Monday, July 31, 2006

StormWarning Mailed

Every story should have a beginning, middle and end. This one has a past, a present and a future.

A lot of clients had field teams and other personnel working in remote locations in the Gulf Coast and lost track of some of them during 2005’s big hurricanes, Katrina and Rita. The landscape looked like a war zone – or Noah’s flood. Thousands of people evacuated without ways to contact their companies or families. Conscientious companies took out “Contact Us” ads and ran them in area newspapers.

People down here know this is serious. I started working with disaster communications ideas this past spring (see “Employees First,” here). Research aside, I thought there might be other ways to help companies keep in touch with their employees during an area-wide emergency. There was.

For the 2006 hurricane season, the president of Premier Company, Martha Justice, and I invented the StormWarning* package. We think it’s an easy way firms can help employees and customers stay in contact in any emergency, not “just” a hurricane.

This is a two-part piece, a self-mailer with a Wallet Card inside. The self-mailer format is the delivery vehicle. Your company can customize it with your own message and mail it to employees and their families, even customers.

(Last year, cell towers were knocked out, landlines drowned, computer systems failed – and mail couldn’t be delivered. That’s why we hope companies will get their own StormWarning cards out before the next storm hits.)

Personalize the detachable Wallet Card with your company’s emergency contact info: phone and fax, pager and Skype, special website urls – you name it. Your people can keep these vital cards close by, in their wallets or purses, if a storm or an evacuation prevents people from getting at their own information sources (like the emergency numbers taped onto a refrigerator in a flooded home).

Justice put Premier’s printing and mailing capabilities into the project, I wrote the copy and Design at Work created the arresting “sample” mailer and card you see above. 4,000 StormWarning packages (delivery mailer + Wallet Card) have already been mailed to corporate decision-makers at companies throughout the Gulf Coast.

Doing your own StormWarning package is easy because we designed it to be. E-mail Premier the unique text and contact info you want to include on the mailer and Wallet Card; as well as your own employee or customer database. Premier will take it from there to print; then address and mail the pieces.

Now about good timing: Tuesday, August 9th, the American Marketing Association-Houston luncheon will feature Mike Strecker, Director of Public Relations at Tulane University. His subject is “Crisis Communications: Keeping Your Head above the Water.”

I’m going to hear what he has to say and you should too: there are more ideas out there for companies who want to safeguard their employees’ safety and well-being.

To get all the details, click on the link in the paragraph above or e-mail Amanda P. Gatell at To get your own StormWarning sample, e-mail Mark Sullivan at Premier,

The future’s going to blow in any day now at 100 miles per hour. Be prepared.

*“StormWarning” is a trademark. All rights reserved. Thanks to Premier Company and its team. Excellent.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pizza Palace

Thanks to people who shall remain nameless (Bob Lytle and his friends, a list of whom is available with the presentation of a warrant) for sending this as a public service. It’s both video and audio so turn your speakers on.

Not too loud, though, or the NSA will pick it up. You can't be too careful these days. But hey, check out the agency’s CryptoKids!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

No Grail

Measuring advertising has been the Holy Grail of marketing and marketing communications people for, oh, a couple or three decades. Hundreds of marketing professionals (including me) have beaten the Grail like a tin drum.

“If only we could get our clients to measure the effects of the advertising,” we’ve pronounced, “they would know why they should spend their money on marketing.” On advertising. On promotional events. On us!

I’m changing my mind.

What if the secret of getting value for one’s intellectual or creative activity isn’t mathematical but chemical?

Mathematics (measurement) is an exact science. (Ignore quantum mechanics for the moment.) True, you can change a variable. But maybe our ability to get greater value (more money) for our ideas depends on our understanding that human relationships are intimately involved in each exchange. Relationships equal chemistry and human chemistry can vary the result a lot.

Two articles that address the basic idea of money and advertising came across my computer. I got the first one from John Reeves: “Advertising's Tangled Web” by Jim Cramer, a financial columnist.

Basically, Cramer (who last predicted the immediate demise of newspapers 10 years ago and admits he got it wrong) suggests why the old-line media are no longer able to command such hefty prices for ads and therefore for their programs. He believes it’s the “lack of accountability.”

Cramer’s piece has a lot to do with media costs and not so much with the prices we charge for the intellectual property of our creations. In fact, I wonder if there is an inverse relationship at work: as the cost of media (in general) is going down, should we “thinkers” bid our prices up?

When the ad biz started, the creation of the ads was given away as part of the newspaper ad sale. That’s what advertising agencies were originally: newspaper ad sales offices. Now, as media proliferates and the choices are more numerous, placement costs may go down – a big if since most web-delivered media cannot “prove" their circulation figures.

That was the first step. Then Joe Fournet wrote “Will Ad Agencies Continue to Look Like Grocery Stores?” which you can read here. In part, Joe said:

We must deliver viable solutions to the client’s business problem and demonstrate a return on investment in the process. Houston advertisers, for the most part, don’t do a good job of differentiating themselves from their competition. Their advertising message contains no big idea, no distinctive selling points to attract the consumer enough to act and, thus, buy. Very seldom are there parameters set by which to measure a campaign’s success.

Is it any wonder then why advertising doesn’t work under these commoditized circumstances?

Fournet uses words like “return on investment” and “measure a campaign’s success.”

What if we’re wrong? Or partly wrong? What if our clients are more likely to spend money with us because of our human connections, one to the other? Because they like us, trust us to do a good (valuable) job for them?

Lois McMaster Bujold
, in her book A Civil Campaign, wrote, “A hundred objective measurements didn't sum the worth of a garden; only the delight of the users did that.”

We already admit that, when a client-agency relationship comes apart, it’s because of “bad chemistry.” One element of a long-standing relationship is “good chemistry.” It’s better that the client is…happy. That the client’s emotional objectives (and internal clients) are satisfied.

Measurement isn’t the Grail we’re after. Better things for better living through chemistry* is a more human motto – and model.

Detail: “The Achievement of the Grail” (1891-4), Tapestry by Edward Burne-Jones, Museum and Art Gallery of Birmingham. *E I du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Heineken Scam

Or, look before you reap. Last week, an odd e-mail cropped up in my Junk folder. It was from Heineken, the beer in the green bottle…so I opened it. This e-mail said I was the lucky winner of a “football pool” (= soccer for US readers) promotion run by Heineken in the UK. As a result, I soon would be receiving the magnificent sum of 385,000 British pounds.

One quick trip to the currency calculator later, I discovered I’d be getting about $714,000 in real money. Holy moley! I thought about rushing to tell Barbara that our money worries were over. Then I thought that if it’s too good to be true, then it ain’t true. (One virtue, I suppose, of being an adult.)

I Googled Heineken and found its US headquarters in good old White Plains, NY. I dialed the telephone number and ended up speaking with Miriam Veloz. I explained what was in front of me. She asked me to send her a note while she did some checking…but she said smelled a rat. I wrote:

Good morning. I have received an e-mail about something called “THE HEINEKEN INTERNATIONAL WORLD CUP PROMOTION.” It informs me that I have been selected as a winner for a considerable amount of money (in British pounds). It is from It requests a response to, who is identified as “HEINEKEN INT-L CLAIMS AGENT.”

Furthermore, a second address is included: “All replies must be directed to”Although I have visited your website on several occasions, I don't recall a World Cup-related promotion. Is this legitimate? Or is it a scam? I'd appreciate hearing from someone “official” in the Heineken organization about this. Many thanks in advance.

Miriam wrote back within the half-hour:

Dear Mr. Baron,

Many thanks for your mail and for informing us. It is indeed a hoax. The Heineken brand name is often being fraudulently used for activities in which Heineken is not involved whatsoever. Also in the case of the mail you received, we would like to emphasize that Heineken is neither related to the described lottery nor is it connected to the alleged organization. Heineken would never conduct a lottery like this.

We are currently investigating the origin of this and other e-mails and will take appropriate measures. Miriam Veloz, Corporate Relations, Consumer Affairs.

I felt a small loss (£385,000 isn’t exactly tiny, though I would have settled for a year’s supply of beer). On the other hand, I’d gotten a straight – and quick – answer from a major multinational corporation. So thanks to Ms Veloz and the Heineken US organization, which like many major brands is a target for all kinds of nasty tricks.

And on the gripping hand, I solved a little mystery. Uncovered a scheme that wasn’t immediately attached to someone whose uncle was the former Transportation Minister of Nigeria. Smoked out a scam.

Nobody’s going to give me money I don’t work for. You either. To paraphrase Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, be careful out there on the Worldwide Web.

“EMPTY” © Josefstuefer,

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Carter’s Dive

Back from a diving trip, Mary Jean Carter of Veolia Water here sent this photo along with a note:

Don’t know if you've been following the story of the Navy sinking the USS Oriskany to make the world’s largest man-made reef.

I dove it a few weeks ago. We were among the first to dive it since the sinking. Prior to the trip, I did a lot of research on the history of the “Mighty O” – sister ship to the “Bonnie Dick” (USS Bonhomme Richard), Senator John McCain's ship, the fire. My dad had friends stationed aboard while he was on the BHR.

During predive briefing, we were told another dive shop had already hung an American flag off the top of the island. But you can’t imagine, or rather you can imagine the enormous wave of emotion felt as we descended the line and first saw that huge flag waving above her deck! Chilling!

I touched the flight deck at 138’ and briefly thanked all the men and women who served aboard the “Mighty O” and other ships.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Vision Reservoir

Presenting my newest website project. Take a look.

Working for CMS, designer/art director Kay Krenek and I delivered Vision Reservoir’s new site cum simplicitate…simple rather than complex; readable rather than dense…lots of white space. Instead of data-heavy, it’s brand-oriented.

The geoscientific marketplace is an issue. It’s jam-packed. There are a number of well-known oilfield exploration and production software companies that have spent years accumulating products and data. And they put everything on their websites. Everything.

Vision Reservoir’s site is…cleaner. The company was renamed, shortening a much longer and more technologically complex name (see below). To break through the clutter, we extended this concept to emphasize what the company means by the word “Vision.”

The home page rotates among four different views, from earth orbit to deep geology: a satellite photo of an offshore field right down to a stratum of rock…to which we have added four different headlines. Each headline highlights a different role the company plays in reservoir remediation and productivity. Each one is founded on “Vision” for brand reinforcement.

We continued the concise design and copy throughout the site, emphasizing the brand name. There is enough information to explain but not overwhelm. (First, build the house; then decorate it. CMS’s Donna Giles did the hard-slogging work of assembling and organizing.)

Christine Reel, CMS Principal says: Actually, Kay Krenek (designer extraordinaire) provided the impetus to either: a) shorten the really lengthy corporate name that no one used; or b) add substance to the short four initials that were used with no reference. Her suggestion proved to be the cornerstone for a very effective re-branding initiative.

The most memorable and delightful vignette of the process was the presentation of four web concepts – each considered to be perfect and wonderful by the client. The “Vision” concept ultimately won out and is now providing a visually arresting and compelling site.

This is one of those client projects that went so well we can all bask in the afterglow.

Borrowing a line from another design industry professional, Susan Kirkland: “There are many things an art director relies on other professionals for, but none of them should involve decisions about how art supports copy or copy supports mission.”

In the new Vision Reservoir website, design and copy both support...clarity. With an afterglow.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Niki's Stuff

Now that Blogger is allowing photos again, here are a pair of pix from our visit to the exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. At the top, Bob and Edith Fusillo stand beneath one of the giant, mirror-covered figures...the Firebird. Its proper title: Oiseau de Feu sur l’Arche Evening, 1991. Bottom, one of the Nanas giving birth

Want to see more of Niki de St. Phale? Wikipedia has a broad selection of entries, links and photographs. You can read about her creation of the Nanas, which are such signature pieces for her.

In the post below (July 13th), I mentioned how well I thought Atlanta had done with the promotional aspects of this show. A quick glance at Google shows not just extensive local coverage, but articles about it from as far away as Colorado, and in publications like The Economist. That’s quite a publicity machine Atlanta’s got. Doesn’t hurt to have the Turner organization behind this one.

Joe Beck, who blogs on, has said, “Many artists don’t know exactly why they do what they do when performing their art, but they know it’s important that they do it. It is important for the art consumer, too, or society, but often hard to see for them.” The Atlanta Botancial Garden has delivered a chance for “society” to see a huge range of work from a great artist. Thank you.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Carla's Joke

Just along I-12, traveling westward, Barbara and I spotted a small notice on one of those Interstate “Food Here” signs: Abita Brew Pub. We’d been looking for a place to have a late lunch, and here we were within a couple of minutes of some fine beer. So we pulled off right quick.

A little ways north of the Interstate (about four miles), we came into Abita Springs, Louisiana: “Welcoming Tourists Since 1867.” The Abita Brew Pub’s on the left, before you get to this historic town’s one traffic light. The café and the brewery are in the same little building. It’s a great stop for a fine pub lunch (a wide-ranging menu) and a few beers.

Abita Brewing Company’s probably most famous for its Turbodog, a pretty darn great dark brown ale. Number 2 on my hit parade is its Purple Haze, “a crisp, American style wheat beer with raspberry puree added after filtration.” Very, very good on a hot summer day in southern Louisiana. Barbara and I had a number of different samples along with our lunch, which caused an excessive number of potty stops as we drove on to Houston.

Now before I forget, here’s the joke that our waitress, Carla, told us – if you’re concerned about language, you should probably stop right here.

In all of St. Tammany Parish, you couldn’t find three better friends that Boudreau, Pierre and Thibodeaux. Why, they grew up together, they ran around together. They were just plain inseparable.

One day, though, Pierre was killed when he fell out of the Bobcat he was driving and it ran right over him. The coroner called on his two best friends to come identify the remains.

Boudreau and Thibodeaux went over to the parish morgue. The coroner pulled back the sheet and asked Boudreau if the corpse laying on the table was his friend Pierre. Boudreau looked the corpse over pretty good, then asked the coroner to turn the body over. He looked close, then stepped back from the body saying, “Nope, that ain’t Pierre.”

The coroner asked Thibodeaux if he could identify the body. Thibodeaux looked real close and then asked the coroner if he could turn the corpse over as well. Thibodeaux took a squint at the body’s lower half, stepped back and agreed with Boudreau: “Nope, that sure enough ain’t Pierre.”

The coroner was real puzzled. “Look,” he said, “we got the man’s driver’s license right here out of his back pocket, with his picture on it. How come you can’t identify this body as Pierre’s?”

“Pierre’s got two assholes.” said Boudreau. “This here body’s got only one!”

“Two? How do you know that?” asked the coroner.

“Cause everywhere we went,” answered Thibodeaux, “people were always saying, ‘There goes Pierre with them two assholes.’”

Visit Abita Springs when you’re over that way. You get excellent beer and entertainment along with it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bounteous Promotion

Here’s a city that really knows how to get the most out of its public attractions…especially one backed by Turner Broadcasting. So Fusillos and Barons went off to see the Atlanta Botanical Gardens on Tuesday.

The area has changed radically since I was a kid. I left Atlanta in 1968 so I missed it: the Gardens were started in ’73. Now at the north end of Piedmont Park, the Botanical Gardens are vivid and accessible. It’s not just the shrubs, trees and flowers – although the Orchid House is pretty damned outstanding all by itself.

For about the next six months, The Botanical Gardens feature Niki in the Garden, the largest exhibition of outdoor sculptures by internationally renowned artist Niki de Saint Phalle ever presented. The sculptures are huge! Wondrous! The artist’s signature Nanas are everywhere – powerful, exuberant women celebrating life, dancing, usually (but not always) in ponds and pools with water spouting everywhere.

The big garden spaces are great settings for mythical figures. Enormous animals. Athletes and totems. Some of them “reach as high as 18 feet and span up to 25 feet long.” They’re brilliantly colored or enameled. Covered in glass. Ceramics. Semi-precious stones and mirrors. So you get colors and textures and jangly slashes of reflected light.

The kids love every one of them…hundreds of children this past Tuesday AM, arriving in great fleets from daycare centers, brought in small squadrons by moms. All goggle-eyed at the fantastical art pieces, climbing over and around and underneath most of them.

I wonder where Houston would put something quite like this? I wonder if Houston could promote on this scale – especially if there’s no automatic national TV coverage like the Super Bowl? I do wish we’d give it a try. Thank you, Bob and Edith: it was a wonderful day.

PS: Bob sent pictures, but Blogger is having trouble with photos again. I'll try first thing in the AM.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Nempnett Thrubwell

It is difficult, (especially after a couple of gin Martinis), to convey the esoteric nature of our discussion about this small English town just south of Bristol – and the outright hilarity as well. This is especially true when we Googled up that Nempnett Thrubwell is the site of an ancient British barrow (or burial mound) knows at the Fairy Toot…which set off another round of giggles.

No, it's impossible. But Bob and Edith Fusillo and Barbara and I have now covered the subject in depth anyway.

Bob discovered that the name of this little 300-soul community was originally made famous by The Wurzels – the very same Brit scrumpy and western band whose top-selling single was “The Combine Harvester.”

(I have just been informed by Bob that Nempnett Thrubwell is at the top of a very steep hill. “Don’t tell I, tell ‘ee,” says Edith.)

It can't be got to, you know. Lying north of Blagdon Lake, Nempnett Thrubwell is isolated (but has a fine water pump). It‘s inside a network of little roads bounded by the A38, A368, B3114 and B3130. However, "whilst signposted from each of these major routes, a lack of any further signposting makes it difficult to locate the village when arriving by road." [My emphasis added.] Must be a state of mind.

A Bristol-living friend of the Fusillos, Sue Stops, originally told them about…uh, Nempnett Thrubwell. So what better way to celebrate a Monday than to sing a snatch of the Wurzels’ song, thank Sue second-hand, and pretend that we can talk with a Somerset accent as well as Bob can. (Which we can’t, but Bob and Edith are too polite to correct me.) On to dinner! This is what vacations are for.

Gracious thanks to for the photo. Ta, luv. No critical examination of Nempnett Thrubwell can be undertaken without recourse to Nempnett Thrubwell: Barrows, Names and Manors, by Richard Dunn. Highly recommended, £14.95: Somerset Records Office (Taunton).

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Visiting Fusillos

Squirrels, squirrels, birds, squirrels. Birds, birds, squirrels. Chipmunk!

Martinis, martinis, squirrels. Squirrels. Birds. Pines, sweet gums, tulip poplars. Chicken salad. Yorkshire pudding. Coffee, cheese grits, eggs – over easy, sunny side up, scrambled. Naps.

Champagne. Squirrels, squirrels, birds, birds, mosquitoes. Family trees. Martinis. Chipmunk. Petite syrah. Squirrels, birds, spiders. Hydrangea. Squirrels. Fig preserves. Sugar cane syrup. Fireworks!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Eating Vicksburg

The best lobster ravioli I have ever eaten is served at the north end of Washington Street in downtown Vicksburg, MS.

I know – this is supposed to be about advertising. I already made careful notes as we drove out of Houston: the curious truck marked “Dog Wash on Wheels” on Beltway 8 and the “Last Step Deer & Hog Processing” sign we passed in Livingston.

Good food on the road goes to the head of the line. As we have discovered over the last two years, the AAA guidebooks turn up some pretty good places to eat in off-the-Interstate locations. Rusty’s Riverfront Grill is one of those. An awful lot of tourist pass through Vicksburg…coming to tour the battlefield and see some fine antebellum homes.

So Barbara and I spent the night in Vicksburg, and were guided to Rusty’s. It’s named after the owner/chef, Rusty Larsen, and hangs out in the former grocery store that’s been on Washington Street for at least 70 years…that would be to the left of the streetcar in the old postcard above.

Long story short: Rusty serves up a much more eclectic menu than most of his customers want, but for the few who do, there’s some pretty good eating. The salad dressings are homemade. Barbara ordered the crab cakes, with a remoulade that was somewhat spicy for her taste. And the aforementioned ravioli…superbly done. We got in early. Rusty’s is a big favorite of the locals and their kids. But most of them chow down on the steaks and the chicken. I also want to compliment the service. And the cold beer.

Nice place to visit, Vicksburg. Outstanding restaurant to enjoy. So if you’re passing through, try some of Rusty’s specials. There, you see? It's about advertising after all.

Postcard credited to Wayne Roberts Collection from

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bates’s Beauty

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet

Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

The author of this poem, Katherine Lee Bates, wrote it in 1893, rewrote it in 1904, then issued a final version in ’13. The oh-so-familiar tune is “Materna,” composed by Samuel A. Ward in 1882, a decade before the poem itself was written.

What’s not so familiar are all the words of her poem – some of which I have put in boldface. They demand real thoughtfulness about what our Nationhood means (and should mean) even now, 113 years after she wrote it. Happy 4th of July, America! Remember that we stand for freedom, liberty and brotherhood.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Joel's Joke

Bubba was bragging to his boss one day, “I know everyone there is to know. Just name someone, anyone, and I know ‘em.”

Tired of his boasting, his boss called his bluff, “Okay, Bubba how about Tom Cruise?”

“Hell, yes, Tom and I are old friends, and I can prove it.” So Bubba and his boss fly out to Hollywood and knock on Tom Cruise’s door, and sure enough, Tom Cruise shouts, “Bubba! Great to see you! You and your friend come right in and join me for lunch!”

Bubba’s boss is pretty impressed but still skeptical. After they leave Cruise’s house, he tells Bubba that he thinks Bubba’s knowing Cruise was just lucky.

“No, no, just name anyone else,” Bubba says. “President Bush,” his boss quickly retorts.“Yep,” Bubba says, “I know him. Let's get ourselves to DC.” And off they go.

At the White House, the President spots Bubba on the tour and motions him and his boss over. “Bubba! What a surprise,” Mr. Bush says. “I was just on my way to a budget meeting, but you and your friend come on inside. Let’s have a cup of coffee first and catch up on the latest news.”

Well, the boss is very shaken by now, but still...not completely convinced. After they leave the White House grounds, he expresses his doubts to Bubba, who again implores him to name anyone else. “The Pope,” his boss replies.

“No problem,” says Bubba. “I've known His Holiness a long time.” So off they fly to Rome. Bubba and his boss are assembled with the masses in St. Peter’s Square when Bubba says, “This will never work. I can’t catch the Pope’s eye among all these people. Tell you what, I know all the guards. So let me just go upstairs and I’ll come out on the balcony with the Pope.”

And he disappears into the crowd headed toward St. Peter’s Basilica. Half an hour later, Bubba emerges with the Pope on the balcony.

But by the time Bubba returns to the Square, he finds that his boss has had a heart attack and is surrounded by paramedics. Working his way to his boss’s side, Bubba asks him, “What happened?”

His boss looks up from the ground and says, “I was doing fine until you and the Pope came out on the balcony and the Japanese tourist next to me asked, “Who’s that on the balcony with Bubba?”

Thanks and a tip of the Hatlo Hat to Joel Sabel for this classic – and to this Sunday’s “Crankshaft” cartoon for reminding me about it.