And the Academy Award Goes to… Embedded Ads

 And the Academy Award Goes to... Embedded Ads

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Ellen DeGeneres and the Academy Awards.

This past Sunday’s Academy Awards were long at over three and a half hours, but by all accounts most people came away satisfied – notably, advertisers, fans of host Ellen DeGeneres, who was a marketer’s dream pitch person, and the network, which enjoyed higher than usual ratings.

DeGeneres quickly established that this year’s awards would be less like the usual ceremony and more like a star-studded version of her talk show. She took selfies with celebs, ordered pizza to be distributed among them – there was fun spontaneity.

Or fun product integration, more like. The star-filled selfie was taken with a smartphone made by Samsung, one of the show’s sponsors. Mild oops when Ellen used an iPhone for later selfies backstage, and when Coke came with the pizza – sponsor Pepsi was not amused. But overall, the free-for-all worked: This year’s Academy Awards pulled in a higher viewership of 43.7 million, and sponsors love those eyeballs.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Ellen DeGeneres and the Academy Awards.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep both sponsors and viewers in mind. At what point does embedded marketing become obvious, even obnoxious? When it’s not fun. Show producers worked well with advertisers to come up with seemingly impromptu, entertaining ways to spotlight brand names. Not that viewers may even have noticed: A recent Frontline segment showed that young social media users have no idea what the term “selling out” means. Advertisers are moving away from the clunky early days of obvious product integration in movies and TV shows and into an age of clever brand spotlighting.

Samsung’s Embarrassing Moment at CES

 Samsungs Embarrassing Moment at CES

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Michael Bay and Samsung.

Being a trend topic on Twitter is something most people would pay good ad dollars for, but action movie director Michael Bay would probably pay to get off the feed. Making the rounds of social media and the morning shows is a videotape from tech convention CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, where Bay took to the stage for a talk – and then walked.

Bay was set to unveil the new Samsung UHD television, one of the big presentations at CES. The director of such blockbusters as Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and the Transformers series was introduced by Samsung Executive VP Joe Stinziano, and began, “My job, as a director, is I get to dream for a living…And what I try to do is…” He then faltered, saying the teleprompter was off, and promptly left the stage.

The spectacularly clumsy and uncomfortable few moments were, of course, captured as part of the conference, but could there have been a worse place than a gadgets convention for this to happen? Hundreds of phones recording it all, tweets sent immediately. A few rushed to Bay’s defense, but the mortification made the rounds by the time Bay posted a blog on his website. “Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES…I guess live shows aren’t my thing.” For a blockbuster director, that’s rather understated.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for director Michael Bay and Samsung, for an embarrassing show at CES.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know thyself, and say no. If live shows aren’t your thing, don’t do them. What could Bay have netted from this appearance? Surely the money couldn’t come close to what he’s made on a single Transformers movie. If he owed Samsung in some way, best to make it up with an offstage endorsement. Public speaking need not be part of one’s package. Those who are not born showmen would be better off letting others do the talking, with or without a teleprompter.

Is Apple’s PR Bruised?

 Is Apples PR Bruised?What to think of Apple? To hear stock analysts and business anchors talk, one would think Goliath had just taken a severe hit to the head. Apple has been the undisputed giant of tech for so long that the slightest waver on its feet has everyone talking about how the mighty may soon be falling.

True, profits are down – about 18 percent this quarter, and the first decline for Apple in a decade. Speculation that the company might slope downward following the demise of leader Steve Jobs didn’t come to pass immediately, but the birth of competitive, and cheaper, products are starting to pose a threat. And there are no new products coming from Apple, which is bad news for a company that caters to consumers mad for the latest in tech devices.

Another first for Apple is having to borrow money. The explanation? Rather than face taxes on bringing in offshore assets, Apple will take a loan to pay $100 billion to shareholders by 2015, which pleases some, but perplexes others. Bottom line: should Apple be in crisis mode or business as usual?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Apple. The news isn’t good, but then again it isn’t all rotten.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: A company’s reputation can precede, and quiet, speculation. Apple may be wavering in its long-held number one slot, but one of the company’s priorities has been building a brand. People don’t speak of phones; they talk about iPhones and lead iLives. Consumers still see Apple products as cool and a cut above the rest despite their ubiquity.  While cheaper products may come around, it will take far more than that to put a dent in Apple’s brand loyalty. Apple’s PR should continue to polish its image and brand and let the stock price see-saw of its own accord. Apple’s upward unrelating share price climb had to come to an end at some point. Best thing is to pause and catch a PR breath.

Guest Column: Is Samsung Passing the Buck to Customers?

Main Note 10.1 N8013 h front 9 150x150 Guest Column: Is Samsung Passing the Buck to Customers?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Samsung.

What do you say when a jury takes $1 billion out of your pocket and hands it to your arch rival (while calling you a big, fat copycat)? If you’re Samsung, the answer is, tell your customers you may be raising their prices. Samsung declared last Friday’s Apple verdict a “loss for the American consumer” and said it will lead to “potentially higher prices.” Is that any way to preserve a reputation?

Compare that to the sharp, smart statement from Apple: “We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy.”

Samsung has built a well-deserved brand as one of the world’s great tech innovators. Yet of late, even when it wins in court, it loses. Just last month, a UK High Court found that Samsung couldn’t have infringed on Apple’s patents, because Samsung’s products “are not as cool.” Not good.

But frightening your customer base by warning of higher prices is unlikely to turn the tide. Samsung would be better served to hew more closely in its public statements to the legal positions it is presenting in court–in particular, that the inventions claimed in Apple’s patents have been around for years and were not actually developed by Apple.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Samsung. Scare tactics, especially of higher prices in economically challenging times, are unlikely to win hearts and minds. Better to use the forum to carefully explain one’s patent law positions.

The PR Takeaway: Sometimes the PR solution is right under your nose. Samsung’s business partner, Google, responded to the verdict by emphasizing how “the mobile industry is moving fast, and all players, including newcomers, are building upon ideas that have been around for decades.” This is essentially the patent law defense of “anticipation.” In this case, coordinating better with its legal team and staying on patent law message might have been the easier route and ultimately more reassuring than issuing stern warnings about higher prices and future lack of innovation.

Is Samsung right to be honest with customers about impending higher prices, or is this adding insult to their own injury? Give us your PR Verdict!