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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Cross-dressing for success
Client: Junglee Corporation (now part of Amazon.com)
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Cross-Dressing for Success
Time Frame: July 1998
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
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
’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 Amazon.com, which acquired Junglee a month
later for dollars 180 million.
Reportedly, Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com’s interactive
community group. Mathur is now working as VP of Amazon.com, but there’s
no word on whether he’ll be cross-dressing for them anytime soon.