January 28, 2010

Working on Spec

MediaBistro's PR Newser has a poll today on "What Would You Do When A Prospective Client Or Employer Asks Your For A Tactical Plan Before Making A Decision?"

I still find it astounding that p.r. and ad folks, designers and perhaps others, are asked to do actual client work on spec as part of the sales process. If a client can't judge you by your past work and a sense of "fit" from the interview process, they aren't competent.

When I sold local radio ads a few decades ago, I would make spec spots because many store owners would buy based on liking a spot rather than whether the medium was effective for them.

Are businesses large enough to hire ad and p.r. firms no more sophisticated than the pizza or auto repair shop guys I used to sell to?

Check out no-spec.com

January 08, 2010

Incompetent Talking Heads

It's stunning how much of 24-hour news channel and Sunday morning network news time is given to people who have shown no competence for the subjects they expound on, and politicians who make provably false and misleading statements that go unchallenged (except by the "fake" news shows on Comedy Central).

For instance, Rudy Guiliani.

Now, if you want to ask him about crime reduction, I think he has valid experience and success. And he did make Times Square safe for people from small town America who want to come to the greatest restaurant city on the continent and eat at Red Lobster.

But national security and national politics?

Let's take politics first. Yes, he certainly was successful in becoming mayor of our largest city. However, that is less a partisan contest than a personality based one. On the national scene, he was the accepted frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and lost due to the worst strategic decision of modern politics, not competing in Iowa and New Hampshire.

On security, here's his record:

1. Located his command and control center in a complex that had already been attacked by terrorists.

2. Did not assure his fire and police communications systems were compatible.

3. After September 11th, proposed his corrupt and incompetent police commissioner to be the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security

January 05, 2010

Poor, Misunderstood ®

Every now and then I read or hear a story, like this one, about a small business that is threatened by a larger business with a trademark violation lawsuit and capitulates. Most often, they do so because they do not understand trademark law. As in this case, they even confuse trademark with copyright. These people are not forced to change their names, they are cowed, understandably so. The trademark owner's claim might be supportable, but often it is not.

Noone can own a word or phrase for every use. Trademarks are issued for specific goods and services. Search any product or company name here and you'll see the details. Often there will be multiple trademarks for a name as the breadth of products or services it is used for expands. What are trademarks for? A good explanation from the Thomas Law Firm:
The purpose of trademark law is twofold: first, it is to aid the consumer in differentiating among competing products and second, it is to protect the producer's investment in reputation. The U.S. Supreme Court summed up this purpose nicely in 1995 in the case of Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co.:

"[T]rademark law, by preventing others from copying a source-identifying mark, 'reduce[s] the customer's cost's of shopping and making purchasing decisions,' for it quickly and easily assures a potential customer that … the item with this mark … is made by the same producer as other similarly marked items that he or she liked (or disliked) in the past. At the same time, the law helps assure a producer that it (and not an imitating competitor) will reap the financial, reputation related rewards associated with a desirable product."

Since foreclosure sales or carwashes (another case I recall) are not competitive with Toys "R" Us, the question is whether someone using "R Us" in a name is infringing on the reputation of Toys "R" Us. They are certainly playing off it, but are they doing harm? Similarly with any product or company called "Mc"something.