Tag: Marketing

The NFL: A Disability Factory for Young Men

The NFL showcases brutality and player collisions in its promotions, while minimizing the human toll it takes on NFL players' health and safety

The NFL showcases brutality and player collisions in its promotions, while minimizing the human toll it takes on NFL players’ health and safety

As of January 23, 2013, the National Football League (NFL) is facing 199 lawsuits filed by a total of more than 4,000 retired professional football players who suffered head injuries while playing for the NFL. In June, 2012, the lawsuits of about three thousand of those injured players were consolidated into a single Master Complaint (pdf) which charges that the NFL was negligent and committed fraud because it was “aware of the evidence and risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries…but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information” from players and others involved in NFL football. The lawsuit says that to promote the game, the NFL glorifies the brutality and ferocity of NFL football by “lauding and mythologizing the most brutal and ferocious of players and collisions,” while simultaneously fraudulently representing that getting hit and putting big hits on others is a badge of courage, and does not seriously threaten one’s health. The suit charges that to heighten this belief and further promote football,  NFL Films, a PR instrument of the NFL, creates and markets videos that focus solely on the hardest hits that occur on the fields. 

R.J. Reynolds’ Doral Trucker Program: Get a Free Smokin’ Joe Condom

TruckerSmoking

Trucker drivers have a far higher smoking rate than the general population, making them a prized target for tobacco companies.

In 1996, R.J. Reynolds noted that the smoking incidence among professional truck drivers was a whopping 76%, and sought to capitalize on that fact. The document noted below this post, “Doral Trucker Program Rolling Rolling Rolling,” lists ideas for promoting Doral cigarettes to truckers. Ideas included tying product and service giveaways into frequent fueler programs, providing a truckers with a roadside assistance program and providing purchase incentives like “Buy 1 Carton, Get a Free Truck Wash,” “Buy 2 Packs, Get a Free Hula Girl Air Freshener,” “Buy 2 packs and Get a Free Smokin’ Joe Condom.” Other promotional ideas included arranging for a date with an actress from Hee Haw (a 1960s-1970s TV variety show set a fictional rural southern county called Kornfield Kounty and featuring country music) or giving away a “rubber trucker companion doll.”

Source: Doral Trucker Program Rolling Rolling Rolling, 1996, R.J. Reynolds document collection, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library

R.J. Reynolds Brainstorming Document Targets Younger Smokers

teen-smoking

Teen smokers light up

A 7-page, 1985 brainstorming document from the R.J. Reynolds collection lists ideas about how to market RJR’s flagship brand Camel cigarettes to young people who usually smoke the rival brand Marlboro. A cautionary note on the front page warns, “PLEASE NOTE: the following ideas were generated in an unstructured idea generation session. They have not been evaluated with regard to legal issues, marketing feasibility or cost considerations.” And how.  Some of the ideas listed are pretty wacky, and include having coupons for on-pack contests for the following items thought to appeal to younger smokers:

— Beer
— Clearasil
— Dinner with Eddie Murphy
— Trip won by parents of FUBYAS [“First Usual Brand Younger Adult Smokers”] that gets parents out of town for FUBYAS party (includes cleaning crew and extra refrigerator).
— Catchy, slightly lewd T-shirts (“Wanna hump?”)
— Late show admission with week’s worth of CAMEL packs.
— CAMEL courtesy bus at beach – to and from bars.
— Survival kit (what to do when arrested, etc.)
–“Pay” peer leaders to smoke brand.
— Free nose rings
— Free car insurance

Other ideas include developing a new dance called The Hump, and putting on concerts that have specially-reserved seating for Camel smokers or where Camel packs can be used as an entrance fees.

See the document for yourself here.

Source: FUBYAS Idea Generation Output, 1985, R.J. Reynolds document collection, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.

Subway Finds Size Really Does Matter

Subway's trademark "Footlong™" subs are coming up short all over

Subway’s trademark “Footlong™” subs are coming up short all over

Subway stores are in big PR trouble. It all started when earlier this month an Australian man posted a photo on Subway Australia’s Facebook page of a Footlong™ sandwich he had just bought, and asked why it was only 11 inches long. Soon, other Subway sandwich buyers started making similar posts and uploading images of their too-short “footlong” sandwiches. Then two men from New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Subway accusing the stores of selling trademark Footlong™ sandwiches that were really just 11 inches. Stephen DeNettis, the lawyer who represents the plaintiffs, said he measured sandwiches from 17 different Subway stores and they all came up short. He says Subway should either make sure its Footlong™ sandwiches are really a foot long, or stop advertising them as such. For its part, Subway issued a statement apologizing for it’s short sandwiches, saying “With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, ‘SUBWAY FOOTLONG’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.” For good measure, Subway added that the length of each bread cannot be assured every time because the “proofing” process may vary. Buzzfeed called that answer “amazingly stupid.” One commenter on Buzzfeed wrote, “So…when I pay them with my TWENTY DOLLAR BILL™, and it turns out to be nothing more than an envelope of grass shavings, there will be no hard feelings, right?” Another wrote, “After closer measurement, I’m returning those inch worms I bought at a yard sale.” Who knows? Maybe Subway is shorting people as part of their  sponsorship of NBC’s reality show “The Biggest Loser.”  After all, shorter Footlong™ sandwiches will help people lose more weight and shorting patrons like this makes Subway customers the Biggest Losers.

Bushmaster Gun Company Forced to Pull Tasteless Ad

A portion of Bushmaster's tasteless online promotion. (The company has since pulled it.)

A portion of Bushmaster’s tasteless online promotion. (The company has since pulled it.)

Bushmaster, the company that makes the machine gun Adam Lanza used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre December 14, 2012, was forced to pull a shockingly bad ad campaign from its website that taunted men about their masculinity and portrayed them as not masculine unless they owned a gun. Bushmaster’s site quizzed men about whether they ate tofu, knew how to change a tire or had ever watched figure skating “on purpose.” If men passed the “quiz,” they would get awarded a “Man Card” that entitled them to “leave the seat up without shame.” A “Man Card” could be revoked if a man was a “coward,” a “cry baby” or found himself on a “short leash.” One part of the site said “Colin F. avoids eye contact with tough-looking 5th graders. MAN CARD REVOKED.” The ad also made it clear that a man could reclaim his manhood by buying a Bushmaster assault rifle,  like the one Adam Lanza allegedly used at Newtown.

Source: Buzzfeed, December 17, 2012

Expedia Uses its Clout to Crush Small, Independent Hotels

The owners of the Luna Blue Hotel on Mexico's Caribbean coast reveal their experience with Expedia's strong-arm tactics to try and ruin their business and push travelers to book at more bigger, more lucrative properties that have a more favorable relationship with the site.

The owners of the Luna Blue Hotel on Mexico’s Caribbean coast reveal their experience with Expedia’s strong-arm tactics to try and ruin their business and push travelers to book at more bigger, more lucrative properties that have a more favorable relationship with the site.

Years ago, Tony and Cheri quit their jobs, left their lives in the U.S. and risked their entire life savings to pursue their dream of operating a small hotel on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Their quaint, 18-room place, the Luna Blue Hotel, took some hits from the swine flu scare and state-side reports of central Mexico’s drug wars, but the couple vowed to hold on and get through it somehow. During that lean time, a representative of the powerhouse travel website Expedia approached the couple and offered to help them recover some of their lost business by listing their place on Expedia. The couple agreed it might be a good idea to list with the site, and signed on as an Expedia “partner.”

But almost immediately the relationship turned sour.

New FDA-Approved Anticoagulants Have No Antidote; Patients Bleeding to Death

Pradaxa

FDA allowed the new anticoagulant Pradaxa to go on the market without any known way to quickly reverse its effects.

Cardiac patients who experience atrial fibrillation are routinely prescribed anti-clotting drugs to help prevent strokes. For many years, the most popular anti-clotting agent has been warfarin, marketed as Coumadin. Warfarin is the active ingredient in rodenticides like D-Con, which work by causing rats and mice to bleed to death internally. Coumadin works by depleting the body’s level of active Vitamin K, a clotting factor present naturally in many foods. But Coumadin has major drawbacks. Patients taking it require frequent monitoring to assure they have the correct levels of the anticoagulant in their blood, and have to be careful about what they eat, because foods high in Vitamin K can alter Coumadin’s effectiveness. Recently new anti-clotting drugs have come on the market that have been hailed as major improvements over Coumadin because diet not a factor and patients taking them require little or no monitoring for blood levels. With brand names like Pradaxa (dabigatran), Xarelto (rivaroxaban) and Eliquis (apixaban), the new drugs are being hailed by investors in Big Pharma as “blockbuster” drugs, and their manufacturers are, as usual, aggressively marketing them through television ads. But these drugs can be quite costly in several ways. Pradaxa and Xarelto cost around $3,000 a year, while warfarin costs as little as $200. But a much bigger problem for patients is that there is no known antidote to the new drugs for patients who experience bleeding emergencies.

Chase’s PR Stunt, the “American Giving Awards” is Back Again

NBC’s upcoming feel-good holiday TV program, the “American Giving Awards” to be broadcast on December 8, is nothing more than a highly-orchestrated public relations stunt designed to rain good feelings upon JP Morgan Chase, one of the most reviled U.S. financial institutions and a major contributor to the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Chase was behind the creation of many of the problematic financial products like credit default swaps which almost brought down the global financial system in 2008. Chase has been fined hundreds of million dollars for lying to investors, perpetrating mortgage fraud and engaging in other illegal financial schemes. To further thumb it’s nose at consumers, Chase recently hired an executive to head up the company’s Foreclosure Victims Bureau who the Justice Department concluded helped enable mortgage fraud. To help repair its tarnished image, Chase created the “American Giving Awards,” using a PR company called  Intersport, which boasts that it is an “innovator and leader in the creation of sports and entertainment-based marketing platforms” designed to benefit “global brands.” Actor Gary Sinise and singer Colby Caillat are two of the stars recruited to help draw attention to this televised PR stunt in which JP Morgan Chase gives away millions of dollars to charity.

Cigarette Makers Thwart Improved Health Warning Labels

Thai cigarette packs, with graphic health warning labels. Cigarette makers have blocked use of such labels in the U.S. through a lawsuit.

A newly-released study of previously secret, internal tobacco industry documents shows the multinational cigarette companies have been working consistently behind the scenes since 1966 to 2012 to block stronger health warning labels on cigarette packs. On-pack health warning labels are an effective and inexpensive way of educating the public about the health hazards of smoking. For decades, countries around the world have been trying to make these labels more effective, for example by using more strongly-worded warnings, or graphic photos of tobacco-related diseases like cancerous lungs, people with tracheotomies or rotting teeth. But cigarette companies view these improved labels as a “global threat” and formed international task forces to block their use.

Under Mitt Romney, Bain Made Millions on Tobacco

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, may refuse to make public the clients it has served, but now previously-secret tobacco industry documents reveal Bain & Company worked closely with cigarette makers British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Gallaher, to help them expand their markets and become more profitable at the expense of global public health.  Bain helped British American Tobacco (BAT) crack open the cigarette market in Russia and transform it into a lucrative business at a time when American tobacco companies were under pressure at home and smoking rates in the U.S. were decreasing. By 1993, during the time when Bain worked with cigarette makers, the dangers of smoking were well established. The 1964 Surgeon General’s report had announced that cigarettes caused cancer.  In 1988 the U.S. government warned that nicotine was addictive in a similar manner as heroin and cocaine. In 1989 the Surgeon General announced that most people begin smoking as children and one in every six Americans was dying from smoking. In 1993 the EPA rated secondhand tobacco smoke a Group A Human Carcinogen — the same rating the agency gives to asbestos, radon gas and vinyl chloride. Romney took over Bain in 1990 and stayed until 1995, when this crucial public health information about smoking was public. When Romney took over Bain, the company was in financial distress and seeking new clients. One of the first new clients Bain signed during that time was Philip Morris (PM). Little more than a month after Romney took over, Bain signed a six month contract with Philip Morris estimated to be worth $1 million.

DumpsterCam PR Effort Boosts Respect for Garbage Workers

TrashCam photo credit: Roland Wilhelm/ Stadtreinigung Hamburg/ Scholz & Friends

Garbage workers around the world have a physically difficult, smelly job few people want, and typically don’t get much respect or recognition for their efforts, either. So the sanitation department in Hamburg, Germany decided to find a way to improve respect for their workers. With the help of a German advertising agency and a garbage worker who moonlights as an amateur photographer, they came up with a PR campaign that worked to turn Hamburg’s garbage collectors into celebrities. Sanitation workers converted a 290 gallon trash dumpster into a pinhole camera and hauled it around on their routes to places the workers had said they had always wanted to photograph. Dubbed the “TrashCam,” the container had a 0.3-inch pinhole in one side. The workers would open a flap over the pinhole and allow light to project onto a 39 inch by 31 inch piece of photographic paper inside the dumpster, creating a photo. Workers would expose the paper for anywhere from five to 70 minutes, and the photos were developed in a lab later that evening. The result was a series of striking black and white photos that won the sanitation workers a prestigious advertising industry award at the Cannes Lion advertising festival. The photos will be on exhibition starting June 23 at the Axel Springer Passage exhibition space in Hamburg. You can see the photo gallery here.

Source: Spiegel Online International, June 22, 2012

Marx MasterCards Prove Highly Popular in Germany

Karl Marx MasterCard

The Sparkasse Bank in Chemnitz, in eastern Germany, asked customers to vote on images they would most like to see on their MasterCards, and by far the winner was Karl Marx, the German philosopher who predicted the end of capitalism. More than one third of people voting selected Marx’s image. The bank reports that even people in western Germany were calling and asking to open bank accounts to get a MasterCard with Marx’s image on it. Reuters reports that a survey done in 2008 revealed that 52 percent of citizens living in eastern Germany thought the free market economy was “unsuitable” and 43 percent preferred to go back to a socialist system. NPR’s Planet Money, in a report on the Karl Marx MasterCard, asked people to suggest possible slogans to advertise the card. Some of the responses?  “Che Guevara t-shirt: $15. Annotated copy of the Communist Manifesto: $10. Being able to demonstrate your ideological confusion every time you make a purchase: Priceless.,” “I don’t always seize the means of production from the bourgeoisie, but when I do, I prefer the Marx MasterCard,” “A Mastercard for the master race,” and my personal favorite: “Use it when you’re in the red.”

Main sources: National Public Radio, June 15, 2012 and Reuters, June 15, 2012

RJR’s “Project SCUM” Targeted Gays, the Homeless, Immigrants and Youth

 

Front page of RJR’s “Project Scum” document

This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the millions of previously-secret tobacco industry documents now available on the Internet. – Ed.

“Project SCUM” was R.J. Reynolds’ plan to increase sales of Camel cigarettes in the San Francisco area by marketing them to gay people in the Castro district, “rebellious, Generation X” -ers, people of “international influence” and “street people,” by introducing Camel cigarettes into less-traditional retail outlets like “head shops.” SCUM was an acronym that stood for “Sub-Culture Urban Marketing.” RJR’s rationale for the project was a higher incidence of smoking and drug use in these subcultures.  There are several versions of the “Project SCUM” document, ranging in dates from 1995-97.  Each offers revealing marginalia (handwritten markings on the page). For example, in one document, handwritten in next to a bulleted list of consumer subcultures are the words “Gay/Castro” and “Tenderloin,” referring to gay areas of San Francisco.  Next to a list that discusses the rationale for the program, a line says “higher incidents of smoking in subcultures” and has the phrase “and drugs” handwritten in.  On yet another copy, the phrase “and drugs” is crossed out, revealing RJR’s  ambivalence about their exploitation of the drug culture.  A later copy of the document’s title page has the word “SCUM” crossed out and the word “Sourdough” handwritten in, as though RJR  realized too late the derogatory name they had slapped on their customers. See a copy of RJR’s Project Scum document here.

 

The Average Soda is 6 Times Bigger Than in the 1950s?

The average fast food restaurant meal today is over four times bigger than it was in the 1950s, according to a new website by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The site, MakingHealthEasier.org, encourages healthy behaviors to help head off chronic disease. CDC finds that portion creep has resulted in a “new abnormal” for food portions in American society. In the 1950s, the average fountain soda at a fast food restaurant was just 7 ounces. Today it’s 42 ounces. The average hamburger was 3.9 ounces, and today it’s 12 ounces. A portion of french fries in the 1950s was just 2.4 ounces and today it is 6.7 ounces. Since the early 1900s, the average size of a chocolate bar has increased by 1,233 percent. Since the 1960s, the weight of the average American woman has increased by 24.5 pounds and the average weight of a man has increased by 28 pounds. As portions have grown, so have obesity and diabetes, and the problems and medical expense they bring.  In 1958, only about one percent of the country’s population had diabetes. By 2009, that number had risen 22 percent. In 2011, an estimated  25.6 million (11.3%) (pdf) of people age 20 and above were diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S., with an estimated 7 million more undiagnosed. Medical expenses for diabetics are over two times greater than people without diabetes.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control, May 21, 2012

Skip TV Ads, Go to Jail?

The major television networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are arguing that skipping commercials while watching TV shows recorded on a digital video recorder (DVR) is illegal. In a lawsuit against Dish Network, the TV networks are charging that a new feature called “AutoHop” on Dish’s new DVR that allows people to skip TV ads “induces” copyright infringement. The networks claim that skipping ads in effect robs the advertisers who pay good money to the networks with the expectation that viewers will be forced to see them. The problem is that the manufacturer of a technology can’t be held liable for inducing copyright infringement unless customers are actually proven to infringe, so the networks must prove to a court that people who simply record a TV show, watch it at a later time and skip the ads are violating federal copyright law. The networks’ suit mimics a previous lawsuit they filed in 2002 against a company called ReplayTV that made a recording device with an automatic commercial-skip feature. The sheer expense of the lawsuit drove ReplayTV out of business before a court could rule on their theory of copyright infringement. Now the networks are leveling same charges against Dish, but Dish is fighting back. It’s filed its own lawsuit against the networks charging them with attempting to stifle its latest innovation. In its counter-suit, Dish points out that its “Hopper” recorder does not erase or delete any commercials, and they “remain on the recording and can be readily viewed at each customer’s individual option.”

Main source: Electronic Frontier Foundation, May 25, 2012

R.J. Reynolds’ “Salem Black Initiative,” 1989

This 1989 R.J. Reynolds marketing report summarizes a company brainstorming session to find ways to increase sales of Salem cigarettes to African Americans. It exemplifies how marketers view a target audience and try to appeal to them, in this case to market an addictive and deadly product. The report concludes that “the best way to reach minority consumers is through their local communities.” It says,

“…the brand’s support must be seen as being backed by other blacks — not as a big white company’s tactic to sell to blacks. If Salem can become a positive contributing factor to blacks’ economic and personal well-being, it could ultimately be ‘unpatriotic to smoke anything else.”

RJR's 2004 Kool Mixx campaign featured images of rappers, DJs and dancers on cigarette packs and in ads.

The marketers say “Salem should be seen as a friend,” and suggest ways to play up the positive aspects of [young adult] black smokers and their lifestyle, listing words and fashion items from the African American community at the time:

“…fresh” “fade” (kill) “bank” (money) “hooked”(together) “chillin'” “def” (cold, funky, hard, it’s happening) “stylin'” “dis” (disrespectful) – lots of bracelets – 2-3 holes in ear (African influence) – nose studs – fades, parts, braids – thrashed jeans – micro spandex shorts – side snap warm-up suits…”

Skechers Pays $40 Million for Deceptively Advertising “Butt Toning” Shoes

Kim Kardashian helped market Skechers "toning shoes"

Skechers, the maker of those roly-poly  “toning shoes” that were a big craze back in 2010, will shell out $40 million to settle charges that it deceived consumers with phony claims the shoes conferred health benefits like weight loss, muscle strengthening and butt toning.  Back in 2010, fitness footwear companies like Skechers, Nike and Reebok raked in about $1.1 billion from the “toning shoe” market by charging between $100 and $200 a pair for the shoes. Skechers controlled about 60 percent of the market, and Reebok had about a 33 percent share. The companies created demand for the shoes by running ads that falsely claimed they would help wearers “shape up while you walk” or  “get in shape without setting foot in a gym.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleged that the shoe manufacturers fudged studies and statistics to make claims about the shoes that they could not support. Last  September, Reebok agreed to pay $25 million to settle charges that it deceptively advertised roly-poly shoes with names like TrainTone, RunTone and EasyTone.  The companies are paying the millions of dollars into a fund to which shoe purchasers can apply for a refund. If you bought Reebok toning shoes, you can click here to apply for a refund. People who fell for Skechers “butt toning” shoe ads and bought them can keep an eye on this website to get refunds when the account it set up.

Main source: Advertising Age, May 16, 2012

The Bottled Water Scam

Some beverage companies secretly bottle tap water and then charge 1,900 times more for it

People who buy bottled water pay up to 1,900 times what tap water costs, but get less access to key information about the pricey water than they do for tap water. Big companies that sell bottled water, like Pepsi (Aquafina) and Coke (Crystal Geyser), want you to think their water is special, but refuse to reveal where their water comes from, the methods used to purify it or whether their own testing revealed any contaminants in the water. According to the Environmental Working Group (pdf), the makers of the top ten best-selling brands of bottled water refuse to answer at least one of those questions. Only one — Nestle, maker of Pure Life Purified water — willingly discloses the specific source of its water, treatment method and gives consumers access to a water quality test report. Digging for information reveals that at at least one brand of bottled water, Aquafina, is bottled from a public water source. California passed a law in 2007 ordering bottle water manufacturers to publicly disclose quality information about their bottled water, but as of 2011 only 34 percent of companies were complying with the law. When asked to supply water quality information, the makers of Aquafina claimed it was “proprietary information” that was “not for the public.” Bottled water companies make claims like their water is purely from rainfall, purified by “equatorial winds” (Fiji Water) or can help you live longer, but cannot and do not substantiate these claims. In the mean time, every 27 hours, Americans drink enough bottled water to circle the Earth with plastic bottles stacked end to end. EWG recommends drinking filtered tap water instead of bottled water. Municipalities issue annual tap water quality reports that are always available to the public.

Source: Environmental Working Group report 2011 Bottled Water Scorecard (pdf)