Brilliant VW Campaign

I've just witnessed a new campaign from VW and it's brilliant.

Within 10 minutes of receiving an e-mail from a friend 10 20-somethings had logged onto the VW web site and started learning more about the new Routan. The Routan is the latest minivan from Volkswagon. This incredibly intelligent campaign is aimed at young and soon-to-be parents.

When you look onto the VW Routan site you are greeted by a video starring Brook Shields. Shields explains that "10 thousand babies are born in the U.S. each day for German Engineering." Because you can't buy a mini-van unless you have kids, right?

When the video ends (I actually made it through the whole video) there is a link to the RoutanBabymaker 3000. This fun online widget allows users to make a baby without actually making a baby. By simply uploading your picture and your boyfriend, girlfriend's, husband or wife's picture the RoutanBabymaker 3000 will show you what your baby could look like. It's an ingenious campaign that easily allows the user to share their results with others.

This viral campaign perfectly targets Gen X and Y who do the majority of online comparison car shopping and are the most likely to share online content with friends.

So, what are you waiting for? Go make your own Routan Baby.

Being a Grown Up

Sometimes I long for the days when I came home from school to the smell of fresh baked cookies, a home cooked meal and clean laundry. Those days have been over for awhile now, but it hasn't been until recently that I've had to deal with securing my own medical care.

I've found that this is something they definately don't teach you in school. If you've moved to a new city how do you find a new doctor? Do you have to find one right away, or should you wait until you need to go? How do you know if it's a good doctor, and how do you navigate the health insurance that you hopefully have?

I went online to search for an OB-GYN that was in the area, and happened upon mine by mistake. Thankfully, I like her and visiting is more or less painless. Finding a dentist was another story. After procrastinating for over a year I finally got around to asking my co-workers for dentist recommendations. Because I'd never had a cavity (not one!) I wasn't too concerned.

Below are my observations from these visits.
When you go to a doctor for the first time there are way too many forms to fill out, and they all ask the same questions. Most of them are simple enough, but then you get to the, uh.. hard ones. Are you current on your latest shots? When did you have your Hepatitis shots? When were you vaccinated for Small Pox? Who is your doctor? These are questions I did not know, and why would I? When I was in the land of fresh baked cookies and clean laundry I never had to worry about booster shots! My doctor's name? It was some nice lady at the Kronenwetter clinic. Luckily, doctor's seem to be fine with this response, "I don't know, but I will get back to you." I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

The thing with doctor's and being a 20-something is they expect that you already know how everything works. As I said, I'd never had a cavity. So when I was told I had "some detoriation and needed to get two fillings," I needed more information. It took about two minutes before I figured out that she meant I had cavities. Then I was asked, "Would you like white or silver?" White or Silver? I don't know, white? There was no explanation of the benefits versus downfalls. All she said was white were a bit more expensive. I guess I'll wait for my quote...

Also, if you are aware that your patient has never had a cavity before wouldn't you explain what the procedure entails? Apparently not. I realize that for most people having a cavity is not a big deal, but for me there were many questions.

Will my insurance pay for it? How do I find out? How long will the procedure take? Will it hurt? Should I plan it in the morning, over the lunch hour or after work? What exactly happens when you have a filling? Most of the answers I had to drag out of her.

The Take Away
My advice for everyone who is new to this thing called "adulthood" is to ask a lot of questions. Doctors, cable companies and crediters aren't as forthcoming with information as you might think. Sadly, it is your job to ask the questions and get the information you need to make an informed decision.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that those in the PR profession often forget that there's more to public relations then media relations. True a large part of our job is to reach out to media to get our message heard, but sometimes we forget who the audience is. Ultimately it's the consumer, not the reporter.

I realize what I just said completely disregards the fact that a story has to be interesting to a reporter before a consumer can hear it, but bear with me.

For PR people the big pay off is the article in the New York Times or the segment on Good Morning America. Big national media will have big flashy ad values to show clients, but what our industry somtimes fails to remember is it's what that article or segment will do for the business that's truly important. What is the media coverage trying to achieve?

The simple answer is to increase business. What story are you telling the consumer that will make them buy your product or visit your destination? And, if media relations is a way to talk to your consumer might there not be other ways?

Obviously, media relations is a key component of any PR plan but other ways to speak to consumers need to be considered. In many cases social media should be another key component.

Right now I only see large established companies like Dell and Urban Outfitters catching the social media bug. Perhaps it's because they have more resources, but smaller companies need to realize that even with a smaller audience and budget social media can still be valuable.

If you are a local women's clothing store in Milwaukee there has to be some Facebook group of Milwaukee fashionistas you could target. If you're in the tourism industry surely you'd want to target people who list traveling as one of their hobbies.

The bottom line is the more you engage your customers the better chance you'll have of increasing business, but you have to be strategic. Facebook and Twitter are not right for everyone. We need to remember, today's world is all about communication and building conversations and you don't have to be on a major network to do it.

A Woman's Role...

As I sat on my bed going through my Google Reader I stumbled upon an article by Lisa Belkin, a contributing columnist for New York Times Magazine. The article titled, "Palin Talk" raises issues that are on every mothers mind. In a world where women and men are supposedly "equal," is it ok for a woman to go back to work after having a child? What if that woman is in a high powered position? Or one that forces her to spend a lot of time away from home? What if the child has special needs?

As much as I loathe Sarah Palin I am thankful that her new celebrity status has brought attention to this issue.

As a highly ambitious 23-year old woman I have always assumed I would rejoin the workforce when my maternity leave ran out. However, after being bombarded by pregnant co-workers, Pro-life protests, talking heads, a visit to my OB-GYN and sitting across from a very cute baby at breakfast I have been forced to revisit the issue.

Parental Opinions

My parents have a lot of strong opinions about how to raise children. Having been raised in very traditional households with five brothers and sisters they believe the mother should stay home -at least until the children are in school. Can't afford to be a stay-at-home Mom? Only want one child? Then you shouldn't have children at all.

It probably comes as no surprise that my Mom hates Sarah Palin. I have heard her say on more then one occasion, "I don't think she's a very good mother." In fact, my Mom seems to take strong offense to Palin's supporters. I might even go so far as to say the the idea of Gov. Palin as a mother is insulting to her. This is also the woman who won't watch Family Guy because she hates Stewie.

The Government

Some may think this is an odd category to include, but the government greatly affects the choices of mother's everywhere. One of the women I work with has taken three months off to be with her newborn. This includes the maternity leave my company grants along with some of her own vacation time.

A quick search on Wikipedia finds this very generous by federal standards. In the U.S. companies are only required to give women six weeks of unpaid leave. Six weeks! They aren't even required to give mother's partial pay. Oh gee, you mean you can't fire me for keeping the human race alive? Thanks... In fact, it seems the only perks mother's enjoy in the workforce are lower pay raises and waiting considerably longer to receive promotions.

Canada gives their mothers up to 50 weeks with partial pay to share with the father. Now there's a country that cares about family values. Even Iraq has a better maternity policy than the U.S. Eight weeks off with full pay!

France allows parental leave for Mom and Dad. Mom receives a minimum of 16 weeks with full pay and has an additional two years of leave without pay if she chooses.

  • Germany - 14 weeks with full pay
  • Italy - 22 months with 80% pay
  • United Kingdom - 39 weeks with partial pay
  • And you should check out Norway!

At the end of all this, I think of what kind of Mom I want to be. I'd like to be there for my child during their most formative years, or at least until they can walk. While I don't think I want to become a full-time stay-at-home Mom it would be nice to have some options. Three months (if my company allows three months) is not a lot of time to stay at home with a newborn.

I hope I'll be able to afford to spend six months to a year with my child before going back to work full-time. It would be even better, if my employer would partially compensate me for the first six.

In this digital age it shouldn't be too much to ask for a flexible schedule once I decide to have children either. It would be tremendously freeing and relieve a lot of stress to work from home a few days a week. As long as I'm putting in the required time and getting my work done why should flex scheduling be a problem?

Now many of you will think I'm living in a dream world and maybe I am. But if you can't envision a better future, how can you possibly create one? The Secret and "vision boards" work for a reason. Just ask Oprah, and with every staunch conservative screaming about family values, it would be nice if our government started to reflect them.

I'm not sure which side of the debate I will land on when it becomes my turn to step into the baby arena, but I hope that the choices will be easier for me then it has been for so many others.

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