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‘Mermaids’ makes big ratings splash: But was it ethical?

It’s not the first time something like this has happened. ‘The War of the Worlds’ adaptation, which aired on the CBS radio network, caused quite a commotion in 1938. The New York Times reported that “a wave of hysteria seized thousands of radio listeners between 8:15 and 9:30 o’clock last night when a broadcast of […]

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Return of the salesperson from hell

  I’m the proud owner of a new Chevy Volt, and I’m thinking of ordering a license plate that says Shocked. You see, I thought I’d buy a Nissan Leaf. After multiple visits to the Leaf website, reading reviews and watching videos of the owner experience, their marketing connected with me. I decided the quirky […]

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Graphic warning labels on cigarettes proposed

I won’t bore you with all the reasons I hate cigarettes, but childhood migraines due to passive cigarette smoke is where my disdain for the stuff started. Given the shocking facts regarding the health risks, I’ve always thought cigarettes should be even more heavily regulated, if not banned outright here in the U.S. Imagine my […]

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Marketing puffery never pays

Seems we’ve been up to our eyeballs in positioning and message strategy work at Outsource Marketing lately. Of course, positioning should be the cornerstone of all your marketing communications—without meaningful differentiation, you’ve got nothin’, after all. But your positioning has to be more than simply unique and matter to your prospects. It has to be […]

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Deceptive or smart? The LA Times’ Southland ad

The LA Times got itself in some hot water last week, not once, but twice, for passing off advertising as news. On Thursday, it ran a mock news article promoting NBC’s Southland on the front page: View PDF version from the Wall Street JournalOn Sunday, the L.A. Times ran a four-page ad for the movie […]

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Is Budget’s PrivacyGuard offer responsible?

Why would anyone want a free credit report from when Budget has partnered with PrivacyGuard to pay you $10 to sign up for ID theft and credit monitoring? Well, as we discussed here before, the credit report from isn’t free and as you might guess, the PrivacyGuard offer has plenty of strings attached, […]

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VitaminWater or the CSPI: Who do you believe?

The Coca-Cola Company is being sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for deceptive claims regarding it’s VitaminWater product line. Coke markets VitaminWater as a “healthful alternative to soda by labeling its several flavors with such health buzz words,” and claims they “variously reduce the risk of chronic disease, reduce the risk […]

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Is Belkin’s apology for astroturfing enough?

First, what’s “astroturfing?” Roughly, it’s when formal political, advertising, or public relations campaigns seek to create the impression of spontaneous “grassroots” behavior, hence the reference to the artificial grass, AstroTurf.* On Friday, The Daily Background Blog revealed that a Belkin employee was doing just that: Paying 65 cents for perfect reviews on, and […]

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Hall of Shame: Countrywide Home Loans

Marketing is about persuasion, so occasionally marketers stretch the truth. But how bad is a company when it mocks it’s own advertising in a court of law? Pretty bad. Countrywide Home Loans is no stranger to litigation and is considered by some to be among those lenders most responsible for the mortgage crisis. Maybe it […]

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I’m lovin’ it? McDonald’s buys love; fesses up

With some fanfare, on December 23rd McDonald’s launched a new concept store in Japan called Quarter Pounder, a restaurant selling—you guessed it—only Quarter Pounders. Here’s an amateur video of the opening taken by a customer that was there: 15,000 people attended the store’s record-setting opening, but not all of them were there for the artery-clogging […]

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Tobacco in an irresponsible marketing death spiral

This week, tobacco companies were dealt a blow when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of allowing lawsuits to proceed under state law for deceptive advertising of “light” cigarettes. Tobacco companies are now in what I call an irresponsible marketing death spiral: The proliferation of traditional and social media have created millions of professional […]

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Hall of Shame:

“Your former classmates are trying to contact you! Upgrade now to see their messages!” You’ve received spam and endured their irritating yearbook ads. While most consider the “classmates are trying to contact you” message a marketing trick, Anthony Michaels of San Diego, CA took at their word and paid $15 for an upgrade […]

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Princeton Premier: Bad marketing or vanity scam?

Princeton. Americans immediately think of Princeton University, the Ivy League, or possibly the Princeton Review. They probably don’t think of Princeton Premier, a company you’ve never heard of that claims to be “the most interactive online business community in the world today.” I first learned about Princeton Premier yesterday when I received the following email: […]

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Hall of Shame: Misleading mortgage marketers

Every homeowner gets them: Misleading letters from mortgage lenders informing you that you are eligible for a lower payment. Here’s one I received a few months ago from Eagle Nationwide Mortgage: The letter above follows the typical template: Your mortgage lender’s name is at the top, along with your “account number” Contains the word “URGENT” […]

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Responsible today. Irresponsible tomorrow?

Responsible Marketing is relative, isn’t it? Take a look at the following cigarette ads from When Doctors, and Even Santa, Endorsed Tobacco in the New York Times: These ads weren’t objectionable then, even though they were deceptive. Today they’d be considered outrageous. The fact is, Responsible Marketing is a moving target. What’s responsible today, may […]

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Personnel Concepts’ marketing:
Out of compliance?

I don’t like receiving upsetting letters. Nobody does. But here’s an envelope I received in the mail yesterday: +enlarge Why would I receive a letter from The Compliance Service Department at PCI marked “Important – Open Immediately?” I didn’t know who PCI was, but I was afraid it may have something to do with our […]

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10 marketing mistakes to avoid now

The financial crisis has everyone on edge, myself included. I lost my bank, and I’m not sure who’s next. Should I put my money in coffee cans and bury it in the backyard? When people are on edge, sometimes they do things they normally wouldn’t do. Same goes for businesses. Here are a 10 things […]

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When deceptive ads aren’t so deceptive

I enjoy marketing that rewards you for paying attention. Ads that leave you guessing. The double entendre. Cultural, historical and sports references meant for the few instead of the many. And I appreciate a well-executed spoof, as long as it’s done responsibly. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to Derrie-Air Airlines. +enlarge […]

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Awards for sale: Not a rewarding experience

The Ballard Agency has won plenty of awards in their 45 year history, but this isn’t one they were interested in: Chris Ballard, President of the the Bellevue-based insurance brokerage was surprised his company was selected. He’d never even heard of the U.S. Local Business Association. Here’s the email he received, with hyperlinks removed: I […]

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Responsible Marketing is marketing without an *

We don’t trust anyone anymore. It seems the great politicians, celebrities, corporate titans and athletes have all let us down one way or another. And while part of our psyche seems to revel in watching the demise of greatness, there’s also a part of us that hurts a little. Where have all the good ones […]

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