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Universities - A Public Relations Nightmare

For_sale_sign How about a scary story for Halloween? 

The story is about how public universities such as Iowa State, The University of Iowa and Northern Iowa University (and no doubt yours in whatever state you live in) sell our kids.  Or, perhaps, "what" they are selling our kids.

It's a public relations nightmare for the schools.

For any of us...debt is a burden.  For kids, debt can be disaster.  But, that is just what the public universities, in the guise of their alumni groups, are trying to sell our kids.

It comes in the form of easy to obtain credit cards bearing the logo of the various schools.  The cards, pushed on campus and through the mail (using data given or sold to Bank of America), are the students entry into...convenience.  And...debt.

Man_money And the universities are defending their actions.  "The school needs money..."

The other public relations issue is how the state created, non-profit Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Corporation works.  Over the past five years the organization has paid colleges 1.5 million for processing student loans.  And the group holds roughly 3 billion dollars in loans made to 195,000 borrowers while making a 121 million dollar profit over the past four years.

Something stinks...and the Governor, legislators and the Attorney General think so too as they are calling for investigations.  Meanwhile the University of Iowa has just announced a major fund raising campaign for the school.  Bad timing and poor public relations.

Bank_repo_sign Imagine getting two pieces of paper at graduation.  One is the diploma and the other...a notice of repossession.  All courtesy of your state university.

Don't you think they could do better?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

New Orleans and FEMA

No_morning Since our visit to New Orleans this past week I've been asked by nearly everybody I visited with, "So, is the city back to normal?"  And, "Is it OK to visit New Orleans?"

The answer depends on who you ask.  I know this post isn't maybe about advertising and marketing...but in a sense it is.   And, I'll try to answer your questions...

Make no mistake about it...downtown New Orleans is just fine.  The meeting for the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association (FEMA)was held at the Sheraton Downtown and I had the opportunity to walk several blocks around the property. 

Girl_with_bike Bourbon Street is...well, the same as I remember Pre-Katrina.  Lots of people having a great time and making quite a party of the days, and nights.

The problems are outside of the city center.

On our trip back to the airport I asked my driver what it was like in the 9th Ward.  After all, it had been over two years.  He looked at his watch and said, "We've got a few minutes.  I'll show you."

House_dead_dog It's not a pretty sight.  While there are many homes that have been rebuilt there are also entire sections of the area that are still a major mess.  Next door to a home that has been rebuilt might be a vacant lot with trash and left over items from the flood.

There are homes with the markings still painted on the front that tell how many bodies of dogs, cats...and humans...were found there.

It's sobering and more than pitiful.

I flew out of New Orleans sitting next to a young woman of 30 who has deep roots in the community.  Her family had been in the city for five generations.  She is the only one left.  Her other family members all moved out. "It tore our lives apart", she said.  "My parents, my grandparents, aunts, uncles are all gone.  And we used to be so close.  Every Sunday dinner at my Grandmothers for 25 people! Thank God everybody made it out safely but I'm the only one that has returned to New Orleans full time."

Dominoes_2 She added that her grandfather is rebuilding the family home but it's been a slow process.  "Daddy", she said, "loves two things, fishing and playing domino's. His boat was destroyed during Katrina and all that is left of the house is the front porch.  He drives back every couple of weeks from Baton Rouge to work on the rebuilding and to play domino's on that wrecked porch with his friends."

She told me her family is going to surprise him with a new boat come Father's Day - 2008. "He'll be really happy.  Now if only our entire family could move back..."

So, is it OK to visit New Orleans?  Sure...and maybe by visiting you're helping folks get back on their feet.  Go for it.

Micheal P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

Farewell Big Easy...From FEMA

Fema_no_sundown It's been an interesting couple of days here at the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association (FEMA) Fall Meeting.  Warning...this is a very LONG post from our Advertising Agency...

The members who make up the association are downright "giddy" at their performance in 2007.  At one time, not that long ago, folks were RUNNING away from agriculture because there was zero profit margin.  Today people who have never worked the "ag crowd" are joining so they can get a piece of the profits generated by an outstanding farm economy.

But, this post is about some of the people and things we experienced in our three days in New Orleans.  And, where we can, we'll give you a visual.

Fema_no_bob The long time Executive Director of FEMA, Bob Schnell and wife Marcie were on hand as they have been for years.  Bob still thinks there is "no future" in the world of blogging and tells us that "nobody reads this stuff anyway".  OK...Bob.  Nice to see you again...he is such a "tender guy".

Fema_no_minimal This is Ashok Singh Garcha of Safe Engineering.  He won my annual "Impress Them With A Minimal Display" award.  Ashok came with his "stuff" packed in his pockets.  "Why bring so much stuff?" He asked.  Hey....if it sells...what the heck.  BUT, don't tell our clients that we create high end displays for...

Fema_no_crane_creek This is Kari Warberg who founded Crane Creek Gardens.  It's pretty cool...she's cooked up a way to keep tractor cabs smelling nice while chasing away the mice. (nice ring to that huh?) I've been in plenty of tractor cabs that could use both.  We'll have her on our radio show one of these days.

Fema_no_obrian_logo Here is the outside of Pat O'Briens.  This joint has a very special place in my heart.  I have a photo, I'll share it with you someday, of my Father (may he rest in peace) sitting with a bunch of his buddies...all Navy guys from WWII.  Every time I get to New Orleans I go's kind of like a shine and I imagine my father when he was all of 24 having a beer with his best friends and somehow it helps.  I miss him greatly.

Fema_no_charlie This is Charlie GlassWe've written about him before.  He is smart, on track and usually way ahead of others.  His program on Trade Shows was excellent.  We wrote about many of the Trade Show Woes we did in other postings.  It was great to know, according to Charlie, we are on the right track.

Fema_no_supplier_board I sit on the Board of Governors for the Supply Section of FEMA.  That is like the "associates" who sell stuff to the manufacturers like steel, tubing, insurance, print, and advertising agencies.  Here is our Board working...and at 8:30am.  In New Orleans yet!  At the head of the table (holding court) is Dave Laughlin of Primary Steel.  A good friend and a great guy.

Fema_no_train I had no idea you could get this close to a train!  Running yet!!  And this is right downtown!

Fema_no_burboun_st What?  Did I make it to Bourbon Street?  Ahhhh.... well, let's see...that is an excellent question.  Yes, but I am grateful my good friend Jeff Griggs of All State Ag Parts was not with me.  We would have been out until very early in the morning.  Maybe.  Jeff, remember this place?  I bought the round there usual.

James_lloyd Best speech of the event?  James Lloyd.  Really...very, very good. If you are looking for an opening speaker.  Give Jim a call.  He not only has a great gift...but also a wonderful story.  Tell him we sent you., that's it.  It's a wrap.  I'm outta here. more tiny thing. If you come to New Orleans and you want some top end service at a chain hotel.  Call Dennis Doherty of the Sheraton New Orleans.  I had what was maybe the worst stay of my career.  And I did complain.  Then, Dennis called as I was writing this and made it right.  And...said he would take this up with their staff and policy people to make sure future guests had a better experience.  Thanks make it happen!

Thanks for spending more time than usual with us...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we're grateful that you came buy for a read. BOB Schnell says, "Nobody reads that crap!"

Video & Trade Shows - "Them Movin' Pitchers"

Fema_no_video_3 For a long time our advertising agency has encouraged our clients to add video to their trade show booths.  It makes sense for so many reasons. 

I was delighted to see so many displays here at the Farm Equipment Manufacturing Association (FEMA) meeting actually using video's in their booths.  It's at least a 300% increase since just a year ago. you may already use "Them Movin' Pitchers" at your display...but if not here is (yet another) gentle push.

Fema_no_video_2 I took several photos of how some have added video. Most, we have to admit, are very simple.  Do the video, bring along a flat panel and a  But, the fact that these folks are doing so is encouraging.

So...why add video?  Here are some solid reasons:

  • Increases Interested Traffic:  People stop and watch. As long as the images are moving and have some changes from scene to scene, even without sound, folks stop to watch.
  • Increases Conversation:  When a person is watching the video they come up with questions.  And, they have an "idea" of what the product or service the questions become more informed.
  • Buys YOU Time:  If you are doing a "one man show" you can't get to everybody at the same time.  By doing a video you allow people to "do something" while you are visiting with somebody else.  Once that person is get to visit with the next in line.  It's like having extra people in the booth.
  • Adds Class:  Nothing like one or two sleek flat panel screens and some great graphics to make your booth pop.

Fema_no_video Fema_no_video_4 What was fun, in this case, is the movement toward more video it makes a world of difference.

Fema_no_no_video What it looks like with

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where, yes...we produce television ads and videos for training or for sales.  From the storyboard to the finished product...all at one place.

FEMA - New Orleans

Sheraton_no The Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association  (FEMA) heads into "The Big Easy" this week to discuss a very exciting year in the manufacturing of agricultural equipment.

Manufacturers, dealers and distributors are all "giddy" with the booming farm economy...thanks mostly to the high grain prices and large export market.

Our advertising agency is here to mix, mingle and discuss the market with the people who are on the ground in short-line manufacturing.  Who knows...somebody just might hire us as well...

A couple of quick observations.  We flew Southwest Airlines out of Kansas City rather than Des Moines.  Why?  We saved over 250 dollars on the round trip airfare.  And their passenger screening at KCI by the TSA is the very best as far as customer care that I've come across. EVER!  Here is our post on that from April.

Shift to a lesson that all of us can learn from: 

It's about OVER PROMISING and then UNDER DELIVERING.  Huge danger...

When we booked our rooms at the Sheraton New Orleans we got a very nice confirmation.  Personalized yet!

A week ago we received yet another colorful and personal e-mail from the manager of the facility, William McCreary.  Telling us how glad he was that we were coming and how much his staff was looking forward to being of service.  Nice we thought...almost wrote about it! 

Our expectations were very high at that point: is the danger in over promising:

On arrival to my room on Wednesday at 3pm I, right away called down to get a suit pressed (love flying you know..).  I was told it could not be done.  "Must be in before 9am to be out same day."  OK...not a big deal...unless you have experienced service much better at other facilities.  Like within an hour?!?!?  Marriott - Memphis & MGM Grand - Las Vegas.

Next...little deal but:  No limes for a drink at the reception last night.  "Sorry sir, but we have lemons."  Sorry...tonic with lime works better and there was no movement to accomidate me...or the others in our party.

Finally...the "Business Center" here closes at 6pm!  Bill, our business may not end at 6pm...after all we just got here at 3!

Little stuff?  Maybe...but remember our expectations?  Very high. 

It's a lesson in marketing.  If you can not deliver...don't suggest you can.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where if we screw up (like we did today) we try to make it right.  Honest.

Flying High - SUX

Sux_hat It's one thing to's another to recognize an opportunity and seize it.

That's exactly what the Sioux City Gateway Airport did...finally.  And, their decision is all over the news today.  It is a public relations and marketing story that everybody is talking about.

The Sioux Gateway Airport has as it's FAA identifier the three letters of SUX.  They were not happy about it.  City leaders complained to the FAA...and said, "Hey, we don't SUX!  We're Sioux City!" 

in 2002 the FAA offered several alternatives...including GAY.  The airport turn them down.  The mayor called it an "embarrassment" to have SUX attached to Sioux City.  Oh my...what to do?

Sux_shirts "Market it!" was the suggestion of airport commissioner Dave Bernstein.  And so they have...right down to their website ( where you can buy a "Fly SUX" T-Shirt, cap, etc.


We once suggested to a potential client, the Farm Equipment Manufacturing Association (FEMA), to capitalize on their decades old "trade name" of FEMA.  Even more so as FEMA, this week, will hold their annual fall meeting in, of all places, New Orleans.  We even had the graphics ready to roll...

They turned down the offer..."Too problematic. Too political. Too negative..."

Too scared?

Often we get what what is dished out to us and try to run the other way.  Sometimes it's best to embrace the negative and turn it into a positive.  That is what Sioux City did...congratulations!  You never know when the next opportunity might present itself.  Think about it...Sioux City?  Seems like everybody in the advertising and marketing world is talking about it....and so did we.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we understand ya sometimes just need to capture the opportunity.

Kerri Houston - Sunday Morning Radio

Hwy61_image Rural Lifestyle Radio!  That's what we're about and we take to the air again this Sunday morning at 8am to talk about the issues and items that impact folks living on small farms or acreages.

You'll find us on 98.3 WOW-FM here in Des Moines.  Or, if you would like to listen on-line.  Simple just head to the station site and create an account and listen in.  We'd be pleased to have you.

Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country isn't a farm show but it is about the rural lifestyle.  This week we're going to touch on a host of items from the big push going on in Rural Iowa particularly with the John Edwards campaign.

We'll talk about the rush in land prices and perhaps there is a SUB-PRIME issue in the rural parts of the country?

Kerri_houston We'll also have as our special guest Kerri Houston from the Alliance for American Manufacturing.  Kerri a regular on television, print and radio will be in to discuss what is going on in Rural America as more and more companies choose to have their machinery made off-shore.  If you missed the John Ratzenberger event (Keep It Made In America) this past week.  This should bring you a new set of issues to talk about later at church.

All of this and so much more...this Sunday at 8am only on 98.3 WOW-FM

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

John Ratzenberger...Tipping At Windmills?

John_r_in_dsm_1 Wednesday night John Ratzenberger headlined a hard nosed and compelling event in Des Moines.  The topic:  How America Is Losing Our Manufacturing Edge.  And it was very well done.

Over 200 people packed the event and we would guess the audience was a pretty good mix of union workers, small manufacturers and the curious coming to hear Ratzenberger.

The event was sponsored by the Alliance for American Manufacturing a non-partisan, non-profit partnership made up of manufacturing corporations and the United Steelworkers.

John_ratzenberger The message of the evening was that people who are really interested in the economy and the future of this country need to hold the presidential and Congregational candidates feet to the fire as they "look the other way" as America outsources more and more jobs to Mexico, China and India.  Ratzenberger pressed the audience to ask, and keep asking these questions of politicians seeking their vote:

  • As President how will YOU save American jobs?
  • What specific policies will you support to strengthen the American manufacturing base?
  • What steps will you take to enforce our existing trade laws?

A panel (above) made up of the Mayor of Newton, a small business owner, a student in the DMACC tool and die program and a worker from Bridgestone/Firestone all commented on their personal experiences and the need to get involved.

Following the meeting dozens waited to meet and talk to Ratzenberger.  Perhaps fans from "Cheers" and his show "Made in America"...but most were fans of the message they heard:

  • 22,000 Manufacturing Jobs in Iowa lost since 2001
  • 17,700 of them to China
  • Protect Manufacturing - It is our heritage and future

Is it protectionist?  Ratzenberger says, "Hell yes, and there is nothing wrong with protecting our country and our family.  When are we going to get the guts to stand up for the American worker?"

I had my time with Ratzenberger and was amazed at how common a guy he is.  He took the questions well.  I was most impressed by his answer to my question:  "John, do you feel like you are tipping at windmills, given all the money that is demanded by business who offshore their manufacturing to satisfy the demands of stock holders?"  His answer:  "Maybe, but that should not stop us from trying to bring back what made this country so great.  If we don't it could very well end up being owned by somebody else.  I don't want that for my kids...and I doubt you do either."

Well said John.

Kerri_houston This Sunday morning at 8am we'll continue this discussion with Kerri Houston a policy annalist for the group on our Rural Lifestyle Radio Show, Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country on 98.3 WOW-FM.  You can hear it at 8am Sunday.

A quick sidebar...the Des Moines Register must had thought the event was not worth a report.  Other than a BLOG article in Thursday's paper...nothing.  Makes one wonder...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

John Ratzenberger In Des Moines

John_ratzenberger Just a heads up.  Tonight John Ratzenberger will speak at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines.  The topic of his speech will focus on keeping industry in America.

We've got some time scheduled with Mr. Ratzenberger and the folks from the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

We'll post the story and we'll also ask some questions of the Farm Equipment Manufacturing Association...blend it all up and serve it up on a post tomorrow.

The event in Des Moines gets underway at 6:30 tonight (Wednesday).  We understand quite a few bloggers will be covering the speech...should be interesting.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

Stop The Tired Slogans...

Tired_child One of the many things advertising agencies are asked to do is come up with creative slogans for our clients.  Sometimes it takes awhile, sometimes it comes really easy. 

What we do all the time is stay away from tired "over used" slogans.  Or slogans that were very popular for another company.  It's not right to "borrow" somebody else's tag line.

I guess that's why we were surprised this past week when we saw both of these "cardinal rules" of advertising broken by Dahl's a local grocery store.

Dahl's bills themselves as, "Your Hometown Grocer Since 1931".  They are, and they have twelve very nice stores in the Des Moines area. 

However, whoever is doing their advertising must not be paying attention.

Last week a print ad came out in the Des Moines Register that used the very tired tag line, "Your One Stop Shop..."   Creative?  Nope.  Overused...yep.  We would have expected something like this at "Earl's Bait & Tackle" not a fine store like Dahl's.  Go ahead, Google "One Stop Shop" is so common that there are several pages dedicated to the slogan.

Then we saw a television ad where their perky spokes-model looks at the camera and says, "You expect more from Dahl's, and you get it."


Standard Somebody it the ad department must have found an old Standard Oil (Which later became AMOCO) commercial and thought, "Gee, sounds like us!"  You see, for a generation the Standard Oil tag was, "You expect more from Standard, and you get it."  Of course that was years doubt before many of the target audience was born.

It's not that odd to see a company use a slogan from another company...but twice in one week?  We were impressed!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where it's more difficult to keep things fresh...slogans...NOT vegetables!