Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The NFL’s Pink October: Brand Positioning Gone Wrong

October 23, 2014

Green Bay Packers v Baltimore RavensIf you’ve managed to catch an NFL game this October, you may have noticed the “pink-washing” of the game, the uniforms and even the take-home merchandise offerings. For those who don’t know… October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Breast cancer is a disease that primarily affects women, and particularly now, there are a lot of reasons for the NFL to charm women.

What was perhaps once a respected partnership with the American Cancer Society to raise money and awareness, is at this point a pretty obvious brand positioning tactic gone wrong. The most recent domestic violence allegations against Ray Rice, the subsequent mishandling of the punishment and the entire media fiasco around it all has led many women to finally ask the question amidst all of the pink cleats and helmets: does the NFL really care about me?

And a lot of those same women are coming to the conclusion that, no, it really doesn’t. The NFL has donated $7 million to the American Cancer Society since they began the “A Crucial Catch” campaign back in 2009. While it’s no small chunk of change, that amount is only about 12.5% of the entire revenue generated from pink retail items sold in October. The NFL, along with retailers and manufacturers, keep the remainder. When you look at this in the context that the NFL generates upwards of $8 billion a year in revenue alone, that amount seems hardly generous.

The NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” is a marketing campaign centered on a special cause (breast cancer) that many, many people can appreciate and respect. The NFL, in creating this campaign, hoped to align themselves as a friend of women, as an organization that looks out for women and the challenges they face. But with the mishandling of the Ray Rice case and the spotlight on how the NFL has handled past domestic violence cases against its players, it is pretty clear that the NFL is no ally of any woman. And with that, the credibility of any other marketing campaign they hope will appeal to women, is dashed.

Because at the end of the day, “A Crucial Catch” is a marketing campaign. It ties in (very high paying) corporate partners, advertisers, promotional materials and merchandise. Its intent is to align the NFL’s brand with the American Cancer Society and all breast cancer research and awareness organizations. It aims to reach those of whom breast cancer is, or could be, part of their daily lives.

The NFL certainly could have, and most likely would have, continued on their way with this marketing campaign had the domestic violence issue never been raised. The pink October campaign began very shortly after the Ray Rice situation and all of the fallout from it. There was an immense wave of backlash against it the campaign itself – it now seems insincere and manipulative. The NFL has certainly begun to lose the female fan, and it is going to be challenging to win them back over with anything less than a purely altruistic positioning campaign.

What do you think the NFL has to do to get back into the good graces of the female market?


Receipt Shaming; A shameful PR practice?

September 19, 2014

By now, you have probably heard about Philadelphia’s PYT Burger and its recent feud with Philadelphia Eagles’ running back LeSean McCoy. The gist of the story is LeSean and friends dined at the burger establishment yielding an over $60 bill. The bill was paid, but when it came time to tip, LeSean’s and his posse left a measly 20 cents.

(view receipt here)


PYT Burger’s manager then did something that has prompted online debate – he posted a picture of the receipt on social media.
Once the receipt went viral, everyone from Charlie Sheen to other famous athletes were weighing in on the 20-cent-tip-heard-‘round-the-world. While McCoy is saying the tip was a reflection of poor service, Management is saying the tipping (or lack thereof) was done out of sheer classlessness.
Either way, there is a name for the waves caused by the receipt photo shared on social media: “receipt shaming.” Over the past few years, it’s become common practice for servers, patrons, bartenders and restaurant managers to share receipts online as a way to bring to light the behaviors of the dining public. Very popular restaurants like Applebee’s have made it into the spotlight (mostly negatively) due to receipt shaming.

It’s no secret that receipt photos with an accompanying interesting story have gone viral- and it appears to me that restaurants are now purposely using this tactic as a cheap PR tool.

In PYT Burger’s case, they’ve clearly come out as a PR winner due to the endless tweets, news coverage and celebrity buzz surrounding this story. Sure, receipt shaming is an easy way to attract attention but not the most thoughtful way to grab press attention.
The only sure way to guarantee effective PR attention is to have a strategy, make sure your company is thoughtfully positioned in the media, and demand social media managers are adequately posting on your behalf.

Our advice to companies thinking about receipt shaming: don’t do it. Yes, you might get attention and press, yes you might increase your foot traffic due to curious customers making their way in to your establishment looking for the stiffed server. But in the end, it’s bad PR.
Receipt shaming is no way to get your brand recognition; in fact it has an adverse effect and usually makes the brand look cheap and desperate. It’s much better to plan PR efforts and earn media placements through a great reputation and an interesting story.
PR tips aside, what do you think about LeSean McCoy’s tip debacle? Tell us @ebben_zall

Why one game is a fantasy-turned-reality for advertisers

September 3, 2014

For many, the final weeks of August are a sad time: the summer is winding down and cold weather is creeping in from just around the corner.  However, for others, the end of August is the most exciting time of the entire year – because fantasy football is kicking off.

Image via

As someone who is generally indifferent to the NFL, fantasy football season is personally dull for me. But as a marketer, I am completely obsessed.  It excites me because other fantasy sports drafts like baseball, basketball, and hockey pale in comparison to the billion dollar market fantasy football has created.

Fantasy football is particularly important to the advertising industry. 

First and foremost, fantasy football delivers a platform for an incredibly desirable demographic. The average fantasy football player is male, 30-40 years old, has a household income over $90k and has capital to spend. Using sports to reach this demographic is certainly not a new idea, but advertising within fantasy football allows marketers to reach this audience when they are most deeply engaged.

Fantasy football offers neutral playing ground, which is especially attractive since the NFL is a really troubled league.  The NFL’s image has become tarnished over the last few years due the concussion controversy, lax player safety standards, and player arrests. But fantasy football has a loophole- it allows users to disconnect from the league as a whole. When users are the GM of their own teams, they are no longer required to solely cheer on a specific team. Users follow their fantasy teams’ players across NFL team lines, indirectly giving the NFL itself less ownership of its own athletes and empowering the fantasy football owner.

 This ownership causes the users to become almost addicted to their team, and advertisers can capitalize on the captive audience in front of them.

Finally, the sheer saturation of fantasy football across the entire sports industry is enough to ensure advertisements’ visibility. To be competitive in any fantasy league, users need a portal, they need game access, and they need research.  Because of this, there are several mediums that have numerous opportunities to touch the desirable fantasy football demographic.

Fantasy league portals like Yahoo! and CBS Sports have worked side by side with massive advertisers like Miller-Coors, Toyota, and Visa to create engaging, native advertising partnerships. Besides regular in-market game broadcasts, the NFL runs games on Sunday Ticket and RedZone – two must-have subscriptions for any respectable fantasy football user. It’s the only way to stay up to date with out-of-market teams and players, and is splashed with advertisements along the way.

Fantasy football is a digital game which opens up the door for digital advertising. Popular sites like Yahoo! ESPN and CBS Sports receive a huge spike in traffic throughout the entire football season, creating the perfect platform for banner and custom content advertising. 

As advertisers, we’re always looking for opportunities for ad engagement and visibility to be high, and we think fantasy football creates an environment for both to be achieved.

What do you think of fantasy football? If you’re obsessed like I am, here are some great reads that I’ve cited within this post: Slate’s piece piece titled “The Evil Genius of Fantasy Football,” AdAge’s piece that provides a breakdown of the fantasy football demo, and AdWeek’s story covering media companies involved in the game.

What do reporters really want from an online press room?

August 8, 2014

In PR, we are always looking for attention- attention from our clients, attention from the media and sometimes we’re looking for simple recognition for a job well done.

To achieve the attention we so desperately crave, we develop newsworthy pitches, make valiant attempts to create viral videos and secure media opportunities that position our clients as thought leaders in their respective industries.

And with all the materials we create to attract the interest from target audiences, it would be downright foolish for us to keep those juicy pieces of content hidden behind an email inbox or a private YouTube channel. In the vast online ocean, web surfers are looking for information that is useful, informative and engaging. This is why content is still King (Neptune, if you will), but it easily drowns if it isn’t noticeable.

There’s that attention we seek again- and usually, want the content to be noticed by reporters and producers. However, reporters are no different than every day online readers- they’re looking for the most relevant information, and in a timely manner. According to a recent article in Forbes; “Online readers are a different breed and notoriously fickle. Their attention spans are short. Their modes of access to information are varied. And they are looking for real-time sound bites, not a newspaper article continued on page A17.”

As PR pros, it’s our job to appeal to this need, and we frequently recommend our clients host an interactive press/content hub on their company websites. The online press room, if used properly, can be a valuable tool used to engage new audiences. However, a press room cannot be created blindly; there are a few must-haves to consider before launching the page.
3 Things Your Online Press Room Must Have:

High Resolution Images: It’s no secret people are sharing stories through images these days (as noted by the popularity of Pinterest), so it’s important to ensure imagery (like head shots, infographics and event photos) are ready to be published as they are. If a journalist has to wait for a publicist to send a “web ready” file, they’ll probably move on.
Important Background Information: Reporters like to vet their sources, and if a PR pro has just sent a pitch, chances are the reporter is usually fact checking to make sure the source is reliable. It’s simple; include important information (like fact sheets, past press releases, and updated bios) in your press room so reporters know they’re dealing with a reputable industry leader.
•“Snackable” Content: Make sure your content is displayed in way that’s easily navigated and includes a quick description prompting readers to click through. It’s a content jungle out there- and to make sure your client’s content is digested by reporters and potential clients, you have to be smart. Set up the videos, articles and whitepapers so that their added value is communicated clearly and gets to the point immediately.

When building an online press room, it’s important to remember that all organizations are seeking traffic to their websites. The bottom line PR professionals must consider is, we should always be pleasing reporters by having a press page that is simplistic and efficient.

PR friends, have you seen an online press room that you’ve admired? Let us know @ebben_zall

My Time at EZG: A Reflection

May 16, 2014

For me, May has been a month of endings. Endings are more acute for me right now, because I am ending my time as a student, putting my years as a senior at Boston University behind me, and closing out my internship at EZG — it’s definitely time for transitions.

I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to spend the last year here at Ebben Zall Group. Last May, I started as an intern with the public relations department and throughout the past year, I have gained extremely valuable skills that helped me grow as a person and as PR practitioner. In fact, while that role is ending, I’ll be taking on new challenges here as an Account Coordinator!

As an intern, I worked on a little bit of everything. Through this experience, my PR edge has been sharpened, and my understanding of a campaign’s tactics has been deepened. It’s funny because before coming to EZG, I never thought I would enjoy working on PR for professional services campaigns, but I have learned that I really enjoy the work we do for that client set.

I was fortunate to have an internship that went beyond churning out news releases or media lists day in and day out. I was trusted to handle my own projects (especially projects involving video and social media). I’ve also enjoyed the creative process we go through when developing our EZG TV videos. Beyond working on editing the videos for EZG TV, I was able to help produce videos for clients. Seeing those videos appear on other publications’ websites made me so proud; it was really gratifying to be able to see the work I helped produce at play.

Throughout my time as an intern, I have increasingly been working to execute social media strategies. I learned that a 140 character tweet appears to be relatively simple, but it takes much more time and effort to write. Learning how to write for social media is a skill that is becoming more important to have as social media’s presence and importance grows, and I can honestly say that I have mastered it over the past year.

I’m sad that my time as an EZG intern is coming to an end, but I’m excited to learn and grow more with EZG in the years ahead. I look forward to growing as a PR professional with the incredible team and clients at EZG – and to writing more about my experiences in PR and the work we do!

How The Hit Show Scandal Lit My PR Fire

May 1, 2014

Some PR practitioners may be naturally born and bred for the industry, others are not. I happen to be one of them-good news for me, all is not lost! After spending years in event marketing and even dabbling in acting and modeling, something happened to me-a popular television show inspired a shift.

Scandal, starring Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, ignited my curiosity and passion for PR. Watching her act as a fire extinguisher, share stories and form powerful relationships with heavy hitters lit my fire!  Her performance got me thinking, I can be a PR pro too!  A little voice inside my head said, “think outside the box Stacey, and don’t just limit yourself to marketing or modeling. Don’t just consume. Create…” Yes the voice inside my head really said all of that!

After listening to my voice, I recognized three PR touch points: create a story, share the story, track the story. These are just a few of the things I am blessed to do on a daily basis in my position as a Public Relations Account Executive with Ebben Zall Group. Our boutique firm is packed with brilliant individuals who just “get it.” We understand the value of public relations campaigns and leveraging our clients’ goals.  Many are drawn to big powerhouse media, PR and marketing firms, and at EZG I have learned to never underestimate the power of a focused and fun boutique agency. Similar to Pope and Associates, a small group of brilliant people who get the job done well-EZG is home to a tight knit group of people who work well together and get results.

It's handled.

My inner Olivia Pope says, “It’s handled.”

PR and communication professionals all over the world are mastering new skills. More so, modern day television characters featured in Scandal and Mad Men, are representing the industry on a wide scale. These shows are providing a sneak peek inside the industry of people like you and me- the communications pro.  Because of these characters, the general public is now exposed to what we do every day; integrating strategy and creativity for powerful results. .

From the CEO all the way down to the interns, at EZG, one of our goals is to identify our why. We ask, what makes you tick? The natural born storytellers, loud mouths and those who hold eclectic career paths have become more attractive.Those in a position to hire are asking potential employees “what lights your fire?” and brilliant blazing teams are being built because of it.

You and I are fire extinguishers because we create content, we establish credibility, we encourage connections and are master storytellers. We integrate marketing into our PR efforts mixing the traditional with out of the box strategies. All in all, I have noticed our efforts drive new big business.

At least, that’s what’s being done here at Ebben Zall Group and man am I happy to be a part of it.

Did you know ABC’s hot show Scandal was inspired by the real life of PR Pro and Crisis Manager Judy Smith?

Take a look at Barbara Walter’s interview with Judy Smith and tell us how it inspires you @Ebben_Zall 



Why Do I want Snickers? Because they said so.

February 13, 2014


I’m hungry, and why should I wait for a meal when I can grab a Snickers? That’s what the famous candy bar’s marketers want consumers to ask.  How do they get us to the question so consistently?

By creating content that hits us in the gut (pun intended). From Starbucks to Bank of America to Nike, major brands heavily rely on the right words to motivate sales and spark brand recognition.  Word choice can be very powerful and ultimately ignite our feelings to connect us with brands on an emotional level.

That’s the heart of it: The right words in branding and marketing campaigns is the “secret sauce” to success.  When it comes to choosing products, this language has the ability to awaken emotions and thoughts that drive purchase decisions and action. Any company that effectively motivates our decisions is sure to have a big impact in our day-to-day lives and an even bigger impact on their bottom lines.  

Efforts around pitching the media, marketing, branding, and content creation share a common goal: wanting to connect with a target audience. Similarly, brands that develop distinct personas in the audience’s mind become the brands that consumers trust. It all boils down to choosing the words that will create a long-term connection. And in PR, we know our clients and readers need to emotionally connect to our words in order to follow through with our desired course of action. Brands may want consumers to feel excited enough for your new product launch to pre-order, and we want you to stay engaged enough to keep reading. 

A mentor once told me, no matter what you do people will always remember how you made them feel.  This rings true for our connections in life, and it rings true for brand management. 

How does your favorite brand make you feel?

Advertising with Hue-mans in mind – Why color is important for effective advertising.

November 14, 2013

Making the right color choices is one of the most important elements for graphic designers. When developing ads, it is important that we use the best color schemes that communicate our clients’ core messages. The color choices we make largely influence how the ad is perceived and whether or not the audience receives the advertisement as appealing. In fact, color choices are so important that many companies hand-pick color schemes that will be used across all advertising channels as a way to monitor their effectiveness.

For example, Apple Computers’ advertising has maintained a very clean, simple and sleek style over the years. To communicate the message of “chic” they predominantly use black and/or white in their ads. Once in a while however, the ads will feature a subtle color to communicate specific messages. In the pictured ad for the 1998 iMac, Apple purposefully used the color blue to show their new color line. But by using blue ,they evoked feelings of confidence, trust, relaxation and security from their audience.

The introduction of the iMac in 1998 was the beginning of an era for Apple. Effectively used, the blue color brings fourth feelings of confidence, trust, relaxation, and security.

Colors have the power to spark different emotions, energies and feelings from an audience like: purity, sadness, joy, and fear. The feeling that advertisers most often hope to inspire is the need for purchasing. When colors are taken into consideration I always ask: which color scheme will inspire this audience to make a purchase?

When I am deciding which colors to use for ads, I consider the audience’s interest first. For instance, if I were to create an ad for a children’s clothing line, I would want to create an ad that used colors to communicate happiness, youth, and health. Soft yellows and pinks, pastels and light shades of blue are colors that are tailored to the aforementioned themes. Naturally, they would be the first colors I would gravitate to when creating the advertisement.

Speaking of blue, let’s take a look at it again. This Microsoft advertisement predominantly features blue. As a company, Microsoft has chosen to even use blue in several places within Windows. Blue is used in the bottom tool bar, the menu bar, and even on the default desktop wallpaper. Just as Apple used blue in the 1998 advertisement above, Microsoft also communicated confidence, security, and sophistication by using this shade.

When the Windows phone was released, their ad campaign was very similar to Apple’s, using simplicity and the color blue.

Just as blue communicates a very specific message, it is very important to understand all colors and what their underlying message is so that ads properly evoke the right emotions.

Orange: Communicates creativity and playfulness. A very successful use of the color orange is located on the logos for both Nickelodeon and Home Depot. Nickelodeon is encouraging play and Home Depot is encouraging creativity by use of this warm hue.

Yellow: Communicates happiness, warmth and fun. Using yellow commands attention especially when paired with a darker color. For example, McDonalds often uses yellow against red in advertisements to demonstrate fun and excitement for their food and for their restaurants.

Red: A symbol for fire, red communicates passion and action. The professional hockey team, The Detroit Red Wings uses red on their logo to demonstrate their fast-paced action in the rink. Similarly, Quicksilver appropriately uses the color red on their logo as well, signifying the active lifestyle of their consumers.

As a designer, I know that it is very important to choose colors carefully to ensure the right energies are being communicated on behalf of an organization. When using color correctly, an advertisement has the power to motivate a sale and create a bond between the consumer and the product/service. Simply put, colors are just as important as text or language in an advertisement because they provide depth and meaning to the messages on a grander (and more emotional) scale.

It’s Not Complicated – These Ads Are Fantastic

November 7, 2013

it's not complicated

AT&T’s It’s Not Complicated advertising campaign has featured some of the most talked about commercials of 2013. For those of you who have not been lucky enough to see them, they showcase hilarious, quick-witted and cute children who are asked the simplest of questions– What’s better: bigger or smaller? Faster or slower? More or less? The answers from the children are usually nonsensical and charming—but the questions are understood. The underlying message delivered through AT&T’s campaign is when consumers use AT&T, they receive a bigger, faster and more easily understood service.

For me, the ads are simply genius. Aside from the fact that they’re hilarious and become more entertaining every time a new ad is released, they’re helping the audience to connect with their brand proposition. One of the reasons that I suspect that the campaign is so successful is because it follows the principle of K.I.S.S.– Keep It Simple Stupid.  And AT&T’s message is just that: our service is superior and the benefits are so obvious that even children can understand.

Cell phone manufacturers and service providers alike have taken different, and often opposing, approaches to advertising. For example, the most recent Android commercial promotes the idea that their phone is the only phone in the world made out of Kevlar Fiber and is five times stronger than steel.  After watching the ad, I had to pause and ask myself: is this an advertisement for a phone or a space ship? I’d like to point out that last week, my iPhone got run over by a car (as seen on Ebben Zall Group’s Facebook page)– the screen completely shattered and it was rendered unfixable. Even after my unfortunate event, I am not swayed to purchase an Android that claims to be Superman—stronger than steel and bullet proof. I simply do not believe the message that they’re selling as I do with AT&T’s commercials.

Although AT&T ads are amusing, the validity of their marketability comes from sales dollars. And they have achieved that validity in the market—since running the campaign, they continue to sign exclusive partnership deals with some of the hottest products on the market and was ranked as the fastest LTE provider in the U.S. by PC Magazine and wireless network research firm Sensorly. In an interview last May with Forbes, AT&T’s CMO David Christopher said that since the It’s Not Complicated campaign launched, brand recall is very high and sales are on the rise. When asked how long the campaign would continue, he said, “We plan on using it as long as it’s working”.  All in all, it seems like congratulations are in order for AT&T.   AT&T has kept viewers entertained, created memorable commercials and increased their revenues. Simply put, through their commercials they have created an uncomplicated route to higher revenues and nationwide brand recognition.

Here are some of my favorite It’s Not Complicated Commercials:

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