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Cat Gets MBA, Spammers Sued

A group claiming to be Trinity Southern University of Plano, Texas run by Craig Barton Poe, Alton Scott Poe, and Innovative Cellular and Wireless has been sued by Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert for issuing fake college degrees. The group runs an online university where visitors can get college degrees for fees ranging between $299 and $499 simply by filling out a few forms.

Investigators infiltrated the group by using a cat's name while applying for a degree. The cat, named Colby Nolan, applied for a bachelors degree in business administration for $299. Investigators received a return email informing them Colby had enough experience to be awarded an MBA - as long as he sent another $100.

The state wants a permanent injunction, civil penalties, costs and restitution for violating law and restrictions on unsolicited email ads of which prosecutors say 18,000 were sent this year.

by Steve Hall    Dec- 7-04    

Band Aid to Cover Heathrow

We know its been two decades but we hope you know we're not talking about the sticky kind of Band Aid here but rather the musical kind. Yes, it's been 20 years since Bob Geldof first wrote the famous charity tune in 1984 to raise money for starvation in Ethiopia. On November 14 this year, he gathered together the likes of Chris Martin, Dido, Thom Yorke, Bono and Paul McCartney to re-record the hit - this time to alleviate famine in Sudan.

To help promote the single during the Holiday season, a gigantic "ground banner," visible from the air by 190,000 passengers a day, has been placed on a field at Heathrow airport in London. The message will read "Congratulations Band Aid on reaching No. 1" and will remain as long as the single keeps its top spot. While some are up in arms over the new single with websites describing how to digitally destroy the recording, others are pleased with the effort. The single has shot to the number one slot on Billboard's UK chart.

by Steve Hall    Dec- 7-04    

City of Boston Ravaged By Crazy Snow Plow Drivers

Boston.com has launched a maddeningly difficult (as you can see from the pic) online game in which gamers navigate snowplows through the city of Boston without destroying the city. The game is part of a larger, holiday-focused "Get Wrapped" campaign and includes a newspaper campaign in which the paper itself doubles as wrapping paper, a transit campaign with gift wrapped trains, 3-D mobile billboards, taxi-tops, scratch and sniff postcards, a geo-targeted online campaign and a street team which will hand out Boston.com wrapping paper.

The game itself was created by The Barbarian Group who also had a hand in creating the now infamous Subservient Chicken site.

by Steve Hall    Dec- 6-04    

Farting Elves Promote Pepto Bismol

As if elves weren't already cute enough, P & G had to show just how much cuter they are when they are farting and grabbing their ass so their diarrhea doesn't slip out. Yes. All in the name of promoting Pepto Bismol. Not to be outdone, Panasonic, copying an Edge spot from 2001, shows a couple having sex in a car wash to somehow show how great their razors are and Smirnoff uses a dead guy's ashes-turned-diamond to sell vodka. And let's not forget how a goat jacket has something to do with selling T-mobile phone service. It's just our friendly ad industry at work for you this week. Catch those and other freaky wonders over at Ad Age's TV Spots of the Week.

by Steve Hall    Dec- 6-04    

Dotomi to Serve Personalized Ads Into Bluelithium Network

Dotomi, in a partnership announced today, will provide ad network Bluelithium its Direct Messaging giving Bluelithium the ability to serve personalized, opt-in ad banners across its network of 1,000 sites.

Banners delivered through Dotomi Direct Messaging are culled from partner marketer databases and consumers who have opted in to those marketers. We await the combined Bluelitium/Dotomi AD:TECH Wrap Up Party in San Francisco next Spring replete with a selection of platform dancers partygoers can opt in to viewing.

by Steve Hall    Dec- 6-04    

Ad Recall: The More, The Merrier

According to a recent report by Initiative's EVP of Global Research Stacey Lynn Koerner, families that watch TV together recall commercials better. Among those polled for her study, 17.6 percent of those who viewed with others recalled ads while 9.1 percent of those who viewed alone recalled ads. Next up: McDonald's, ABC and Arbitron Sign Deal Under Which Real-Time People Meter Data Used to Deliver Ads.

by Steve Hall    Dec- 6-04    

Powell Bitch Slaps Stern in Times Op-Ed Article

Last week, FCC Chairman Michael Powell wrote a New York Times Op-ed piece called "Don't Expect the Government to Be a V-Chip" in which is he laid out the FCC's current stance and approach to the swirling indecency debate. Of course he couldn't resist lobbing a shot at Howard Stern writing, "It is no surprise that those who make a handsome living by selling saucy fare rant the loudest - it drives up the ratings. The news media further fan the flames, obsessed with 'culture war' stories that slot Americans into blue-state and red-state camps." Oh how we've progressed since the Elvis Pelvis debacle.

by Steve Hall    Dec- 6-04    

Have A Happy (Discover sponsored) Holiday

Random Culture points to a Holiday themed Discover card microsite where visitors can send an ecard, use the gift finder, have an online snowball fight or, of course, sign up for a Discover card. Our snowball throwing abilities against "Dave" left much to be desired.

by Steve Hall    Dec- 6-04    

The Not So Hidden Persuaders

Five years from now as you flip through your mental Rolodex of brands deciding which product to pitch your friend, it won't be too surprising when your friend shoots back with, "Oh, but you've gotta check this thing out!" And the two of you will engage as if you were Pepsi and Coke in a boxing ring. This past weekend's New York Time Magazine contained an article on the growth of buzz/word-of-mouth marketing and featured Boston's BzzAgent, a company similar to P & G's Tremor, which recruits "agents" to promote products through personal networks. The premise of buzz marketing calls for the identification of people who are well connected, have a desire to be ahead of the cultural curve and who are willing to talk about a product - a lot. These people are then recruited to spread the word throughout their personal networks.

Importantly, many recruits (particularly those of BzzAgent's) are not paid. They receive nothing more than early trial of products and guidelines on how to talk up the brand. While many disclosure and transparency issues swirl around growing word of mouth marketing segment, BzzAgent has seen great success with its business model. So if you live in the suburbs and one day your neighbor says to you, "My lawn tractor is better than yours," be sure you've "connected" so you can shoot back with, "But wait, my power drill is much bigger than yours!"

UPDATE: A Boston Herald writer wonders, in this world of growing word of mouth marketing, if she can now trust anything her husband says,

by Steve Hall    Dec- 6-04    

Wal-Mart Launches Campaign to Boost Sagging Sales

Monster retailer Wal-Mart is launching a new advertising campaign today to boost slow holiday sales. The campaign will appear newspaper ROP, television and radio promoting 24 toys and electronics items with a price and item approach. The campaign will shore up Wal-Mart's price leadership position by cutting prices on these item by as much as one third. The campaign budget was not disclosed.

by Steve Hall    Dec- 3-04    

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