Category Archives: 6. All “Best Posts”

Why Businesses Really Fear Blogging

Have you
ever noticed how it sometimes takes an epiphany to reveal the reality of an
obvious truth? Like, I don’t know, sitting in traffic in a $60k SUV burning
$3.50 a gallon and, even though you’ve sat in the same gridlock every day for
years, on this day you happen to notice the endless lines of single-occupant
vehicles, the single half-empty carpool lane, and for the first time it dawns
on you with sparkling clarity the breathtaking stupidity of modern life? Yeah,
that feeling. I had a moment like that yesterday. Not during my commute, but during
a panel discussion about blogging and digital media technology.

I was part of a panel for the Backstage Pass series of industry discussions at Pillsbury Winthrop in Palo Alto, moderated by Tamara Ireland Stone of Rainmaker Communications. Though the discussion was highly practical, focusing on the challenges and pitfalls of new information channels like blogging, I fell into my usual routine of veering off into the social and philosophical context of the debate. While it’s important from a business perspective to understand the immediate impact of disruptive technologies, I’m always interested in seeing the flow of the bigger picture—in this case, how the control of information is becoming distributed, how consumers are learning new skills to filter and process data, how businesses are having to learn how to shift from polished monologue to broader dialog with their audience.

The old
paradigm of corporate communications that businesses understand—the one-way
broadcasting of a tightly designed and controlled message—is giving way at an accelerating
pace to a chaotic and uncontrolled market discussion. Bulletin boards, chat
rooms, blogs and list groups allow consumers to share information and influence
public perceptions about companies and products, and businesses are quickly
being relegated to just another participant in the conversation. Some companies
are actively engaged in the discussion, some are trying out various schemes for
influencing the dialog, but most are just standing on the sidelines scratching
their heads.

So while we
panel experts were doling out our sage advice about how businesses can better
understand and engage the blogosphere it suddenly occurred to me why this is
such an immense challenge for so many businesses. I always just assumed it was
about control. Businesses want to minimize risk; control is a powerful tool in
minimizing risk; and the new channels of communication take much of the control
away from business. Panic ensues. But my epiphany was about something much more
obvious and fundamental.  

The advice
that has become standard among blogging experts is that any business engaging
in a dialog with their market must be authentic, open and responsive. You can’t
just hire a PR agency or a freelancer to write your blog—you’ll be defrauded or
disregarded, or both, in an Internet minute. Companies must put executives on
the frontline who can engage intelligently, responsibly and passionately about
what the company does. This is an obvious challenge for companies that have a
contentious relationship with their market, a hyper-secretive culture, an
impatience for dealing with questions, or a style of business that might not
stand up well under public scrutiny. But it’s also a serious challenge for
companies beleaguered by a far more common vice: uncertainty.

And this,
finally, was my penetrating revelation into the obvious. Why do so many
businesses fear the give-and-take dialog that is the currency of our new
communications technology? Not primarily because of the lack of control—that only
scares those who were good at controlling their image in the first place, an
elite few who are now engaged in tactics to control their image in the new
paradigm. What far more businesses fear is the lack of a consistent, cohesive
and compelling story–much less business operation–they can be confident in sharing and defending clearly to
win the hearts and minds of their market. After all, it’s easy to package, polish
and publish a perfect message for mass consumption. But to embody that message as a business,
to understand its meaning and its implications throughout every commercial function, to champion that message and to believe it, that takes something that most businesses just
haven’t spent a whole lot of timing working out.

When No News Is Good News

Segway_1In Public Relations there are some situations where any news, even bad news, is good news, as long as your company gains visibility. Good PR firms always have a  contingency plan to deal with bad news in order to make the best of a crisis.

But every once in a while, you come across a situation where good news is bad, and if the planets align just right, it can even be a disaster. I watched one of these train wrecks unfold today in a news piece on NPR about Segway.

I was one of those gullible idiots that slavered over any news of "Ginger", when the geniuses behind the Segway’s introduction–including the homerun king of marketing, Steve Jobs–leaked tantalizing clues of a revolutionary transportation product that would change the way cities are designed. The public was so rabid with anticipation that, according to the Segway entry at Wikipedia, Segways were auctioned for $100k on Amazon before they were released, and a factory was built to produce 40,000 units per month in order to meet anticipated demand. And then it belly flopped. No one wanted to pay $5000 for a geek scooter, and cities weren’t redesigned to accommodate the expected legions of 12mph dorks.

I pretty much forgot about Segway, except for the occasional sighting of a gaggle of Segway-mounted tourists. But today, NPR did a small story on an industry tradeshow called GovSec–the Government Security Expo–which is proudly billed as America’s Premier Homeland Security Event. I’m not sure what I’d expect to find at a Homeland Security Event–do they pass out Predator Drone key chains?–but I certainly wouldn’t expect to find Segway as an exhibitor. Yet there was the Segway PR representative, one
of a string of asides interviewed by a vaguely disinterested reporter
breezing through the exhibit hall. To her credit, the Segway rep put on her
A-game and trotted out the kind of sound bytes that are practiced in front of a
mirror. And that’s where it all started to unravel.

I kind of perked up my ears when I heard "Segway" amid all the white
noise on my commute. There I was stuck in traffic in the middle of my daily
grind home, in a car that sucks down $3.50/gallon gas like it’s cheap beer. I
heard "Segway" and thought, wow, a quiet ride on an electric scooter,
how appropriate for today’s emerging gas crisis. In fact, how brilliant. Is
Segway about to strike a masterful  marketing blow and regain the
visionary momentum it had when it launched?

Uh, no. As the perky PR rep tootled along, it became obvious that the grand
vision was much more modest. She wasn’t skillfully positioning Segway as the
saviour of a frustrated commuting society. She was at a Security tradeshow,
skillfully positioning Segway as an alternative transportation device for
safety officers in 3rd-world airports. Yes, that’s right. The Segway is a
perfect solution for airport security guards, because, as they found in their
market research in the British Virgin Islands,
passengers feel much less threatened by police when they see them on Segways
than they do when they see them running.

Oooookay…. Because, um, in the middle of a crisis, you see, it’s a good idea
to use disarmingly cute little transporters to allay the fears of all those
innocent bystanders.

That, my friends, is called a value proposition. And in the one moment Segway
found on the national airwaves to deliver a message to the masses, they managed
to position the most revolutionary transportation product in ages as a benign
alternative for scary security guards in far off places that you’ve never been
to, and probably won’t be able to afford to visit any time soon because of
outrageous fuel prices.

Now let me just say that the PR rep did an excellent job. She did what she was
paid to do, and I’m sure she was excited to succeed in landing a national story
for Segway. But sometimes–and it’s just the way the planets align–no news is
the best news of all.

The Downside of Marketing ROI

File this under: Oops.

Google’s stock has flown high on revenue from paid search and advertising. One of the most compelling motivations for allocating a bigger chunk of your marketing budget to paid search and online ads is the measurability of the click-stream. When you run an ad in, let’s say, a newspaper, you have to do a lot of engineering to create a campaign where impressions can be tracked to top-line revenue. Special discounts, special URLs or phone numbers, staggered drop dates–all just to be able to pinpoint how many people read the ad and then bought what was advertised.

On the Web, you can follow the clicks from an advertisement or listing directly through to the order page. You can adjust your campaigns to improve performance rapidly by testing different types of ads,  messages and placements until you identify the package that performs the best. Good marketing.

So Google, raking in the ad dollars hand over fist from the frenzy of marketers who want campaigns they can track, decided it would be a good idea to enhance their Advertising offering with Web analytics. If customers are coming to you because they can better track their marketing ROI, why not up the ante and provide them more powerful tools to track it? Brilliant.

Google went out and bought Urchin, a Web analytics company that’s been around for years offering  simplified reporting tools for tracking page views and visitors and other statistics about Web site performance. The plan was to provide Google’s advertisers with a way to track the click-throughs and conversions on their campaigns. They called it Google Analytics.

Unfortunately, Google went from raking in the cash to stepping on the rake and getting nailed by the handle. Forget about the debacle they had during their launch, the real story is that some users are beginning to find the analytics so useful they can slash their budget for paid search and online ads. The CEO of a well-known hosted application company told me that the analytics opened his eyes to the poor ROI of his online spend with Google, and now he’s looking for other channels to replace it.

I don’t know, is that like upselling the emperor on a big mirror so he can see the nice new clothes he just bought?

Don’t get me wrong–I think Adwords is a great product for certain types of marketing campaigns. But so many marketers have become double-fisted drinkers of the Adwords Kool-aid, I think the whole thing’s a little Bubble-icious. I just never thought it would be Google supplying the pin to pop it.

Engineering Upselling Opportunities

I have a theory about Starbucks. For being the world’s most successful coffee shop, they sell the worst coffee in the world. How is that possible? Have you ever tasted Starbuck’s coffee? I’m not talking about all the flavor-laced Dope-accino drinks, but the coffee. That burned and bitter sludge you have to drown with milk and sugar just to choke down. It’s awful. But through the brilliance of Starbucks’ marketing, it’s also guaranteed to be the closest caffeine fix to anywhere you happen to be in the world at any given moment.

For years I’ve stayed loyal to the neighborhood roasters with good coffee, and limited my Starbucks visits to those times when I was away from home. And it would annoy the hell out of me every time. You can’t order a "medium" coffee. It has to be "Grande". And it’s not just some pre-career Goth taking your change, it’s a Barrista. I’d stand there in line listening to all those abbreviated insider codes "double-quad-nowhip-mocha, extrahot", convinced I was on the fringes of some cult. The dependency. The special language. The willingness to donate handfuls of cash with a vacant happy stare. I finally realized the bad coffee was a way to separate the skeptics from the true believers.

When a Starbucks opened right next to my office, I found myself buying more of their crappy coffee, and then upgrading more frequently to a Latte just to avoid the torture. When I finally graduated completely from coffee to the poodle drinks, it struck me: Crappy coffee is an upselling opportunity. It’s what everyone initially comes for, it’s the cheapest thing on the menu, and it sucks. But for just a few dollars more, you get flavor. Any flavor you want. Any combination. And once you make the initial leap, a banquet of delights appears before you. Add a little chocolate, a little orange, a little cinnamon and whipped cream. It’s just money. And once you buy a Starbucks’ loyalty card, you won’t even tally up the transactions any more. Just dump some cash on the card every payday and you’re good to go.

I thought it was an amusing little theory–Starbucks makes its coffee undrinkable to migrate customers to a better tasting, more expensive beverage–a little marketing conspiracy theory to kill time in line with a client. But then I heard one of my friends talking about a recent experience with, and I started to wonder.

If you haven’t heard, Salesforce had a few hiccups in its service over the past few weeks. One of my friends runs a company that relies heavily on, routing its lead generation streams through the application. It turns out the outage wasn’t so much a blackout as it was a brownout. The system was continuously going up and down over the course of a week. Every time it went down, my friend’s IT team had to divert their prospecting feed away from Salesforce, and then restore the connection when it went back online. A little annoying to say the least. Finally they called the Salesforce support team and said, hey, why can’t you send us an alert when the system goes down and when it comes back up, so we can stay on top of this problem?

Are you ready for the response? Sure, Salesforce said, we can send you an alert, but that’s a service included in our Platinum Support Package. Would you like to upgrade?

When I heard the story, I had visions of a Salesforce executive standing behind a row of servers with a plug dangling from his hand watching the Platinum Support Upgrade Dashboard. Drinking a double caramel macchiato.

To Save A Town, Why Did They Destroy It?

Santa Maria used to be a city of small stores and Main Street lives. Now, all that is gone — and so is its soul (Originally published in BusinessWeek Online, August 31, 2004)

I took a short vacation with my family to visit the town where my wife
grew up. It was the town where we met some 15 years ago, the place
where my parents retired, and where I landed after wandering overseas
between college majors. Back then, Santa Maria was an agricultural
backwater on California’s central coast, a pit stop on the way from San
Francisco to L.A. It was a town with a vibrant history, but little use
for it — an impossible place to love if you didn’t have roots there.
For me, it became the town where I met my wife, where my father died,
and where I got my first tastes of both business and journalism.

Today, Santa Maria is a burgeoning Wal-Mart suburb. Everything and nothing has changed. Where once there were neat
rows of strawberries and broccoli that went on for miles, now there are
endless fields of single-family homes. In a town that once couldn’t
attract a national grocery chain, you now find the same brand-name
strip malls that dot almost every town in America. Starbucks-Blockbuster-Subway-Kinkos — prefab economic zones you can buy off
the shelf to drop into your half-acre plot along Main Street, some
assembly required.

On a national scale,
this is the face of progress. These manufactured main streets feature a
star-studded array of brands that are leading markers on the stock
exchange, where they build our retirement accounts and our children’s
education funds. But on a local scale, especially in a place like Santa
Maria, the history that is being paved over holds some interesting
clues about the future — clues that are convenient to forget in the
face of short-term profits.

Like most California cities, Santa Maria has an old town —
the intersection of Broadway and Main — where solid buildings from the
early 1900s line the streets. Well, Santa Maria used to have an old
town. Where many California cities now have a revitalized core, with
old brick buildings turned into stylish restaurants and side streets
turned into open air markets, Santa Maria has a massive monument to one
of the most influential fads ever to sweep city planning — the Town
Center Mall.

In the mid-1970s, Santa Maria bulldozed their entire city center in
order to build a huge shopping mall and parking lot. The new mall
generated a lot of wealth — for about a decade. As soon as outlet
stores started cropping up along the freeway, and then Big Box discount
stores, even a Barney Carousel couldn’t salvage the Town Center’s
consumer appeal.

Now the mall is half
empty, and the anchor-tenant department stores are struggling. During
our vacation, my wife took advantage of the 15-hour Super Double
Discount Sale at one of the major retailers. When my wife balked at
paying the "slashed" sale price of $29 for a Finding Nemo
throw pillow my son was clutching, the check-out clerk whispered the
name of a nearby discount store where she could get the same pillow for
half the retailer’s sale price.

You don’t need an MBA to do the math on the future of that
retailer, or the future of the mall. In fact, the city is already
trying to figure how to do what they weren’t willing to do with the old
downtown — revitalize a retail ghetto of empty storefronts. One of the
leading ideas is to turn the entire mall into an assisted-living
facility. That’s right, renew the city center with a very large nursing
home. I suppose there’s a certain logic to it — all the unused parking
space could easily convert to a cemetery.

What no one seems to be asking, either in Santa Maria or many
of the other towns that now look exactly the same, is what time frame
should drive investment decisions. Just as business-development and
investment decisions on Wall Street are driven by quarterly results,
our city-planning decisions are increasingly governed by short-term
payoffs. But instead of losing our shirts to scandals like Enron and
Worldcom, we lose something far more profound behind the new facades of
one-size-fits all city streets. What we lose are the stories that make
our lives meaningful.

Okay, call me a romantic.
Tell me I just don’t understand the capitalist economy. Tell me all
about the cycles of change that have gone on before, and how we always
move forward. I’m not buying it.

Taking Santa Maria as an example, the payoff on the mall that
wiped out much of the city’s history lasted little more than a decade
— and that’s not counting the hefty residual, which hangs like a
mall-sized albatross around the city’s neck. The economic cycles of
outlet centers and big box stores are running even faster. As soon as
one town builds The New Thing, the town at the next freeway exit has to
get one too in order to recapture escaping sales tax revenues. In a
couple of years, demand is diluted too much for any one city’s
investment to pay off.

In the short run, of course, developers do well, cities
collect some nice fees and sales taxes, and retailers expand volume.
And there’s always the potential for another big project to bail us out
when the current scheme runs out of steam.

But how much value do we
place on a sense of place, or a sense of history? History only tells us
where we’ve been, but it’s those stories that help us understand who we
are and where we’re going. What stories do we tell about our
communities when our history is relegated to some old black and white
photos in the barber shop or a doddering historical society?

The sad truth seems to be that we are reduced to telling stories only
through our possessions. We are what we own. We are what we drive. We
are individual "brandscapes," buying and assembling our identities
through the metaphors of clothing, furniture, and food.

There’s some beauty in this. Everything is invested with
meaning, since everything we own has the potential to say something
about who we are. And the whole grand economic exercise, from corporate
marketing to supply-chain management has a masterful efficiency — our
purchasing power as consumers, the lifeblood of our economy, is now
directly coupled with, and driven by, our psychology of being.

 But at the end of the day, we
are giving up a society in favor of an economy. When every decision —
even decisions that cut to the core of our community — are dictated by
the most immediate profit opportunity, it makes sense to tear down a
city in order to build a mall. It makes sense a few years later to
build big discount centers to undercut the mall. Cross every bridge
when you come to it, and let every decision be driven by the shortest
break-even point on the balance sheet.

Maybe it doesn’t matter, but Santa Maria no longer feel like
the town where I met my wife, where my dad died, and where I got my
first taste of business and journalism. It just feels like every other
town on the way from San Francisco to L.A. That relentless consistency
is what made McDonald’s  a household name in 150 countries around the world. But I don’t want to live there.

Customer Experience, or, Travelocity Sucks

I’ve wondered for some time how much difference there is between online travel brokers ever since it’s become a commodity business. Now I know. I’ve had accounts at both Expedia and Travelocity since way back when the Nasdaq was at, what was it, 5000? I’ve also used Orbitz and some other latecomers, like But somehow I just got into the groove at Expedia and stopped shopping around.

For some stupid reason, I decided to retry Travelocity when scheduling a Christmas vacation with my family. Maybe it was that gay lawn gnome thing they’ve got going on. I don’t know. So I reactivated my dead account, browsed around and booked my tickets, confirming that indeed, there is no Difference. What an idiot.

A few weeks later, I get a friendly email from the folks at Travelocity. Sorry, the totally reasonable flight you fell for on our site has now been switched with an insane flight. Instead of leaving at the leisurely hour of 11am the day after Christmas, I would now be dragging my wife and 4-year-old son to the airport for a midnight flight, arriving in Dallas at 5am for a 4-hour layover. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but in 6 years at Expedia, I had never had one of many dozens of flights switched. But that’s really just the setup.

When I called Travelocity, I got one of those friendly new HAL9000 customer service reps–you know, the ones that make you drone your reference number into the phone just so they can serve you generic information, and then say about 6000 times in a syruppy voice: "I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. You said you’d like to pull out your eyeballs?" After I screamed "operator" a dozen times, the system finally put me in the long queue for an open phone line to India. Amazingly, they can transfer my call 12,000 miles away to another continent where an operator can tap directly into my account, but they just couldn’t manage to send along the 87-digit alphanumeric reference number I’ve already recited into their system.

The operator–Mike, from Bangalore–is neither helpful nor friendly. Did I get an email about the switch? Yes. Did I wish to cancel the flight? No, I’d like to explore some other options. Like what? Oh, I don’t know, like maybe a longer layover so I can really appreciate those abbreviated airport museum displays of cattle farming history and modern macrame. Geez. What other flights are available that day? I don’t know, I’ll have to call the airline. You mean, you can’t look it up on the computer? No, I have to call, please hold.

I then got 8 minutes and 37 seconds of Adagio for Idiots on Hold, punctuated every so often with an ominous click and a long silence that had me convinced they were doing an experiment to see when I would finally hang up. Mike eventually came back and delivered the crushing blow. Yes, there is a flight that leaves just an hour after your arrival in Dallas, but it’s oversold…would you like to stew over that on your terminal layover in the departure ward, or would you like me to just cancel your whole vacation?

Travelocity sucks.

And I can say that with some authority, because only 3 weeks ago, I had to call Expedia customer service. I had purchased pre-paid parking for a recent business trip, and couldn’t find the parking lot–they had, whoops, neglected to put the address and phone number on the handy dandy printout map. When I called the parking garage to get a rain check for a future trip, they refused. So I called Expedia to complain, and without a moment’s hesitation, they did one better than a rain check, they refunded my card. That is customer experience. The flight scheduling may be a commodity, but the service is different. Expedia has it, Travelocity doesn’t.

So, one more time for the benefit of Search Engine Optimization:

Travelocity Sucks. Yes. They really really do. Travelocity Sucks. Sing it with me now. Travelocity Sucks.

I feel better now.

Alan Scott Interview

In my first foray into podcasting, I’ve interviewed Alan Scott, CMO of Factiva. Alan is one of the most candid–and often provocative–marketers around, so it was the perfect opportunity to step into audio and capture some of his thoughts on tape. I interviewed Alan over the phone, and we talked about everything from why marketers are losing control of "the message" to why salespeople make better marketers.

The podcast is about 22 minutes long, and the file is 8MB–and you’ll have to endure my first attempts at "slick" audio production. Click here to listen. (right click to download).


I had a funny conversation with a sales rep from Google who called to sell me on reselling AdWords and AdSense. She was smart, well informed on Google’s offering, and pretty well briefed on the company I work for. But when I told her Paid Search and SEO weren’t on the roster of services I would be offering in 2006, she went, like, totally blonde on me. "You’re a PR and Marketing firm, right?" Yes, I confirmed, and we don’t do search marketing. She barely concealed her incredulity, circling back to the beginner’s pitch to introduce me to AdWords. Yes, yes, I know. Great stuff, really. No, not interested, thanks. But if you want to send me some material I’ll keep it on file. She couldn’t resist confirming one final time, "You are a PR firm…right?"

Yes. I know Google is a really big phenomenon, and I know AdWords is critical for generating topline revenue at many companies–especially if they happen to be selling something like refrigerator magnets or life insurance. I’ve advised businesses spending 10s of thousands of dollars a month on paid search, and others spending over $100k on SEO. When something like 80% of all Internet traffic begins at a search engine, it’s a good idea to understand how the game works. But–gasp–I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all marketing strategy for most businesses. This seemed to come as a genuine shock to the Google Ad Rep. As if, what else is there?

Well, I think the biggest What Else is what seems to be a rapidly resurging relevance for Social Marketing–a marketing approach that focuses on meticulously cultivating relationships with a selected audience rather than trying to push a critical mass of anonymous and abstract targets through a response filter. As effective as AdWords is today, it still represents a paint-by-numbers approach to mass marketing that won’t stand on its own in a world where users have on-demand access–through Google, no less–to hundreds of data points on your product from media sources, expert reviews and countless peers. Businesses are rapidly losing control of their own message, and channel efficiency isn’t going to solve the problem.

I’ll post more on this after the CMO Summit in Monterey this week. For now, I’m not sure whether I’m captivated more by the Google Ad Rep’s inability to conceive of any marketing tactic beyond Search–are they really that self-inflated?–or by the thought that she was so incredulous because she doesn’t come across any other companies that question Search’s omnipotence. That can’t be true. Can it?

What’s Happening to PR?

Here’s a challenge to the traditional Public Relations process at most companies. Despite all of the fragmentation and multplication of information resources, most businesses are still pursuing the age-old PR methodology of spitting out press releases as the primary method of media relations. Well, we’ve jut completed an interesting audit of one of our clients. In 2004, this company put out nearly 400 press releases–more than one a day. After analyzing media coverage, we discovered that although they distributed more press releases than any of their top competitors that year, they actually had a lower share of coverage than any of their top competitors.

It’s going to be hard to change the attitude of CEOs who only judge the effectiveness of their PR by whether or not they find the latest release on Yahoo!, but clearly more strategic media relations methodologies are mission critical. That’s always been true, but now we have the metrics to prove it.

99-Cent Salvation

Is it just me, or is this not one of the most nauseating examples of street-pimp marketing ever vomited up by a barrel-scraping network? NBC is launching dear God no not another Reality-TV-Show-But-With-A-Twist this fall, and they’re trawling for media coverage and viewers by dragging dollar bills through America’s trailer parks as a moving testament to Christian faith.

Here’s the story: Lagging behind the other networks in the popularity of its Slit Your Wrists programming, NBC has concocted a reality show designed to appeal to God-fearing WalMart shoppers from America’s heartland. In NBC’s Three Wishes, an "unscripted show" premiering this fall "singer Amy Grant travels to a different town each week in an effort
to fulfill the heart’s desire of needy families and community groups." It sounds sweet. Really.

So NBC, looking to stir up some coverage for this faith-based initiative hires a publicity firm to cook up some media impressions. The big idea? Stalk "needy shoppers" in the checkout lines of discount retail chains and trot in on a big white horse to pick up the tab with a conspicuous stack of 1-dollar bills. Why waste time and money on creative marketing when you can just buy viewers, and through the magic of stunt media, multiply your audience?

Now I know the professional marketing purists will protest that Hey, they did their job and got national coverage, who cares if it’s singularly unimaginative? My response is that the skirmish won for publicity is a battle lost for NBC’s soul–ahem, I mean brand. The entire stunt paints NBC as a cynical manipulator of America’s poor and needy, eschewing substantive acts of service in favor of Good Samaritan skits prepackaged for the camera. The fact they’ve enlisted Amy Grant, the spokesmodel of shrinkwrapped Christian consumerism, only amplifies the effect.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no voice crying out in the wilderness here. But this is a gravely disheartening view of America to me. The greasy aftertaste of this campaign is that faith and compassion in
America can only be signified by randomly showering money and
brand name appliances on unsuspecting poor people who look good on
screen being effusively grateful. Perhaps it’s a testament to the marketing company’s professionalism that they so effectively segmented their subject and target audience. Notice they’re distributing fistfuls of cash to people not so needy that they don’t have a credit card and an eye for brands.

I guess good faith comes with a minimum requirement of purchasing power.