CAMPAIGNS: Dot-com launch - Same old satire, brand new media

Client: J2 Communications (Los Angeles)

Client: J2 Communications (Los Angeles)

Client: J2 Communications (Los Angeles)

PR Team: Faiola Davis Public Relations (Los Angeles)

Campaign:: Launch of National

Time Frame: September to October 1999

Budget: Under dollars 10,000

Never underestimate the power of a good story. That’s what Faiola Davis

Public Relations proved in using PR exclusively to promote the launch of

National Lampoon. com on October 25.

Los Angeles-based J2 Communications bought National Lampoon in 1990 but

stopped publishing the magazine after November 1998 - it felt a web site

was a more viable option.

The PR firm was only given a month and a modest budget to drive traffic

to the satiric humor site. But Faiola Davis, which has a number of

dot-com clients, is familiar with tiny lead times because sites often

fall behind schedule. ’Driving visitors to the site on the 25th wasn’t

important,’ senior account executive Eric Lindborn explains. ’What was

important is that when they visited the site looked good and they kept

coming back.’


Time and money weren’t the only obstacles. The Web presence remains true

to the irreverent Lampoon style. Only reporters who would be sympathetic

to that humor - for example, a Gunville High feature that satirizes

school shootings - would be targeted.

A big plus, however, was National Lampoon’s established reputation.

’This was invaluable,’ remarks Faiola Davis partner Heidi Davis. ’Part

of the strategy was going to reporters to whom the brand would mean


Davis and Lindborn handled the short lead time by narrowly targeting

their contacts, seeking out high-profile media coverage to create a buzz

that eventually would be audible to smaller outlets.


Two weeks before launch, Lindborn’s group telephoned select journalists

- entertainment and Web reporters at Newsweek, USA Today, Entertainment

Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, LA Weekly and Rolling


The PR pros played up the brand, reminding reporters that the magazine

was at the cutting-edge during much of its tenure, stretching back to

1970. The original cast of Saturday Night Live had cut its teeth on the

National Lampoon Radio Hour and the original company had put out the

films Animal House and Vacation. They also told reporters that

characters and scenarios developed online will be promoted as TV

programs and films.

Jim Jimirro, J2 Communications’s chairman and CEO, and Scott Rubin, its

content editor and a former writer for David Letterman, gave interviews

and led reporters on a sneak peak of the yet-to-be-completed site.

Faiola Davis followed up with press kits. In a secondary offensive a

week before launch, the agency mailed 180 press releases to the top 30

daily newspapers, TV and radio networks, the major entertainment and

Internet publications and the AP.


Newsweek responded in its October 25 issue with a blurb in its

Cyberscope department. The day before, a local ABC radio affiliate in

Los Angeles broadcast an interview with Jimirro. Stories followed in PC

World Online,, USA Today (25 inches by its hi-tech reporter

along with a visual) and Entertainment Weekly, which did a full-page

review but gave the site only a ’C’ because the writer didn’t like some

of the content. Los Angeles-based Sitrick & Associates, which handles

the company’s IR, brought in a mention in the Los Angeles Times business


Within two days of the launch, the site had 250,000 visitors, while

around 1.5 million accumulated the first week. In a synchronistic bit of

luck, after shock-jock Howard Stern received a letter complaining about

the site, he talked about it on his November 10 show, mentioning the URL

(www.nationallampoon. com) twice.

’We’re very happy,’ Jimirro says. ’We had a great brand name. They had a

lot to work with and they maximized the coverage that they got.’


MTV Online and Spin magazine online have promised stories. Meanwhile,

the agency is preparing B-roll footage with animation from the site and

is following up with Web reviewers to view the online presence


The firm will continue to be selective, Davis says, while at the same

time aiming for wider coverage.

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