The Virtual Meet-and-Greet

The digital world fascinates and puzzles me at the same time. What puzzles me is yesterday’s article in The Wall Street Journal that heralded a new twist on the “meet-and-greet” with celebrities. The twist is that there is no physical meet or greet. It’s all done via Twitter. A charity auction to raise money for a Haitian orphanage has the public bidding on celebrities’ promises to be followers of the winners, and to mention the winner in their own celebrity tweets. Don’t get me wrong, social media and charities were meant to be together—but bidding $15,000 for cyber access to “Chuck” star Zachary Levi? Who is he? More like it is a retweet from Alicia Keys for $113, and better yet, MC Hammer for $47.

This auction kind of reminds me of the buying of virtual goods—another practice I don’t really understand. But then again, it’s great that people are in the giving mood. For my dollars, I’d just like to see the celebrities in the flesh. Speaking of digital and flesh, if you’d like to see digital experts in person, talking about the hottest trends and best practices, attend the Digital PR Summit in New York next month. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to tweet about it.

–Scott Van Camp

Gaga for Oprah: Stunts to Vie For

Lady Gaga wore a meat dress to the MTV Video Music Awards and it’s hardly news.  Had it been Celine Dion or Taylor Swift or Justin Timberlake, it would have captured more headlines and shock and awe, but the fact that Gaga decided to wear a cow – including a a beef slab crown/hat — was just another publicity stunt.  And it worked for Gaga, because despite her knack for ridiculous outfits, this one was highly unusual and quite in line with her messaging/reputation.  PETA didn’t like it (nor should they have) and the results of many online polls pointed to a rather disgusted response to seeing flank steak strewn across the torso (even during Fashion Week).  Yet people are fascinated by Gaga and that’s the point. That’s her point.  My only beef (sorry!) with her ploy was Lady Gaga’s explanation for the outfit and her taking a stand for gay rights. She told Ellen Degeneres: “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in..pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones…And I am not a piece of meat.”  Not a very good quote or well thought-out message.  This is where Gaga often falls short – she pushes the envelope with her image and songs, and now it’s time for her to straighten out her messaging – because people are listening.  On the other side of the fashion spectrum but perhaps sharing some of the audience demographics is Oprah, who startled her studio audience yesterday by announcing that 300 of them are invited to join her in Australia in December for an all-expenses paid trip as part of her goodbye tour.  Another publicity stunt? Surely.  Oprah isn’t really leaving TV – she’s just switching channels. But the Down Under move was perfectly aligned with what Oprah stands for.  She gives back, she surprises, she influences sales and sentiments.  I don’t watch Oprah’s show but I feel like I know her. I download Lady Gaga songs but can’t relate to her.  The publicity machine is working.

What outrageous publicity stunts do you feel resonated or fell flat?

Diane Schwartz

TV Goes the Way of the Phonograph

Call me old school, or just plain old, but I just can’t reconcile the findings of a new Pew Research report that says only 42% of Americans consider the TV set a necessity. I say this after staying up past midnight watching Andy Roddick get beat by Janko Tipsarevic at the U.S. Open (great match by Tipsarevic, by the way). According to Pew, this number has been dropping—from 52% last year and 64% in 2006. Of all of the findings that come from Pew Research (and it seems like they do 20 surveys a day) this one hits home the most for me.

Comfortably settling in front of the tube almost every night is part of my DNA, but I see the younger demo watching shows on their iPads and phones on trains and planes these days. Plus, the expense of cable TV can’t be ignored, especially in today’s economy. In fact, SNL Kagan reported last week that in Q2 of this year the total number of subscribers dropped (by 711,000) for the first time in cable’s history. For communicators, all of this confirms that while still paying dividends, traditional broadcast outreach needs to be looked at closely. For me the question is, if regular TV is no longer a necessity, when will it be become extinct?

–Scott Van Camp

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