viewers held by the 1983 finale of M*A*S*H. Wow, now that’s 222 million eyeballs (give or take a few fans who may have finally dozed off during the Vince Lombardi trophy ceremony).  I would say that all those advertisers who shelled out $3 million per 30-second spot got their money’s worth in viewership.

Well, maybe not, and that’s the reason for Part III. A week later, people are still talking about SuperBowl commercials on talk radio, in social media, around the water cooler, but not especially in a good way.

It’s not like 1984 when Apple’s vision of the digital future smashing an Orwellian present with a Thor-like hammer seized everyone’s attention and imagination. This year’s conversation was all about specific “what were they thinking?” controversies.

The spot that I think came closest to a “1984” statement was Chrysler’s 2-minute gritty ode to the resilience and spirit of Detroit, featuring Eminem, unidentified at first, as he drove viewers around his hometown and the voiceover narrator shared some pretty inspirational thoughts. It resonated with me and a lot of other viewers. At least until I multiplied 30 seconds times 4 and arrived at a $12 million advertising media price tag for a car company that just two years ago was getting bailed out by Uncle Sam. Hard to make those numbers add up. The line between “warm and fuzzy” and “fuzzy math” got a lot blurrier.

Creatively, my favorite work from the SuperBowl is still Audi’s, although not a huge number share my opinion. I hope the car company sticks with this campaign and gives it the exposure it deserves. I posted a link to last week’s blog in five different ad and marketing LinkedIn groups I belong to as a way to get discussion going about the SuperBowl spots. A lot of people weighed in with their own favorites, thoughts on the controversies, and insider baseball. Kerry Antezana, a Creative Director from Seattle, shared this particularly good link to the BrandBowl site that blended stats from Twitter responses to pick ad winners (Chrysler for overall, so maybe that $12 million was well spent).  There were a lot of comments that everyone was underwhelmed by the creativity of this year’s spots, but that even the lamest spots resonated more than social media’s role in all this.

Edginess of spots did not automatically mean people were talking about them. Doritos scored more for their amazing pug on a hunger mission than the cringe-worthy ad where a cheese-flavor-obsessed Doritos lover sucked the fingers of a co-worker and pulled the cheese-dust-covered pants off another.

However, Pepsi Max managed to turn edgy humor into racial controversy on the floor of the U.S. Congress when Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee denounced its stereotypes as a sorry distraction from Black History Month. I don’t think most viewers saw it that way. It was more about relationship humor, but it was neither funny enough nor edgy enough to register much on either the laughs or controversy scale.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O89q-RDHRjc

The biggest controversy belonged to Groupon, who sought to have some snarky fun with the seriousness of social causes, by having Tim Hutton flip the mention of political turmoil in Tibet around to this week’s Groupon deal for Tibetan restaurant cuisine. Tasteless? Yes. Intentional? Yes, in a Saturday Night Live commercial parody kind of way. Successful? Obviously not, in light of the nearly universal righteous anger it generated. Some of the posters in the LinkedIn discussions noted that it may not have affected Groupon as much as originally predicted, but by week’s end, the company pulled the offending spot.

Closing thoughts. When you are spending $3 million per 30 seconds of SuperBowl time, a little more spent for a focus group might be warranted (not to tweak creative, but to act as a canary in a coal mine). As for the impact of all this? Put in the context of events in Egypt this week, it’s a little silly and a lot self-important. The freedom we have to enjoy the NFL, commercials, and commerce should not be taken for granted. Here’s hoping for a better life for Egyptians, Tibetans, and the rest of the world.

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JesusHatesObama.com spot was rightly banned from this year's SuperBowl.

JesusHatesObama.com spot was rightly banned from this year's SuperBowl.

The big game isn’t even here yet, but some businesses are already leveraging the attention that the SuperBowl brings. Two advertisers have already gotten the boot from Fox Sports for spots too controversial for prime time. I’m sure neither business ever expected their commercials to air and are all too happy to be basking in the resulting “news” attention from being banished to viral YouTube heaven.

Here is a link to the story behind banned commercial number one — an online store that sells “humorous” novelty items. It was launched by a supposed conservative comedian. His site is called JesusHatesObama.com. The spot depicts bobblehead dolls of President Obama and Jesus, with the latter scowling at the former and the former mysteriously bobbling off a ledge into a glass of water.

HahahaNOT. This spot isn’t funny. It is just dumb. Last time I checked, Jesus never expressed hatred for anyone, even the moneychangers in the temple (they did piss him off, though). And while President Obama has a knack for pissing off conservatives, of which I count myself, this spot is not remotely humorous. It isn’t goofy. It is just lame.

I am not above a good “Jesus hates” joke, however, which is why when I saw this tee shirt in a window on South Street, I had to laugh and I had to snap a cellphone photo.

Some "Jesus hates" jokes are actually funny.

Some "Jesus hates" jokes are actually funny.

Not sure the exact reason for Fox’s decision, but they are entitled to make a decision based on their own broadcast standards. I am just glad this terrible idea for a web site and a political statement is not going to get any additional exposure during the SuperBowl.

Banned spot number two is troubling for a far different reason. Read all about it here. It is for a matchmaking (hooking up?) web site known as AshleyMadison.com. Its business model? Enabling those interested in extra-marital affairs to meet like-minded individuals. The site itself got a lot of negative publicity when it launched a few years ago. The fact that it is going strong enough to pay for a SuperBowl commercial is a sad sign of the times.

I remember seeing its founder interviewed on TV and explaining that his site is strictly business. He is filling a need and if he didn’t start AshleyMadison.com, someone else would. Great, can we expect him to follow up soon with HitsRUs.com for those who want to hire an assassin anonymously? The most recent example of this muddled thinking was PA Governor Ed Rendell going medieval on Leslie Stahl during a 60 Minutes interview about the state forging ahead with casino gambling. The governor was enraged that Stahl and her team just didn’t get it that PA residents with gambling problems were going to gamble regardless of whether the state was making money off their vice or not. So, PA might as well make up some of their revenue shortfalls. Right? Wrong.

One way to start righting wrongs is to stop creating additional wrongs. We’re sluicing down some slippery slopes, folks. Hats off to Fox for refusing to be party to either sorry spectacle.

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Capture The Tag is the first great cross-media marketing campaign of 2011.

Capture The Tag is the first great cross-media marketing campaign of 2011.

This week, we got a call from long-time friend of the agency, Lee Wojnar. We and Lee go back a ways, to when he was a terrific professional photographer and early digital imaging pro with his own studio on 4th Street, just down from Philly landmark, Jim’s Steaks. After giving all that up (even the cheesesteaks) and saying Westward Ho for major responsibilities at Intel, Lee moved up a few times since, and is now VP of Marketing for the O Bee Credit Union in Tumwater, WA (the thriving credit union of the once but now defunct Olympia brewery). He has always done great work, and is always looking to leverage new technologies, but this week, he really hit his stride (although it isn’t an overnight success — he confided he has been putting this together for the past six months).

Newton helps Lee with occasional PR and such was the case for this new promotion he has launched with several partners in the Olympia area. You can read our official news release on “Capture The Tag” here.  But more significant is the instant buzz this promotion is generating. Incredibly, over 360,000 pages of coverage posted already according to Google.

Capture The Tag's announcement has already generated over 360,000 pages of coverage.

Capture The Tag's announcement has already generated over 360,000 pages of coverage.

The reasons are many. “Capture The Tag” is a fun variant of the old camp favorite, but updated for everyone armed with a smartphone. Nice cash prizes and iPads are the incentives to participate, but to win you have to collect all 30 Microsoft tags located at businesses around town (each tag leads to a new clue). Some of the tags are tags for that business, but there are also 10 tags devoted to short videos on personal financial education. To win, you also need to be present at the drawings of confirmed 30 tag collectors, at a large-scale party and networking event.

The promotion leverages latest technology and social media to attract Generation X participation (a demographic group sought by so many businesses, but not easily cracked). Lee chose Microsoft tags because he preferred the added functionality they offer over QR codes. Microsoft tags are 2D barcodes that connect real world objects to information and interactive experiences when scanned via the Tag Reader app on smartphones. In addition to the “Capture The Tag” web site, the tags lead participants to Facebook and Twitter pages and YouTube videos.

“Capture The Tag” also leverages traditional media. Two of the sponsors are the leading local radio station, 94.5 ROXY, and the leading daily newspaper, The Olympian.

The real meat lies under the surface, however. “Capture The Tag” feeds useful personal financial tidbits to make the audience smarter about credit, fraud, and saving, lessons in short supply these days. The promotion and the educational component have the backing and sponsorship of the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions.

The ultimate purpose is local economic development. The promotion brings participants into the “bricks and mortar” locations of 20 area businesses to collect their Microsoft tags. “No purchase necessary” to scan their tags, but while in these shops and restaurants, game players just might buy a thing or two. Or come back again (and again).

Last year, Old Spice scored big points as a marketing campaign that leveraged new and old media in clever ways on a national level. With “Capture The Tag,” O Bee Credit Union just showed you can do the same on the local level, connecting a tech audience with local businesses, teach a few financial lessons, and have great fun in the process. It is wildly original, but deserves to be copied, so its benefits can trickle out to many more communities. We always knew Lee Wojnar was smart and creative. But he just hit a tape measure “thinking outside the park” home run.

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