I just opened the January 31st issue of PR Week to page 13, and after seeing a big picture of NY Mets superstar Mike Piazza signing autographs on boxes of Proctor & Gamble’s Crest Vanilla Mint Toothpaste for Team Apex on last season’s The Apprentice, I am angry all over again. What angers me so much is that the team lost the task even though they managed – in a very short period of time – to secure a major personality who agreed to brush his teeth at the public launch of this brand in front of a chanting crowd in Manhattan’s Union Square Park. Not only did he brush his teeth, he said out loud for the camera crews, newspaper reporters, and bloggers like to me to hear that he has been using Crest toothpaste all his life, never had a cavity, and liked the taste of this new toothpaste. He then greeted the thousands of fans who gathered around, signed autographs on promotional fliers and boxes of toothpaste that were given out at the event.
You just can’t put a dollar amount on this kind of publicity that is still making print and broadcast news months and months after the event took place. I want to remind everyone that Mike Piazza is not a full time pitchman for Crest nor does he get paid millions of dollars for endorsing the toothpaste. This was a one-shot deal for $20,000. Most celebs with his cache won’t even cross the street for that little money. I might add, many seasoned marketers that I meet in the business wouldn’t know how to hook Piazza without a big check and wouldn’t even be able to create such a great hook for the launch.
It was a genius marketing idea that even Team Apex had no idea would blossom this way. Yet, they had a strategy in mind and developed a concept in such a way that it allowed miracles to happen. That, my friends, is what great marketing is all about. Not to recognize this coup on prime time TV, and not to underscore the value it brought to Crest’s Vanilla Mint Toothpaste forever and ever, is just as dumb as marrying the woman who publicly told your wife on the slopes of Vail that you had been sleeping with her for years and the sex was the best she ever had. Just what are you thinking, Mr. Trump?
You bill yourself as Mr. PR, the comeback kid who just keeps getting richer and richer. Every idea of yours, every piece of property you develop, every woman you marry is supposed to be the pinnacle of greatness. How much did all of that cost you? Certainly not as little as the $5,000 Apex went over in the $50,000 budget you established to create a buzz for the new toothpaste. Yes, that is 10 per cent overdraw, but give me a break. You awarded the other team, Mosaic, with dinner on the Queen Mary 2 because they stayed within the budget.
I bet if you asked most of your viewers what the Mosaic team did to earn that reward, most would not remember. Let me recall the winning concept for all of my readers who can’t remember either. Mosaic gave away three $5,000 prizes in a circus-like atmosphere populated with fire-eaters, stilt-walkers and jugglers. Yes a crowd gathered, in Washington Square Park, but not nearly as many who jammed in to meet and greet with Mike Piazza. I dare you to ask any of the park goers that day what the event was for and they wouldn’t have a clue.
Let’s review why the Apex team went over budget. Some no name printer bullied them into over-time charges for printing the promotional flyers for the rush job. Apex asked the printer for a price when they commissioned the work, but the printer said he wasn’t sure. If the Apex team handled their finances in Trump-style they would have told the printer to take a hike on some of the inflated costs and stayed within budget. That is the real world, Mr. Trump, and you should know it because you created it and that is exactly the way you do business.
When I wrote a letter to George Ross (the corpse who sits beside you on each episode) complaining about Apex’s raw deal, he wrote back tersely that they went over budget and that was that. I am going to Google Mr. Ross to see if he ever had an entrepreneurial job, or is he just talented as your “yes” man? And to the two P&G executives who appeared on that segment of The Apprentice and who agreed with your decision, I say, “Thank your lucky stars that you can hide under the P&G brand.”