Is Andrew Rector A Marketing Genius?

Andrew Rector is either a marketing genius or he’s an extremely not genius of any kind. I’d like to use more descriptive words but Andrew is the litigious sort. Which is the story here.

In case you hadn’t heard, Andrew Rector is the gentleman pictured below who entered into repose along with all his chins at a nationally televised baseball game. Being a proud, upstanding American, I consider this a sin on the order of knocking over little old ladies and smacking ice cream cones out of children’s hands. But if everyone who fell asleep at a baseball game were charged with a crime, we’d have to put fencing and barbed wire around America. And I’d have to bail out my otherwise-sweet wife.

rector

Anyway, the game announcers had some good, clean fun at Andrew Rector’s expense, speculating on the number of beers required to reach this particular Zen state.

From there, of course, the InterWebs picked it up and turned Andrew Rector into a cross between Bozo the Clown and Pig Pen. You can just imagine. Upon seeing his visage on Twitter, a friend commented to me that he looked like an (extremely) (unattractive person). Others called him a “fat bastard,” a “douchenozzle,” and things I can’t write here.

And then tomorrow happened. In this case, tomorrow was April 14, by which time everyone would have forgotten about Andrew Rector. Except, he sued Major League Baseball, ESPN and the announcers personally for $10 million, blaming them for heaping scorn and ridicule upon him.

Even a moron knows that this suit will die a slow, ignominious death. (I am not suggesting in any way, shape or form that Andrew Robert Rector, a used car salesman in or around New York City [you can’t make this stuff up!], is a moron.) Considering that he filed the suit, there’s evidence that he has not achieved that vaunted state.) Suing ESPN and MLB for showing him in slumber (and apparent mid-droolage) is a fool’s errand. Suing the announcers for their tepid remarks is patent dopiness. Not that Andrew Rector is a dope, but his lawyer certainly is. (Note: From the semi-coherent ramblings of the lawsuit, he may not have a lawyer. Infer what you will.)

As a result of the lawsuit, millions of people around the globe who never noticed Andrew Rector conked out live on TV, or checked in on the disparagement of Andrew Rector on Twitter are suddenly aware that Andrew Rector dozed ungracefully through the whole fourth inning of a Yankee-Red Sox tilt at Yankee Stadium, one of Baseball’s holiest shrines, leading my friend, who cares as much about baseball as I care about strapless Jimmy Chu pumps, to call a hiterhto anonymous gentleman an (extremely) (unattractive person.)

With his baseless and juvenile lawsuit, Andrew Rector has frittered away the sympathy his case inspired and catapulted the ridicule seven-fold, this time for good reason. And for that, you might think Andrew Rector is a flaming goober.

But is he? After all, you now know Andrew Rector’s name. You recognize his visage and his form. You might be intrigued by his story. Maybe he’s just angling to extend his 15 minutes to a half hour so that he can cash in. Think of the possibilities.

His people might be on the phone at this very moment encouraging the Yankees to do Andrew Rector Bobblehead Night, with the bobbling noggin on a rightward tilt. (If not the Yankees, Mike Veeck has got to be working on it for the RiverDogs.) I see a book deal with a big advance: “Dreaming of Being A Thin Dodger Fan.” The endorsement deals from Tempurpedic and Jenny Craig practically sell themselves. A speaking tour, a magazine spread – and I do mean spread – Andrew Rector is positioning himself for all of it. The guy can stop selling cars – used or otherwise – and join the one percent.

Maybe Andrew Rector’s not a flaming goober. Maybe he’s a flippin’ marketing genius.

–barry waldman

Flipping For One-Eighty Place

Perhaps you’ve heard that Crisis Ministries is changing its name. This is big news in my world, maybe not in yours. In your world, big news is an earthquake that levels a city of seven million people. In my world, we stop chewing our food when our Facebook post prompts seven likes. My world is sad and pathetic.

But this isn’t about me; it’s about the organization formerly known as Crisis Ministries, henceforth to be known as One-Eighty Place.

 

Logo

That’s One-Eighty as in turning completely in the other direction, which is the work of this benighted organization. They so very long ago transcended “crisis.” Far beyond a homeless shelter, One-Eighty Place (I’m trying it out) is where people go to get their life together with a host of services that move them up and out.

And “Ministries,” well, that’s less what the organization does and more what drives volunteers to them. Some people are impelled by Ministry to offer their services to those in need. Others by ministry – with a small “m.” As Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller used to say, it’s all about the theology of the hammer.

Being the marketing virtuoso that you are, you know that the good folks on upper Meeting didn’t just make up the name, vote on it, and reveal it to all of us the following week. It took two weeks.

Actually, they’ve been hacking at this particular bush for 18 months, and they recruited the electric minds of Hook to help them conceive an appropriate moniker. You don’t just thumb through a baby name book for this.

In fact, One-Eighty Place (or One80 Place — they seem to be using both) CEO Stacey Denaux says they couldn’t find another organization anywhere in the country that could serve as a role model. No one had previously ditched its rescue mission-ish name for The Turnaround Center or Start Over House or Success Village or whatever. So Charleston’s own will have to serve as everyone else’s role model.

And as models go, va-voom, in my humble opinion. Just contemplate the marketing possibilities. Better yet, leave it to the Hookers, who are flexing their double-jointed creative muscles to get 540’s worth of bounce out of One-Eighty.

I’m looking forward to seeing the great work of One-Eighty Place get its due. Because I’d like to resume chewing my food…

 

–barry waldman

The Greatest Marketer of Them All

In the constellation of PR/marketing stars, the names that jump to mind include Bernay, Yankelovich, Ogilvy, Barnum, Schultz and Bernbach. Today there stands a humble giant in a white robe and spectacles who outshines them all from his modest apartment in the planet’s smallest country.

This marketing king is not known by a last name the way local superstars Munday, Wertimer and Deas are – unless you consider “Francis” his last name. That would make “Pope” his first.

Yes, the pontiff himself, the prince of the worldwide Catholic Church, is a master marketer with perfect pitch.

In office less than a year, Francis has achieved an ROI that’s, well, divine. Consider his list of real, tangible accomplishments:

(Foot tapping while he looks up and whistles.)

Now consider how he has made hundreds of millions of people around the globe feel:
Inspired.
Respected.
Humbled.
Enthusiastic.
Delighted.
Spiritual.
Grateful.
[Your word here.]
[And here.]

pope  Dude’s been clutch. Wanna
hear perfect pitch? Here’s
the first nine months:

 

 

 

 

• He induced the Muslim president of Palestine and the Jewish Prime Minister of Israel to quit clubbing each over the head for a couple of hours and pray with him in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin. Thereafter they commenced to blow up each other’s people as they were doing before.

• He shrugged off homosexuality and set a million Catholic (and millions more non-Catholic) gay and lesbian hearts aflutter.

• He tweets! He takes selfies with teens! What’s next, drinking a Sam Adams with the guys at King Street Grille during the World Cup?

• He ditched the fancy digs and the armored Popemobile in favor of his old apartment and a Ford Focus. You can’t live without your SUV? The Bishop of Rome, the emperor of the Holy See, the successor of St. Peter, that guy rides in a subcompact.

• He celebrated his 77th birthday with four homeless lads (and one guy’s dog!)

• He kissed a severely disfigured man, washed the feet of Muslim prisoners, and let a disabled teenager take a spin in the Mercedes convertible that he never uses. I don’t like to share my Oreos at lunch.

• He had the good sense to succeed charmless Pope Benedict.

• He has publicly honored Benedict, his living predecessor, declawing any possible controversy about Benedict’s nearly unprecedented “retirement.” And c’mon, you’ve gotta know he thinks Benedict is a Grade-A dork.

In short, El Popester, as no one is calling him, has modernized the office, softened the Church’s image and embraced a world so warmly that we all want to embrace him back. We might not know what he’s selling and even if we do, we’re hazy on the benefits. But we know how good he makes us feel.

And that’s the essence of marketing, right?

Millenials Will Ruin Your Life…and other funny stories

Oh these kids today, with their Snaptwit and their Instant Grandma. Why back in my day… [insert your personal nostalgia here.]

So you’re a Boomer or a Gen Xer and you can’t make heads or tails of these crazy beings entering your workplace, or worse yet, buying your products. Your ability to make a living depends on blobs of protoplasm that have the entire world at their fingertips yet know less about it than any previous generation. You’re attempting to appeal to a generation that believes in the myth of “multi-tasking,” and consequently are essentially in permanent states of ADHD — without meds.
Good luck.

Well, you would at least have a window on the varied demographic layers of the marketplace if you’d have attended the last AMA luncheon, where speaker Jennifer Sutton of Bright + Co. in Greenville enlightened the gathered about the broad differences among American generations.

Consider these matrices of generations in the workplace, currently checking in at four – The Silent Generation (born 1922-1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen Xers (born 1965-1982) and Millennials (born 1983-2002). (Source: Greg Hammill, Fairleigh Dickinson University Silberman College of Business)

I’m sure somewhere on the cloud exists the PowerPoint portion of Jennifer’s presentation, which I heartily recommend that you read, with the caveat that doing so yields a pale approximation of the living color version. For the full effect of the best presentations made to AMA, (shameless plug alert!) you need to come to the luncheons. Cleverly, they include lunch as well.

But I can give you a general sense of things.

These young’ins are crazy, and they’re taking over. Consider:

  • They call people they’ve never met “friends,” and consequently like to work in big groups. Which you abhor.
  • They’ve grown up sending sex chatter and salacious photos to their “friends,” and consequently have no moral filter. Hope they don’t do that to your customers.
  • They don’t know the difference between news, comedy and advertising. Indeed, they don’t know what news even looks or sounds like. They think Buzzfeed is a news source. Unaware employees are sub-optimal.
  • Sharing atomic details of their lives is their default mode. Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon already know more about them than their moms do. This could come back to haunt you, their employer.
  • They think 140 characters is a long communication. Research shows that tweets under 100 characters have higher read rates.
  • The first of them are already in their 30s. You’re stuck with them.
  • And that’s nothing. There’s another generation coming up behind them. A generation that didn’t experience Sept. 11, has never seen a map, and is its own favorite photograph subject.

But before your brain explodes and litters the hallway with Saved By the Bell trivia, here’s the real consolation for employers, co-workers and marketers. We all grow up. Boomers – the rock ‘n’ rollers who never trusted anyone over 30, wore long hair and hated the government – now have children over 30, lost their hair and run the government. (Okay, maybe that last part isn’t quite so reassuring.) Gen-Xers, the first to grow up en masse without married parents, have learned how to mate and co-exist as poorly as the rest of us.

And now Millennials are showing signs that they may be human and competent to navigate workplace rules and marketplace heuristics. They are more civic-minded, more tolerant of differences and less jingoistic than the rest of us.

Hooray for them.

Still, just to be sure, hold their phone while they’re driving.

–barry waldman

Excuse Me, I’m a Moron

After 20 years as a reporter and 25 years as a PR/marketer (they overlap, smarty-pants number-cruncher) I have learned something enlightening from my co-workers and observers of the organization for which I work.

Perhaps you, as a marketing person, have received similar enlightenment from your highly-observant co-workers and related people.

They helpfully inform me, with some regularity, that I am a moron. This appears to be particularly true with regard to the subjects of public relations and marketing. According to them, I am a quivering blob of stupid, evidently maintained on the payroll for my accidentally-entertaining wardrobe choices.

The evidence is squarely on their side. There are thousands of people in the Lowcountry who despite having utterly no contact with my particular organization don’t know anything about us.

If GEICO can save you 15% in 15 minutes and Hanes can go tagless, my co-workers wonder, why can’t an organization that sees itself as “a catalyst for community transformation through collective impact” develop its own splashy brand that doubles sales? What do those marketing dopes do all day anyway?

You know the feeling, fellow marketing person. The marketing department is the repository for company dissatisfaction of pretty much all kinds. The soda machine doesn’t work? Marketing’s fault. A customer decided to spend their money elsewhere? Lousy marketing plan. The software that operates everything in the organization include the flushing of toilets froze up? Must be all the crap marketing is producing.

Psychologists call this projection: your teenager hates you because her hormones are making her brain hurt and she has to blame someone. Rather than start smoking cigarettes, which are stinky and expensive, she has decided to disdain everything you do and say until her teen contract expires upon high school graduation.

Underlying all this is the obvious: anyone can do PR and marketing; it’s just common sense. You just call the TV station and tell them the story you want on the air. You just create a hysterical ad and run it every half-hour during the Super Bowl. You just mix Menthos with Coke in a video and make it go viral on Twitface. Duh. Sixteen-year-olds do it for singing cats; why can’t we?

You’re nodding your head now. That either means you’re about to fall asleep in your salad or you know exactly what I mean.

The irony of all this is that the issues I face are entirely your fault.

If you would all just quit marketing, I would have less clutter to bust through. People would open our monthly emails, which are brilliant and eye-popping, but no one knows it because they unsubscribed in 2006. Our public service announcements would run instead of your ads. Our clever Facebook posts, now crowded out by your vacation photos from Des Moines, would make it onto people’s newsfeeds. Our customers would have time to read our insightful tweets because they’re not wasting it on yours.

Of course, your particular genius at selling real estate, or creating business solutions, or developing software would be more widely known if I just quit all my attempts at communication. So your inability to become filthy rich is my fault.

I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. Apparently I’m a moron.

–barry waldman

Raise Turkeys, Not Awareness

Are you paying attention? A whole lot of people don’t seem to think so. Much of the non-profit marketing profession appears hell-bent on raising your awareness — of cancer, child abuse, dental hygiene, the scourge of erectile dysfunction, and the like. They evidently believe that you cruise blindly through life, like the undead, without noticing the salient features of the world around you.

I don’t mean to belittle a devastating disease, but I’m guessing you’ve heard of cancer. You probably know an important detail, like, it’s bad for you. You might even wear sunscreen and eat broccoli in an effort to ward it off. Awareness.

(I am making many assumptions about you even though I don’t know who you are. Based on the AMA members I have met, you are a graduate of Lake Wobegon High School: savvy and intellectual, shockingly attractive, courageous and warm-hearted. If you are not an AMA member, hurry and join so you can share these characteristics.)

Visit the website of many non-profits and you’ll see “raising awareness” as part of their mission, as if you didn’t notice the gentleman in full winter regalia pushing a cart with his worldly belongings along the Crosstown on a summer afternoon.

No one needs some anonymous radio dork imploring them to care more about lung disease, irradiated food, boating while intoxicated or the plight of the endangered chuckwalla. We’re either sufficiently aware or not bothering the chuckwalla in any way ourselves.

Chuckwalla

Chuckwalla

Of course, much of this is the result of the common misconception that anyone can do PR and marketing, which require no particular expertise, like hanging a picture, or swallowing. Non-profit staff without any marketing expertise substitute “raising awareness” for real, measurable objectives because, well, they haven’t had their awareness raised.

If these benighted marketers want to devote the full measure of their talent to useful pursuits, may I suggest the following awareness raisers:

  • Mindlessly placing yourself in the way. Subcategories: Standing in the doorway at parties. Stopping at the top of a hill on ski slopes. Walking four-across on the King Street sidewalk. Walking in the bike lane (or biking in the walk lane) on the Cooper River Bridge.
  • Cognitive dissonance. Sub-categories: Advocating for a simpler, fairer tax code that maintains your favorite deductions. Hating steroid users unless they help your team. Demanding that Congress do something while voting against members willing to compromise. Complaining about the cost of heart bypass surgery required after a lifetime of eating Twinkies and melting into chairs.
  • Smoking while in a public pool. The tar and nicotine have apparently ravaged your cerebral cortex beyond repair. For your safety, you need to be removed from the pool permanently.
  • Waiting to drive across four lanes of traffic rather than merging into the right lane and working your way across. If you can’t see how you’re holding up everyone behind you, then you’ve been smoking in the pool.
  • “The F-word,” “the N-word,” “the L-word.” If you want us to know the word you have in mind, say it. If you’re afraid to say it, skip the juvenile reference to it. P.S. There are several words that start with “S.” I can think of four or five myself.
  • Using a phone while operating a mass of metal at a velocity well-past sufficient to cause death. If you’re going to text, dial, surf, converse with Siri or otherwise concentrate your limited brain power on your phone and not on your driving, please make sure your fatal accident is of the one-car variety.

I look forward to seeing what those sharp marketing minds can devise to combat… hey! Get out of the way!

–barry waldman

I Value Our Relationship. Send Money.

As marketers, we like to think we have “relationships” with names in our databases. We use the most exalted term to describe them: customers. But do they think of themselves that way? Often, the answer is no, but it doesn’t seem to affect company behavior.

The problem is a subset of the larger issue of PR and marketing: people going native. I like to remind myself daily that the non-profit for which I work is but a walnut in the batter of our donors’ lives. Our staff will say something that starts with, “People think we…” when most people don’t think about us at all. Even most loyal donors who love the organization’s mission, and contribute an amount of money that would shiver your timbers, are only obliquely aware of anything we’re doing.

And if you sell flavored, carbonated sugar water; or aggravating software; or diapers; your customers care even less about you. You might use condoms twice a day but that doesn’t mean you don’t hate them and the company that makes your soaring personal life possible.

Case in point: I have a credit card through The Nature Conservancy. If you asked my wife or me, we would say it’s our Nature Conservancy card. We don’t know or care what bank issues the card and we certainly don’t consider ourselves their customers. (Not to put too fine a point on it: We hardly use the card.)

This bank, whose marketing department “values our relationship,” in the same way that I value my relationship with the center fielder for my favorite baseball team, sends us regular emails and old fashioned mail. At least I assume they send us emails; I unsubscribed so fast the electrons didn’t have time to dry.

I couldn’t tell you what’s in the envelopes they mail to us. I open them only so that I can remove the recyclable contents and mitigate the damage they’ve done to the planet.

Except I’ve started to notice that they are mailing me blank checks in the vain hope that I’m stupid enough to accept their “free” money offers, the offers that come with interest rates that would make Rico “The Shirt Collar” Spenzino* envious.

*Any resemblance between the fictional character Rico “The Shirt Collar” Spenzino and a couple of guys from my New York City neighborhood is purely purposeful. The views here do not represent the views of the Charleston AMA, the national AMA or even the AMA that’s filled with doctors. Also, my family no longer lives in the old neighborhood, Vinny, so don’t bother.

If the bank is intent on profiting from the prying apart of fools from their money, that’s their business. What rankles me is that they are printing blank checks with my name on them, putting them in an open box at the Post Office – a nearly bankrupt subsidiary of the always-efficient Federal Government – and hoping they will be delivered to me and no one else after they pass through the hands of a dozen highly-motivated federal employees.

Blank checks. With my name on them. What could go wrong with that?

What did that marketing department discussion sound like? Wasn’t there anyone in the room who noticed that they were setting themselves up for big piles of thievery?

So now a question for the bank from one of their customers. What happens when a postal employee handling the envelope, or a neighbor who reaches into the wrong mailbox, or a random person on the street who also values my relationship with the bank, gets his paws on the blank checks and cashes a couple of them? There’s no court in America that would expect me to be responsible for mail I never received.

Which is why I’m looking forward to the day that some vagabond (or blog reader) intercepts a packet of checks (did I mention that they’re blank?) and enjoys a lovely weekend in a tropical paradise like Atlantic City. I look forward to learning how much the marketing department values its relationship with me then.

–barry waldman

Reading This Blog Will Save You Time!

From everything I’ve read, Abe Lincoln was an upstanding and sagacious man. He emancipated the slaves, held the union together and knew what sagacious means. That sagacity lead him to proclaim that one might be able to “fool all of the people some of the time.”

I commend to your consideration certain advertising campaigns that are so pungently false, so transparently the opposite of the truth, and evidently so strikingly effective that they boggle the mind, or at least the mind of the few of us paying attention to their mendacity. You might call this the “M&Ms® Effect.”

For those under the age of – well – three, M&Ms® claim to “melt in your mouth, not in your hands.” This is not only the exact opposite of the truth about this particular candy, it’s a problem unique to M&Ms. Unless you’re an anti-choclatarian you know what I mean. The whole issue with M&Ms is that you have to engage with them strategically or else you’ll have a green, blue and red palm that you’ll desperately want to lick but will instead have to wash, in the case of persons with Y chromosomes, eventually.

To enjoy these candy-coated chocolate morsels, which might be among the rare artifacts (pizza, baseball, the platypus, sweet tea, The Onion, Scarlett Johansson) that prove God’s existence, you have to employ one of the following tactics:
· pour them directly from the package into your gullet
· pour them so lightly into your hand that they barely make epidermal contact, then quickly whip them into your mouth
· pour them onto a napkin or plate and pluck them in a single motion one-at-a-time with your thumb and forefinger into your mouth

All of which reminds us that the advertising campaign feels as if it was specifically designed to remind you how irritating this particular candy is to handle, particularly when it’s above 70 degrees, which only occurs every day for nine months of the year in the Lowcountry.

How the “melts in your mouth” campaign ever made it past the spitballing phase back at the ad agency, much less into the American vernacular, harkens to the aforementioned boggling of minds. Of course, it’s not alone.

There’s an ad out there for a national cable company – or a satellite TV service, whatever – suggesting that use of their product will bring the family together, increase the kids’ knowledge and get everyone out of the house more. How they make this leap of logic, with a half-twist in the piked position, is far less interesting than how they manage to sell cable/satellite subscriptions with a claim so transparently false. One could hardly charge them with deceptive advertising: it would take endless TV-watching to rot the brain cells sufficient to believe their claims.

Similar but not exactly the same is the epidemic of “erectile dysfunction” ads out there. As you are no doubt aware by now, impotence used to be considered a natural result of men aging, like forgetting what you were going to say and, and, uh . . . anyway, there was no condition called “E.D.” until Pfizer accidentally discovered a treatment for it – while experimenting with a remedy for heart conditions. A cure can’t be marketed and sold without a disease, and so they have invented one, convincing millions of men they aren’t getting older, they just have a condition that can be fixed with a pill. And we’re buying it! I mean some people are but I don’t know who.

And of course tobacco companies used their monetary might for decades to convince us that sucking on poison sticks was cool and sexy, even though it led to yellow teeth, bad breath, inelastic skin and early death. That actually did involve outright lying, which is another story, but the point is that plenty of people who had to know better somewhere in their cerebral cortex nonetheless bought the product and transformed themselves into addicts.

It does make me wonder if my employer should stop wasting all its efforts to market strategically and just bamboozle everyone out of their money. The more you donate, the more you’ll have!

–barry waldman

New member Spotlight: Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith

 

Name: Kristin Smith

Company:  Motivated Marketing

Title: Director of Media/Marketing

LinkedIn, Facebook 
kristincwelch@gmail.com

 

Motivated Marketing is a full service ad agency based in North Charleston.  My role, since joining the company 3 years ago, has been to develop the Media Department, establish policy/procedure/best practices, and manage key accounts.

How are you hoping to grow your business/career
in the coming year?  

I am always seeking opportunities for professional growth and expanding my knowledge base.  In 2014, I plan to put more of a focus on our digital media arm to better develop that side of our business.  I am also increasingly interested in agency operations management. I have had the distinct pleasure of helping to develop the structure and process of day-to-day activity in my current role and I hope to continue to lead our agency through new process that inspires growth in 2014.

If you could connect with one marketer (local or
otherwise) who would it be and why?

There are so many influential marketers, it would be hard to pick just one to meet. Given the opportunity, I would throw a small dinner party and invite Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mary Meeker, Nisha Chittal, David Ogilvy, and Leo Burnett. It would be so interesting to see how the founders of the modern ad world would feel about the evolving media landscape of today.

Do you have a favorite marketing website, blog, guru?

I read most of the typical trades. Mashable is always a good go-to for bite-size content on a lunch break, though.

How has Charleston AMA helped you succeed (or how will it help you succeed) in your business/career?

As a new member, I look forward to making more great contacts and I also hope to take part in the mentorship program as that develops.

 

Happy Anniversary to the Outhouse: A Laugh-Out-Loud Marketing Primer

When I was a kid, “a long time ago” might have been five years. It was half a lifetime ago by my standards. When my local baseball team, playing in its eighth season, won the World Series, it felt as if they had gone forever without being good. (Technically, that was true; I’m only three years older than the team is.)

Today, my time horizon is somewhat longer, and lengthening. So it snuck up on me that we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of a textbook case of marketing – the Outhouse Springs water campaign. And it’s providing that textbook with a comedy section.

outhouse  Outhouse Springs was the brainchild of Jeff Taylor, Dale Lanford and the team at Cognetix Marketing in West Ashley. They had
been hired by Adams Outdoor Advertising to demonstrate the power of billboard advertising. So they created the concept of
Outhouse Springs and plastered it on boards around town.

But a hoax is just goofing around unless you sell it, and sell it they did. The Cognetix marketing machinery produced a fully
integrated campaign, with a website, news releases, product launch – the whole nine yards, fully branded with an outhouse and the
slogan, Truly Tasteless Water.

So driving down the road, you could see billboards announcing the following:

“People love us – but they won’t shake our hands!”

“Originally in cans [image of outhouse], now in bottles! [image of product]”

A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-[picture of bottle]

“It’s #1, not #2!”

Oh yes they did.

The buzz was incredible. Surveys showed that virtually everyone in the Charleston metro had seen and remembered the billboards.  People were talking about it across the country. Nationally syndicated writers and radio commentators mentioned it. Many wanted to know how they could buy the product.

Of course, there was no product. That Cognetix teamed up with Appalachian Springs to sell Outhouse Springs water for a couple of months at Piggly Wiggly, with proceeds going to save the historic Morris Island Lighthouse is merely a nice footnote. (it was the second-leading selling water for a couple of weeks.)

I don’t know if Adams ever quite leveraged their infamy the way they had hoped, but I know I had some fun conversations with the Cognetix team about their inspired campaign. I even suggested, post facto, another billboard.

“No one makes water like we do!”

Even then, their creative jets were burning rocket fuel. Turns out there were two great ideas that went down the drain:

[Picture of dog lapping at toilet] “Your best friend’s been drinking us for years!”

And my all-time favorite:

“Made in America, but tastes like European!”

Happy anniversary, Cognetix. Thanks for making us all pee our pants.

– barry waldman