CAMPAIGNS: Best strategies and top tactics from the world of PR




Putting media in driver’s seat

Client: Dodge Division DaimlerChrysler Corp. (Detroit)

PR Team: DaimlerChrysler in-house (Auburn Hills, MI) and JR Thompson Co.

(Farmington Hills, MI)

Campaign: 5th Vipers Owners International

Time Frame: April 22 to 26, 1999

Budget: dollars 3 million

The opportunity to drive and help design fast cars is something few car

enthusiasts can pass up, as DaimlerChrysler discovered at its fifth

invitational event for Dodge Viper owners worldwide. Held at the MGM

Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, the event catered to consumers who are

faithful to dollars 70,000, 450-horsepower sports cars. With a nearby

racetrack, Las Vegas provided the perfect location for this event (past

ones have been held in Detroit; Monterey, CA; Orlando; and at the

Indianapolis 500).


This year, the company put a new twist on the event by giving the media

a more active role, allowing twice as many journalists to take seven

different Dodge vehicles for a spin and provide input on features that

should be included.

’We wanted to communicate and demonstrate the Dodge customer

relationship marketing message,’ says Dave Elshoff, Viper public

relations manager.

She adds that the message is that these customers are serious car owners

who also purchase other Dodge vehicles such as trucks. ’We also wanted

to show off Dodge’s present and future performance products.’


The program was three-pronged. The PR team decided to target the ’top

gun’ media - a core of car enthusiast magazine writers; as well as

conduct outreach to local Las Vegas media and develop a VNR satellite

feed to provide follow-up for the event.

As part of the first component, a number of exclusive writers from

publications such as Auto Week, Car & Driver, Popular Science, Popular

Mechanics and even some airline magazines were invited to attend the

event. The writers were able to drive on the drag strip and slalom


’We invited the people to see the event and drive our toys,’ says


’We asked them for their impressions of the car and told them that we

are going to build the next generation of the Viper.’ In a two-hour

roundtable discussion, the media were grilled about what features they

would like to see in the new Viper.

’We told the media in advance, ’you’ll be the first to see the sketches

and clay models, the first to drive the cars when they are first tested;

you are part of its evolution,’’ says Elshoff. ’It’s something that

people want to be a part of. They can say, ’I’m the one who thought up’

a certain feature.’


While only 10,400 Vipers have been sold since 1992, an impressive 2,000

Viper owners attended. Sixteen media representatives were also at the

event, and several other journalists who could not make it still

contributed ideas for the next generation of the Viper.

The story made international headlines from publications such as The

Financial Times, although most of the reporters were from monthlies. The

PR team is still waiting to see the results from the VNR and the monthly



’This program will have legs,’ stresses Elshoff. As the car evolves, he

will continue to involve the media in backgrounder events, although much

of this information will be provided under embargo. But when the new car

concept is ready, these media representatives will get the first


’There will be about a half-dozen opportunities to talk about the car

with an attentive opinion leader-type group,’ says Elshoff. ’They’ll

help us with the buzz and the play.’

Sketches of the new design could be available as early as this year,

although Daimler-Chrysler declined to reveal when the new Viper will

actually be available.

Then there will be concept and launch events to kick off the car.

Jan Jaben-Eilon


Golfers take aim at strokes

Clients: American Stroke Association (Dallas) and Bayer Corp. Consumer

Care Division (Morristown, N.J.)

PR Team: Golin/Harris International (Chicago)

Campaign: American Stroke Challenge

Time Frame: May to June 1999

Budget: About dollars 500,000

Entering the fifth year of Bayer’s joint campaign with the American

Stroke Association (ASA), the aspirin-maker needed to inject new life

into its annual May program. Since 1994 Stroke Awareness Month, which

had been dubbed ’Strokes Against Strokes’ aimed to educate golfers and

the public - strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the US.

This year, the PR team needed to ’reinvigorate the program, get more

people involved and reach more markets around the country,’ according to

Julie Kasten, senior account executive at Golin/Harris.


The ASA/Bayer campaign was renamed the ’American Stroke Challenge,’ and

emphasis was placed on the warning signs of a stroke, according to Brian

Henry, marketing manager at ASA. And to further stress this importance,

the association, which is still part of the American Heart Association,

got a new name and separate billing starting on January 1.

The campaign also focused on two well-known golfers, both of whom had

suffered from heart problems. Nancy Lopez from the LPGA lost her mother

to a heart attack in the late 1970s and a few years ago, her father was

diagnosed with heart disease. In addition, her husband has high blood

pressure, increasing his risk for stroke. Corey Pavin from the PGA Tour

lost his father to a heart attack in 1997, which caused him to withdraw

from the tour that year.

The two golfers challenged each other to see who could raise the most

money for the ASA. Bayer, which has given dollars 487,200 since 1994,

donated dollars 1,500 to ASA for each birdie the two golfers made during

May tournament play.

Moreover, one million golfers from 100 public golf courses in Atlanta,

Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Phoenix were

challenged to generate birdies during May. Two winning cities received

the ’Stroke Challenge’ cup and a putting clinic conducted by either

Lopez or Pavin.


The media was pitched in the seven cities and an SMT was held in New

York’s Central Park, after which a B-roll was provided. At many of the

golf courses, stroke risk assessments were provided. Brochures were

distributed along with magnets in the shape of stop signs listing the

stroke warning signs and reminding people to call 911 for help.


’We learned a lot of lessons from last year,’ says Henry. As of July 1,

the campaign garnered more than 188 million audience impressions, 50

broadcast hits and 46 print hits.

Among the media covering the campaign were USA Today, The New York

Times, Golf World Magazine, as well as major newspapers in each of the

targeted markets. On June 21, Fox News covered Lopez chipping a shot off

the roof of the 45-story Swiss Hotel in Chicago down to a par three golf


The campaign was also covered by local radio and TV and a number of web

sites including CNN/SI and ESPN Golf Online.

’We got great results in the local markets. There were more local

stories which really helped our campaign,’ says Kasten. After the event,

a check for dollars 233,000 was presented to the ASA. Perhaps more

importantly, crucial information was distributed to the public with this

year’s campaign.


According to Henry, the PR team plans to hold a meeting for next year’s

campaign. ’We expect to expand it quite a bit,’ he says. Although ASA

has chapters in some 1,500 cities, Henry says the association will stick

with the larger cities, ’where our affiliates have the staff to handle

the program.’

Jan Jabon-Eilon


Online retailers rally for privacy

Client: Online Privacy Alliance (Washington, DC)

PR Team: Ignition Strategic Communications (Washington, DC)

Campaign: E-Commerce Privacy Policies

Timeframe: Spring 1998 to Spring 1999 for the first phase

Budget: approximately dollars 200,000

Electronic merchants faced a stern warning. Federal Trade Commission

(FTC) chairman Robert Pitofsky told America’s e-commerce industry in the

spring of 1998 that they would either have to take rapid steps to

protect the privacy of consumers or the government would intervene. This

ultimatum planted a seed of concern among e-commerce proponents,

including John Kamp, senior vice president of the American Association

of Advertising Agencies (AAAA).

Also at stake were Internet sales: an FTC official estimated that online

purchasing could reach as high as dollars 220 billion in 200, but only

if consumers felt secure about releasing vital information over the


Pitofsky told The New York Times on July 13: ’Consumers will not engage

in e-commerce if they are worried about the safety of their personal

data, such as their postal and e-mail addresses, Social Security

numbers, phone numbers, and financial or medical records.’

The Online Privacy Alliance (OPA), which was formed in early 1998 to

promote greater use of privacy policies, got on board with a PR campaign

to persuade e-merchants to regulate themselves before the government

stepped in.


OPA retained the services of Ignition Strategic Communications whose

principals Sydney Rubin and Cindy DiBiasi helped to craft a simple, but

effective two-pronged strategy.

First, OPA would set the tone for the debate rather than let government

regulators get the upper hand, but its promises had to be backed up by

action, according to Rubin. Second, OPA would convince e-merchants to

take the route of self-regulation by adopting privacy policies.


Ignition developed the coalition and its objectives during the spring of

1998. When OPA’s guidelines for privacy were drafted, Ignition ensured

that they would be written in clear, readily understood language.

Shortly before a Commerce Department-sponsored conference on Internet

privacy, the FTC released a report in June that said only 14% of US

commercial web sites had posted information about their privacy


OPA held a press conference the day before the meeting to unveil its

mission statement; guidelines for privacy standards, which included

principles to protect children; and a blueprint for self-regulation. ’By

doing that,’ explains Rubin, ’reporters would use our material when

preparing their curtain-raisers (first stories) on the conference.’

OPA argued that the government already had laws on the books to crack

down on fraud; new laws would only place unnecessary restrictions on

e-merchants. But the OPA’s own specific proposals for enforcement

policies were not expected to be ready until September.

At the same time the OPA issued its proposal to enforce consumer

privacy, Pitofsky issued his warning. But OPA released its enforcement

policies earlier than anticipated.

It held a telephone news conference with OPA spokeswoman and former

Federal Trade Commissioner Christine Varney.

The enforcement progam would be conducted through the Better Business

Bureau Online and TRUSTe, sites that also have consumer-complaint


Ignition sponsored breakfast briefings for businesses, trade

associations, and companies selling products and services online during

the fall in cities such as Washington, New York, Seattle and Austin.

Invitations, which were sent via e-mail, not only built attendance but

also raised awareness among corporate executives of the need for privacy

policies. Trade associations also informed their member companies and

executives about the issue. Rubin estimates that more than 17,000

e-mails went out Mindshare Internet Campaigns developed a web site for

potential members to join OPA and obtain more information about the

privacy effort. Trade shows held by Internet World and Comdex provided

another avenue to educate online retailers.

At Internet World, OPA members had privacy information available at

their booths and executives who spoke were urged to include privacy


Bill Gates was the keynote speaker at the Comdex conference and also

stressed privacy. In addition, PC Forum, a meeting of high-level

Internet executives, provided a venue where the importance of privacy

policies would be discussed CEO to CEO.


The 1999 Georgetown Internet Privacy Policy Survey, which duplicated the

1998 FTC survey, found that two-thirds of the 364 sampled web sites had

posted privacy policies. Similarly, the survey of the top 100 most

heavily visited sites revealed that 94% of them had posted a privacy

policy - in 1998, only 71% had done so.

’The results exceeded our expectations,’ says Rubin. ’This campaign

galvanized fundamental change in business practices on the Internet, and

can serve as a model for bringing about other changes in practices and

policies in this new medium.’


But there is little time to exult in victory, according to Rubin. OPA is

now concentrating on ensuring that the policies are enforced and

consumers are armed with the information needed to make intelligent

choices when shopping online.

Steve Lilienthal


Cross-dressing for success

Client: Junglee Corporation (now part of

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Cross-Dressing for Success

Time Frame: July 1998

Budget: None

When Silicon Valley start-up Junglee Corporation decided to one-up the

competition and increase its visibility, its male CEO was happy to play

along by donning a dress.

The two-year-old Santa Clara company had achieved success developing

online shopping guide technology for portals such as Yahoo. However, it

didn’t have strong name recognition.

As Junglee shuffled along in obscurity, another Valley firm was making a

splash with a million-dollar-plus ad campaign starring a CEO in a sexy

black dress.

The sight of CrossWorlds Software CEO Katrina Garnett staring out from

the pages of Fortune and Forbes was enough to make any start-up’s

marketing team drool - especially one lacking advertising funds, says

Abbe Patterson, Junglee’s PR director at the time.


The CrossWorlds ad sparked an idea for Patterson: Why not play off the

hyped campaign with a Junglee spoof? ’I felt I had a great CEO who

happened to be a man, a man who could not put on a little black dress

and look good. And then it came to me - why not?’ she recalls.

Patterson and corporate communications director Rosie Hausler decided to

stage a photo shoot with Junglee CEO Rakesh Mathur posing in a black

cocktail dress. They would then pitch the photo to a hi-tech business or

mainstream media outlet as the basis of a humorous story. ’We believed

that the photo would have to be accompanied by editorial from a somewhat

sarcastic editor who would have fun with the story,’ Patterson


How did she sell Mathur on the cross-dressing concept? Actually, Mathur

was receptive to the idea, although the company’s more conservative

board members needed convincing. But when wary investors were told the

pitch would cost nothing, they gave the thumbs up.


Hausler and Patterson wanted to target a business publication with both

serious and irreverent editorial that also had an online version. Upside

magazine fit the bill.

Patterson called Upside, which had written about the Katrina Garnett ad

several weeks prior. Reporter and columnist Tia O’Brien agreed to write

story, and the magazine even paid a photographer to shoot the mock ad


Williams says Junglee’s pitch fit well with her publication’s tone and

sensibilities. ’Upside is a very personality-driven and skeptical

publication that’s good at getting behind the hype,’ says online editor

Tish Williams.

’And Junglee had a CEO who was willing to be a very good sport about the

whole thing and was willing to put himself on a limb as a personality.’

For the shoot, Mathur donned a dollars 68 knock-off of Garnett’s

designer dress - purchased at J.Crew online via Junglee’s own shopping

guide technology, a fact pointed out in the column’s text. The article,

which posted on July 21, 1998, ran two full pages and was peppered with

striking, full-color photos of Mathur in his evening attire.


Even before the column hit the Web, local and national press caught wind

of the spoof.

Wall Street Journal advertising columnist Sally Goll Beatty covered the

satire even before she found out which publication was running it. And

once the column hit the Internet, local print media such as the San

Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News followed suit with

stories of their own.

Patterson admits that publicity was spurred by the simultaneous release

of a similar mocking ad from another area software company, which

photographed its CEO in a tuxedo with the tagline, ’Software, not

evening ware.’ At the same time, press coverage was not unanimously

positive. In her ’Inside Silicon Valley’ column, San Jose Mercury News

reporter Chris Nolan, says she found the Upside item ’extremely

offensive and unnecessarily sexist.’ However, Nolan admits, ’It was a

really good thing for Junglee, since nobody knew who they were before.’

Mathur received hundreds of letters, calls and e-mails from investors,

industry analysts and business associates who had seen the column and

thought it was hilarious. In fact, it could have been one way that the

start-up caught the eye of, which acquired Junglee a month

later for dollars 180 million.

Reportedly, CEO Jeff Bezos told Mathur, ’When I saw you in

that dress, I said to myself, ’That’s a company I want to get in bed


The campaign also garnered the ’Best of Show’ award at Bulldog

Reporter’s 1998 Media Relations Awards last May. ’It seems like the only

person who really had a problem with it was Rakesh’s mom,’ laughs



Hausler moved to Seattle and now works for’s interactive

community group. Mathur is now working as VP of, but there’s

no word on whether he’ll be cross-dressing for them anytime soon.

Aimee Grove.

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