When blocked ads make the news

February 22, 2009

It’s funny how advertizing messages become a lot more interesting when they get banned.

Last month in the U.S., People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent their Veggie Love spot to NBC for broadcasting during the Super Bowl. NBC is fine with spots featuring half-naked women being sprayed with beer, but PETA’s broccoli lust was a bit too rich for a football game. It turns out that those lovable rascals at PETA never intended to buy Super Bowl airtime, but figured they would get more mileage from news stories about their ad being banned. They were right: the YouTube version of the ad was viewed 513,227 times. I bet the donations are pouring in, too.

Closer to home, bus ads from the Freethought Association of Canada (atheists) have been rejected by the City of Ottawa committee supervising public transit. The Freethought Association did want to get their message on buses, but they ended up getting much better: mentions in 107 news articles in Canadian dailies, including this column from Dan Gardner, the Ottawa Citizen’s resident atheist. It’s pretty damn good and most of those articles printed their complete message: “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” That’s more earned media than many media relations campaigns I’ve seen (including some of mine).

No wonder shes smiling

No wonder she's smiling

In both cases, the organization looked pretty smart. After all, the ads look quirky, not the work of foaming-at-the-mouth radicals. Which in PETA’s case is a bit a tour de force.

So go ahead: be daring, be bold, be risqué. And hopefully, get banned.

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CTV in trouble in this kind-of-not-great economy

January 28, 2009

For those who haven’t got it yet, large media organizations are watching their revenues melt in the harsh sun of the economic slowdown (I’m not even calling it a recession,  for fear that Dan Gardner will write nasty things about me).

In this we’ve-seen-better economy, CTV is having trouble selling their Superbowl ads. Rick Brace is saying sales are “behind where we were last year”. Uh… the Superbowl is this Sunday. Whatever ad time remains is up for a fire sale right now.

CTV is the same network that has to sell bucket-loads of ad time for next year’s Vancouver Olympics. How much advertizing money is that? CTV paid $ 153 million (US) just for the rights and there are significant production costs involved, so they certainly need to sell close to $ 200 million in ads just to break even. They’ll have to do that in the thick of a not-great-but-let’s-not-get-all-panicky economy. How long until they announce the “buy-one-spot-get-two-more-for-free Olympic Games sale”?

As our prime Minister said during the last election, there are bargains out there for those who have money to invest. If you still have an advertizing budget.


Major newspaper chain files for bankruptcy

December 8, 2008

From Reuters:

The publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times declared bankruptcy on Monday as the U.S. newspaper industry’s unrelenting loss of readers and advertisers claimed its biggest victim yet.

And then there’s this at NBC.

Frankly, I thought the big ones would hold on a bit longer when I wrote this yesterday.

Thanks to Dan Gardner for propagating the sad news.

Further reading update: make a quick detour through Politics as Puppetry for another angle. I don’t agree with his (her?) conclusions, but worth reading nonetheless.


Death by the numbers

July 19, 2008

In today’s Ottawa citizen, Dan Gardner is lamenting the fact the media keeps reporting accident deaths while ignoring good news about road safety. He makes an excellent point: The media love to use narratives to tell stories – because people love to hear them of course. That is better done with people, conflict, drama – that’s just as true in newsrooms as it is in Hollywood. “Study: Motor vehicle accident deaths, 1979 to 2004” may not be compelling storytelling material. “Eight youth killed in New Brunswick van crash” is excellent. Of course, the accumulation of car crash news leaves the public with the impression that roads are getting more and more dangerous. But that’s besides the point, isn’t it?

Gardner wants to see newsrooms and the public educated in the use of statistics, so that people can at least understand what they read (that is essentially what his book tries to achieve). Good luck with that! It is my experience that most reporters lack the knowledge and interest to calculate anything more complex than a simple percentage. And if reporters cannot understand it, there is no chance they can present it to the public in a way that is both interesting and true.

PR professionals have a responsibility in this. We are often lazy when faced with stats-laden reports to pitch to reporters. How many news releases like this one have you seen? Often more than reporters, we are the ones who shape the stories that end up in the media. It’s our job to bridge the gulf between the cold data and the world they describe.