Oil spill is a crude and growing advertising trend

bullshitplug400x566 It’s an ill tide that … Spirit Airlines latched on to The BP Oil Spill as a way to divert attention from its own PR fiasco of charging for carry-on bags. So they launched a campaign with bikini-clad women in all glistening in sun screen with the tag of "Check Out The Oil On Our Beaches. While I’ve seen more risqué (and clever) things on the Benny Hill Show, someone somewhere objected to this. (And pardon me if I suspect Spirit of being behind this.)

Twitter users from all over the world have been tweeting about the advert while an indignant Facebook user has started the group ‘Tell Spirit Airlines their oil ads are offensive’.

Meanwhile, a chain of NYC gyms managed to come up with something slightly funnier. The NYSC is running ads which read, “Exercise sharpens the brain. Oil execs come in ASAP.” (For some reason CNN called the ad “tasteless.” A bazillion gallons of oil in the Gulf and you think this is tasteless?)

The marketing is seeping into new media with apps for both the Droid and iPhone that let you A) plug the spill or B) save a little yellow duck from turning brown. Elsewhere, everyone is trying to make political hay from the oil. In Minnesota, the Democratic opponent to Michelle Bachmann (R-Loon Lake) is flinging petrol-soaked mud because Bachmann also said the government was extorting money from BP to pay for the spill. In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley claims his opponent is an oil company stooge because he once voted for tax breaks for the oil companies. Not to be outdone, the GOP has a video blasting President Obama for having the temerity to play golf during the oil spill. I really am not ready for a world in which the GOP disapproves of someone playing golf. That’s like the Democrats attacking brie. Have you no sense of decency, man?

What little quality advertising has been done about the oil spill has come at BP’s expense both thematically and fiscally. The beleaguered Gulf state tourism boards are desperate to get people to come visit. To that end, New Orleans launched a campaign with the tagline: “This isn’t the first time New Orleans has survived the British.” You know you’re desperate when your ads are built around a reference to the War of 1812. Next up, a Millard Fillmore quote. Probably the best thing about these ads is that BP is picking up the tab for them. Florida has already burned through the $25 million BP gave them for advertising and is now preparing to go back to the well for more.

But my personal favorite BP-related marketing effort comes from TerrorBull Games – the company which brought us War On Terror: The Boardgame. They are offering a free, downloadable game called Operation: Bullshit Plug (my but they do love colons over there).

This game is for two players. Each player takes a role – either ‘BP’ or ‘The Public’ and each player has two cards that represent two possible strategies. BP is trying to shore up its dwindling share price, while the public just want the leak plugged. Both players pick a strategy and play it face down, simultaneously. These are then revealed and the effects on the share price and the leak are worked out. This action is then repeated until the game ends. It’s very simple, takes just a few minutes to play, but is also quite devilish and deceiving.

Plus you get that cool/disgusting Ralph Steadman-esque picture.


Ninjas — not pirates — sent to fight tourism slump

ninjas-kill-peopleNine ninjas have been sent to Honolulu to lure visitors from Japan. No, I am not making this up. The stealthy killers were hired by Hawaii Tourism Japan and come from Iga City, a castle town in Japan which apparently specializes in all things related to the ninja art.

Officials said it was the first time the ninja group has come to Hawai’i to promote a historically accurate depiction of a Japanese art popular in Hawai’i and worldwide. The tourism authorities emphasize that this ninja group is faithful to the ancient traditions. The black-clad specialists show off skills in swordplay, sickle work, juggling, throwing stars and even “piercing objects with flying chopsticks.”

Who knew that “piercing objects with flying chopsticks” was part of the ninjitsu tradition? Equally obscure is why Japanese would be lured to Hawaii by the chance to see something developed and practiced in their backyard. Would people from Illinois come to Hawaii for the chance to see one of their corrupt (redundant?) politicians take a bribe?

Related — and true — story: Friend of mine got a call from kindergarten her daughter was attending. Seems the teachers were concerned because the little girl kept insisting her father was a ninja. When told this issue of lying was a problem the friend replied with complete accuracy, “Her father teaches ninjitsu — what would  you call him?”

I would call him “sir” unless told otherwise.

Hotel fires staff for providing too much customer service

A small hotel on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast has fired all its male employees for repeatedly having affairs with foreign female guests.

The hotel now only has women staffers. I wonder if this will mean more traffic from Olivia and other “women-friendly” travel agencies.

Lesbos sues lesbians over brand name

Is it a brand war or a cat fight? Islanders from the Greek island of Lesbos are suing the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece because its name “insults the identity” of the island.

“My sister can’t say she is a Lesbian,” said Dimitris Lambrou. “Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos.”

  1. Never EVER get into a fight with a Lesbian.
  2. You don’t get better branding than this. Open a Subaru dealership, put Martina on every tourist ad you can and buy your sister a house on Thassos.
  3. You can’t win.

Russia uses smiling kids in tourism ad for war zone

Hey, they originated the Potemkin Village, right?

Russia’s southern region of Ingushetia is trying to overcome its reputation for bombs, murders and shootouts by paying for a glossy supplement featuring strutting dancers and smiling mothers. The eight-page, full colour supplement entitled “My Favourite Republic” appeared inside copies of the popular Moscow newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on Tuesday. … “Ingushetia, it is an amazing, beautiful region,” the supplement said on its front page. “You could talk about it endlessly.”

Or you can believe what the US State Department says about Inqushetia and the rest of the Caucasus:

Throughout the region, local criminal gangs have kidnapped foreigners, including Americans, for ransom. U.S. citizens have disappeared in Chechnya and remain missing. Close contacts with the local population do not guarantee safety. There have been several kidnappings of foreigners and Russians working for media and non-governmental organizations in the region. Due to the ongoing security concerns, U.S. Government travel to the area is very limited. American citizens residing in these areas should depart immediately as the safety of Americans and other foreigners cannot be effectively guaranteed.

I went to ComeBackAlive.com, the website for Robert Young Pelton who writes The World’s Most Dangerous Places and was very disappointed to find only very dated material on Russia and its dangerous places. Tsk, Tsk, Robert. CLARIFICATION: Actually the site does have more recent info, it’s just that when I used the search function the first page and a half or so of results were all for the site’s DangerFinder archives. Once I did a search for Chechnya -DangerFinder, I got the new stuff. Now I’m just disappointed with the site’s search function, not its actual content.

Louisiana won’t name its poison: Nixes official state cocktail

State senators were concerned that naming The Sazerac (invented in New Orleans: whiskey, sugar, bitters and absinthe. Sugar AND bitters?) the state’s official drink would “send the wrong message” about the state.

To which I can only ask, “Have they ever been to Louisiana?”

Isn’t that the basis of most of its tourism?

Story quotes a great exchange between the bill’s author, Sen. Ed Murray and Sen. Buddy Shaw:

“Is there a possibility that we could be encouraging folks, who were not intending to drink, that it would be acceptable and they could become an alcoholic?” Shaw asked.

“No,” Murray replied.

Two points for Sen. Murray.

Virginia is for lovers … and Crips and Bloods and the Gangster Disciples

Virginia’s tourism agency will eliminate images of people making heart symbols with their hands in its upcoming advertising campaign because the gesture is also used by a violent street gang. The Virginia is for Lovers “Live Passionately” campaign will remove images of models making the hand gesture, one of several signs associated with the Gangster Disciples, Virginia Tourism Corp. officials said Friday. The gesture shows thumbs and index fingers formed into a heart.

Bad move. Gangsters take vacations too, y’know.

Go here to see the offending ad.

If I can just get off of this LA freeway…

… Without getting killed or caught/I’d be down that road in a cloud of smoke/For some land that I ain’t bought

— Guy Clark, LA Freeway

Oceanside, California is an interesting little town. It’s next to Camp Pendleton, the huge Marine Corps base, and because of this it has a long and glorious history as a military R&R town with bars, tatoo parlors and motels that would rent rooms by the hour. Apparently the town fathers (and/or mothers) didn’t really think that this was a sustainable economic model and have been scrubbing at Oceanside in an effort to make it less interesting and therefore more tourist friendly. Fortunately they have only slightly succeeded.

A honky tonk feel still lingers around the downtown. It has a number of bars I wouldn’t enter in the evening unless I had a very short haircut and the ability to really mean it when I shouted SEMPER FI! Likewise all the shops that sell military surplus goods. In addition, the town is also a big draw among surfers and is home to a surfing museum that is only slightly larger than the postcards it sells. Because of this residue of seediness, the town remains wonderfully free of the chain stores and mallification that has engulfed the rest of the state.

Searching for breakfast one morning, I and the rest of the Collateral Damage clan headed south on 101 in Oceanside and came across Bessie’s diner, my one encounter with the sublime during nine days in the Golden State.

Bessie’s hasn’t been redecorated since it opened in what I guess would be the mid-’50s. Since then the decor has changed more by accretion than design and consists mostly of a number of trophies for playing pool, a poster of John Wayne and a large black-and-white picture of Rigo, who is either owner or co-owner. In the picture he is dashing in the 1940s movie star way with a pencil thin mustache and a dashing look. Today he still speaks with a hispanic accent and his looks have made the transition from the star to the character actor. The pencil mustache remains, augmented by the creases of age, some gray mixed in his hair and a slight paunch.

He had such an air about him that I asked if he was ever in the movies to which he said no and laughed, then went in back to tell his wife who may or may not have been the original Bessie but who found the comment as funny as he did. In addition to a magnificent plate of huevos rancheros and superb coffee, Bessie’s also featured a wonderful selection of locals wandering in and out: Surfers — both caucasian with long-hair and African-American with dreadlocks, Hispanic workers only speaking in Spanish, and what looked to be a retired Marine or two. Everyone spoke to each other with the familiarity of regulars if not outright friends. It feels like the only place I was in during the entire vacation that didn’t sell t-shirts and coffee mugs emblazoned with its logo. It felt authentic and not calculated. A blessed relief from the pre-packaged feeling endemic to the region. That morning will now stay in my head as the cherished moment of the vacation, a memory I can pull out that relaxes me and makes me happy. Which means Bessie’s now has a slot in my mind next to the rear-courtyard of the Louvre at dusk, staring straight up the center of the Eiffel Tower, a long wonderful walk through the pottery district of Kyoto and looking down from the hills into the center of Duluth.

A few other notes from Southern California:

  • Had the ultimate Cali experience … waiting in the drive through line at Starbucks in a big SUV. Wee hah.
  • I was only at Disneyland for one day (unlike Mrs. CD and CD jr.) which was more than enough for me. Loved seeing three teen boys in black t-shirts for Nirvana and AC-DC and trying to look cool. It is impossible to both be cool and at Disney. Give it up kids.
  • By contrast I was also in the Disney neighborhood for the Goth Day @ Disney weekend and the Goths were overwhelmingly friendly and not overly concerned about being cool. Maybe it’s easier to not worry about being hip when you look like a cadaver. (Image courtesy of the most righteous Skellramics.)
  • If you ever get a chance visit the Old Town Rootbeer Company in Temecula (they have stores elsewhere but this is the one to go to) where they stock every kind of root beer known to humanity and take friendliness to a whole new level, giving away LOTS of free samples and showering a certain younger member of the CD family with free candy and t-shirts. And they make a killer brew themselves.
  • I will never ever complain about traffic in Boston again.

Quick hits

You wouldn't want it in your eyes but it's good for your nose? Capsaicin, the incredibly active ingredient that makes both pepper spray and great chili disabling, is being touted as the next great thing for … allergies. Yup, one spritz of Sinus Buster Pepper Nasal Spray "Equalizes Springtime Allergies." In an incredibly artfully worded press release, SiCap industries almost alleges their product …

… is spelling true relief for millions of allergy sufferers.

… may prove to be the answer to every allergy sufferer’s prayers.

… has built an impeccable reputation with thousands of physicians around the world.

… [has] an excellent reputation for relieving chronic sinus conditions and headaches.

… grabbed the attention of some major medical researchers due to the
overwhelming body of anecdotal evidence both from patients and

… is presently involved in several new
clinical trials concerning various sinus and headache treatments.

… wakes you up faster than a strong cup of morning java.

It's probably an excellent floor wax and dessert topping, too.

Next must see movie of the year: "Farce of the Penguins" — the story of "one penguin's search for love while on a 70-mile (112-km) trek with his libidinous buddies on their way to a hedonistic mating ritual." Written by the incredibly filthy mouthed/minded Bob Saget — if that strikes you as a strange description of him then you haven't seen The Aristocats.

The juggernaut of free PR for Aussie tourism continues: "And here I am, in the Australian parliament building at what I think is something like four o'clock in the morning in the UK. And so I'm thinking, so where the bloody hell am I?" — Brit PM Tony Blair (motto: What am I Still In Office?).

But apparently there is too much of a good thing for the Aussies. Ad-rag has an entry quoting from a story in the Sydney Morning Herald about what it takes for the Aussies to give someone else free press: A comedy writer has been forced to take down an online spoof of the controversial "where the bloody hell are you" TV ad after legal threats. Dan
Ilic, 24, produced a parody of the ad, changing the jingle to "Where
the f—ing hell are you?" and inserting negative images of Australian life.

Who knew I looked this good? Last year I was a movie and now I'm a band. And much more attractive than Keanu Reeves.band

FWIW: I got one of their songs, Young Lions, from iTunes. It's pretty damn good. Not enough steel guitar for my taste — but you can never have enough steel guitar for my taste.

Not only can you not get drunk in a bar in Texas, but in Canada you can’t even be seen to have a beer. IN CANADA!

The Aussies continue to have good luck getting free PR. Turns out the Canuck ad authorities not only wouldn’t let them use the word hell in the ad, they had “to remove a shot showing a half-full glass of beer.” Oh, Canada…

Aussie tourism boss Fran Bailey continues laughing all the way to the bank on this one. “I still find the decision astonishing. What this decision shows is that Canada lags behind Americans, Brits and even Germans in the sense of humour stakes.” OOOOH, that hurts — less funny than the GERMANS? Canada has taken this insult seriously and announced they are sending all of their armed forces not currently serving at the Tim Horton’s in Afghanistan to invade Australia. Adding economic clout to this military threat, the Canadians say both of those people will fly on an airline that is not Qantas.

Aussie ad campaign continues on a roll

Man, those folks from Down Under sure know how to get the most for their ad dollar. Having previous reaped a whirlwind of free press from getting the “So where the bloody hell are you?” ad banned in the UK, they’re now doing it again — this time in Canada. The Canucks have banned the ad from TV and say there’s no point in the Aussie Tourism Minister coming to the Great White North to appeal the case as she did in the UK because they’re not going to change their minds. Well, I bet Ms. Bailey still makes the trip as the point of her trip won’t be to change the decision but to get publicity and I bet it will again work like a charm. Hmmmm, what mildly racey word can they put in the US version?

BREAKING NEWS!!! Turns out they didn’t have to ad anything to get free publicity in the US. Adjab points out that  the ever looney American Family Association (motto: We Make PETA Look Rational) has gone on the offensive and found something offensive. According to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald:

AFA members are expected to bombard Tourism Australia with thousands of emails and phone calls in coming weeks to vent their feelings. Members are also expected to boycott Australia as a holiday destination. “I just feel pretty sure the typical American family who is watching TV with their children and they’re exposed to this ad are going to be upset,” AFA director of special projects, Randy Sharp, said. “I don’t want my children to hear that phrase. It’s a shocking phrase because we’re not familiar with it. I guess they use it all the time in Australia, but it’s a foreign language here so I think it’ll have a negative impact rather than positive.”

Nervous Aussie tourism officials said losses from the AFA’s decision could mount into the high single digits. They were actually more worried as to what would happen after the boycott ended. “Wasn’t ’til they stopped the ‘cott of Ford that Ford really started to lose money,” said one Australian stereotype.

Don’t Randy Sharp’s quotes sound so dumb as to be made up? Sadly, it’s in keeping with everything else I’ve read about him. Can we nominate the AFA for some sort of award for “PR Person’s Best Friend”?

One more word you can’t say on television

… in the UK, at least, is bloody. As has been widely noted elsewhere, the Australian tourism authorities recently unveiled a new ad campaign withthe “Where the bloody hell are you?” The slogan, which has widely been referred to as “cheeky” in the UK/Aussie/Kiwi press, has been banned from the airwaves in the UK. Officials at the British Advertising Clearance Centre have decided that it is just to damn, bloody much to hear the phrase on the air even though it “has been emblazoned across full-page advertisements in the British press with full approval of the regulators.” Australian Minister for Tourism Fran Bailey is flying to London to “confront” the BACC over the decision– we use the word confront here in its traditional sense: to grab as many free headlines as possible. For those of you like me who haven’t actually seen the ads, a description:

The television campaign features natural Australian icons such as beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, the outback, Sydney Harbour and Uluru. The ads end with a girl in a bikini saying “we’ve saved you a spot on the beach”, before she poses the colourful question, “Where the bloody hell are you?”

The only possible answer: In my bloody cubicle.