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FDA targets teens with unique anti-smoking campaign February 6, 2014

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The Food and Drug Administration has been trying to figure out, for perhaps decades now, how to convince teens not to smoke. It may finally have an answer: concentrate on the short-term harms of cigarettes. In a new $115 million campaign, the organization is running several ads focusing on how smoking affects kids’ appearances. You know, ruining skin and damaging smiles. Costing a fortune. Making you smell. The ads are graphic, and by most accounts extremely effective. What experts are noting about the campaign is that it uses big tobacco’s most effective strategies against itself. Think smoking will make you friends and make you look cool? Think again.

For more on this campaign, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why are so many kids drawn to smoking? How does the FDA’s campaign attempt to address those reasons?

2.  Is the campaign too graphic? Will it work? How would we know?

3.  What is the difference between anti-smoking ads targeting short-term versus long-term effects of smoking? Why is the FDA changing its strategy in this campaign?

Scary good: Monsters U mock website blows away viewers July 29, 2013

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It is one of the biggest blockbusters for kids this year, but Monsters University is also blowing away adults. Part of the creative PR campaign for the film, Disney released a rather realistic website for the actual Monsters University (err…but still pretend). Eric Hoover for The Chronicle of Higher Education called the site “scary good,” noting that it conveys warmth and introduces potential students to the best and most personal parts of the school. While Hoover interviewed one expert who suggested the website falls short for not having enough information on costs, Disney can’t really be faulted for that.

Could the site be any cooler? Disney thought so. Ahead of its June 21 debut, Disney changed the website for April Fools’ Day, and made it look like a prank orchestrated by MU’s rival, Fear Tech. Visitors to the website were made to believe it had been hacked, featuring FT’s logo and mascot.

To see a promotional film for MU, and a trailer for Monsters University, watch the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the key to creative PR campaigns? What are the characteristics of recent campaigns that have caught your attention?

2.  What are the characteristics of bad PR campaigns?

3.  After checking out MU’s website, why do you think this PR stunt works so well?

Election 2012: Do newspaper endorsements of political candidates matter? November 22, 2012

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In mid-October, just a few weeks before Election Day, Barack Obama received one of the biggest endorsements of his campaign. The Salt Lake Tribune, the biggest newspaper from the state most likely to give Mitt Romney his biggest margin of victory in 2012, announced that it was endorsing Barack Obama for president. Romney was adopted by the state of Utah after saving its winter Olympics in 2002. However, the editors of the newspaper wrote, “Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: ‘Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?'” While Obama had not been a perfect leader, the newspaper stated, he was described as “a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day.”

The endorsement from The Salt Lake Tribunewas one among many, but it posed an interesting question: how much do these kinds endorsements really matter? According to one analysis of the issue by NPR’s David Folkenflik, newspaper endorsements don’t carry the same weight they once did. In a series of interviews with likely voters in swing states, Folkenflik was told by one Romney backer, “Honestly, it doesn’t influence me at all. There’s definitely an underlying mistrust in the media from my perspective.” Another likely voter told NPR about an Ohio newspaper’s endorsement, “The endorsement really has no impact on my thought — or who I will vote for,  My opinion is as valid as the editor of the newspaper, and it’s my vote, so I will decide for myself.” Another likely voter elaborated, “”I think the people should be the ones to make the decisions — as opposed to these newspapers.”

For more on the waning power of newspaper endorsements, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How might newspaper endorsements of candidates impact political races?

2.  Why are these endorsements limited in power?

3.  What did you think was the most powerful newspaper endorsement in the 2012 election?

Google uses power to promote gay rights abroad July 25, 2012

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Google has kicked off its “Legalize Love” campaign, designed to fight anti-homosexuality laws in several nations. Explaining the purpose of the campaign, Google executive Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe stated, “We want our employees who are gay or lesbian or transgender to have the same experience outside the office as they do in the office.” The campaign, which starts with a conference in London, has come under heavy criticism by Christian groups. However, Google has clarified that it seeks to improve working and living conditions for members of the GLBT community, and is not focused on same-sex marriage.

For more on this campaign, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the general message behind Google’s “Legalize Love” campaign? How might it be different when directed for international audiences, rather than an American audience?

2.  Will Google’s campaign create major backlash with serious consequences? Why, or why not?

Campaign to save Troy Public Library succeeds with reverse psychology July 8, 2012

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The rise of the Tea Party across the nation meant that many state and local governments had pressure to cut spending in the time of recession. The municipality of Troy, Michigan, was a hotspot in this movement as residents in 2010  voted down a tax increase to save funding for the city’s public library. A Tea Party backed effort to close the library altogether also succeeded, and it wasn’t until the library’s allies formulated a witty counter-movement that the library was eventually saved.

To learn more about the reverse psychology employed in the effort to save the Troy Public Library, including advertisements for a book burning celebration, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why did the counter-strategy by the library’s proponents work so well?

2.  Were the adversarial tactics of the library’s backers ethical? Why, or why not?

3.  How might political candidates in 2012 use similar strategies in dealing with their Tea Party opponents in general?

With Galaxy phones rising, Samsung makes final PR push against smartphone competition July 6, 2012

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While former cellphone giants like Nokia fading quickly against the rise of Apple, Samsung has seen its quarterly profits increase substantially with the popularity of its Galaxy smartphone. Thus, it’s no surprise that Samsung is going all-in to promote the Galaxy 3, which it sees as its big opportunity to challenge the rein of the iPhone. According to AdAge.com, Samsung is set to spend more to promote the Galaxy S III than it did on all Galaxy-branded products in 2011. It’s campaign is big, and goes where others have never gone. According to Brian Wallace, VP of strategic marketing at Samsung, the company is targeting movie theaters over the summer. As Maureen Morrison summarized:

“Rather than just run ads before a film, Samsung will run 3-D games using Kinect-like technology that the company had to develop specifically for the execution. Essentially, sensors will be installed in 55 theaters that will detect audience movements which will control a game on the screen. Samsung will also run a 3-D short in some 2,000 theaters, using the fanboy characters from the “next big thing” campaign — done by 72andSunny for the Galaxy S II late last year.”

For more on the release of the Galaxy S III, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why has the iPhone remained so popular? What does it have that the competition does not?

2.  What features of the Galaxy S III make it a good alternative to the iPhone?

3.  What does Samsung manage to get out of a flashy new PR campaign that uses tactics others have not yet used?

Getting to Mars, thanks to PR and reality TV July 6, 2012

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Private company “Mars One” hopes to establish a settlement on the red planet by 2023. The Dutch company plans to first send rovers to search for a perfect location, and then build living units to be sent with the first pod of permanent settlers in 2022. Mars One co-founder, Bas Lansdorp, claimed that the key to paying for such an expensive mission is media exposure. According to Lansdorp, “We will finance this mission by creating the biggest media event ever around it. Everybody in the world can see everything that will happen in the preparations and on Mars.” In other words, the mission will be “real reality TV” that encourages private citizens to participate in the missions and invest in their success.

For more on Mars One, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Will a reality TV show on a space colony on Mars be able to generate enough excitement to lead to sufficient private funding of the mission?

2.  What could Mars One do, especially with reality TV, to generate greater buzz?

3.  Is this a new model for space travel?

Mitt Romney battles back from “Etch-a-Sketch” comparisons April 6, 2012

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Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has fought a lengthy battle for the GOP nomination due to perceptions that he is a committed moderate running as a reliable conservative. Forced to defend his current strategy in light of the fact that he’ll probably change his tune in just a few months, Romney’s adviser Eric Fehrnstrom invited widespread criticism when he stated, ” Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-a-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.” Comparing Romney to the popular children’s toy confirm conservatives’ worst fear: the potential nominee will turn his back on the party faithful.

While some critics have suggested that Fehrnstrom’s gaffe will soon be forgotten, others are arguing that the comment will have major implications. According to Time‘s Joe Klein, the “Etch-A-Sketch” comment will undoubtedly make it harder for Romney to pivot back to the center without ridicule, and will likely lead voters to conclude that he is a “flip-flopper” like John Kerry in 2004 if he decides to do so.

To watch Fehrnstrom’s comment yourself, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Will Romney be negatively impacted by the “Etch-A-Sketch” comparisons that his own advisers have made? Why, or why not?

2.  How might Democrats attempt to use this point later in the campaign if Romney is indeed the GOP’s nominee?

3.  How should Romney have responded to this incident, if at all?

PETA looks to porn and new .XXX site to spread message about veganism and animal rights August 30, 2011

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PETA is no stranger to creating controversy for the sake of protecting animals. Thus, it should surprise no one that the organization has announced its intentions to create a porn site under the.xxx domain. PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt stated the obvious when questioned: ” We live in a 24 hour news cycle world and we learn the racy things we do are sometimes the most effective way that we can reach particular individuals.”

According to Rajt, PETA will use the site to promote veganism by grabbing the attention of users. There will be nudity, Rajt contended, and it’s possible that celebrities may get involved too. Other environmentalists have used pornography before to raise money for their causes, so the move isn’t that novel. It’s still controversial, though, especially with progressives who might agree with PETA’s principles most of the time. Leading the charge, many feminist critics are stepping up to complain that PETA is now trying to protect women at the cost of exploiting women.

PETA has used sex to sell veganism and animal rights before. For example, see the following videos about some of its previous campaigns:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why do you think PETA believes a .xxx site will successfully promote its causes?

2.  How could the site be used to raise money for veganism and animal rights? Is this a new model of fundraising?

3.  How could PETA’s move potentially backfire?

Burt’s Bees wins praise for “Find Your Burt” campaign August 10, 2011

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The “Find Your Burt” campaign designed by Baldwin& for Burt’s Bees won Ad Age’s Small Agency Campaign of the Year Award in 2011. The campaign, which encouraged Burt’s Bees fans to dress up and live like the company’s namesake Burt Shavitz, was intended to celebrate both the 40th Earth Day and (obviously) the brand. While the campaign was website and ad based, the company also took the campaign to the streets of several major cities to offer Burt’s Bees smoothies to lucky pedestrians.

By many measures, the campaign was a stunning success. In addition to the Ad Age award, Burt’s Bees had 370,000 Facebook fans by the end of the campaign, compared to the 98,000 just one year before.

For more on the “Find Your Burt” campaign, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why do you think the “Find Your Burt” campaign won Ad Age’s prestigious Small Agency Campaign of the Year Award?

2.  How did Burt’s Bees use social marketing in its “Find Your Burt” campaign?

3.  How did the “Find Your Burt” campaign mirror its company’s fun persona?