Tag Archive: Social Marketing


Exactly 279 days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre one can still purchase and play the video game, Kindergarten Killers.

Just this week, we learned that DC Navy Shipyard sniper, Aaron Alexis, played Call of Duty and Zombie video games up to 16-hours a day. That fits the classic definition of an obsession.

The media is starting to become vigilant about the impact of particular video games, just as it has frequently critiqued the reported 300 million firearms in this country, suggesting both are the telltale signs of a violent society.

It seems that the right is protecting the $11.7 billion (US) firearms and ammunition industry, and the left is shielding the $68 billion (worldwide) interactive entertainment industry.

One hides behind the Second Amendment (Right to Bear Arms) of the United States Constitution. The other points to the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

The question that needs to be asked as one tragedy follows another horrific event, is this really a mutually exclusive exercise?

navyyard

Before Almost DailyBrett says anything further on this question, let me first state that I support background checks, limitations on detachable magazines, and registration of any-and-all firearms. I have never cared for guns, and I doubt that I ever will.

When I was the press secretary for former California Governor George Deukmejian, I was proud to be a small, vocal part of the effort that led to California banning assault weapons. As the governor said at the time, he saw absolutely no reason why someone needs an AK-47, AR-10 or M-16 assault weapon to simply go hunting.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) under the direction of Wayne LaPierre vehemently and vocally disagreed with our decision. The NRA was wrong then. It is wrong now.

Let me also go on the record that I rarely play video games, albeit I was attempting to play bass and sing last Saturday night for an after dinner game of Rock Band. When my daughter was young, I would join her for a round of Croc, ending up in the hot lava every time.

More to the point, I am supportive of the First Amendment but recognize there are limits. Yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre is the oft-repeated limitation to the constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech.

Should the government come down on the video game (interactive entertainment) industry to ban violent video games? My libertarian tendencies tend to not want to encourage even more government incursion into free markets.

Having said that, I agree with Ohio State Professor of Communications Brad Bushman when he stated that, “These games aren’t harmless.”

During the course of my career I have served two nationwide trade associations, first as the Vice President of Public Affairs for the American Forest Resource Alliance (AFRA) and later as the Director of Communications for the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

These two trade associations, trees and chips, and many others just like them represent entire industries and the companies that are association members. Most are located in Washington, D.C. and represent (e.g., lobby) the points of view of their members. The NRA is a lobbying organization. Ditto for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) under Michael Gallagher.

The NRA has adopted a stance of precluding any camel from sticking its nose under the gun industry and ammunition tent. It even points to the interactive entertainment industry to deflect blame from guns.

The Entertainment Software Association may actually benefit from having such a high-impact enemy in the form of LaPierre and the NRA, but it still has a problem. Are game developers and manufacturers turning a blind eye on the Adam Lanza’s (Newtown killer) and Aaron Alexis’ of the world, who were obsessed with these games and guns?

videogamesviolence

What about violent movies? One could reply that movies are passive, while game players are active in their use of simulated weapons. Killing “people” becomes somehow, enjoyable.

The interactive entertainment industry has an ongoing public relations issue that most likely will intensify with each shooting in which the sniper was spurred on by gratuitous violence video games. Yes, there is a correlation and more to the PR point: There is a definitive and growing public perception of these over-the-top violent games.

Will hiding behind the First Amendment solve the problem? After all, the executive branch, Congress and the courts won’t impede the First Amendment rights of those who concoct and develop Kindergarten Killers. Right?

Do they (video game developers) want to wait and find out?

Almost DailyBrett embraces the notion of “Manage or Be Managed.”

It is time for the ESA to set standards for its members about violent content, clearly recognizing when a game goes too far. Merely, putting ratings on the side of the game is obviously not enough. Video games can obviously be addictive. What can be done about that? Is there a role here for social marketing?

videogames

The industry needs to take a proactive stance to not only protect its collective livelihood, but also to do the right thing in the face of these senseless killings. Something was clearly wrong with Aaron Alexis as evidenced by him playing video games for 16-hours a clip, and then heading out to the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. heavily armed.

Could video games have contributed to this tragedy? That seems obvious.

The industry has the opportunity to self-regulate or manage itself. The NRA is beyond that, and has adopted a confrontational point of no return.

One would think the ESA does not want to follow in the NRA’s footsteps.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10314585/Aaron-Alexis-Washington-navy-yard-gunman-obsessed-with-violent-video-games.html

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/09/dont-blame-violent-video-games-mondays-mass-shooting/69499/

http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/18/opinion/bushman-video-games/?hpt=hp_t2

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/12/21/kindergarten_killers_nra_s_wayne_lapierre_blames_violent_video_games_for.html

http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/12/so-who-made-kindergarten-killer-anyway/

http://www.igda.org/

http://www.theesa.com/about/leadership.asp

http://vgsales.wikia.com/wiki/Video_game_industry

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/19/seven-facts-about-the-u-s-gun-industry/

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/28/us/connecticut-shooting-documents/index.html

http://www.meetthenra.org/nra-member/wayne-lapierre

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/manage-or-be-managed/

 

 

Terrie

terri

“My (11-year-old) grandson has never heard my real voice. I don’t even remember what my own voice sounds like.” – Terrie Hall of North Carolina.

Terrie was a former high-school cheerleader.

She has blonde hair, and was once very pretty.

She started smoking at 13 years of age.

Today, one can hardly stand looking at her or listening to her…even for a second. Her voice is reminiscent of fingernails on a chalk board.

And yet there she is night-after-night during the intermissions of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are running a series of absolutely graphic and brutal ads to shake people up.

Will they be able to overcome the controlling addictive power of nicotine?

I doubt it.

Walking up to the University of Oregon “Smoke and Tobacco Free Campus” each day, I literally run the second-hand smoke gauntlet. The policy has cleared the air on campus, but nicotine has simply pushed the smokers to the peripheries.

Have we accomplished anything?

Don’t get me wrong, I support this policy 100 percent even though I harbor a strong libertarian bent.

Some have commented that getting off nicotine is more difficult than going cold turkey with heroin. I wouldn’t know in either case, and I am not going to find out.

Whether or not this is an empirically and peer-reviewed scientific fact, there is little doubt in my mind about the addictive power of cigarettes.

Reportedly, Terrie was smoking right before her larynx removal surgery in 2001. She now breathes through a stoma and speaks through a “hands-free” device. Charming.

Wonder if the smokers on the edge of campus think about this prospect?

As many of my readers know, I am a widower because of smoking. I am neither neutral nor dispassionate about this subject.

All forms of encouragement from me, my daughter and her friends failed to convince my late-wife Robin to quit her death pins. There was always a reason, always a rationale, always an excuse. The nicotine was talking. It was always talking.

The days leading up to her death were horrific. I will spare you the details other than to say that one bodily function after another failed.

As Robin was mercifully sleeping as the clock was running out on her life, I remember walking out of the Pleasanton, CA hospital into early spring chill. There they were. Patients bracing the wind and rain in their hospital gowns clinging to their IV-poles…smoking.

Robin passed on July 10, 2005, officially ending her addiction to cigarettes. She would say now that I am blaming the victim. I say she was the self-inflicted victim of nicotine.

Terrie does not have the luxury of death…at least not yet. You know it’s coming earlier than it should. Her ads will be sad reminder of the end of her life…but does anyone really care?

As a public relations instructor and practitioner, I comprehend the power and reach of social marketing using both conventional and digital means. The CDC ads during the Stanley Cup Playoffs certainly grabbed my attention…but fortunately for me, I am not the “target” audience.

The smoking hockey fans may simply flip the remote switch. Instead of watching “Terrie,” let’s see what is happening in the NBA playoffs…

How long will it take for our society to do the right thing?

Ads and bans are well-intentioned half-way steps in the right direction, but they will ultimately fail. The nicotine enemy is too strong.

If Philip Morris came out with a Goebbels-brand of cyanide cigarettes, Bunker 45s, the government would immediately ban them just as they would step in to stop the sale of Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid.

The reason is simple cyanide cigarettes and Jamestown Kool-Aid are fast-and-lethal poisons.

Okay, let’s state categorically and unequivocally that cigarettes are slow-and-lethal poisons. The key words are “lethal” and “poisons.” If the primary purpose of government is to protect the health and safety of its citizens, shouldn’t the government do the right thing and wipe this nicotine scourge off the planet?

How many tobacco farmers will lose their jobs? How many support workers lost their jobs when Dachau closed down?

How much public revenue will be lost if cigarettes are banned? The higher cost ($6 a pack) has not dented smoking. Addicted smokers will pay anything and even sacrifice the well-being of their loved ones for their lethal fix. Are tax revenues coming at the expense of dead-and-dying smokers, blood money?

Consider the dynamic effect on government expenditures if smoking related illnesses dropped dramatically, thus reducing public health-care costs.

My call for banning slow-poison cigarettes will be dismissed as impractical at best and radical at worst.

I have never been labeled as “radical” in my life. Heck, I voted for Mitt Romney…does that put me into the fondly remembering the excesses of Woodstock crowd?

Some will say that I am still suffering from the loss of my smoking wife, Robin. That criticism is valid, but how many people in this country and on this planet have endured the same fate…and for what purpose?

Well-conceived and intended half-way measures will ultimately fail with all due respect to the CDC’s Terrie. Even if cigarettes are banned…and I pray that someday we will have the courage to do so…there will always be a black market for smokes.

So what?

At least, we won’t have to watch the next generation’s Terrie in the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/videos/terrie-videos.html#terrie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyVLKHEqTu0

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/28/cdc-anti-smoking-ads/2018121/

http://www.cdc.gov/

http://healthyoregon.uoregon.edu/Tobacco.aspx?q=TobaccoFree

peta

“Worse than being misquoted is not being quoted at all,” – Former White House communications director, political pundit, and 1992 GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie saved a group of young school children visiting his Trenton office last week from a creepy, crawly spider.

He smacked it good, scraped up its remains and tucked the corpse in his suit pocket.

It didn’t take long for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to publicly scold the governor for his insensitivity to one of the smallest of all of Darwin’s creatures.

“He probably did it without thinking,” PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk said.  “Some people put the spider outside, but spiders are often scary to people, and that can prevent them from pondering their worth.”

Soon after late-night-television comedian Jimmy Kimmel had a field day at the expense of the collective worth of both Christie and PETA.

PETA was thrilled. One would suspect that Christie and his gubernatorial handlers were not so thrilled.

To PETA, “All Press is Good Press”…even negative coverage.

Just get the name spelled right.

What does animal rights group PETA and “Worse-than-being-misquoted” Pat Buchanan have in common?

Not much.

Having acknowledged the obvious, both historically have demonstrated the ability to draw gobs of media interest, and both harbor the concept that attention…any attention…is far better than being ignored.

And when it comes to employing attractive female public nudity to draw photographers and videographers, it is no contest between PETA and Pat. Sorry Pat. Keep your shirt on.

PETA’s naked philosophy is simple: Exposure = Discussion = Awareness.

And you just thought Pam Anderson was wearing that lettuce bikini because she likes…lettuce bikinis. There is a method to her undress.

Marci Hansen, who spent five years as a guerilla marketer for PETA, assessed the NGO (non-governmental organization) that has at times been accused of crossing the line between being infamous and being notorious. PETA does not seem to mind being compared to the antics of Greenpeace as long as it succeeds in stimulating a conversation on protecting animal rights.

The goal of social marketers…not to be confused with social media…is to participate and even to lead a conversation online or through conventional media. The PETA strategy is to be at least a part of the conversation, if not the conversation itself, with the goal of safeguarding animals. Does every tactic work? No. Does PETA learn from its tactics? That seems to be modus operandi behind the equation: Success + Failures = Refinement.

Hansen extolled that just having the facts are not enough to win the argument. PETA needs to be good at playing the game…and prolific at drawing attention. Pam Anderson works. Pink works. Sir Paul McCartney works. Good Charlotte works…even labeling Burger King as Murder King works.

Has all of this helped or hindered Marci’s career? It seems the answer is yes and no.

Should aspiring public relations pros work for a notorious NGO even though this kind of association may spell curtains for those seeking employment for firms with a fiduciary eye on expanding the top line and maintaining a solid bottom line? In our segmentation society, where everybody and everything is sliced and diced, labeled and categorized, does the PETA imprimatur potentially spell doom for one’s chances in conventional public relations?

In answering this question, consider that  Marci is the co-founder for SheerID, a Eugene, Oregon-based software technology startup instantaneously verifying student or military status for those offering online discounts to these large…there’s that word again…segments of society.

Marci was gracious enough to lecture a small gathering of students, and reflected that she experienced some difficulty as a result of her PETA past, but also said that many are looking for someone who understands guerilla marketing and other means to draw media attention.

In a world in which the flack-to-media ratio is 3.6-to-1.0, securing attention from the dwindling number of reporters, editors, analysts etc. is getting ever tougher.

The answer to all of these questions boils down to talent and perseverance. Marci has a combination of both in spades. Does this mean that someone should rush off to tell the PETA, Greenpeace, Amnesty International stories and not have a second thought about it, even though she or he may be a true believer?

As the Wizard of Westwood John Wooden once said: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

One thing is certain, working for an infamous, bordering on notorious, NGO is far better than shilling for the absolute nadir of public relations advocacy, Big Tobacco.

Ain’t that right Nick Naylor?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/05/07/jimmy-kimmel-on-chris-christies-spider-squashing-skills-video/?wpisrc=nl_pmpol

http://www.peta.org/

http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/05/06/watch-n-j-governor-saved-school-children-from-spider-peta-isnt-impressed/#ixzz2T1jBKVSj

http://www.sheerid.com/our-team/

“Information is power.” – Activist, Author, Journalist, Lecturer Robin Morgan

Consider my visit to McDonald’s this past weekend.

The Angus mushroom burger with Swiss cheese looked mighty tempting, but then I saw the calorie count beside it: 770 calories, 360 of which comes from fat.

Hmmm…I am follicly challenged, and to some, I may be vertically challenged. Damn it all, I will not be horizontally challenged. No convulations hanging over my belt thank you very much.

Okay, then no Angus mushroom burger with Swiss cheese.

What were my alternatives? Looking at the McDonald’s scoreboard, I selected a bacon ranch grilled chicken salad (230 calories, 80 calories from fat) and a small wild berry smoothie (210 calories, five calories from fat). If you are scoring at home, I said “no” to 770/360 and “yes” to 440/85.

mcdonaldsmenu

Best of all, I made this decision without New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or some other nanny state politician or bureaucrat interceding, regulating or taxing on my behalf. Some may question my decision to go to McDonald’s in the first place, but that was my independent choice as a liberty-loving American.

My point here is not taking an ostrich-burying-its-head-in-the-sand approach in the face of the skyrocketing instances of obesity in the United States and around the world. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.  According to the World Health Organization, the UN and The Economist, 35 percent of the global adult population of 4.4 billion in 2010 was overweight and 12.4 percent were obese (obviously, the US percentages were higher). Projected out to 2020, 39.7 percent of the adult population of 5.1 billion will be overweight and 15.4 percent will be obese…more than half the adults on the planet.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that obesity related illnesses cost about $190 billion annually or one-fifth of total health spending in the US. Houston, we clearly have a problem. Is more government the solution? Or does the solution lie with public information? Can the global public relations/advertising/marketing industry be the answer?

Denmark tried the predictable and intellectually vapid command-and-control response of imposing a tax on fatty foods. Last month, the country rescinded the unpopular tax based upon the law of unintended consequences.

Besides belting the country’s high-end Danish cheese and meat industries with higher selling prices, driving down demand, Danish consumers also voted with their cars, boats, bikes and feet. Forty-eight percent, up 10 percent, bought their fatty foods from neighboring Germany and Sweden to the tune of $1.8 billion in lost revenues to the country’s retailers and tax coffers.

Doesn’t every answer that requires a new tax, potentially resulting in higher revenues and thus more spending and debt, also result in an unintended consumer response? Why do increased tax champions conveniently always seem to ignore the dynamic response to their policies? When something seems so simple, in reality it is much more complicated.

Mayor Bloomberg’s prohibition against stadiums, movie theatres, restaurants and (gasp) food carts selling sugary drinks above 16-ounces, while inexplicably still allowing the selling of 24-ounce beers (fat, carbs and alcohol all in one), strikes one as being hard paternalism and/or nannyism gone wild.

Isn’t another answer social marketing that deftly employs social and conventional media a better answer? We have more information tools to move data about smart choices to more people than ever with unprecedented speed and range. Why not more horizontal informational approaches to a flattening world as opposed to vertical command-and-control edicts from the all-knowing elected or non-elected Politburos?

The Texas State Department of Transportation (yes, the public sector) has used social marketing for a generation to convince the Bubbas to not litter from their trucks with its wildly successful, “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign. Alpha males (e.g. George Strait, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Too Tall Jones, Randy White) implored the truckers and other manly (and womanly types) to not litter Texas highways.

dontmesswithtexas

Even though there are still more than 1.1 million pieces of litter each year on Lone Star State highways, one can only imagine how much worse that number would be without the program. It worked by providing information, skillfully delivered with a terrific campaign: Message, Candidate(s), Campaign.

Is it any wonder that Texas with its public information approach scores among the best for small business, while New York with nanny Bloomberg and (Proposition 30) tax raising California score near the bottom? And didn’t the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors consider banning and fining those who had the audacity of throwing a Frisbee or a football on a county beach this past summer?

Instead of requiring already overwhelmed LA County Sheriffs to go on the prowl for those in swim trunks and bikinis who dare to throw a Frisbee, why not hire California PR talent to ask those to be cool with Frisbees and Angus mushroom burgers with Swiss cheese. One message could be that you will look so much better in your swim trucks and bikini with six-pack abs and no extra love handles caused by mushroom Angus burgers with Swiss cheese.

http://www.aboutmcdonalds.com/content/dam/AboutMcDonalds/Newsroom/Electronic%20Press%20Kits/Nutrition%20EPK/McDonalds%20USA%20Adding%20Calorie%20Counts%20to%20Menu%20Boards.pdf

http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf

http://economist.com/news/europe/21566664-danish-government-rescinds-its-unwieldy-fat-tax-fat-chance

http://dontmesswithtexas.org/

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Blogs/Business-Buzz/2012/05/09/The-10-Best-and-Worst-States-for-Small-Business.aspx#page1

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/17/local/la-me-plastic-bags-20101117

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/02/14/la-county-updating-beach-regulations/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/nyregion/bloomberg-plans-a-ban-on-large-sugared-drinks.html?pagewanted=all

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/confessions-of-an-ex-box-boy/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Morgan

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