Belize Tourist Board Breaks Bad

 Belize Tourist Board Breaks Bad

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the Belize Tourism Board and Olson ad agency.

Last week, millions of Americans sat enthralled by one of the final episodes of Breaking Bad, the award-winning TV series about a chemistry teacher-turned-drug kingpin. As the episode unfolded, a potential slam became a golden opportunity for the country of Belize.

In the episode, drug lord Walter White is discussing with his consigliere ways to deal with someone who knows too much about White’s line of work. The lawyer asks White if he’s considered sending the individual in question “on a trip to Belize,” referring to a similar, previous problem in which the person, who was murdered, was said to have moved to the Central American nation. White retorts, “I’ll send you to Belize!” The phrase swiftly became one of the top five memes on the Internet – and an unexpected boon for Belize.

The Belize Tourist Board was on it like sand on a tourist’s toes. Their advertising agency, Olson, quickly crafted an ad that offered a free trip to show’s cast and creator, using clever inside references that delighted the show’s many fans. As ADWEEK noted, the country “took the reference in stride and is out to prove that a visit to Belize isn’t, in fact, a one-way trip to oblivion.”

The cute gimmick generated more headlines than Belize has probably received at any one time in history. It also represented some canny thinking by a small country that competes for its tourism dollars with larger and more easily reached neighbors like Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Peru. Instead of being offended by the connotation, they turned the reference into tourism gold.

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) for the Belize Tourism Board and ad agency Olson, for taking a potentially unflattering catchphrase and turning it into a golden PR opportunity.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Seize unorthodox ways to call attention to your business, especially when raising marketing dollars is a challenge. Belize could have taken a conservative view and balked at promoting itself in this case; the phrase is, after all, a euphemism for murder. Instead, savvy marketing minds saw a unique and cost-effective opportunity to introduce their country to a demographic likely to appreciate what it has to offer. The result? They’re likely to make a killing.

How Upsetting is the Mad Men Billboard Advertisement?

madmen How Upsetting is the Mad Men Billboard Advertisement?

The PR Verdict: “C” for AMC PR and the media buyer who came up with this placement.

Just how upsetting is TV’s Mad Men billboard advertisement announcing its new season?  One advertisement is currently plastered high on a site on West 30th street in Manhattan. A tiny figure (we assume iconic Don Draper) is shown plummeting through the air with the show’s season start date appearing at the bottom of the poster.

The poster has generated unwanted headlines, as it is accused of reminding some New Yorkers of 9/11 and the sight of bodies falling out of the sky.  A sister of a firefighter who lost his life on the day, told the NYTimes the advertisement demonstrates that “Hollywood and advertising don’t care about the sensitivities of New Yorkers” while a man who lost his daughter says it “definitely evokes the memory of 9/11.”

AMC the network on which Mad Men appears, responded emphatically that the marketing image has been used “repeatedly since 2007, and bears no relation to 9/11″.

The PR Verdict: “C” for AMC PR and the media buyer who came up with this placement.  Isn’t this reaction entirely unsurprising?

AMC’s PR gave the NYTimes a full statement reiterating that the 2007 image is a metaphor for a man whose life is in turmoil and in no way references actual events.  Good point and clearly made. But what is the harm in going a little further and offering to replace the campaign advertisement on 30th street with another, to avoid any misunderstanding? Take it off tall buildings in NYC and save the image for print ads.

What’s your PR Verdict for AMC PR and its media buyer?

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