Book of Lists 2006

It was a year of scandals and spies, blogs and flogs, backdating and Borat, and welcoming "Macaca" to America. PRWeek's editorial team picks - and picks on - the year's heroes and halfwits, in PR and beyond.

It was a year of scandals and spies, blogs and flogs, backdating and Borat, and welcoming "Macaca" to America. PRWeek's editorial team picks - and picks on - the year's heroes and halfwits, in PR and beyond

10 PR blunders that opened up the crisis playbook

1 HP's spying blind
The computer giant presented 2006's best corporate soap opera when its chairman OK'd spying on its own board and journalists to root out leaks. New word "pretexting" was the method employed to access personal information on the targets. While many CEOs might have cheered at turning the tables on reporters, they did so secretly.

2 Dell's exploding laptops
Video footage of an exploding laptop at a conference in Japan caught Dell flatfooted, as the clip spread far faster than the company's subsequent response. When will computer companies finally figure out this Interweb thing?

3 Cheney got his gun
Yeah, it was an accident. But with the bungled communications response that followed the Veep shooting his friend while hunting, one could be forgiven for thinking conspiracy theories. Cheney's people weren't talking to the White House, McClellan joked while the guy suffered complications, and the media had a field day reporting on the scramble.

4 Oprah gets Freyed
Winfrey first downplayed the revelation that many of the claims made by James Frey in his once-acclaimed "memoir" A Million Little Pieces never happened. But when she knew the audience wouldn't buy it, she used her bully pulpit to rip Frey to shreds and restore her own image.

5 Wal-Mart and Edelman's blog blunder
The retail giant can ill afford bad press these days. Meanwhile, Edelman had made much of its rivals' ethical slights and of its dominance in navigating the new-media market. One improperly disclosed blog later, funded by Wal-Mart's own Astroturf organization, and both companies look bad.

6 Celebs behaving badly
This year was truly awash in celebrity bad judgment and subsequent mea culpas, including, but not limited to, Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan, Michael Richards, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Nicole Richie. Vastly inflated self-importance mixed with alcohol, drugs, or diminishing star power are, in some combination, generally to blame.

7 Fox throws out the OJ
Fox has never been the highbrow choice. But its bad-taste barometer was way off here as one of its companies agreed to publish Simpson's book, If I Did It (under ReganBooks) and air a TV interview about its content. But Rupert Murdoch's rare public mea culpa made it all worthwhile.

8 Cristal thinks it's too good for us
Jay-Z touted Cristal Champagne, but the MD of Champagne Louis Roederer told The Economist he'd prefer that rappers drink something else. A half-hearted boycott effort may not have taken flight, but the company displayed no class in judging the color of money coming its way.

9 Comcast sleeps on the job
Consumer empowerment was taken to a new level when a Comcast customer videotaped a repairman who fell asleep on his couch, while waiting for his own service support to call him. The video went round the world faster than you can say, "Please hold, someone will be with you shortly."

10 Allen full of macaca
During midterm campaign season, (soon to be) former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) referred to a young man of Indian decent as "Macaca" during a rally, and welcomed him to America. Turns out the guy was born in Fairfax County, VA. Good thing it wasn't an important election.

 

10 Most daunting jobs in PR

1 Tony Snow, White House press secretary
Press corps dislikes ex-Fox newsman's visibility, politics, and hair. At least he's not Scott McClellan.

2 Paul Miller, president, American League of Lobbyists
Lobbyists are unpopular in the best of times. With Abramoff and his crooked pals making news, these aren't the best of times.

3 Ryan Donovan, director of corporate media relations, Hewlett-Packard
Donovan got to explain to his media contacts why HP took up spying on reporters. Hope that river of trust ran pretty deep.

4 Catherine Mathis, VP of corporate communications, New York Times Company
The most prestigious brand in the media had a rocky year, financially, politically, and otherwise. Mathis had to explain that to media writers, the most self-loathing reporters of all.

5 Jonathan Supranowitz, VP of PR, New York Knicks
As the new PR head for this inept pro sports franchise, Supranowitz has the thankless task of trying to keep the tabloids at bay while his team falls further into a black comedy of on-court losses and off-court sniping. Are the Mets hiring?

6 Yahoo's PR team
Try as it might, Yahoo is still a step behind rivals like Google. Its PR function - a tricky beast to manage given its various arms and units - faces a big task in positioning it as a genuine Web 2.0 competitor. The recent management reshuffle gives them interesting material to work with, though.

7 Ken Cohen, public affairs VP, ExxonMobil
In the midst of the war in Iraq, high oil prices, and record profits, Cohen had to persuade the public that oil companies aren't the bad guys. On the plus side, his new CEO appears slightly less evil.

8 Leslie Dach, EVP of corporate affairs and government relations, Wal-Mart
Dach went from being Edelman's point man on the widely hated company (hard) to Wal-Mart's in-house Democratic mastermind (harder).

9 Harry Clark, managing partner, the Stanwich Group
Private equity groups are perceived as sinister and untrustworthy. Clark is the man setting up the new trade group, the Private Equity Council, to bolster the industry's reputation. That job would be a lot easier if they weren't so rich.

10 Jennifer Brunn, publicity manager, ReganBooks
Pity Brunn, who found herself as the media contact for the publishing company responsible for the ill-fated OJ "confession" book. La Cosa Nostra would have been a more respected client.

 

5 Brands that rocked

1 You Tube
The numbers tell the story: 100 million videos currently airing; 70,000 videos uploaded each day; the $1.65 billion purchase price; and endless hours spent by people watching videos. Deemed 2006's best invention by Time, YouTube has become the center of video content on the Web.

2 Volkswagen
From that creepy looking Fast character to creepy looking Slash playing guitar in front of a wall of VW's stacked like amplifiers, the automaker announced a return to its irreverent roots via a marketing push resulting in increased sales of nearly 10% over 2005. The launch of the GTI and relaunch of the Rabbit aided growth as did separating the once combined VW and Audi communications team into two separate entities.

3 Target
It's always been a great brand, but this year in particular it was notable for its continued greatness even when rival retailers struggled. With a raft of new designers (especially youth-focused), a comprehensive review to hire a multicultural firm, and rising sales contrasting with Wal-Mart's weak figures, Target is on a roll.

4 Motorola
As one analyst put it, Motorola may not be out front blazing new technology trails, but it's continually coming out with the most fashion-forward and must-have wireless devices. This year it's the Motorola Q (l), a strong rival to the Blackberry and Treo. Ads for the Q effectively tout its fashion accessory appeal and functionality.

5 Rachael Ray
Who knew this annoying 30-minute-mealer would turn into the next Oprah? But her empire grows apace, from her branded "EVOO" and knives to "run through" ingredients, to a talk show that's bafflingly popular. She even has drinking games devoted to her. Yumm-O!

5 Brands that rock-bottomed

1 The Republican Party
As President Bush sits safely in the White House for now, his party lost control of the House and Senate in the mid-term elections with voters most concerned over the war in Iraq - backed up by a damning report.

2 Hewlett-Packard
To say HP's attempt at trying to sniff out a boardroom leak went bad would be putting it mildly. The discovery that HP hired a contractor, who illegally accessed phone records of nine reporters, led to a storm of negative press and the resignation of its chairwoman Patricia Dunn. But not all is lost - its stock has actually gone up over the past few months.

3 Sony
It hasn't always been profitable, but Sony has beaten financial expectations for four quarters. The catch: it cut 10,000 jobs and closed nine factories along the way. Despite The Da Vinci Code's success, Sony battled negative press around its enormous voluntary recall of laptop batteries and PS3 shortages. Last year's DRM issues must have seemed like a picnic.

4 Microsoft
One day, supposedly early next year, Vista will actually be available. The launch date for the long-delayed operating system that will succeed Windows XP has been pushed back again to January 2007. Couple that with negative reviews for its Zune and you have a not-so great year.

5 Ford
Layoffs, plant closings, weak sales, a controversial gay-media boycott, and the inability to define an effective marketing message (the Bold Moves campaign hasn't fulfilled company hopes) have led to a rough year, which Ford will cap off by borrowing $18 billion in financing as it tries to restructure. New CEO Alan Mulally better be Ford tough.

5 Most-watched media brands

1 Google
Made tons of headlines this year, most recently for buying YouTube. It's also helping out the newspaper industry allowing companies to buy ads on newspaper Web sites through its site.

2 Condé Nast
The magazine stalwart is significantly investing in its Internet properties. And with its highly anticipated business magazine Portfolio poaching talent from some of the industry's top titles, its launch will be one to watch.

3 News Corp
Despite slumping ratings at flagship Fox News, the conglomerate has plenty to cheer about. It has used this year to improve on its MySpace acquisition, hiring a safety czar to oversee the site and make it safer for teens.

4 Huffington Post
The little blog that could has become a top political voice online. Its announcement that it will soon add original reporting to its content adds to its relevance.

5 CBS Evening News
Katie Couric plus a new format put the Eye under scrutiny, but it remains in third place. However, Couric is starting to get better reviews, beginning with her Election Night coverage.

5 Mostly botched media brands

1 Time Inc.
Layoffs continued this year as it faced the same challenges as the rest of the industry. Its move to sell 18 of its titles, including Parenting, has been viewed as a last-ditch effort to get back on track.

2 Village Voice
Since its acquisition by New Times Media last year, the Voice has lost some steam and credibility. Senior-level exits and general staff instability have all but ruined the once-venerable alt-weekly.

3 Hachette Filipacchi
Not only did it shutter the print version of Elle Girl, it also had a number of layoffs. Its highly anticipated launch of Shock was also marred by a legal battle over images used in its first issue.

4 Tribune Company
An impending sale slowed it down this year, while turmoil at the LA Times, where editors and publisher were forced out for not adhering to corporate-sanctioned job cuts, gave Tribune unwanted space on everyone else's pages.

5 NBC
Save for a few exceptions, it still struggles to find primetime success. And its recent layoffs - all part of the NBCU 2.0 strategy - have affected the news division.

 

10 Business events that caused a stir

1 Enron chapter over
The end of the Enron trial last spring brought a close to this infamous chapter in US business history. Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling were found guilty, and both paid dearly - Skilling, with a 24-year jail sentence and millions of dollars in fines; and Lay, with his life after suffering a heart attack in July.

2 BP pipeline disaster
Impending leaks in an Alaska pipeline forced a massive shutdown in August, even though BP knew well in advance the pipes had problems. "With hindsight, that's clearly a gap in our program," an exec admitted. Duh.

3 Google buys YouTube
Was the $1.65 billion YouTube buy a steal or a sign we've already forgotten the tech bubble's ridiculous valuations? Don't question your Google overlords, human!

4 Newswires on the block
Warren Buffett bought BusinessWire, and PR Newswire acquired US Newswire. CCNMatthews bought Market Wire, and Nasdaq grabbed PrimeZone. Who's going to be next?

5 Private equity buyout blitz
Money, money everywhere! Private equity firms, flush with cash, bought up a bushel of companies in an unprecedented shopping spree in 2006. Look for even bigger deals in the year to come.

6 Dubai ports deal controversy
Plan to sell control of key US ports to a Mideast company became a political football with overtones of protectionism and xenophobia. It also meant more work for cross-border M&A PR firms.

7 Agency acquisitions
Financial Dynamics is snapped up by business consulting group FTI, Edelman snagged A&R Partners, and WPP bought Public Strategies.

8 Lincoln Group wins another Iraq contract
The shadowy DC firm made headlines for paying to plant US propaganda in Iraqi publications - then followed up by winning a new multimillion-dollar contract. Investigative reporters are either crying, or champing at the bit.

9 Buffett powers up to Gates
The frugal billionaire finally determined he couldn't spend all his cash in Omaha, and pledged close to $40 billion to the already flush Gates Foundation. Third World diseases cowered in fear.

10 Tierney-led group buys the 'Philadelphia Inquirer'
Career ad and PR man Brian Tierney led a group of investors pledging to revitalize the flagging fortunes of the once-great Philadelphia paper. Six months later, budget cuts continue and the possibility of a strike looms. News is a thankless business.

 

5 Best-in-class communicators

1 Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO, Sun Microsystems
Knowing that being an executive today is as much about pressing the flesh online (i.e. giving interviews to blogs) as it is about strategizing, Schwartz's interview schedule with all media outlets made ubiquitous his explanation for why the company decided to make Java open-source.

2 Stephen Colbert
The man who savagely ridiculed President George W. Bush at the White House Correspondent's Dinner, got Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) to parrot a fondness for prostitutes and cocaine, and received countless fawning magazine profiles, was the personality to talk about in 2006.

3 Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of 'South Park'
Few entertainment shows retain their relevance so far from their inception, but in its 10th season, the creators effectively and ferociously skewered Scientology, avoidance of the depiction of Mohammed, the hype surrounding video game launches, and teacher-student relationships.

4 Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)
After a GOP heavily influenced by the right was trounced in the midterm elections, Specter emerged as the voice of a moderate Republican Party. It's unseen as to whether this trend will continue in 2008, but, if it does, it's Specter's voice who leads it.

5 Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Born a traditional Muslim woman in Somalia, Ali eventually moved to the Netherlands, renounced her religion, and got elected to Parliament, raising eyebrows with her arguments against some tenets of Islam, and in favor of women's rights and equality. She braved death threats, went into hiding, and moved to the US, where she writes about various aspects of Islam for the American Enterprise Institute.

 

5 Foot-in-mouth communicators

1 Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
We should reserve an annual spot on this list for him. You may find it troubling that an entire party's chances hinged on a poorly uttered joke from a senator who wasn't even running, but that's exactly what talking heads were debating days before the vote.

2 Mark Hurd, CEO of HP
It's not the most egregious error in HP's messy pretexting scandal, but Hurd erred by saying to reporters, "We may never know the full extent of what went on... or whether we'll be able to obtain all the information in this investigation, due to its complexity," when ostensibly calling a press conference to do just that.

3 Kim Etheredge
We don't know what truly happened when Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens ingested too many prescription pills, and part of that falls to his publicist Etheredge. Compounding her poor performance was the plays-well-nowhere quip: "He has 25 million reasons why he should be alive," referring to Owens' recently signed contract.

4 Judith Regan
It takes an act of brazen stupidity to make Americans angry at a woman who relates a tale about domestic violence. But she appeared to be the publisher who cried wolf, seemingly drumming up a story about her own past of being the victim of violence only after people questioned her decision to publish OJ Simpson's money-grabbing book. In the end, we all lost.

5 Sen. George Allen (R-VA)
While it's debatable whether or not the soon-to-be ex-senator's gaffe cost the GOP control of the Senate (by virtue of VP Dick Cheney's tiebreaking vote), no one can fathom how a Presidential candidate would utter a racial epithet not once, but twice while being filmed.

 

10 Staff moves that made the news

1 PepsiCo promotes Nooyi
In promoting Indra Nooyi to CEO, Pepsi becomes the largest company in the world with a woman CEO. Nooyi showed her grace under fire as COO, when a graduation speech was attacked by conservative pundits. She'll need similar fortitude when challenging competitor Coca-Cola.

2 Steve Rubel joins Edelman
It was more a question of when than if Rubel would leave CooperKatz. Since that firm renamed its burgeoning new media practice Cogence, we've heard little about it, while Edelman has given Rubel a more visible platform.

3 Doug Dome leaves H&K for Carmichael Lynch Spong
Dome's two-year stint at H&K did not produce the hoped-for revolutionary consumer practice. But the firm now faces a bigger challenge with Dome - and several other top-level execs - gone.

4 Leslie Dach joins Wal-Mart
The move left Edelman's DC office without its familiar bifurcated leadership (though Michael Deaver remains). But it also helps ensure that Edelman holds onto the US' most challenging client.

5 Gates in for Rumsfeld
Few were surprised the irascible Donald Rumsfeld was replaced as Secretary of Defense. It was the President's decision to do so the day after midterm elections that startled many conservative allies who felt Rumsfeld's ouster earlier in the campaign season may have saved their midterm hopes.

6 Tom Mattia joins Coke
Going from tech manufacturer EDS to the soft-drink giant must have been a leap. But even beverages that originated in the 19th century need a tech edge today.

7 LA Times fires Dean Baquet
In eschewing newsroom cuts, Baquet became a symbol for the traditional press' fight versus corporate incursions. The right argument behind the issue is unclear - papers are chartered to serve the public, but can't be inoculated against business pressures - but the vanguard now has its martyr.

8 AOL axes Jon Miller
No one can agree on Miller's rap sheet for AOL, but he was chief during its life-changing decision to forgo marketing subscriptions to focus on an ad-supported model. Post-Miller, AOL will either reawaken or go to the grave.

9 White House looks to Snow
After a term-and-a-half of ignoring the media, the White House said good bye to out-of-the-loop Scott McClellan (below), and hello to Fox News' Tony Snow, who quickly made a name for himself by asking Maureen Dowd if she'd been "smoking rope."

10 Steve Harris back at GM
Following a period of every kind of woe, GM brings its communications guru back into the fold to try to turn things around. Tom Kowaleski stood down to make way for his old boss.

 

5 Terms you'd never heard before 2006

1 Truthiness
Stephen Colbert brought to us this all-too-relevant word, one that perfectly nails our slippery relationship with hard facts.

2 TMZ.com
It stands for Hollywood's "Thirty Mile Zone," and has become the source for incriminating celebrity photos, video, and gossip.

3 Avatar
Why live just on Earth if you can have two lives via an online alter ego? Reports of the first virtual millionaire only add to the allure.

4 Backdating
The stock-option pricing scandal has hit 130 companies, taking 50 top-level jobs and counting.

5 Flogs
While Wal-Marting Across America was one of the more high-profile blogs with a corporation secretly behind it, there were many, many more who gave this new name to Astroturf marketing.

 

5 Terms you'd never want to hear again

1 Crackberry
We get it - it's rude to e-mail at the dinner table. But for good or bad, today's business community is always on. It's not an addiction - it's a desire to keep your job.

2 Tangibilize
PRWeek's own editor-in-chief Julia Hood came across this gem in an e-mail. But unlike the aforementioned "truthiness," this made-up word is pointless.

3 "Stay the course"
The White House decided that it would be best to retire this phrase when talking about Iraq War policy. We couldn't agree more.

4 Page scandal
There has always been Washington malfeasance, but this goes beyond the average corruption that we're used to.

5 New media
And before you all write us when you next see that term in PRWeek, anyone who has a better suggestion as to what to call all this Interweb stuff, please let us know.

 

5 Honestly fatuous political quotes

1 Sen. George Allen (R-VA)
"Let's give a welcome to Macaca, here," said the soon-to-be former senator to a rural, white audience. "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia!"

2 Cynthia McKinney
"Face recognition is the issue .... People are focused on my hairdo," said the quick-to-see-racism former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), who habitually declined to wear an identification badge and struck a guard who tried to stop her from entering a Capitol Hill office building.

3 Hugo Chavez
"The devil came here yesterday," said the Venezuela president of George W. Bush in an address to the United Nations. "And it smells of sulfur still today."

4 Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
"You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq," said the ex-White House hopeful.

5 Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT)
"The other day, the little fella who does our maintenance work [at] the house, he's from Guatemala, and I said, 'Could I see your green card?' And Hugo says, 'No.' I said, 'Oh gosh,'" said the recently defeated Montana senator.

 

5 Factually honest political quotes

1 President Bush
"If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not close. It was a thumping," he said the day after the midterm elections.

2 Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN)
"I was there. I like football and I like girls. I have no apologies about that," said the candidate for Senate about attending a Playboy Super Bowl party.

3 Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)
"Being in the closet doesn't make you do dumb things, doesn't justify you doing dumb things, it just makes them likelier," said the openly gay Frank about the Mark Foley page scandal.

4 Tony Blair
Interviewer David Frost asked the British prime minister if the war in Iraq has been a disaster so far? "It has," Blair admitted.

5 Nursultan Nazarbayev
"This film was created by a comedian, so let's laugh at it," said the president of Kazakhstan about Borat. "There's a positive side of all this. There's a saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity."

 

5 Movies the critics loved

1 Volver
It's Pedro Almodovar's most conventional film to date - and that's not a bad thing. Volver is full of strong women, weak men, and thoughtless cruelty. It also gave Penelope Cruz a more developed role that that of "Brenda the Call Girl" from Waking Up in Reno.

2 Little Miss Sunshine
The buzz began for this dysfunctional family road-trip film right after its Sundance premiere, as Fox snapped up its distribution rights for $10.5 million. The fun story of an average-looking little girl with beauty-queen dreams, it's Ugly Betty in a VW bus.

3 Thank You for Smoking
Writer-director Jason Reitman's satirical debut poked fun at both Big Tobacco and its cliché-spouting opponents. An outstanding cast included the film's "MOD Squad" happy-hour trio of vice-lobbyists, as well as a decidedly un-wholesome prenuptial Katie Holmes as a journalist with questionable research methods.

4 The Departed
Martin Scorsese's long-awaited return to what he does best: cops, mobsters, and seven deaths per minute. This film featured the director's signature classic-rock sequences, great performances, and an interesting moment when Jack Nicholson channels a rat.

5 United 93
Paul Greengrass relied on deep research and a mostly unknown cast in this documentary-style re-creation of the fourth terrorist attack. Some said it was too soon for a 9/11 movie. Perhaps it was too soon for a 9/11 movie starring Nic Cage with a bad moustache.

5 Movies the marketers loved

1 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Boots and bandanas, sabers and swords. From swashbuckler-themed booty to Disney's new attraction (which now features a Johnny Depp lookalike), Pirates has become a multimillion- dollar industry in and of itself.

2 Snakes on a Plane
This badass Samuel L. Jackson slither-fest had bloggers pounding away for months in advance, their passion actually inspiring New Line to incorporate feedback into its script.

3 Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
It made Sacha Baron Cohen a mainstream Hollywood name, and a minor Soviet-bloc country the poster child for nation branding. It also gave new meaning to "excess litigation."

4 Quinceanera
A movie centered around a pregnant-out-of-wedlock teenage Latina and her gay cousin? Made by two white guys from just east of Hollywood? It seemed like a niche long-shot, but all audiences latched on for its universal messages of love and acceptance.

5 An Inconvenient Truth
Not only did it make Al Gore look cool, this glorified PowerPoint presentation also helped extend environmental concerns beyond the hemp-and-Whole Foods crowd. Filmgoers might have already been converts, but media attention reached as far as the (soon-to-be-snowless) peaks.

10 Product debuts we couldn't miss

1 TMX Elmo
After 19 months living in secrecy, TMX Elmo, the 10th anniversary giggling doll, emerged as the season's must-have Christmas toy. This monster sure can reinvent himself.

2 Sony Playstation 3
Hardcore gamers lined up at midnight, dodged bullets, and clutched their cash to get their hands on this newest version of the game console.

3 Toyota Yaris
Toyota teamed up with the South by Southwest Festival to launch one of the US' first superminis, targeting Gen Y through the festival's hip sounds. It's cute, too.

4 Intel-based Macs
This April, the world got to see a Mac run Microsoft Windows on its Intel-based models, which led some to ask, "Why buy a PC?"

5 Lexus LS460 sedan
A car that parks itself? This signals a new era of smart cars. But can you take a driving test with it?

6 Microsoft Zune
"Join the social" is a rough tagline and no one's throwing out their iPod. The launch was quite a spectacle, though, with a day of six free concerts across the US.

7 Exubera
Pfizer got approval for the first-ever inhalable insulin in January, and Exubera was expected to be huge. However, a lawsuit from NovoNordisk citing patent infringement and no word on sales figures from Pfizer left some to wonder if it will catch on.

8 Starbury One
Parents rejoiced as New York Knick Stephon Marbury and Steve & Barry's teamed up on this $14.98 sneaker. A six-week supply ran out in three days.

9 Nintendo Wii
The highly anticipated console sold 600,000 units in its first eight days of release, according to the company - and it only cost half as much as the PS3.

10 (Product)Red
This campaign, with red iPods, Converse shoes, T-shirts and Armani glasses, among many others, turned people's consumer self-indulgence into an effort to stop disease in Africa.

10 Stunts that were Barnum-worthy

1 LonelyGirl15
This teen won over YouTube fanatics the world over by pouring her heart out - until the whole thing was exposed as a scripted show. With this continues the Internet television revolution.

2 Shiloh's debut
The world was shocked when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sold exclusive rights to photos of their newborn daughter, Shiloh, to People for a reported $4.1 million, a totally out-of-character move for the altruistic couple. But the picture became clearer when they pledged to donate all proceeds to African charities.

3 A nose for publicity
By painting the noses of its jets to resemble soccer balls, German airline Lufthansa, official partner of the German Football Association, but not the World Cup, won more visibility than Dubai-based Emirates - the event's official airline - without the multimillion-dollar sponsorship fee. Gooooal!

4 A big fashion statement
After the death of an underweight model sparked Madrid Fashion Week to ban size-zero models, Gaultier weighed in at Paris Fashion Week by sending 291-pound plus-sized model Velvet d'Amour down the runway in black lingerie to reinforce that beauty can be universal.

5 Seven and seven in 24
The formerly retired hip-hop artist turned mega-mogul Jay-Z made his comeback in a sweeping one-day tour of seven concerts in seven cities as he promoted his new album, Kingdom Come.

6 Lose pounds, gain exposure
Kirstie Alley showed off her bodacious bod in a bikini on Oprah, hoping to jump-start her fizzling acting career while scoring diet program Jenny Craig some publicity with its target demographic.

7 The new Juan Valdez
A live June 29 webcast anchored efforts as The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Columbia unveiled Carlos Castenada as the new Juan Valdez and the world drank it in.

8 Blaine goes under
Illusionist David Blaine spent a week submerged in a bubble of water on display at New York's Lincoln Center before failing, live on ABC-TV, in his attempt to break the world record for holding his breath underwater for the longest time.

9 Out-of-this-world golf swing
Golf-club maker Element 21 paid an undisclosed figure to get Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin to strike a lightweight golf ball into orbit outside the International Space Station. Element 21 will use video footage of the one-handed swing, which commemorates the 35th anniversary of Alan Shepard's golf swing on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission, to promote its new golf club that includes a space-derived metal.

10 Secret to great publicity
P&G, with Marina Maher's help, got women to share their secrets with the world - or at least Times Square - by kicking off an anniversary line of Secret deodorant. Women's secrets appeared both on the Reuters ticker and on http://www.shareyoursecret.com/.

10 Things who had their 15 minutes

1 Barbaro
From a rousing Kentucky Derby win, to the broken leg he suffered in the Preakness, to his amazing recovery thus far, this super-horse had hearts racing all year.

2 US men's soccer team
Entered World Cup '06 with visions of greatness. Result: three games, one point, 15 minutes of fame - and we're being kind.

3 John Mark Karr
"Won" attention for confessing to JonBenet Ramsey's murder, but evidence proved he didn't do it.

4 Kaavya Visnawathan
Harvard student and bright young author allegedly used passages from other books for her own. The ensuing media tour wasn't quite what she had in mind when she started.

5 Ned Lamont
Beats Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary for a Connecticut Senate seat only to be trounced in November by the same guy.

6 Kevin Federline
He raps, he dances, he wrestles, he gets dumped by Britney. If she's bored with him, so are we.

7 Jared Paul Stern
Accused by billionaire Ron Burkle of extortion in exchange for "protection" from inaccurate reporting, Stern was eventually fired by the New York Post, going from "Page Six" to "back-of-the-book" purgatory in short order.

8 "Pro-Life"
The Idaho gubernatorial candidate formerly known as Marvin Richardson legally changed his name to "Pro-Life" in August. He was too late to get his new name on the ballot, but not too late for this list. Rumors his kids changed their names to "God," "Dad," and "You're So Embarrassing" are unsubstantiated.

9 Aleksey Vayner
This Yale student sent a résumé to UBS AG that included the URL for an embarrassing online video. He didn't get the job, but he got our attention, albeit briefly.

10 Vincent Ferrari
The man who recorded his infamous "Cancel my account. Cancel my account" call with AOL threw the company's Mafia-like retention process into the spotlight. Gawker Media blog Consumerist helped the story explode.

On The Beat

Corporate/financial
By Hamilton Nolan

Many of the gaudiest stories in this sector surround the big M&A deals: who's representing whom, how both sides are spinning the deal in their favor, and what the backroom, late-night machinations were to plug leaks and appropriately hype the big announcement.

In a perfect world, the firms that work on the deals would gladly share that information. But the world is not perfect. Sometimes, simply wringing a confession out of a firm that, yes, they worked on the deal, and no, they won't comment on it, feels like a victory.

Deals are the big deal
As private-equity firms have built up unprecedented mountains of cash, deal-making has become even more prominent. Although they have never been enthusiastic about posing in the media spotlight, PE firms are increasingly recognizing that their reputations have a direct impact on their business prospects. Both specialty PR agencies and international ones are angling to develop more and more PE clients.

While the handful of agencies that snag a good portion of the high-level financial communications work - Kekst, Brunswick, Abernathy MacGregor, Joele Frank, Financial Dynamics, Citigate Sard Verbinnen - tend to be more guarded than most of their peers, they'll also work to share their best wins.

2006 saw a strong stock market, rising cross-border transactions, and buyouts that boggle the mind. Next year will see more of the same - and the communicators that shape the trends will open themselves a bit more to the outside world.

 

Washington/public affairs
By Ted McKenna

There's never a lack of story ideas when reporting on public affairs. The beat covers every imaginable government agency, Congress, and the White House - and that's just the federal side of things.

All 50 states have plenty of interesting stories, too. Any big legislative wrangle over stem-cell research, immigration reform, gas prices, etc., is sure to have a number of public affairs firms working one side or the other.

Deciding just what to cover is another matter. Why, say, are we doing something on Canadian-US border issues when the CIA just launched a new employee-recruitment drive?

But there's always another PRWeek issue to cover what readers tell us we missed.

Overcoming the silence
Of course, it's often the most interesting stories that the principal parties involved prefer to not discuss. The multimillion-dollar contracts firms sign to represent African or Mideast countries with weak human-rights records, for instance. At least in those cases, federal law requires agencies to file contract information with the Justice Department, which in turn makes that information available publicly.

Public information about lobbying contracts, as well as ads running in political titles like Roll Call or The Hill, also provide clues about new public affairs campaigns. But it's usually when talking informally with public affairs pros, when conversation descends to gossip about politics, that the best story ideas emerge. Coffee, lunch, or drinks, anyone?

 

Media/services
By Erica Iacono

Both the media and services beats cover evolving industries that have been greatly affected by changing technology, public criticism, and consumer attitudes. And both have been a hotbed of M&A activity this year. In both industries, how this activity and evolution impact the end product - be it a VNR, press release, or coverage - is the story we want.

Getting that story, however, isn't always easy. Service companies in particular are notoriously tight-lipped about the true challenges they face. And because just a few of the major players in that industry are public companies, getting a realistic picture of the financial performance is difficult. The most valuable sources are the ones who will tell the real story, even when it might not result in positive, or even any, coverage for their company.

Changing landscape

How the changes in the media landscape affect the PR services companies is in fact the most interesting story. Media fragmentation and the rise of blogs have affected newswires in that SEO is no longer viewed as an add-on, but as a necessity for every press release.

Similarly, broadcast PR companies have had to face the fact that VNRs alone are a shrinking business and will no longer be profitable, given not only the changing news landscape, but also the endless amount of scrutiny they have received in the past few years. As a result, they've turned their attention to online video. Those types of evolutionary stories are the most challenging and interesting to tell.

 

Consumer
By Michael Bush

To say that marketers are battling each other for every consumer dollar they can get their hands on isn't a misuse of the word "battle." It's fierce and very competitive, especially because consumers have become so selective with how and where they spend money.
Marketers take the strategizing and execution of their respective marketing campaigns so seriously that, at times, it's nearly impossible to get them to just answer the phone - let alone shed some light on the details of their efforts.

And trust me, it's not just the corporate side who's on lockdown - it's their agencies, too. And in many cases, a company won't even reveal what firm it's working with for fear that the PR agency will give away the shop or their competitors will gain some sort of advantage.

Cutting through the clutter

Now all of this doesn't necessarily make covering the consumer beat frustrating. Challenging is a more appropriate description. Indeed, when you look at how complex the consumer market has become and how difficult it is to break through all of the marketing clutter, the Fort Knox-type security is actually quite understandable.

Consumers demand a lot from brands on nearly every level. Consumers expect an effective and reasonably priced product they can connect with emotionally that's marketed to them in a non-intrusive way from a marketer who is socially responsible.
Pulling that off isn't easy. As a result a number of big-name brands like Lexus and IKEA are hiring specialist agencies or numerous firms for projects.

Consumers shape efforts

It's not only the agencies that are helping shape campaigns; it's the consumers themselves. Consumer PR pros say the consumer influence over campaigns will only increase over the upcoming years.

Another result of this consumer demand has been the growing frequency of the integration of practices. Executives from numerous other disciplines, such as advertising and direct marketing, say they're working more closely and more frequently with PR pros than they have in the past.

All of these factors resulted in some really interesting stories, RFPs, and campaigns this year. No doubt, 2007 holds more of the same.

 

Bay Area
By Celeste Altus

In the San Francisco Bay Area, 2006 was a busy year. You can say the same thing for the entire Pacific Northwest. A lot more entrepreneurs had business plans and a lot more venture capitalists were listening.

Watching all this unfold, it is clear that business is on an upswing, particularly in terms of technology. Rarely a day goes by without a PR firm talking about its efforts to help launch a start-up. However, this time around, the start-ups have real business models and real budgets.

As a reporter covering the tech PR industry, there's a big difference between talking to people working in Silicon Valley firms and those in San Francisco.

The Valley types are more likely to have two children, an SUV, and spend a lot of time shopping in Palo Alto on the weekends.

San Francisco skews much younger. That is where the single, cab-taking nightlife is, so people who work downtown in South of Market and other agencies have a lot more time to get a drink after work and spend time working well into the early hours of the morning.

Dispelling the 'geek' myth

Although the area is techie-central, it is by no means the capital of geekdom. People do tend to base social status on blog hits and links, and Robert Scoble is a bit of a celebrity, but seminars and meetings are full of people who are real business leaders and who want to change the way PR is done.

One story that has had PR pros in the area on their toes is Hewlett-Packard's boardroom leak scandal, which became the biggest tech company story of 2006. The tale struck the locals with more sadness than outrage because the company name was dragged through the mud. But now the stock price is up, and the tech giant appears to be putting the scandal behind it.

Clean tech on the rise

Clean/green tech is another hot topic right now. Many agencies have opened clean tech special divisions and are more than proud to discuss it.

Hiring, although a problem industry-wide, is especially rough for the Bay Area. In fact, if you have lunch with anyone in region, you can almost certainly expect to be asked at some point, "Do you know anyone looking?"

 

Healthcare
By Marc Longpre

One of the first things I saw upon entering the PRWeek fold as the new healthcare reporter was a poll which found that Americans viewed drug companies and health- insurance providers as something less than trustworthy, ahead of only oil and tobacco companies.

Straight away, I was excited about reporting on this beat. Covering PR for an industry that is facing this kind of challenge was going to put a lot of interesting stories and people my way.

Of course, this also presents some problems to a reporter. An industry accustomed to facing negative stories tends not to ooze excitement about talking to the press, particularly when the topic is the quiet, strategic - and often downright secret - world of healthcare PR. So I have spent the early days of my tenure attempting to navigate the various roadblocks.

Sector of opportunity

Putting the negative stuff aside, nowhere else in PR do agencies have the type of opportunity to contribute meaningfully to policy and public health than in this realm. I have heard numerous people in charge of healthcare at their respective firms say that working on a worthwhile campaign makes their staffers feel like they're in it "for more than just a paycheck."

Following that sentiment, 2006 saw numerous campaigns built around the public's desire to improve health and quality of life.

Ogilvy PR Worldwide worked with KFC on its well-timed announcement to cut trans-fats out of its chicken.

The mighty soft-drink industry bowed to pressure by agreeing to limit school vending machine sodas to 100 calories per drink.

And getting the Food and Drug Administration to approve over-the-counter sales for Plan B involved a massive communications task.

Looking ahead

There is much reason to be excited about covering healthcare in 2007. From the fight for affordable AIDS drugs in sub-Saharan Africa to the power shift in Washington bringing big changes in drug policy at home, big shifts are coming. The communications tasks at hand will continue to challenge even the most seasoned PR executives.

 

LA/Entertainment/Multicultural
By Randi Schmelzer

Here is what I always say about LA: When I no longer find it completely fascinating, it will be time for me to leave.

Just walking out my front door in Hollywood, savvy publicity strategies are obvious. Streets that were formerly the slouching grounds of ne'er-do-wells and starry-eyed (but misled) out-of-towners are now lined with Paris-LindsayNicole-chic clubs. Long-abandoned buildings are being converted to overpriced condos and entertainment-firm offices. And the Walk of Fame is slowly starting to live up to its storied name.

Scandals to silver screen

With the glamour, of course, comes a more serious side - so apparent in PR's own Trial of the Year in which former Fleishman-Hillard LA execs Doug Dowie and John Stodder were ultimately convicted on federal counts of conspiracy and wire fraud in relation to an alleged overbilling scheme involving the city's Department of Water and Power.

Agencies across the US were forced to reevaluate their own ethical practices, altering the industry in a subtle, yet indelible way.

Not so subtle were the year's film-marketing efforts, which often trumped the on-screen offerings themselves. The melodramatic "So dark the con of man" scrawlings of Sony's The DaVinci Code campaign put fringe Catholic movement Opus Dei in the international spotlight. And Warner Bros.' "Everybody dance now"-inspired medleys on behalf of Happy Feet proved that while elephants might bring out the protesters in LA, it was penguins that packed the theaters.

A city of diversity

Intertwined with all this was the stuff that truly makes Los Angeles the city it is: diversity. From block to block, LA is an exciting mix of ethnicities and lifestyles, each catered to with their own restaurants, bars, shops - and marketing campaigns. As the niches become more mainstream and cultures begin to merge, PR pros in boutiques and global agencies alike must learn to adapt, or be left behind.

There may be smog, there may be a lack of affordable housing, and there's no question about the standstill traffic. But how can one not be fascinated with this town?

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