Moving Targets-A Review of Teriffic & Terrible Transit Ads



I’m not huge fan of taking the subway. It’s an incubator for germs, there’s a lack of personal space, and it always seems to be breaking down when I’m running late.

Being a lifelong marketing geek, I really enjoy checking out the interior card ads and judging which ones nail it…and which ones miss the mark. It helps pass the time and makes for excellent blog fodder.

I judge the effectiveness of an ad on a few simple criteria. Did it capture my attention? Is the messaging clear and simple? Is the design bold and compelling? Do I know where to focus my eyes? And is the copy readable?

I like to think of a transit car ad as a walking billboard. Prospects are breezing by, or thinking about their 10 o’clock meeting with their boss, what to make for dinner, or how to get away from the guy sitting next to them with the unusual body odor. So simplicity rules here.

A good transit ad should include the following three elements:

  • A compelling image / photo
  • A unique, benefit laden, emotionally charged headline
  • Your name / logo / contact info

I was taking the train the other day and found some perfect examples of ads that work as well as ads that need to be improved. Forgive my photography, I was taking these on a moving train with bad lighting.



I love this ad. The photo and font immediately grab my attention. Both communicate the energy and enthusiasm of the event. And without ever having attended Honk, I want to go. The dates and URL are clearly listed and easy to find.

Boston Book Festival

Boston Book Festival

The first thing I noticed about this ad is that I don’t know where to focus my attention. Too many competing messages. And some of the copy is just too small to read.

Suffolk University

Suffolk University

This ad is at the head of the class. The copy summons my attention. It’s bold, daring, and speaks directly to commuters. The call to action is clear and concise. The colors and font compliment each other nicely.

Horizons for Homeless Children


The photo certainly captures my attention, but there’s way too much copy. Most people won’t take the time to read the fine print. It’s way too much work.

The Freedom Trail

Freedom Trail

I love everything about this ad. Bright colors and contemporary design make this Boston staple seem new and exciting. The photo tells the story. I’m intrigued to learn more.

What say you? What are your favorite transit ads? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Peace, love and powerful press!

PR Guy

Leave a comment

Filed under advertising, Branding, Honk, Marketing, Nonprofit Marketing, outdoor ads, Public Relations, transit ads

Nine Ideas to Take the Ice Bucket Challenge to the Next Level


When Kim Kardashian took the Ice Bucket Challenge last week on Ellen, I figured it was safe to assume that the campaign had “jumped the shark.” But it’s sure been a good run. In fact, as of September 15, 2014, the campaign has raised a whopping $100 million dollars for ALS research. Not a bad haul considering that last year ALS took in $1.3 million during the same time span.

And apparently Facebook was able to rake some serious cash from the challenge as well. A recent Forbes article by Jeff Bercovic reports that “Ice Bucket Challenge videos were viewed more than 10 billion times and reached more than 440 million people.” And the more views Facebook receives, the more money they make in ad sales.

This got me thinking…How can ALS raise even more scratch in 2015 and take the Ice Bucket Challenge to the next level? Here are nine ideas that could help the program grow and prosper.

Create a Brand Identity: The Ice Bucket challenge is in serious need of a brand identity. A well-designed logo would become an iconic symbol that would visually represent the program and distinguish it in the minds of donors. The identity should be distinct yet connected to the ALS brand.

Build a Microsite: ALS should consider creating a microsite for the Ice Bucket Challenge. Wikipedia defines a microsite as “an individual web page or a small cluster of pages which are meant to function as a discrete entity within an existing website or to complement an offline activity”. The microsite’s main landing page could have its own domain name or subdomain. Microsites are easy maintain to and are a perfect solution for a campaign with a limited life cycle such as the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Secure Corporate Sponsorship: This program is ripe for multiple corporate sponsors. It would provide the right brands with abundant press, consumer affinity and significant ROI. ALS should set distinct sponsorship levels that will attract a mix of small and large corporations. They may even consider securing a title sponsor such as the “Home Depot Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Feature Bloopers: My guess is that a few ice bucket challenges have gone seriously wrong, and there is some funny footage floating around out there. Why not create a series of blooper videos? People love watching outtakes of movies and TV shows. In fact, they’re often the best part of the movie.

Get Cities and Towns Involved: ALS could launch a contest where cities and towns could compete to see who can raise the most dough and activate the largest number of participants. ALS could come up with some incentive/prize for the city or town that brings in the most cash. Winners could based on population size. Mayors could challenge rival towns to go head-to-head to see who can raise the most cash. The press love municipal rivalries so you know it would generate a ton of publicity for the participating towns as well as the challenge.

Display Window Clings on Freezer Doors: Every supermarket from the Piggly Wiggly to Wegmans sells ice. And my guess is that every supermarket chain would be happy to place a window cling on the ice stall freezer door to promote ice sales and support a good cause.

Partner with a Home Improvement Chain: Home Depot and Lowes sell buckets of all shapes and sizes. ALS should forge a partnership with one of the home improvement chains so a portion of every bucket sale goes directly to support ALS.

Create a Facebook Contest: This program is clearly a big win for Facebook. ALS should partner with Facebook to offer a prize to the Ice Bucket Challenge video that receives the most views.

Design a T-Shirt: T-shirts are walking billboards. Offer T-shirts as an incentive to donors who reach specific fundraising goals. Donors will wear the t-shirt as a badge of honor. The T-shirt would also provide great brand visibility for the corporate sponsor.

So what say you? Any ideas on how the Ice Bucket Challenge can come back bigger and better in 2015? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.


Filed under Branding, Nonprofit Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media

Ice Ice Baby-How ALS Can Capitalize on the Ice Bucket Craze


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is hot.

In just a few short weeks, the campaign has taken the social media world by storm. The idea is simple. Take a bucket of ice water, dump it over your head, and share the video via social media. Participants then challenge others to do the same.

Just this past weekend, Kennedy clan leader and matriarch Ethel Kennedy doused herself in cold water at her Hyannis Port home. Then nominated President Obama to take the challenge during his Vineyard vacay. Other notable participants include Martha Stewart (I bet her cold water is infused with a hint of lemon), Matt Lauer, and former golfing great Greg Norman.

As a marketing guy, I’m fascinated by the viral nature of this contagious campaign. So, I went to the ALS website to learn more. Much to my surprise, there was no mention of the campaign on the ALS homepage.

This got me thinking… how can this amazing organization continue to build momentum and raise some serious scratch for their great cause? I had a few ideas and I bet you do too. So here goes …

Prominently Feature the Campaign on the Homepage: (NOTE-This post was published on 8/11. ALS began featuring the Ice Bucket Challenge on it’s homepage on 8/12)

This campaign is just about everywhere except the ALS homepage. This is truly a missed opportunity. People don’t like jumping through hoops to learn how to participate or donate. The homepage should feature an Ice Bucket Challenge banner that takes viewers to a dedicated Ice Bucket Challenge webpage.

Create a Dedicated Webpage:

A dedicated Ice Bucket Challenge webpage would serve as home base for those looking to get involved and learn more. Some ideas on what the page may include:
A series of step-by-step instructional videos:

o How to shoot your Ice Bucket Challenge video

o How to share your video via social media

o How to raise funds for ALS with your video. Provide participants with ideas and inspiration on how to raise funds for ALS with their video.

For example, encourage ice bucket participants to forward their video to friends and family via text and email and ask each recipient to give $5 to ALS (make it micro-donation–if they want to give more they’ll have the option to do so on the website).

A Prominent Donate Now Button:

Not everyone is going to want to pour a bucket of cold water over their head. Make it easy for those who just want to give with a big “donate now” button.

Gallery of Participant Videos:

People love attention. Make it easy for participants to upload their Ice Bucket video to the Ice Bucket Challenge page. Chances are, once they’re video is uploaded and their story is featured, they’ll direct their friends and family to the page. The Red Cross does a great job of this with the “Tell Your Story” campaign. The webpage features unscripted stories created and filmed by real people who’ve been helped by the Red Cross.

Create a Weekly Video Montage:

Each week the folks at ALS could create a montage of the best Ice Bucket Challenge videos. And each week, the PR team could submit the video montage, along with stories of the participants, to the media. I bet this would get a lot of play. Include a few celebs in the video and your golden.

A Thank You From a Big Wig at ALS:

People love to be involved in something big, and they love to be recognized for their efforts. A video from ALS staff member thanking participants and donors will help build trust and encourage people to continue their involvement.

A Description of How the Donations will be Used:

People want to know how their donations will be specifically used to support the organization’s efforts. And this is the perfect time to share that story. This is also a great opportunity to educate the public on ALS and the research being conducted to combat the disease.

In closing, this is just the tip of the iceberg (and yes, I realize my ideas aren’t earth shattering). But this campaign has better legs than Tina Turner-and that lady has some great gams. What say you? I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. How can ALS capitalize on this campaign and continue to build momentum? Let’s brainstorm.

Until next time, peace, love and powerful press.



Filed under Nonprofit Marketing

Six Steps to Add Some Gaga to Your Marketing Mix

Lady Gaga is a force of nature.  One billion plus views on YouTube, 6.4 million fans on Facebook, and 3.8 million followers on Twitter. The most Googled image of 2009, Time Magazine’s 2010 artist of the year, and Fast Company’s most creative business person of 2010. She’s a marketing maven, a social media strategist, and a worldwide phenomenon.

Love her or leave her, the girl’s got it going on! So let your freak flag fly! Check out these six steps to add a little Gaga to your marketing mix.

Embrace social media: Create a content rich website that shows your personality and engages your audience.

Gaga is a social climber of epic proportions. Her home turf ( is a robust site, chock full of chat rooms, photos, exclusive videos, merchandise, tour information, and downloadable music.

Limit your social network & keep it consistent: Choose two or three social networking sites that you’ll update on a regular basis and stick with them.

Fans can get their daily dose of Lady G on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. As for consistency, Gaga tweets about once a day, sometimes every few hours.

Be authentic: Think of social networking as a cocktail party. Make friends and play nice. People do business with people they like.

Gaga keeps it real by engaging fans as though they’re her best buds. During a NYC performance, Gaga tweeted “The team of doctors and nurses who saved my dad’s life came to the monsterball, one of the best nights of my life performing for u. Rejoice NY.”

Establish a tribe: People join tribes, ancient and contemporary, to feel connected and part of something bigger than themselves. Harley Davidson and Apple have built their empires by cultivating tribes.

Gaga’s tribe has been described as cult-like in their devotion. She refers to her tribe, affectionately, as “ little monsters” and has adopted her own internal sign language known as the ‘monster claw.’

Focus your marketing on a particular audience:  If you’re everything to everyone, then you’re nothing to anyone. Create a narrow focus and infiltrate.

Gaga refers to her target audience as “An army of outsiders – All of the weird kids, the artistic kids, all the bad ones. And I love that, because that’s who I was. It’s our own little world.”

Tap into the power of PR: A wise man once said, you pay for advertising but you pray for PR. PR gives a business or person the credibility of a third party endorsement.

Face it, Gaga knows how to make heads turn. She wears outrageous clothes, makes controversial comments, and buys pizza for her little monsters while they wait in line to pay homage to ‘the Lady’. While her counterparts make news for bad behavior, Gaga makes press for partnering with Polaroid and Virgin Mobile.

Leave a comment

Filed under Branding, Marketing

Three Steps to Better Branding

The other morning I woke up bright and early to attend a networking event modeled on the concept of speed dating.

After ample amounts of caffeine I was ready for the repartee. My first date was with an enthusiastic entrepreneur named Esther. After chatting about her business for a few minutes, Esther pulled out a copy of her new brochure like a proud pageant mom.

It didn’t take long to see that Esther’s brochure broke all the rules. There was too much text, the layout was busy, and the messaging was muddled.

How can you avoid Esther’s marketing mishap? Simplify your writing, keep your design clutter free and stay on message.

Simplify Your Writing

William Zinsser author of On Writing Well say’s “Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”

Read a little Hemingway and you’ll immediately grasp the power of simplicity.

Considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway was famous for writing in short, declarative sentences.  In fact, when challenged to write a story in six words Hemingway wrote: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Zinsser’s advises writers to look for clutter and prune their writing ruthlessly.

Keep Your Design Clutter Free

Bang and Olufsen’s chief designer, David Lewis once said, “Truly elegant design incorporates top-notch functionality into a simple, uncluttered form.” Amen brother.

Good design is clean, simple and clutter free. It’s quiet, confident and commanding without trying too hard.

Need a visual? Check out the Eames Molded Plywood Chair. Recently hailed as the best design of the 20th century by Time Magazine, this modern masterpiece is timeless, sleek and simple.

Stay on Message

All of your marketing materials should articulate your brand’s positioning. A brand positioning statement defines what makes your business unique, why consumers would want to do business with you, and how you wish to be perceived. Your brand positioning statement should be unique, narrow, clear, and consistent.

Would love to hear from you on common marketing mishaps and ideas for better branding.

Peace, love and powerful press.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Social Cycle

I hate doing laundry. Don’t get me wrong. I dig clean clothes.  I just hate schlepping my duffel bag of dirty duds down the stairs of my third floor walk-up.  It’s a real drag. And that’s exactly what you’ll often see me doing, dragging my bag down the street.

While spending my Saturday at The Suds and Comfort is not my idea of a good time, it got me thinking.  A social media plan is a lot like a wash cycle. If you jump in without proper planning it’s going leave you feeling all wet.

Here are four steps to ensure social success:

Listen:  Before engaging anyone through social media you need to be a voyeur. Take some time to observe and understand the culture, vernacular, and behavior of the community you’re hoping to join. You don’t want to bust into a community, bombarding your new neighbors with your sales pitch. They’ll see you as a spammer and tune you out. Once they tune you out, it will take time to rebuild credibility.

Participate: Create content that stimulates conversation in your community. Think of yourself as publisher. Publishers create content with their readers in mind. Be a passionate thought leader that educates, engages and entertains. Know your audience and make media that resonates with them.

Implement Metrics:  A word of warning…social media is not just a numbers game. You can have a large number of Facebook followers but are they interested in what you’re saying? Are they returning to your page?  But that’s another story for another day.

Four quick ways to measure your social impact:

  • Traffic: Hits to site, followers, friends and fans.
  • Engagement:  Click-thru’s, repeat visits, blog comments, retweets, bookmarks, and subscribers to feeds.
  • Influence: Increased brand awareness, buzz, mentions, links shared, leads, and long tail traffic.
  • Sales Activity:  Map out a time line of social media activity and overlay it with a financial performance chart.

Change and Adapt:  Assess your social media strategy. Constantly evaluate what’s working and where you can implement change. Don’t be afraid to experiment and take chances. Learn from your mistakes, evolve and move forward.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Four Steps to Makeover Your Media Room

I’ve been poking around a lot of online press rooms lately. Interestingly enough, they all seem to fall into one of three categories: bare bones, yesterday’s news or robust resource.

The bare bones media room is like a pizza box at a Weight Watchers convention—empty. If you’re lucky, you’ll find contact information for a media rep, but that’s usually about it.

The yesterday’s news media room is like a day old danish—stale. The news is outdated and the page feels frozen in time.

Now the robust media room, that’s a different story, the robust media room is like a Porsche 911—fully loaded.

So, “Gentlemen, start your engines” and check out these four steps to get your media room up to speed and on the right track.

Provide Comprehensive Contact Information

Journalists are always under deadlines and juggling multiple stories. They don’t have the time or the patience to be searching around your press page for contact information. Make sure to include the name, phone numbers (office and cell), and email address for an accessible PR contact. You should also provide a general contact option such as for less pressing issues.

Offer an Extensive Press Kit and Multimedia

Provide your company history, executive bios, board list, high-resolution logos, photos, head shots, awards, links to recent media coverage, videos and podcasts. The easier you make the journalist’s/blogger’s job, the more likely they are to write about you.

Share Information on Your Industry or Cause

Want your press room to become a destination for journalists and bloggers? Then offer more than just information on your company or nonprofit and provide information on your industry or cause. Use tip sheets, fact sheets, polls, and surveys to make your case.  For example, let’s say you’re a PR person for a major airline, you could compile a fact sheet of the latest consumer trends in flying: how often the average person flies, the percentage of passengers who do not check baggage, etc. Why not create a tip sheet on how to save on airfare? Go beyond the pale and provide journalists/bloggers with the all the ammunition they need to write a story.  They will soon start to see you as an industry resource rather than a PR rep for your organization.

Create a Calendar of Events and Speaking Gigs

Journalists and bloggers often attend trade shows, conferences and seminars. Why not create a calendar of executive public speaking appearances along with the conferences and trade shows you’ll be attending.  You never know…a journalist/blogger may decide to attend your session or swing by your trade show booth for a chat.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized