15/30: PR/Marketing News and Executive Changes

This is a new feature highlighting PR and marketing-related items as well as executive changes.

Death sells. Nationwide Insurance Co. defended an ad that ran during Super Bowl XLIV featuring the ghost of a young boy narrating scenes from a life he didn’t get to experience because of an accident. “I couldn’t grow up,” he imparts, “because I died from an accident.” The spot closes with a mournful intonation of the familiar Nationwide jingle and directs viewers to MakeSafeHappen.com, a website the insurer built with the goal of “reduc[ing] preventable childhood accidents in and around the home.” Reaction to the ad was mixed. After it aired, Nationwide released a statement saying: “The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance. We hope [the ad] served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere.” The first part of the statement seems a bit cynical, but, in light of the overall reaction to the ad, the second half justifies the intended message.

A juicy message. Shake Shack took a big bite out of Wall Street the day the fast-casual food chain went public. On January 30, a Shake Shack banner adorned the iconic Corinthian columns in front of the stock exchange while a food truck outside offered free breakfast and burgers to a line of hungry New Yorkers stretching down the block. The day of the IPO also featured a double-decker Shake Shack bus cruising to the company’s Manhattan locations, giving away swag and good will, presumably.

Flipping CEOs. There are several items on the menu for McDonald’s chief brand officer Steve Easterbrook, who soon becomes CEO of the fast-food giant. Perhaps at the top agenda is how to convince consumers that McDonald’s is as healthy as the fast-casual chains (Five Guys, Chipotle) that have been stealing market share for several years. Getting people to return who’ve conditioned themselves to the alternatives will require a sharp communications strategy, along with better food and faster service. Another concern: improving relations with the company’s franchisees (80 percent of the stores).

Foul note. Comcast, no stranger to bad PR, has a funny way of trying to improve its reputation. When Ricardo and Lisa Brown of Spokane, Wash., recently called to cancel their service they probably were’t anticipating this response: When the Browns’ next cable bill arrived it was addressed to “A**hole Brown.” It’s one thing to make customers feel uncomfortable, but to gross them out? Comcast’s VP of communications for the Washington region issued the following statement to a consumer advocate. “We have zero tolerance for this type of disrespectful behavior and are conducting a thorough investigation to determine what happened.” But didn’t Comcast say the same thing last summer after a retention specialist badgered a customer during a telephone conversation? Does Comcast need another investigation or a new culture?

Facebook creep. Companies may no longer have an excuse to ban Facebook from the workplace following the launch of Facebook At Work. Employers can create separate log-ins for employees to use with their Work accounts, or users can link these up with their other profiles to access everything in one place, according to TechCrunch. PR managers will occupy the center of these changes and try to harness how workers communicate with one another toward advancing the company’s financial goals and business objectives.
Snapchat debuts Discover. Snapchat, the so-called “ephemeral messaging” service, is getting into the content business. Late last month, it rolled out Discover, a feature that gives brands and media companies the opportunity to publish content on the app. Discover is similar to Snapchat Stories, with brands posting content that will disappear after 24 hours. These branded stories will be a hybrid of video, pictures and advertisements. Sounds like a pretty good recipe for a paid/earned/owned media strategy.

Eduardo Conrado, previously senior VP-marketing and IT at Motorola Solutions, was named chief innovation officer. It’s a significant move as it puts someone with a strong background in marketing into the IT arena…Cohn & Wolfe Group appointed Julian Tanner global technology leader, a newly created position. Most recently CEO and Principal of technology PR shop AxiCom, Tanner will have day-to-day responsibilities for Cohn & Wolfe’s technology business…Dan Scandling joined Ogilvy Washington as senior VP for corporate and public affairs. He will work with clients to boost their media profile in the nation’s capital and manage their social media and reputation inside and outside the Beltway…Abby Gardner joined PR agency Lippe Taylor as VP of Content. Gardner, who served as digital director of Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, will help the company’s PR and social media execs develop content strategies and will also expand the agency’s intellectual property and proprietary research…PR veteran Tom Smith joined Allison+Partners as managing director of corporate reputation. Prior to joining Allison + Partners, Smith was executive VP of Ogilvy’s corporate practice in New York…Hill +Knowlton Strategies named Daniel Karam president and managing director of H+K Mexico. Prior to joining H+K, Karam ran a consulting agency focusing on government and corporate affairs…Edelman tapped Trisch Smith for managing director, diversity and inclusion, a newly created position. A 15-year veteran of Edelman, Smith previously managed stakeholder outreach and strategic positioning, among other areas…SHIFT Communications promoted Nicole Bestard and Katie Clark-AlSadder to Vice President. Both will manage account teams working with brands that include H&R Block, Toyota and Whole Foods.