Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mighty Mouse 1, Mouse Trap 0 -- When Does Guerrilla Marketing Go "Over the Line?"

"I thought your mouse commercial was horrifying. I know it went 'viral' and you certainly got your 15 minutes of fame. Shame on you. I actually gasped. It made me sick." - An indignant "Linda," reacting to a guerrilla marketing video that's racked up more than one million views on the Internet.

** When I'm asked, "What's Guerrilla Marketing and PR?," I give myriad answers. It can be considered "outrageous" by one company that has been very conservative with its marketing outreach efforts -- or considered "tame and tepid" by another company already comfortable enough to go beyond the stock tools of the trade, using unconventional methods to stir up the pot or to court controversy with maniacal zeal.

** But the definition of guerrilla marketing is poorly understood. It's a moving target that's evanescent, wispy and subject to constant change. It doesn't take long for something fresh and clever -- to suddenly become "so yesterday" absent the right touch. What's cute and funny the first few times can become tiresome and annoying after repeated viewings.

** Guerrilla marketing is marketing that doesn't follow traditional rules or platforms to get attention, sometimes bypassing research and other tools -- explicitly going after the jugular. It can be something as simple as changing the spin on an event so that it feels like "real news" -- to employing stunt-based methods fraught with great risk.

** The irony is that in most cases, what's being pitched in an offbeat way -- is already part of the mainstream, e.g., beer, fast food, cars, financial services, new homes, etc. Almost everything sold on the market today, regardless of how it's marketed, is mundane. Everything is nauseatingly "revolutionary," "state-of-the-art," "cutting-edge" or "ground-breaking" -- when in fact -- very few things meet such lofty criteria. When I hear such buzz words, I groan and think to myself, "Another opportunity down the drain, buried by string of tired clichés."

** Guerrilla marketing acknowledges what you already know -- that your friends and neighbors -- are already being hammered with too much information. It's like those amusing commercials for Bing, Microsoft's search engine. Standing head and shoulders above an ocean of information competing for your attention sometimes requires drastic action. You must choose which platforms will best suit your products or services -- beyond traditional print and broadcast media. And your choices have become more difficult -- in light of recent studies which show that more than 40 percent of people under 50 -- are now getting their daily content from wireless devices.

** It gets worse. Let's suppose your "iconoclastic" marketing or PR campaign DOES get off the ground and even better, it DOES gets noticed. How will it compel people to reach deep into their pockets to buy your product or services? Nobody, even the so-called "experts" -- can give you much more than an "educated guess" -- because the rules of guerrilla marketing keep changing. What's also worrisome is another study which suggests that even if you're already hip with social media -- and have a dominant presence on Twitter or Facebook -- this doesn't mean your fans are more significantly inclined to buy from you.

** With the stakes so high -- guerrilla marketing and PR have increasingly crept into the minds of marketing chiefs who as recently as five years ago -- swore they'd NEVER let anything in the door that diverts from "tried and true" methods that have worked for years. I'm running into fewer marketing chiefs resistant to guerrilla marketing and PR -- even while they themselves continue to have trouble convincing their OWN bosses of its merits.

** Even before You Tube or Facebook or Twitter, I've used a number of guerrilla PR tactics during the past 10 years on behalf of willing clients, such as purposely putting a negative spin on something that will still generate positive coverage. But my methods still pale in comparison to some of the more outrageous stunts that have back-fired on others. If it works, you're a hero. If it doesn't, you're in the unemployment line.

** So what type of guerrilla marketing is considered "over the line?"

** Well, you're NOT "over the line" if your product or service is truly great enough for you to stand confidently behind it -- and your target audience thinks your campaign is clever. If scores of young customers are buying your stuff as a result of your tactics -- whether it's Axe deodorant, Bud Light, Carl's Jr. hamburgers or new video games -- it doesn't matter if others are on the sidelines wringing their hands about it.

** For example, I've never liked the "against-the-grain," snarky, sexist and messy looking ads put out by Carl's Jr. But I went into a Carl's Jr. for the first time recently and tried its "Six-Dollar Burger" -- after catching a spot promoting it for four dollars. And guess what? It tasted like a million dollars. Its irritating commercials suddenly became a "best kept secret" for baby boomers born before 1964. Carl's Jr. ads are NOT targeting ME. They are NOT targeting Generation X'ers born from 1964 to 1979 either. No, they're targeting Generations Y and Z, the so-called "New Millennials" born from 1979 to 1992, hip young adults who are in their late teens to early 30s. Until that "Six-Dollars-for-Four" promo, I reflexively switched away from Carl's Jr. commercials. Now I don't. I'm not looking for hip. I'm looking for a good buy and now I know their products are good.

** But that was an unusual case whereby Carl's Jr. got away with guerrilla marketing its burgers in a juvenile way. Its marketing is definitely NOT the same as McDonald's or Wendy's. Carl's Jr. ads are "in-your-face," but they're not grossly offensive. In sum, and this will sound silly to the "suits upstairs," but Guerrilla Marketing Rule #1 is you can get away with being juvenile -- but you CANNOT be offensive.

** An example of a "do-it-yourself-guerrilla-marketing-campaign-that-blew-up" -- involved the father of a six-year-old Colorado boy who was allegedly "trapped in a runaway balloon." Today we know it was a poorly-thought-out stunt. For all of his efforts, instead of landing a TV reality contract, the boy's father was arrested, earning the scorn of millions. His stunt, which held a nation spellbound for hours, emerged as a cruel and offensive hoax.

** And yet -- during the same four-month window as the runaway balloon hoax -- "quasi-guerrilla-marketing efforts" by -- Michaele Salahi, the glamorous wife who crashed a White House dinner with her husband...

...landed her a reality TV show gig on Bravo ...while 29-year-old Justin Halpern of San Diego, who posted R-rated comments on Twitter uttered by his hilarious 74-year old dad...landed him a book deal with It Books (an imprint of Harper-Collins) and a TV show from CBS (since canceled, click on the image below)...

** I describe the two examples above as successful "quasi-guerrilla marketing" efforts because their creators were never assured of positive outcomes -- and their offbeat efforts did not "appear" to be premeditated to garner anything beyond amusing notoriety for themselves and their friends. What they got instead was a bonus -- and that's word-of-mouth buzz that spread virally and explosively on the Internet.

** Thus Guerrilla Marketing Rule #2 is you must strive to create an illusion of against-the-grain attitudinal thinking -- combined with an equally illusory feeling of spontaneity and surprise. In my business, we call this creating a message or a series of events -- that the ultra-competitive media finds too compelling to ignore. The media KNOWS what you're doing and might even hate it. But some producers can't afford to ignore you -- lest their competitors leave them behind in a cloud of dust.

** Case in point is the controversial guerrilla marketing video below featuring our hero, a clever mouse. It mixes pop culture tunes from the Carpenters ("Top of the World"), the Doors ("The End") and Survivor ("Eye of the Tiger") -- with morbid imagery designed to catch viewers in a "joke" that isn't as ghastly as it seems. But what's it trying to sell?

** Since last fall, the video has gone viral, mostly in the United Kingdom where it was created. It has become such a sensation -- that it's been written up in stories "across the pond" -- in the U.K. version of Esquire, the London Daily Star and Tweakerzine. But you have to watch all 88 seconds of the video to get "the joke." Some viewers don't even get there. They are so turned off by what they see, they indeed "tune out" before it ends.

** But viewers who DO react with revulsion -- don't matter to the video's creator. Such viewers are not his "customers." Click below.

** Does the guerrilla marketing video above -- "go over the line?" Only to audiences who don't matter to its creator. People who think of mice as disgusting, disease-carrying creatures -- suddenly recoil in horror at the "thought" of anything bad happening to just ONE of them. He's the video's "hero," we think, this is how he's presented. We ROOT for him. And indeed, at the end, the mouse DOES prevail. You discover you've been punk'd, that this is a "commercial" for a luxury brand of strong cheddar cheese.

** But no, you would be wrong. There is no such thing as Nolan's Cheddar Cheese," which is tagged as being "Seriously Strong" (which itself is the name of a real-life brand made in Scotland). But "Nolan's Cheddar" doesn't exist. The video is a hoax. A little research and you discover it's a faux commercial designed to generate curiosity and traffic for its creator, 29-year-old British animatronic-animator John Nolan.

** John Nolan studied cinematography at the London Film Academy in 2007 -- and earned a degree in Make-Up & Technical Effects for the Performing Arts from the London College of Fashion in 2002. He's worked on several television and film productions, including "Dr. Who," "Clash of the Titans" (2010), two Harry Potter movies ("Prisoner of Azkaban" in 2003 and "The Goblet of Fire" in 2005), "Where the Wild Things Are" (2009), "Hellboy 2" (2007), "The Brother's Grimm" (2003) and commercials for Nestlé tea and T-Mobile (2009).

** Thus we come to Guerrilla Marketing Rule #3. Know your target audience. Of course this sounds like ridiculously simple common sense, but it's excruciatingly true in Mr. Nolan's case, because he is clearly guerrilla marketing himself to TV and film producers. These are his true customers. You, a member of the general public, are just along for the ride. If you find it entertaining, fine. If not, Mr. Nolan doesn't care. How do I know he doesn't care? "Linda's" horrified reaction, whose words are posted at the top of this story -- were also spotlighted on the splash page of Nolan's website. (They were taken down in late March-early April 2010.)

** According to the London Daily Star, Nolan's guerrilla marketing video took two months and $1,000 to create. Not a bad investment considering the type of "payday" he's chasing. Beyond training a real mouse to scurry to the bait, Nolan says the dead mouse is actually an already dead rat he procured elsewhere. He says that rat "was actually a robot I made covered in silicon. It still had its real hair and nails of a dead rat, but I had to punch this in individually into the synthetic skin, a bit like how hair transplants work."

** In sum, guerrilla marketing and PR is anything that compels people to pay attention using iconoclastic methods. They do NOT have to be as extreme as the examples cited here. But you do have to be mindful that everything is a competition for attention. For me, it can be as conservative as doing what I describe as "hard-linking" a client's product or service -- to a much larger issue or problem that's oft overlooked.

** For example, if I alert the media about a bunch of happy kids painting an inner-city school on a weekend -- that's a strong visual. TV might cover it, but it will just be a 15-second "feel good" story. But if I can weave neighborhood crime statistics into the story and prove the event is a way to keep kids off the street, it becomes a bona-fide news story that reaches beyond the kids and into the faces of local and state leaders for a response. The kids become "poster children" for others like themselves -- about an issue that's bigger than themselves. What's "guerrilla" about this tactic -- is taking a random "feel-good" event -- and generating greater "urgency" by placing it contextually against a backdrop of a national problem for which there isn't one exclusive solution.

** After spending years on a newsroom desk, being on the business end of a lot of inane PR pitches, I've gotten a better feel for what media types are looking for to preserve and enhance the value of their OWN jobs. In sum, it's not about you. It's about everybody else. So as you sand down the rough edges of commercialism so prevalent in your outreach efforts today -- if possible, you should strive to ensure that ALL of your guerrilla marketing and PR efforts are framed in a way that's funny or clever, that educates, amuses and entertains -- OR addresses a concern that's relatable to all.

Original material © 2010-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nearly 10 Million Views of a Video WITHOUT Shock Tactics.

(NOTE:  This blog entry was first posted in April 2010 and is being re-posted again as a public service.)  

** Leave it to the Brits to once again spawn a video about safety -- that has spread virally around the world -- which in large part continues to go unrecognized by traditional sources of news in the United States.

** In August 2009, the very blog you are reading -- played in integral part in helping virally spread a video made in the township of Gwent (Wales) in the United Kingdom -- that explicitly dramatized the consequences of texting-while-driving. That source video eventually racked up more than three million hits. After exchanging permissions from its makers, e.g., this blog wrote the news summary exploring how it was made at You Tube for its makers, who in turn authorized its separate availability to readers of this blog -- the texting-while-driving video racked up an additional 700,000 views on this site, mostly from readers in the United States.

** Today's entry is about an 88-second video that has quietly logged nearly 10 million hits -- which, while eschewing the shock tactics of last year's texting-while-driving video -- effectively sells its safety message in a way that many people believe has resulted in one of the most poignant and elegant public service spots ever made. (Click below.)

** The spot was made for Sussex County in southeast England and is part of an "Embrace Life" campaign by The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership -- to remind people to wear their seat belts.

** At the video's website, writer-director Daniel Cox says, "The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership was already looking to create a road safety campaign with a more positive message -- and so when I approached Communications Manager Neil Hopkins and his team with ideas for a fresh take on road safety filming, it was evident we were all on the same page in our quest to deliver a powerful message, but in a new way.

** "(What was) key to the film's creation -- was to focus on a message that didn't take a conventional route to shock and scare the audience; rather it was my intention to bring the audience in on the conversation of road safety, specifically seat belts, and the best way to do this was to make a film that could engage the viewer purely visually -- (which) could be seen and understood by all, (regardless of who) they are and wherever they live."

** Working with what its makers say was an undisclosed "small budget," commercial film producer Sarah Alexander said the challenges were huge in that "we needed state of the art camera technology, more lighting than they use on a Hollywood feature film and a team of very experienced people that knew what they were doing and could rig and shoot within the tightest of schedules." High speed cameras were used to capture the film's power in slow motion.

** "I wanted to create a visual metaphor addressing how a single decision in a person's day can greatly influence both their own and their loved ones' lives," director Cox continues on the production video's website. "Choosing to film the story inside the family living room represents the feelings many people equate with their own car, in that it represents a level of safety and protection from the 'outer' world.

** "So to create the emotion of this dramatic moment, I wanted to tell the story using slow motion to allow the audience the time to be drawn into the film's world -- and to let them connect with and project their own feelings onto the scenario playing out before them. I wanted to give the audience the time to breathe, to absorb our message -- and using slow motion was the right technique to allow this to happen." (The video was shot in just two days.)

** But according to producer Sarah Alexander, what was scarier was anticipating how audiences would respond. "Touching people’s emotions is not a science at all," Alexander said. "It is an incredibly difficult thing to do and even after working on it for months you are still not sure how people will react. We always aimed to make something of TV / cinema quality so that is where we launched it. The first time I saw it on a cinema screen in front of an audience of hardened police officers and realized they were touched, I was sure we had succeeded."

** Although the video is primarily an "Internet-only" sensation, plans are in the works to have it screened in cinemas throughout the Sussex area and beyond. The video was originally posted on January 29, 2010 and is being licensed for broadcast around the world. For licensing information visit: Alexander Commercials in the United Kingdom by clicking here. Video © 2010 Sarah Alexander/Daniel Cox/Sussex Safer Roads Partnership.

Original material © 2010-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.

Friday, September 23, 2011

One Year Later - The Book Version of San Diego's Viral Hit Is Still a NY Times Bestseller.

** UPDATE, September 23, 2011 -- The book above has been #1 for eleven of the last 72 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List. The book finally dropped out of the top 25 on September 18, 2011. The CBS Television series, "$#*! My Dad Says," which debuted in September 2010 to mostly poor reviews, was cancelled in May 2011.   

** On May 4, 2010, "Sh** My Dad Says," the "R-rated" social media phenomenon that began in August 2009 on Twitter – attracting millions of followers as it moved to Facebook and to other social media platforms around the world – entered the rarefied air of the printed page.  

** It Books, an imprint of Harper-Collins, released a 176-page hardcover version of "S*** My Dad Says" – filled with hilarious and sometimes poignant stories - supplemented by only a few of the more than 100 profane, ribald and politically incorrect quips posted on Twitter and uttered by Samuel "Sam" Halpern, the 74-year-old father of Justin Halpern of San Diego.

** The book does NOT replicate nor re-hash what's available online. It is a stand-alone product, a memoir of sorts, filled with short chapters - whereby son Justin provides the "back story" about his relationship with his father. The publisher's marketing notes describe the book as an "all-American tale that unfolds on the Little League field, in Denny's, during excruciating family road trips, and - most frequently - in the Halperns' kitchen over bowls of Grape-Nuts."  

** While some of the quips seen on Twitter do re-appear, the book is filled with fresh material. It is an equally hilarious but more fully formed (and surprisingly touching) collection of stories that paint an almost loving picture of what it was like for Justin to grow up in the shadow of his brainy and brutally blunt father.

** Justin's story has been told numerous times – and is available at so many other online venues – (the best, in my view, was published last year in the Los Angeles Times) – that I'm not going to get into an in-depth recap of how he got here today. In short, after being dumped by his girlfriend in Los Angeles, Justin Halpern, now 29, founder of the humor website, "Holy Taco" – and a senior writer for – moved back with his parents in San Diego.

** On August 4, 2009, he began posting a string of outrageous quips spun by his father – some dating back to Justin's own childhood – to a Twitter account, which in turn spread virally, capturing the attention of celebrities, literary agents and entertainment producers.

** Justin's father Sam, who's described as being "like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair" – is a retired scientist from the University of California, San Diego. He's not only corrosively blunt – but he's also, according to the Los Angeles Times, reported to be extremely protective of his privacy, refusing all requests for interviews. Whatever else we might want to know about this secretive but sometimes hilariously crude man - can only come through his adoring son - who describes his dad as "awesome."

 ** "My dad went to medical school," Justin Halpern told the Times in February. He lectured at Harvard. He's [expletive deleted] way smarter than I could ever hope to be."

** Sample quips from Justin's dad:  

"Look at that dog's rear. You can tell by the dilation of his a** that he's going to take a s*** soon. See. There it goes."  

"Oh please, you practically invented lazy. People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it."  

"You ranked the 25 Christmas presents you want, in order of how much you want them? Are you insane? I said tell me what you want for Christmas. I didn't ask you to make a f***** college football poll." 

"I'm sitting in one of those TGI Friday's places, and everyone looks like they want to shove a shotgun in their mouth."  

"Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn't stand for sh**. Just sat there. Big let down."  

"Why am I going to pay $200 (for a plane ticket) so a six-year-old can see a wedding? You think that's a moment he cares about? Two years ago he was still sh****** his pants."  

"The worst thing you can be is a liar. . . . Okay, fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but then number two is liar. Nazi one, liar two."  

"My flight lands at 9:30 on Sunday...You want to watch what? What the f*** is Mad Men? Well I'm (going to be) a mad man if you don't pick me the hell up."

** The thing most surprising to me as a reader are passages in the book that illustrate the humanity of Justin's Dad. There are numerous "father-to-son" conversations whereby Justin's Dad, almost surreptitiously, dispenses advice based on his own experiences with the business of living and being a parent.

** For example, when Justin forgets to meet his Dad to help tend the garden - and decides instead to have a fun time with pals in Mexico - Dad is at first enraged, screaming that he almost called the cops. Then he calms down, motions Justin over, and in a rare display of open affection, grabs and bear-hugs his son and says, "You dumb s***. I can't wait until you have a kid of your own and you have to worry about what happens to him. You never stop worrying about your children. It sucks. You watch what you (get into), because this is your life, this bulls*** right here."  

** More quips from Justin's dad:  

(While watching "Schindler's List"): "What do you want? You want me to pass you some candy? They're throwing people in the f****** gas chamber, and you want a Skittles?"  

"How the f*** should I know if the food's gone bad? Eat it. You get sick, it wasn't good. You people, you think I got microscopic f****** eyes."  

"You're being f****** dramatic. You own a TV and an air mattress. That's not exactly what I'd call "a lot to lose."

"I wanted to see Detroit win. I've been there. It looks like God took a s*** on a parking lot. They deserve some good news."

"Remember how you used to make fun of me for being bald?...No, I'm not gonna make a joke. I'll let your mirror do that."  

"Give your mother the front seat...I don't give a s*** if she said you could have it, that's what she's supposed to do, and you're supposed to say, 'No, I insist.' You think I'm gonna drive around with my wife in the backseat and a nine-year-old in the front? You're a crazy son-of-a-b****."

** In my view, the greatest of ironies – one that has been missed by many observers amid the fun and frivolity about a cantankerously funny old man – is this: It's not about how popular Samuel Halpern has become – it's about how we accept and laugh more readily – at off-color remarks coming from a senior citizen.  

** My theory is because we enter and exit this world in diapers - we're reflexively more tolerant of people who are very young or very old - than we are of people who are "in the middle." We know this to be true because if Sam Halpern was a 30-year old man, he wouldn't be as funny. It's not just his words that make us howl – it's the fact that they're coming from a 74-year old man – to whom we've given more latitude to say or do whatever he wants. We give him a pass, a badge of wisdom for seeing it all. Conversely, for a toddler, we impart an aura of innocence and cuteness onto a being who's seen very little. In sum, we tend to let the very young and the very old - get away with things - that we'd never allow from others.

** More pearls of "wisdom" from Justin's dad:  

"I don't give a s*** how it happened, the window is broken... Wait, why is there syrup everywhere? Okay, you know what? Now I give a s*** how it happened. Let's hear it."  

"So he called you a homo. Big deal. There's nothing wrong with being a homosexual. No, I'm not saying you're a homosexual. J*s*s Chr*st, now I'm starting to see why this kid was giving you s***."

"Why the f*** would I want to live to 100? I'm 73 and sh**'s starting to get boring. By the way, there's no money left when I go, just fyi."  

"You need to flush the toilet more than once...No, YOU, YOU specifically need to. You know what, use a different toilet. This is my toilet."  

"Sometimes life leaves a hundred-dollar bill on your dresser, and you don't realize until later that it's because it f***** you."  

"Can we talk later? The news is on... Well, if you have tuberculosis it's not gonna get any worse in the next 30 minutes, J*s*s."  

"A parent's only as good as their dumbest kid. If one of them wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you've failed."

** Why are we more forgiving of senior citizens delivering off-color remarks? In fact, there are educated answers that go beyond our own sense of intuition.

** Dr. Michael Mantell, a clinical psychologist, author, television correspondent and columnist for San Diego Magazine - and a former chief psychologist for Children's Hospital and Health Center of San Diego and the San Diego Police Department - believes this phenomenon is partially rooted in "a fundamental respect for elders that many still have in society."  

** "Those who don't have it," Dr. Mantell says, "are not tolerant of seniors, and are likely not tolerant of people who are younger as well. We tend to equate seniors with our grandparents. And again, for those (of us) who have positive, living relationships - our sense of respect for them continues."

** Even more gems from Justin's dad:  

(On finishing last in the 50-yard dash): "It kinda looked like you were being attacked by a bunch of bees or something. Then when I saw the fat kid with the watch who was timing you start laughing... Well, I'll just say it's never a good sign when a fat kid laughs at you."  

"You're like a tornado of bulls*** right now. We'll talk again after your bulls*** dies out over someone else's house."  

"I need to change clothes? Wow. That's big talk coming from someone who looks like they robbed a Mervyn's."  

"If mom calls, tell her I'm sh*****g. Son, marriage is about not having to lie about taking a s***."  

"Happy birthday, I didn't get you a present...Oh, mom got you one? Well, that's from me then too, unless it's sh***y."  

"Mom is smarter than you...No? Well, ask yourself this; has mom ever unknowingly had toilet paper hanging out of her a**?...Mom 1. You 0."  

"No. Tell 'em we're not doing Christmas dinner at a casino. Don't be an a** about it, but tell them why it's a f****** stupid idea."

** Meanwhile, as you read these words, the latest chapter in the saga of "S___ My Dad Says" has come to an end. Justin Halpern, who co-wrote and co-produced the television sit-com version of his Twitter feed (with William Shatner playing Justin's Dad) - was cancelled last month by CBS.  The show just wasn't any good.
** Situation comedies featuring curmudgeonly parents have been a television staple for decades. It was too much to ask the television series to defy the stark reality - that there was only so much "funny" - that could be squeezed out of this formula - and more specifically - from Justin's dad.

** So how much longer will the "Sh** My Dad Says" phenomenon last? With the death of the television show, I can't help thinking this is just a passing fad, a bright star that will quickly fade.

** So I'll stop thinking about it for now. We already know few things last forever. We don't know whether Sam Halpern is a passing fad or a potential institutional fixture on the landscape of American humor. So let's just sit back and enjoy the moment, and see how long we can continue to be lifted by our own gales of laughter.  

Original Material © 2010-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Men vs. Women -- and Their Material Things


** Bringing back an "oldie" – just because it was a hit before. (The real reason is it will give me more time to outline and finish my next news post.) Until then...

** I don't usually comment on the quality of television commercials, but ten months have gone by and I'm still laughing. The Heineken spot below is fantastic, because it illustrates in a dynamic and humorous way -- the different values men and women place on material things. The commercial is entirely in Dutch (except for the end logo) and has aired unaltered on American television -- and is often seen on ESPN and during sporting events.

** Since its original debut in late 2008, its viral version on You Tube has been viewed nearly 3 million times. It has spawned two "sequels" by Heineken itself -- as well as a number of "knock-offs."

** A simple English translation of what the woman in the black dress says to her girlfriends touring her new home is: "Now this is the living room....and over here is the bedroom....(pause)...with...."

And everyone starts screaming.

** Does it make people buy more beer? I can't say because I'm biased. I've been in love with the Heineken brand since our first visit to Amsterdam many years ago. But in my view, this is already one of the funniest beer commercials of all time. (To be fair, if this commercial was "flipped," it could show men's unending fascination with gadgets and power tools.)

(Original material © 2009-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

** BREAKING / EXCLUSIVE - Pat Brown Promoted to Chief Weather Anchor at KGTV 10 (ABC - San Diego).

** "How's It Going to End?" has learned that nearly 18 months after her return to San Diego television news - Pat Brown has been promoted to chief weather anchor at KGTV Channel 10 (ABC) in San Diego. Although terms were not disclosed, she has signed a multi-year contract and will assume her new post on Monday, April 25, 2011.

** "I'm just jazzed to be back on the air on a regular basis on one of the top stations in San Diego," she said. "There's no place else I'd rather be."

** According to Jay Maloney, multi-platform marketing director for KGTV, Ms. Brown will return to a weekday schedule, delivering weather reports Monday through Friday during Channel 10's 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcasts. She replaces Byron Miranda, who had been the station's chief weather anchor since May 28, 2009.

** Jeff Block, KGTV vice president and general manager, expressed enthusiasm about Ms. Brown's promotion.

** "We are excited to have one of the most trusted forecasters joining San Diego’s most experienced news team," said Block. "Pat Brown knows and loves San Diego. She understands what it takes to accurately forecast our weather. San Diego trusts Pat Brown to forecast the weather, but she’s also a great person with incredible warmth and personality."

** The pioneering host of the "P.M. Magazine" show on KFMB (CBS) Channel 8 during the 1980s – Ms. Brown, (like KGTV 10's Hal Clement, who also worked at KFMB) - has been a near continuous presence on the landscape of San Diego television. A former state pageant queen from Sheperdstown, West Virginia – Ms. Brown effortlessly re-invented herself into a news reporter and TV personality – before settling into her present incarnation as a weather anchor armed with a consistently sunny disposition.

** In an ironic twist, the man Ms. Brown replaces – Byron Miranda - will leave KGTV Channel 10 San Diego to join KNBC 4 in Los Angeles. According to a press release issued by Vickie Burns, vice president of news and content for NBC - Mr. Miranda will join KNBC on May 2, 2011, helming that station's weekend weather segments at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. - as well as providing "fill-in" work during the weekdays as necessary.

** The changes come nearly two years (late June 2009) after a controversial decision by NBC brass to replace Pat Brown at KNSD (NBC San Diego, formerly NBC 7/39) - with Fritz Coleman, a meteorologist delivering news about San Diego's weather - from a network studio based in Los Angeles (KNBC Channel 4). The decision was controversial not only because it angered Ms. Brown's fan base, but more significantly, it marked the first time in San Diego television news history that the region's weather forecasts were broadcast to local viewers via satellite from Los Angeles. As one journalist noted to me back in 2009, it was a phenomenon that would never occur between NBC network-owned stations in Philadelphia and New York - two cities comparable in distance from each other as San Diego is to Los Angeles – with distinct cultural and demographic differences that can't be dismissed.

** While it's not yet formally known if Mr. Miranda will now go head-to-head during weekends at KNBC 4 Los Angeles against KGTV 10 in San Diego - it's still widely expected that he'll be delivering San Diego's weather on KNSD NBC San Diego - via satellite from KNBC's studios in Los Angeles (Burbank).

** Mr. Miranda has logged many stops in his career, working at stations in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as appearing on CNN and CNN International. Industry sources requesting anonymity pointedly noted that Mr. Miranda's exit comes just before the two-year anniversary of his contract with KGTV Channel 10 - consistent with a long-term desire to return to Los Angeles - even if it means, as it does here, reappearing in a limited role on KNBC Channel 4 - as a stepping stone to "bigger things," i.e., a larger career in news and/or in entertainment - in the nation's second largest media market.

** With the impending departure of Oprah Winfrey's talk show as a lead-in for San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB Channel 8's 5 p.m. news broadcast - the race to be #1 at 5 p.m. appears to be wide open in 2011-2012. Industry observers and advertisers are eager to see whether KFMB - minus Oprah's lead-in audience - will be able to hang onto its ratings lead during the 5 p.m. news hour.

** Meanwhile, KGTV Channel 10 News Director Joel Davis said Pat Brown's return to the station's weekday broadcasts on April 25 will be seamless.

** "Pat Brown fits right in with Kim (Kimberly Hunt), Steve (Atkinson), Hal (Clement) and the entire 10News team," he said. "Anyone who lives here knows it’s not always 70 degrees and sunny. You want someone who's been here and has the experience to understand San Diego's weather. And that’s Pat Brown."

** Ms. Brown, who has been doing fill-in work for KGTV (ABC) Channel 10 since November 2009, said she is overjoyed to return to a weekday schedule.

** "I'm never planning to leave San Diego and this is a wonderful opportunity for me to do what I love to do," she said. "I want to continue to re-connect with the fans and viewers who have followed me through the years. I've missed them and I hope they've missed me."

** This column's last story about Pat Brown - posted on November 4, 2009 - appears below.

(Original material © 2011 by David Kusumoto Communications.)

* * * * *

** BREAKING / EXCLUSIVE – Pat Brown Returns to San Diego Television News.

** "How's It Going to End?" has learned that four months after leaving KNSD (NBC) Channel 7/39 – long-time San Diego news and weather anchor Pat Brown – has a new weekend gig.

** She will join ABC-affiliate KGTV Channel 10 as a weather anchor beginning this Sunday, November 8, 2009, at 6pm and at 11pm. She will work Saturdays and Sundays through the end of January, 2010.

** Pat Brown declined to comment about her status other than to say she is "happy" to be returning to San Diego television.

** However, Joel Davis, news director for KGTV Channel 10 – confirmed that Ms. Brown will fill in for weathercaster Kerstin Lindquist, who is on maternity leave.

** “We’re thrilled that since KNSD (NBC Channel 7/39) has farmed out their weather duties to Los Angeles, that we have the opportunity to bring someone of Pat’s stature and popularity to the 10 News weather team," Davis said. "It reinforces our commitment to bring San Diegans important local weather information – with the best weathercasters and the most advanced technology.”

** This development means Pat Brown will have worked at all three major network affiliates – KFMB CBS Channel 8, KNSD NBC 7/39 and KGTV ABC Channel 10 – since the late 1980s. Sources say she'll spend her weekdays continuing to serve the community as a tour guide for DayTrippers, a San Diego-based travel firm.

** My original story, posted on July 27, 2009, appears below.

* * * * *
MONDAY, JULY 27, 2009
One Month Later -- What does Pat Brown's departure mean for local TV news?

** On Friday, June 26, 2009, Pat Brown gave her last weather report on NBC-owned KNSD 39 (Cable Channel 7) in San Diego.

** The pioneering host of the groundbreaking "P.M. Magazine" show on KFMB Channel 8 during the 1980s – Ms. Brown had a near continuous presence on the San Diego television news landscape. The former state pageant queen from Sheperdstown, West Virginia (1977), moved west – and effortlessly re-invented herself into a beauty-with-brains TV personality and news reporter – before settling into her last incarnation as a weather anchor armed with an effervescently sunny on-air disposition. In an industry never known for stability, Ms. Brown's admirers knew her to be just that – a consistently productive and positive force for San Diego television programming – and for the community she continues to serve.

** The following Monday, Ms. Brown was replaced by Fritz Coleman, a nearly 30-year veteran of the TV wars from KNBC Channel 4 in Los Angeles, one of NBC's flagship-owned stations (alongside WNBC in New York).

** But that wasn't the headline to some of us. The headline was that the award-winning Mr. Coleman, by all accounts a "nice guy" with broad appeal – is now broadcasting his San Diego weather reports from Los Angeles – on a custom-built set back at KNBC.

** Though such "arrangements" aren't new – the move was the first of its kind involving a network-owned news station in San Diego. It illustrates the dire economic health of local television news – with KNSD NBC 39 (in my view) – probably faring the worst, budget wise, among its competitors. Station managers everywhere have been slashing budgets – first dumping behind-the-scenes staff and "superfluous programming" – while saving their biggest (and most visible) cuts for last.

** Pat Brown's departure wasn't your garden variety "revolving door" personnel change. It was emblematic of something worse that has cast a chill in the rooms and halls of KNSD NBC 39 – and beyond. Wishful-thinking station heads might be blocking out the precedent – and scoffing at satirically minded suggestions that any station that "jobs out" any portion of its local identity to a distant area code – is setting itself up to be wiped out entirely - by a thousand paper cuts afflicted over the next several years. Some TV insiders are quietly saying that "it could've been worse." Well, that's true. Maybe they should be thankful. They believe the tempest surrounding Ms. Brown's departure will "blow over." And likely it will. Fritz Coleman has already won over some skeptics – and I give credit to news director Greg Dawson for trying to manage the ill-smelling winds of anger still blowing after this change.

** But the bigger picture that's unique to KNSD NBC Channel 39 – has less to do with Pat Brown and more to do with the station itself being owned by NBC. Ms. Brown's departure raised eyebrows, for sure. But what was more ideologically significant to journalists – was that her departure and subsequent replacement by talent based in Los Angeles - was the first blatant evidence of what's been going on for a long time at network-owned stations in markets smaller than San Diego, e.g., the creeping decentralization of news and weather information – led by network executives who work in distant offices. Thus we have a classic instance whereby it's not always good to be OWNED by a network – and why it's sometimes better to be a network affiliate operating with greater independence.

** Since about 2002, TV news stations have been trending toward hiring more versatile reporters and anchors. These so-called "video-journalists" carry their own cameras and edit their own news segments – and sometimes get the privilege to present them live on the anchor desks where their higher-paid colleagues sit. Everyone knows that every "hybrid journalist" invited to the anchor desk to present his or her story – is being "screen tested." Such "hybrids" save big-time dollars for station managers – and equally significant, they can serve as "leverage" when the contracts of highly paid news anchors come up for renewal.

** On the surface, it appears to some that Pat Brown's "Achilles heel" was not being "versatile" enough. If so, you can count on other anchors at NBC 7/39 to be reviewed similarly for "fitness and compatibility" with the network's finance department. Hence the oft-heard advice during the last few years remains sound, e.g., "if you're still in TV news – the faster you can jump on the "hybrid train" the better – thus avoiding obsolescence and/or getting dragged or tossed behind.

** Local news anchors draw salaries that are double, triple or even higher than those working behind the scenes. An anchor's "work" is to bring in ratings. So what's that got to do with Pat Brown? Nothing unless you think she was a drag on ratings. I personally don't. It was all about saving money – but in a way more pernicious because the station is owned by a network - that decreed that news about the weather – does NOT require a local person to deliver it, hence can be pared less painfully than other departments.

** Everyone working in television news sees the handwriting on the wall. But in the past, even when times were good - that handwriting was mostly about being dumped in a budget cut and being replaced by someone cheaper, usually someone younger from a smaller market.

** But at a network-OWNED station – you have the additional fear of watching departments consolidated or phased out in stages, replaced by talent or crews located hundreds of miles away at other stations bigger than your own. It's analogous to newspapers shedding staff while publishing articles by news syndicates or wire services that are written in other states.

** What's unfortunate is despite the acknowledged downturn in local TV news nationwide - (because web-based news keeps siphoning viewers away) – the band-aid patches applied by network-owned-and-operated "suits" can't stop the bleeding. And watering down a station's local news product – under the aegis of saving money during a recession – also risks washing away the higher purpose of targeting audiences and advertisers in a region that will drift further away from KNSD NBC Channel 39 – and toward competing stations that remain committed to San Diego.

** It bears repeating that San Diego is the ninth largest city in the U.S. Yet corporate America and NBC keeps treating San Diego as if it's geographically, demographically and politically identical to Los Angeles. I sense that Mr. Dawson knows this to be true, even if he can't say it. Corporate America has always acted as if San Diego is a suburb of Los Angeles – and even believe its WEATHER is the same – despite San Diego's location on a harbor and Los Angeles's location on a smoggy basin.

** NOTE: Philadelphia is about the same distance to New York (and yet so different in character) - as San Diego is to Los Angeles. But NBC knows that replacing Philly-based weather anchors at WCAU NBC Channel 10 - with their counterparts at WNBC 4 in New York - would be greeted with outrage. Yet network executives continue to have a "blind spot" about San Diego - seeing it as being the same as L.A. - despite the polarizing political and cultural differences that are obvious to viewers in both cities.

** Pat Brown will re-invent herself like she always has – and will turn up soon because of her strong ties to the community. But in my view, intra-state or interstate consolidations – involving network-owned news stations like KNSD Channel 39 in San Diego – are incompatible with efforts to maintain revenues from local advertisers. Magnify that when you consider NBC's prime-time lineup is weak on every evening except Thursday – and that its sports product is limited to golf, NFL Sunday Night Football and the Olympics.

** The final irony amid all these words is this. A visit to KNSD NBC 7/39's website on Monday, July 27, 2009 at 9:45 p.m. Pacific Time – yielded the following banner slogan:

* * * * * *
(Original material © 2009-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.)