Last month we asked you how Jack Benny got his stage name. Congratulations to Nigel Sloam, principal in Nigel Sloam & Co. in London—long-time client and friend—who gave us the correct, speediest response. Jack Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky in Chicago on Valentine’s Day, 1894. His parents lived in nearby Waukegan and there, working as a violinist in the pit band of a local Vaudeville house, Benjamin broke into show business. He hit the road working with a female pianist in an act known as “Salisbury and Kubelsky—From Grand Opera to Ragtime,” but when concert violinist Jan Kubelik’s lawyer objected to the comedic violin-playing and similarities in name, Benjamin changed his name to Ben Benny. With a new partner, “Benny and Woods” continued, but when World War I broke out, Benny enlisted, working in a Navy-sponsored revue touring the Midwest. After the war, Benny went back to vaudeville, doing a monologue as “Ben K. Benny, Fiddleology and Fun.” Although he changed the spelling to “Bennie,” Ben Bernie, an entertainer (also a violinist-bandleader who did monologues), had been doing a similar act longer and guess what—his lawyer contacted young Kubelsky objecting to the similar names. This time, Benjamin changed his stage name for the last time to Jack Benny. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.”
When Coors asked, football fans chose to receive text-message alerts about the NFL football draft, each one containing a blurb about Coors Light; and mobile devices can also send messages, not just receive them. They can be interactive! While messaging technology allows only 40 characters for an ad (the other 120 are for content), simple tag lines are the current vogue.
Coors is not alone. Marriott has sponsored a campaign combining print and cellphone ads with free sports alerts from USA Today’s website. Verizon Wireless is sponsoring an ad campaign in which Screenvision, a company that boasts an ad network of thousands of screens in thousands of motion picture theaters, will ask theater audiences to vote by text messaging, with results calculated and displayed on-screen. The advertising campaign will feature branded popcorn containers and a short film directed by Spike Lee entitled “VCast Street.”
As of May 26, brands that spread their positive messages in the UK without clearly identifying the origin will be subject to criminal prosecution—yes, you heard correctly. The consumer protection legislation, which includes fines and prison sentences, makes it an offense to blog, use brand representatives or viral ads “falsely representing oneself as a consumer.” Bloggers who write about products and accept money without disclosing it are also subject to criminal prosecution.
Legislation in Europe may be a response to some well-publicized buzz that unfortunately did not publicize the source. The founder of Whole Foods, using an alias, began criticizing competitors through online forums. Guess who sponsored a road trip called “Wal-Marting Across America” without attribution. And Sony apologized when consumers discovered that an “All I Want for Christmas is a PSP” amateur video and blog appearing to be written by a friend of someone in the video, was a viral ad campaign engineered by Sony and its ad agency.
In the United States, the advertising industry has a successful model of self-regulation and industry leaders believe such a model can be extended to word-of-mouth marketing. Stay tuned.
A study released in April by BlogHer & Compass Partners indicates more than 36 million women actively participate in the blogsophere each week, and that half of the participants felt blogs were a reliable source of information and advice. The study found women were so passionate about blogging that 55 percent would give up alcohol, 42 percent would give up their iPods—but only 20 percent would give up chocolate!
Criminals stole customer information from the Hannaford Bros. and Sweetbay grocery chains’ computer networks. As shoppers swiped cards at checkout and their information was routed to transaction processors using state-of-the-art, fiber-optic, hard-wired cable for transmissions, malicious software intercepted the information and transmitted it to an ISP off-shore. Experts are still trying to figure out how the code got into the systems in the first place.
A half-day workshop, Protecting Personal Information: Best Practices for Business, co-hosted by the California Office of Privacy and the FTC, will take place Aug. 13 in Los Angeles. It is designed to show businesses how to protect the privacy of employees and consumers and the security of personal information. The workshop will share best practices for developing a data security program and for responding to data breaches.
Many of you will remember (or look up) an extraordinary comic who played the violin, had a butler-friend named Rochester, and who—until the day he died—stated his age as 39. The comic was Jack Benny, who started in Vaudeville, remained lifelong friends with Zeppo Marx (whose birth name was actually Herbert Marks), and brought audiences to tears with facial expressions, comic timing and comedy—in Vaudeville, on radio and television—for decades. But Jack Benny wasn’t his real name; so this month we want you to not only tell us what his real name was, but also describe just how he got to be “Jack Benny.” Know the answer? Send it to me.
Last month we asked you to tell us what former Major League Baseball All-Star Pitcher became a dentist when he left the game? Our winner this month was Roy Trout at SunTrust Banks, who was first and fastest in pitching the answer to us. Although Jim Lonborg never actually appeared in the All-Star Game, he was on the roster and went on to become a dentist after retiring from baseball.
“Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’”