In late 2006 public relations company Pead PR offered media employees the chance to win a trip to New York for using a newly created word, ‘starkish’, in their stories. After the competition was announced Pead PR revealed that the word was part of a campaign to promote a pre-mixed vodka drink called Stark. No mention was made of the vodka drink in the original invitation. This week, Shock Jock speaks to Deborah Pead, founder of Pead PR:
SHOCK JOCK: There was some really cool research done in the ‘60s about the use of subliminal messages in advertisements. Do you guys ever use that kind of stuff?
DEBORAH PEAD: No. I think we need to be able to measure what we do. We do a lot of ambient product placement. For example we are doing one at the moment… We are doing it through premium pool parties, so fi nding people who we believe refl ect the demographic of the product, we assist them by hosting a pool party. It’s not subliminal but it’s a more sophisticated evolution of the concept of subliminal.
SJ:When you say pool party do mean like putting the brand with lots of nice girls at a pool together because sex sells?
DP: Yeah with girls and boys together because the target audience of this particular brand is urban sophisticates.
SJ: So they like sex as well?
DP: I’m sure they do. I don’t particularly ask them that. But I would hope they do.
SJ: Do you guys play Scrabble very often and come up with ideas from that?
DP: No we don’t actually, why is that a way of generating ideas? I didn’t know about that.
SJ: Yeah you can up with some new words if you play Scrabble.
DP: (Laughing) Well we’re quite good at creating new words. You might have noticed the success we had with the word ‘starkish’.
SJ: Oh, what was that?
DP: That was a word called starkish which was a new adjective that we created last year which would be a tease campaign for a product called Stark. The media and those in the leisure lifestyle industries embraced the word starkish and it got some people annoyed because they felt we were exploiting the English language to suit a PR campaign.
SJ: Are you working on any new words at the moment?
DP: Not right now but there’s always the possibility.
SJ: Do you think the media is stupid?
DP: No not at all.
SJ: Why not?
DP: There’s a lot of very intelligent journalists who I have a huge amount of respect for so no I don’t think they are stupid at all.
SJ: Do you respect Jacqui Brown and Mark Sainsbury?
SJ: They did use the starkish word didn’t they?
DP: Mark used it because he thought it was a buzz word that was going around, he wasn’t part of the promotion. Mark is a very intelligent, very skilled journalist and he chose to use it because he thought it was a buzz word. And Jacqui chose to use it in an interview with a band called Deja Voodoo, and she used it very appropriately because the words starkish means a sense of style, great taste and proportion and she said “Starkish they are not”, so used it very accurately as an adjective. I’ve got a lot of respect for both of them. Jacqui Brown is a very skilled journalist and she has her tongue fi rmly placed in her cheek and we love her sense of style and wit.
SJ: What other techniques do you guys use to manipulate the media?
DP: Not all of it is media driven. A lot of our activity is ambient – a lot of it could be sponsorship, endorser strategies, or product placement.
SJ: When you say ambient, what do you mean, like mood lighting and new age music?
DP: No, ambient could be a stage set for example. One of the things we did last year was put a man in a window for a week and we would say that was an ambient placement.
SJ: Was that because he was dressed up like a girl or something?
DP: No (laughing), it was a campaign for launching a new product.
SJ: How long was this guy trapped in the window for?
DP: He wasn’t actually trapped, he was in a room and it was almost like the Big Brother concept that was brought to life on the streets of Auckland. So we would say that was an ambient campaign, an ambient stunt. It got a lot of word of mouth, people queued to watch it.
SJ: Did you get the idea from how in Amsterdam (sex shops) you can look at other people through glass windows?
DP: That was exactly the concept, we wanted to capture some of the voyeurism and freedom of expression that one sees on a street corner.
SJ: Was this guy sexy?
DP: Oh he was very hot but he was fully clothed.
SJ: What was he wearing?
DP: He wore white outfits.
DP: Ha ha… No just normal white. The concept was he just fi ltered out what he didn’t like in life, so we used the room as a white canvas, a blank canvas. It was very cool.
SJ: Do you think people got turned on looking at that window?
DP: I hope they would because there was a lot of effort put into it.
SJ: … It’s a funny word, ambient.
DP: Why do you say that?
SJ: Well it does seem strange.
DP: Well we didn’t make that up, it’s a legitimate word…