Undoubtedly, the top story of the week was the poor misunderstood Heiress Paris Hilton being treated unfairly and cruelly by the big bad judge in California who sentenced her to 45 days in the slammer because her handlers utterly failed to protect her from herself. In a fit of despair over the unfortunate incident Paris fired her semantically twisted flack, Elliot Mintz, and in a reverse fit of magnanimity, hired him back the next day. Paris managed to make conservative go with vulnerable and repentant with her simple gray outfit and her ponytail at her hearing. It was a brilliant fashion defense. And still she got slammed. Have you no decency, sir? Have you no decency?
The Heiress and her Flack concocted a mutually agreeable hallucinogenic reality that “that which was, no longer is,” with the strong suggestion that we should all be healing from this alleged rift, accentuating the positive, banishing the negative. The flack was back spinning Paris as a “strong woman who takes this very seriously” – a Joan of Arc type image (what would she wear if she was burned at the cross?) - except the Governor was not getting with the program. He was not reacting positively to the groundswell, including a petition here on Strumpette, begging for mercy for the unfairly and cruelly punished Heiress.
"I've never got any request. But I have many more important things to think about," said the Gov. about a potential pardon for the beleaguered Heiress.
What more important issues can Arnold be dealing with? Immigration, healthcare, unemployment, police brutality? Stories in the tabloids warned of lesbian gangs, group showers, a poor, exposed Paris at the mercy of brutal prison elements. We cringe at the thought of her virginal violation to pleasures of the flesh in settings that are less than sanitary. Have we no humanity? Have you no decency Arnold. No time for Paris?
The only story we like better than celebrity rehab is celebrity crime and celebrity prison. Martha did time, that puts in her in a league apart from Britney. Seeing the incredible opportunity to elevate Paris from simple icon to imprisoned martyr the flack Mintz is now preparing Paris as one of Charlie’s Angels. She is reportedly working out twice a day, toughening up, and she is consulting another misunderstood once-imprisoned Heiress, Patricia Hearst, on how to fight off the hardened criminal lesbian gangs in the group showers.
Paris is a fun girl but we are about to find out that she can also be a tough and focused woman, qualities that will aid her in ascent to sainthood and martyrdom. I can only hope that she is treated with dignity in respect by the authorities and her prison garb is at least 100 percent cotton and not scratchy.
Other stories happened last week – there is still that pesky war in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, global warming, pestilence, disease, hunger, all that – but none approaches poor Paris in prison. And we are merely at the beginning of this story. We will hear about how Paris prepares, what she wears, where she will be, what she will do, until she turns herself over June 5, through her 45 days, and her release. That means we will have a Paris Hilton summer. If Mintz is smart and canny he can stretch her rehabilitation post-prison appearances to after Labor Day, for peak audience penetration.
For now, at least, Paris trumps Britney and Lindsay in being top story in the triumvirate of the misunderstood celeb acting-out girl/women. Paris is center stage. We are her enraptured audience.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.
Thou Shalt Steal a Drink From Coca-Cola’s Experiential PR Fountain
Is there a better way to introduce a product to its intended audience than through experiential promotions? By literally putting the product before those who need to know about it, the PR professional is able to allow the target audience to build their own impressions of the newly introduced item.
Consider the following case study on how the Coca-Cola Company launched its Full Throttle energy drink product line in 2005. Full Throttle was described by the company as “16 ounces of citrus flavored fury in a can,” and its target market was primarily blue collar men between 20 and 30. Coca-Cola determined the product needed to be branded with a macho yet good-humored image – a man’s drink, but without masculine pretensions.
Coca-Cola tapped the agency Fast Horse Inc. of Minneapolis to handle the product launch. The agency’s initial research for the potential target audiences was handled in one-on-one intercepts at vocational schools, construction sites and sporting venues (as opposed to other venues that may have been interested in the product).
“With limited time and budget for the research phase of the planning process, we needed to identify the most efficient way to gather insights from target consumers – young adult, blue-collar males,” recalls Scott Broberg, vice president at Fast Horse Inc. “As an alternative to formal focus groups, conducting one-on-one intercepts at locations with a large cross section of blue-collar males – such as vocational schools, construction sites and sporting venues – became an effective way to secure qualitative research and validate our creative concepts.”
The agency decided to use the 2005 NASCAR season to launch Full Throttle. In a way, that was somewhat daring since NASCAR has a lot of promotional activities and advertising connected to it. Yet Broberg felt this was the right venue to pursue – and to stand out from the other vehicles at the racetrack, Fast Horse created custom-built motorized armchairs that would be raced by some of NASCAR’s popular drivers.
“Even in the marketing-heavy world of NASCAR, the image of two celebrities racing each other in motorized armchairs created a visual compelling enough to break through the clutter,” says Broberg. “In addition, we specifically held the event on the Friday before the Daytona 500, since there was little on-track activity that day after qualifying races took place for much of the week. With the lack of on-track activity to fill the NASCAR news hole heading into the weekend, our lighthearted story appealed to sports media around the country that were previewing NASCAR’s first – and biggest – race of the year.”
Getting NASCAR drivers to step out of their automobiles and into the motorized armchairs was not difficult. “Michael Waltrip and Greg Biffle were excited to drive the world’s fastest armchairs,” recalls Broberg. “Most NASCAR drivers will race anything at anytime, and in the case of the Full Throttle Armchair Challenge, Waltrip and Biffle had plenty of assurance the ‘vehicles’ were safe. The motorized armchairs were inspected and approved by a qualified risk management expert upon completion of the fabrication process. In addition, the builder was on-site to give the drivers a tutorial, and they were able to get familiar with the vehicles by taking a test drive prior to the event.”
The motorized armchair race and post-race interviews with Waltrip and Biffle received coverage on ESPN, Comcast Sports South and the Speed Channel. Broberg also created a b-roll package featuring the event highlights for satellite distribution to TV stations across the nation. Needless to say, the b-roll made mention of the Full Throttle brand as part of the video coverage being provided.
“With a satellite truck on-site at the event, we were able to quickly edit a b-roll package and transmit the best footage and sound bites via satellite to TV stations around the country that afternoon,” continues Broberg. “The majority of the campaign’s broadcast coverage – more than 400 stories – was generated by the b-roll package, including segments on national outlets, such as The Weather Channel, FOX News and WGN SuperStation, as well as local affiliates in 20 of the top 25 markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta.”
So how did it help Full Throttle? According to Broberg, the product achieved a 7.8% share of the energy drink market within four months of the NASCAR event. During that period, it also became available in more than three-quarter of all American convenience store locations. The latter statistic helped Full Throttle win the Retailer Choice Best New Product of 2005 from the convenience store trade publication CSP Magazine.
And what became of the motorized armchairs? “They are currently in storage,” says Broberg. “We’re hoping they will see the road again someday as part of a special event or grassroots campaign for the Full Throttle brand.”
So what did we learn from this PR endeavor? Simple summary:
Having direct contact with your target audience is crucial in determining the PR and marketing strategy for a new product launch.
Creating a promotional activity that can stand out, even in the midst of an event-heavy happening like NASCAR, will help call attention to your endeavors.
Using a sense of humor doesn’t hurt, especially if it is a gentle good-humored bit of fun.
Including the product name in the promotional event is crucial, as the media will incorporate that in its coverage of the event.
Creating your own media coverage (in this case, b-roll footage) is a great idea because it can help you reach media outlets that were unable to be part of the event as it occurred.
(Phil Hall is the former president of Open City Communications, a New York PR agency, and former editor of PR News. His latest book "The New PR" will be released later this year from Larstan Publishing.)
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