Thursday, August 14, 2008

Great PR Scams of Our Time #1 -- "The Deli Poll"

The first in a periodic series about astonishing public relations scams perpetrated by various notables desperate to get the almighty hit for their client.

In the early 90's, getting publicity for delis was difficult. After all, how do you get frequent media placements for pastrami on rye sandwiches? As a matter of fact, things probably got a bit desperate to get the deli anything in the press or they would take a walk from their PR firm. There's only so many times you could pull the old matzo ball eating contest.

Suddenly, the New York Post's Page Six and its rival Daily News gossip column would run these periodic items about polls taken at some deli on major issues of our time. Whereas polling companies like Harris and Zogby used scientific methodology to create a fair sample of the US population utilizing random phone calls in strategic locations around the country, it seems merely consuming lentil soup and half-sour pickles at a midtown deli constituted the ideal cross representation of American thinking.

So you'd open Page Six and read something like: "Nobody makes western movies anymore, but it seems they are still held in high esteem. At a survey taken at Ben's Deli, the majority of customers agreed that John Wayne was the greatest American hero who ever lived, followed by astronaut Neil Armstrong and baseball player Joe DiMaggio."

Or "The Beatles may have broken up 20 years ago, but they are still considered the best live band ever in a survey conducted last week at Ben's Deli. The Rolling Stones, whom many consider the greatest live band, came in a close second while Bruce Springsteen was third."

I don't know about you, but I can't ever recall being stopped at a delicatessen to be asked any kind of burning questions like "Do you think we'll ever find life on another planet?" or "Should Staten Island secede from the rest of New York City?" I must have been eating at the wrong eating establishments. Usually I'm asked things like "What kind of bread would you like your sandwich on?"

When gossip columnists were fed these items, I'm sure they had a good laugh, yet they happily went along and published them. Probably in exchange for items on more noteworthy clients.

Now I'm not saying these polls were not true -- no, no, no -- but I do miss the good old days when I could read about current events taken from delicatessen surveys.

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