Desperate Acts

September 27, 2005
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Kent County Commissioner DeanAgee spent much of the past three weeks with International Aid in Hancock County, Miss., helping with relief efforts following the destruction left there by Hurricane Katrina.

Agee, who also is a vice president with International Aid, said the experience left him with a renewed appreciation for his post at KentCounty. He said that HancockCounty commissioners were working daily from an elementary school classroom that was roughly a quarter the size of the Kent County Board of Commissioners chambers and that most of those commissioners had lost their homes and worldly possessions during the hurricane.

"I called them the walking wounded," said Agee, while acknowledging the courageous efforts Hancock officials were making in light of all they were facing.

Agee added that he was glad that KentCounty has a better disaster plan in place than Hancock had.

  • BerrienCounty is $45,000 richer (or would it be "less poor"?) after a Sept. 20 land auction. CountyTreasurerBret Witkowski, who spoke to the Business Journal in August, said that more than 100 parcels were sold. If you do the math, you'll note an average price tag around $450 apiece. The most valuable (in the eye of its new beholder) property was a house in the city of BentonHarbor that fetched $5,200. Most of the properties came with demolition orders. The tear-downs were scheduled to start today. In addition to the $45 large, the county also has 100-plus pieces of property back on the tax rolls. As for actually collecting that money, Witkowski will believe it when he sees it.

"(The purchasers) are responsible for the 2005 summer tax bill. If they pay that, we're off to a good start," he said. "If they don't, I guess we're back where we started."

  • If you were wondering how the Staples Inc. campaign referenced in last week's story, "Guerilla Marketing Promo Hits The Wallet," works, here's the gist of it.

Last Wednesday, Restaurant Partners Inc. President Jeff Lobdell, proprietor of the Bagel Beanery chain, met Lambert Belandres of New York-based Go Gorilla Marketing.

Belandres traded Lobdell roughly $800 in fresh $1 bills emblazoned with little Staples coupon stickers — removable in compliance with Treasury Department regulations — in return for a $650 check for each of the two participating Bagel Beanery locations.

The $800 is mixed into the till and distributed throughout the course of business.

Lobdell thought it was a great promotion, and he was happy to be involved, but one thing about the promotion caught him off guard.

All of the pamphlets and promotional material was professional to a T, as was Belandres, described as being of Hawaiian descent, wearing a blue shirt and carrying a large duffle bag.

The odd thing was that Belandres had thousands of dollars crammed into that duffle bag.

"This guy is going around to restaurants and coffee shops making deals with them to buy these ones, and I thought it was a little dangerous for him to be walking around with a big bag full of $1 bills like that," Lobdell said.

According to Lobdell, when Belandres visits a location like, say, Los Angeles, he puts the money in a safe deposit box. In Grand Rapids, apparently it's cool to just walk around with the cash equivalent of a new BMW strapped to your back.

  • Speaking of high-profile marketing, Herman Miller got its shot at
    Wysteria Lane
    in last night's season premiere of the ABC hit "Desperate Housewives."

Felicity Huffman's character, LynetteScavo, has re-entered the work force, taking a job at a large advertising agency, where, according to Herman Miller spokesman Mark Schurman, she'll have some familiar seating and system furniture, including Aerons, Mirras, Resolve, etc.

"No fee for placement, just responding to their request," said Schurman. "They tell us we were their first choice — always nice to be wanted, especially by the hottest show on TV."

  • Kenn Buckner, director of sales and marketing for North Carolina's Trailblazer Studios, kicked off the Ad Club of West Michigan's 2005-06 program series last week with a telling of the importance of storytelling.

According to Buckner, in a communication era dominated by "noise" — from instant messenger and blackberries to Internet radio and TiVo — relevant commercial messages need to take a cue from the traditional narrative.

"How are you supposed to get your client's message across when you're competing with 300 channels?" he asked, rhetorically. "On average, 75 percent of a media buy is wasted because it isn't relevant to the viewer. How are you supposed to establish trust with 25 percent ROI?"

Buckner believes the only way to break through the noise is to deliver a story that parallels traditional media, with character development (client and consumer), conflict (client's problem), drama, resolution (buy product) and denouement.

As he demonstrated through a national 30-second Rubbermaid commercial, "Hurricane," and a spot local to Raleigh, N.C., for the Raleigh Spy Museum — featuring a bush walking across the street and getting shot by a trash can — captivating messages don't need to be long or expensive.

The most effective stories, however, will not rely entirely on the broadcast. They will integrate and be repurposed through outdoor, radio, and print media along with marketing and PR.

As an industry, he believes this will continue to blend together with the advent of new communication media that is direct and interactive, particularly as the Internet absorbs more traditional content as it moves toward integrating the traditional broadcast with IPTV.

  • Looks like the nays have it.

There were a total of 66 responses at press time to last week's GRBJExpress survey question, "Will Icon On Bond be built?" Of those, 58 percent voted for "No, the money isn't there" and 20 percent for "No, it's been delayed too long to actually happen."

On Friday, however, there was plenty of dirt being moved around one of the lots, and city approval of brownfield designation.    

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