Friday, August 15, 2008

Not my worst PR idea ever...

True - I've been sucked into Michael Phelps-mania. It's a little confusing to keep track of what each of his medals means in terms of getting to some greater record, so I've chosen, instead, to focus on things like his wing span, bathing suit, and iPod.


I care enough about what's playing on his iPod that I've asked other people their thoughts on the subject. They didn't share my enthusiasm, and most responded with something akin to "get a life".

But I couldn't shake it, so I went online and Googled "Michael Phelps" + "iPod", and found that about 195,000 other people in the world care, just like I do. HA!

But I also found I wasn't the only one with the great idea about Apple sponsoring Michael Phelps. I thought I was a marketing genius when I came up with a concept for a commercial that would play out with video of Michael sitting by the side of the pool with his iPod on, and audio of L'il Wayne's "I'm Me" playing loudly. Then the video would cut to Phelps in the water and the sound of a simple "swish, swish, swish." Then finally, Phelps up on the podium, adorned in gold medals, with the Star Spangled Banner playing triumphantly ... and the words, "What is the Soundtrack of Your Life?"

Apple...call me!

That idea got me thinking about some of my other "less than stellar" advertising campaign ideas. Like the amazing one that stemmed from my friend's child being attacked by a shark.

Well, he wasn't actually attacked, but he was bit by a shark, which counts as attacked by the time it makes it to the news.... and make it to the news, it did! He even got a mention from Matt Lauer on the Today Show. I should probably tell you, also, the shark didn't clench the child in his ferocious jaws, with the boy flailing around and fighting for his life. The kid was actually in two feet of water and thought he'd been stung by a jellyfish, until his Dad saw the blood and the shark teeth imprints, shaped like a big half-moon on his leg.

Yes, I recognize the tragedy of the scar being there for life, but, in the bigger scheme of things, can you imagine the street cred that kid will have by way of markings from a shark attack versus his peers who simply fell off their bikes?

I was working for Universal PR on a TV show at the time, so I approached my boss with a guaranteed, slam-dunk, WIN-WIN, since I had a direct connection to his mom....

"We get the kid and his family, and bring them to Universal Studios - put them in front of the JAWS attraction for a photo op, give them lifetime passes, and send out a press release to the world, talking about how 'Universal Orlando Makes it Safe to Go Back in the Water.'"

It wasn't well received by the suits - something about not linking the brand to tragedy (except for twisters, earthquakes, and alien attacks).

Fortunately, it was only a short time later when I was blessed with another great idea. No, not edible paper or feeding mayonnaise directly to tuna fish. This one tied to the Larry Birkhead-Howard K. Stern baby-daddy saga. Since Disney had cornered the market on the whole sports theme with the "I'm going to Disney" campaign, my thought was for Universal to work it from a paternity angle. So, once Larry Birkhead was determined to be the biological father of Anna Nicole's baby, and he stood outside the courthouse announcing the great news with his attorney, I suggested someone should be in Larry's face with a microphone, asking, "Now that paternity has been established, Larry, what are you going to do?" At that point, Larry would smile proudly and say: "Dannielyn Hope Marshall Birkhead and I are going to Universal Studios!"

Then, the commercial would cut to father and daughter happily riding "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" together.

I'm getting chills just thinking about it, but for some reason, my boss thought I was kidding, so it never went forward.

Phelps photo from Clive Mason/Getty Images and Birkhead from AP/Christine Aylen

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