GREEN IS THE COLOR OF MY TRUE LOVE’S PRESS RELEASE: What if there were One Color to Rule Them All? Who would its press agent be? “Global color authority” Pantone, of course, which has proclaimed the Star Trek planet–sounding 17-5641 Emerald, “a lively, radiant, lush green,” the “Color of the Year” for 2013. No, this honor was not the result of a democratic vote; just a bit of blatant self-promotion, like when Condé Nast gives out awards honoring its own magazines. Hard to figure if this announcement will force interior decorators to rip up their plans, or if anybody stopped to wonder what 17-5641 Emerald did to merit this extraordinary distinction. But you can bet trucks of this stuff will be sold, and not just to Irish pubs, thanks to color-blind coverage in Time, Shape (“5 Fun Ways to Use 2013’s Color of the Year”), The Washington Post, the Associated Press, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Forbes, Glamour and a whole lot more places. With this kind of press for a mere color, the American Dental Association should take a hint, hurry up and name its “Tooth of the Year” for 2013.
FLACKERY INDEX: 3
FREE RIDE: Hiring ad agencies is for sissies when you can crowdsource your ideas for peanuts, or in Doritos’ case, deadly-orange chips. Doritos saves millions by not paying to produce their Super Bowl ads each year, instead offering peanuts to Joe Blow and his drinking buddies for creating their own 30-second salutes. With that kind of ultra-cheap national publicity, no wonder Doritos’ press release proclaims their “Crash the Super Bowl” contest to be “one of the most highly anticipated Super Bowl announcements of the year.” And other companies are getting into crowdsourcing their advertising—gleefully jumping on the budget bandwagon to exploit the creativity of the American people (who are mostly underemployed these days, after all). For example, Ford’s Lincoln division—clearly not getting enough buzz by having the same name as a major motion picture, asked Jimmy Fallon to create a 60-second Super Bowl spot based on suggestions from his seven million Twitter followers. Smart thinking, since Lincoln itself has a piddly 170,000 followers. If you have a twisted mind and mastered iMovie, A&E wants you to submit your 15-second opening title sequence for its forthcoming series, Bates Motel, The Grand Prize winner receives a $2,500 check and a shot at making the actual sequence. Yep, that’s a mere 2,500 smackeroos to generate stories in all the TV fanboy blogs, as well as The New York Times and Boing Boing, for the announcement part of the contest and probably another round when the Grand Prize winner is announced, with no guarantee their idea will even be used. That’s pocket change for more buzz than Daniel Day-Lewis’s Oscar hopes.
FLACKERY INDEX: 2
WILD FOR BUCKWILD: You have to hand it to MTV–they are masters of exploiting the lowest common denominator to incite outrage, turning it into a buzz frenzy they cart to the bank. With Jersey Shore thankfully wrapping up, MTV has found fresh meat with teenagers in the small mountain town of Sissonville, West Virginia. Without having even seen one episode of the forthcoming Buckwild (or learning a lesson from Chris Christie’s blasting of Jersey Shore), state senator Joe Manchin fell into MTV’s PR trap by sending an angry letter to the network president: “As a U.S. Senator, I am repulsed at this business venture, where some Americans are making money off of the poor decisions of our youth.” That tirade, sure to stoke even more curiosity from the American public, was published in The Washington Post, The Wrap, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, ABCTVNews, and even broadcast as the butt of a joke on Jimmy Kimmel Live! While most producers cringe at negative reviews, MTV execs are probably secretly hoping that this is just the start of the Buckwild bashing season. FLACKERY INDEX: 3
TAKE MY LAST NAME, PLEASE: It was just dozen or so years ago when the dot-com bubble gave us some of the most inane publicity stunts ever conceived. Remember when a small Oregon town accepted 20 computers, a free web site and some chump change to change its name to half.com for a year? Dog sock puppets in TV ads and faces tattooed with the names of dead Internet companies? Good times. Enter Jason Sadler, whose circa 1999-type human billboard stunts have enabled him to build an entire business over the past few years called iwearyourshirt.com, where companies buy daily sponsorships of t-shirts that he and several other people around the country wear. His latest trick: auctioning off his last name for one year on www.buymylastname.com, in what he decribed to Adweek as a “unique marketing opportunity.” Beginning January 1st and throughout 2013, Jason will be known as Jason HeadsetsDotCom everywhere from his driver’s license to his Facebook page, all for a winning $45,500 bid. Too bad the winning bid didn’t come from ShamelessAttentionSeeker.com
FLACKERY INDEX: 3
RESIDENT EVIL: Christmas time is when record companies package those beautiful box sets for you, average citizen, to spend $30 or $40 on CDs you probably already own. However, the biggest box set of all arrives on Christmas day, and you’re more likely to find it in the appliance section of Sears than the music department of Best Buy. Avant garde rock group The Residents are celebrating 40 years together with their “Ultimate Box Set” that comes in a 28 cubic-foot refrigerator. It’s an “extremely limited” box set: only 10 of them have been made. Band lead singer “Randy Rose,” dressed in a creepy Santa costume, says in the twisted infomercial video that the package contains “563 songs…40 vinyl LPs, 50 CDs, and dozens of singles, EPs, DVDs, and CD-ROMs … over 100 products in all!” Oh yes, that includes one of the band’s trademark eyeball masks. All for the low, low bargain basement price of $100,000, the same price as a Maserati Quattroporte, fitted with an eight cylinder V90° 4,691 cc. engine. You bet that got the attention of the poor music geeks at Spin, Paste, Artist Direct, the Guardian, and Pitchfork, but alas, nobody at Bloomberg, Fortune or Forbes, where they can actually afford such luxuries.
FLACKERY INDEX: 4
APOCALYPSE COW: It’s the end of the world as we know it—let’s eat! If the revelations about the Mayan calendar’s end come true on December 21, there’s no better time to throw what may the world’s last publicity stunt. If you’re going to have a special last meal on that fateful day, T.G.I. Friday wants you to have it with them. Bring your loved ones to one of the many dining locations holding a special “Last Friday” celebration with Mayan Magaritas, and a special menu featuring pretzels, rib-eye steaks and whiskey cakes (“Go out with a full stomach”). Not to be outdone exploiting end times for fun and profit, Carl’s Jr. posted a photo of its mega-deadly 12x12x12 Burger on its Facebook page, assuring diners that “If it’s not the end of the world, then it’s definitely the end of your hunger.” Of course, there’s no guarantee the food at these places won’t kill you before the floods and earthquakes arrive. For brilliantly exploiting doomsday as a promotional vehicle, we unwaveringly give our highest honors to these two dining chains and encourage them to play Europe’s “The Final Countdown” just before all hell breaks loose.
FLACKERY INDEX: 4