NBC’s The Playboy Club vs. ABC’s Pan Am: A PR Battle for Top Ratings


Each year, fall rolls in with a slew of new network TV series all vying for the highest ratings and a thumbs up for season two. This year, NBC and ABC have responded to Americans’ insatiable appetite for the 1960s, spurred by AMC’s critically acclaimed series Mad Men, with The Playboy Club (NBC) and Pan Am (ABC). Since both shows are set in 1963 and depict different forms of white, middle class rebellion against conforming to the 1960’s nuclear family and cold, corporate America (à la Revolutionary Road), we are given an interesting opportunity to compare each network’s PR efforts to capture the same niche audience carved out by Mad Men.

The Playboy Club, which premiered on September 19th, takes place in the Chicago Playboy Club when Playboy was still in its early stages as a company and follows the lives of company executives and “bunnies.” The show’s advertisements display attractive women dressed in bunny costumes and men dressed in suits through dim, smoky lighting, thus branding the show as glitzy, glamorous and sexually charged, as well as showing the more rebellious nature of The Playboy Club.

Pan Am premiered on September 25th and depicts the life of young airline stewardesses, a desirable job at the time due to the freedom it gave women from the conventional homemaker role. ABC is branding the show using bright blue hues and big band music, notably Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me,” in advertisements, thereby honing in on the optimism and innocence of an era before flying became synonymous with hours of security checks. I predict that Pan Am will ultimately have higher viewership than The Playboy Club because I think more Americans will relate to Pan Am’s optimistic, innocent view of the 1960s rather than The Playboy Club’s sexually charged, more rebellious take on the 1960s.

Pan Am’s upper hand is reflected in the shows’ online marketing efforts as well. Both shows’ websites features video interviews members of the cast, contests and links to social media (Pan Am has 9,408 Twitter followers and 195,035 Facebook likes; The Playboy Club has 6,569 Twitter followers and 123,592 Facebook likes). However, Pan Am’s online marketing efforts really get an edge over The Playboy Club with the link to Pan Am’s unique Pandora station, Pan Am Radio, and the “Discussion” page, which shows all comments about the show made on Twitter and Facebook without having to leaving the Pan Am website.

With both shows just starting to get into the season, the leader will soon emerge. Which show do you think will be more successful?


Elizabeth Townsend, Boston University ’12, Public Relations

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Facebook Changes: Sharing the “Story of Your Life” on a Single Page


via Tech Crunch

As you’ve probably already noticed, there have been lots of changes to Facebook recently.  In the past few days, they’ve given their site a facelift, including revamped friends Lists, a new real-time ticker, and the ‘subscribe’ button.  But that’s not it!  Just this afternoon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced two major updates for Facebook at their annual developer conference, f8.

via Tech Crunch

The Timeline

  • The timeline is your profile re-invented.  As Zuckerberg said, the profile is “the heart of your Facebook experience.” The timeline seeks to completely re-define that experience.
  • The timeline focuses on your stories and your apps to create a new way to express who you are, illustrating the “story of your life” in a single page.
  • With the timeline, your profile becomes a summary of your life.  Complete with a new cover photo, apps and updates, your profile is transformed into a visual and social scrapbook of your life.
  • The timeline aims to make the past relevant by highlighting and curating your past events.

The Open Graph

  • Since Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected, they’ve introduced changes and a “new class of apps” to make content more deliverable, share-able, and social than ever before.
  • The open graph is all about expressing yourself in new ways.  Highlighting “frictionless experiences,” “realtime serendipity,” and “finding patterns,” Zuckerberg is ready to take Facebook beyond the “like.”  They’re adding verbs to connections, taking your experience from “liking” a “food” to “eating” a “meal.”
  • It will roll out more social apps focused on media and lifestyle (i.e. music, TV, food, and fashion) to help you connect with friends and discover new things.
  • This new flurry of activity will be controlled through a supplement to the news feed, the ticker, a stream that eliminates the noise of friends’ lightweight activity but still allows you to connect when appropriate.

In a nutshell, during his keynote Zuckerberg stressed the idea that Facebook wants to be the vehicle you use to share the story of your life.  They’re confidently taking Facebook and social networking to the next level.  From apps, graphs, and gaming, Facebook wants to become the place you share and archive everything you do.  While the last five years have been focused on getting people signed up and connected with others, the future of Facebook is focused on using apps to deepen engagement and enhance the user experience.


Following this keynote, I’m intrigued and amazed, but not without a few questions.

  1. What do these changes mean for marketers?
  2. What does the appearance of the Spotify and Netflix CEOs mean for Facebook?
  3. While the technology of these apps is amazing, will people want to share everything and anything they do?  Aren’t some things better left private?
  4. As Facebook Places proves, not everything Facebook does turns to gold.  Will these revolutionary changes stick?

Do you have any answers to these questions? Leave your comments in the section below!


-Erica Petersen, 451 Marketing, Internal Marketing Intern

Word on the Street: There’s a New Zipcar in Town

Zipcar and Hertz on Demand. What’s the difference? There isn’t really, except for better PR on Zipcar’s part. Zipcar, the current leader in the car-sharing business, will feel some pressure from Hertz’s revamped program: Hertz on Demand, allegedly offering better services including no annual fees, electric vehicles, and one-way travel. And Hertz is not keeping quiet their plans to gun down Zipcar, with its July press release mapping out a direct comparison of Hertz on Demand and Zipcar prices. On paper, Hertz should be able to take down Zipcar. But, in reality, Zipcar might have the upper hand with a better PR campaign.

Zipcar targets a young crowd (mainly college students and urbanites under 35), which is apparent in all aspects of the brand. Everything from their website to the names of their cars suggests an appeal to the young, trendy, and fun. The website, emails, and ads all feature young adults laughing, having a grand ol’ time by their Zipcar, either in the city or in a park with the city in the distance, using phrases like “Love the city. Flirt with the country.” On every car, there is a visible bright green logo of Zipcar, with a printed “zipcar.com” and a fun name like “Escape Eddie” on the rear. Zipcar has also partnered with numerous colleges, offering discounts, to directly target college students.

Hertz on Demand on the other hand, has great perks but the brand doesn’t have the same fun, trendy feel as Zipcar does. Their website is just another car-rental website, nothing too fun or exciting about it. Hertz’s main strategy is to highlight their better prices and eco-friendly electric cars. The electric, energy-saving cars definitely appeal to the modern generation and there’s no doubt that many will be attracted to use the convenient one-way service that Zipcar doesn’t offer. It’ll be interesting to see what else Hertz comes up with to target customers (or even steal some from Zipcar).

At the end of the day, Hertz on Demand is the only seemingly viable competitor with Zipcar. So it’s on: Hertz vs Zipcar. Who do you think will win?


-Chenny Zhang, Boston College ’12, Communications Major



Tablets and e-Readers in Education

As a college student, I have seen a lot of changes in the use of technology in the classroom over the past few years.  With the release of Apple’s iPad last year, tablet PCs have become the new craze.  And, it’s a trend which is here to stay, according to a Pearson Foundation survey.  According to the survey, nearly half of college students believe that tablets will take the place of paper textbooks by 2016.  This seems feasible – the iPad serves as an ultra-portable, streamlined PC whose compatibility with the latest applications is enticing.  As a college student, an application called iBooks (pictured below) that allows you to read your favorite books on your iPad caught my attention.

Although iBooks does not yet offer a textbook rentals option, Amazon’s Kindle rolled out this feature just last month.  Students can access their textbooks on e-readers such as the Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook for a fraction of the cost.  Not sure how long you will need to rent a textbook?  Not a problem – Amazon offers a pay-as-you-go service that lets you start or stop a rental at your leisure.

For me, at first there was a BIG “but” in this e-reader buzz.  For the first time in 15 years of schooling, my college courses are requiring the use of e-readers in place of a physical textbook.  Last semester (second semester of sophomore year) I had an online textbook for an information systems class, which to me made sense.  Now, for the upcoming semester while I study abroad in Spain, half of my classes will utilize e-readers in place of textbooks.  These courses include Spanish literature, business management, and international marketing, all of which are bound to include lots of text and graphics.  Highlighting important information and jotting down notes by hand using a textbook is a study skill that will be hard to give up.  As nearly 90% of students believe tablets help them study more efficiently, I can’t help but wonder if my grades will go up.  Also, almost 75% of students who own tablets, not just for reading purposes, prefer tablets to traditional textbooks.  Who knew?

As it appears now, using e-readers are in students’ near futures worldwide.  If you are one of the 3 out of 4 students who says studying with technology is a must, are looking to become more familiar with an e-reader, or want to be introduced (as it is in my case) to e-readers, check out a helpful program called “Kno” (pictured below) for the iPad.


Kno streamlines your course textbooks into a digital dashboard providing you with a “Kno backpack necessary” schooling experience.  Features like shopping for textbooks, categorizing textbooks by class and semester, taking notes on a sticky pad, comprehensive quizzes and sharing information with friends are compiled into one application, all of which can be viewed on the iPad, the internet, and Facebook.

If you are currently in school, become acquainted with e-readers and online textbooks.  You will be one step ahead of the curve!

How soon do you think this will become main stream?  Are you willing to view your textbooks on a tablet?

-Chris O’Book, 451 Marketing Intern



Netflix PR Crimes


When I woke up on July 12 and learned that I would have to pay an extra $6 dollars a month in order to maintain my unlimited streaming + 1 DVD at a time subscription to Netflix, I wasn’t too fazed by the matter.  As long as I got to keep watching Weeds and Dexter at my leisure, I wouldn’t have minded paying an extra $7 a month.  It wasn’t until after I logged on to Facebook and Twitter that same morning that I realized I was one of the few who did not take this news as a “crime against humanity.”  It was a viral war-zone.  Tweeters were holding nothing back, sending out one hateful tweet after another.  Before long, the entirety of the Netflix community knew that their lives were about to change.

My question is: why?

Why was the Netflix price change such a scandal?  People were going as far as to compare the Netflix announcement to the fabled ‘Rapture’ which was supposed to consume us all only a few months prior.  So, while I am in no way happy about having to pay more per month, a few more dollars is in no way comparable to a fiery inferno sent from the heavens.  So why was everyone so upset by the matter?

The outrage came when people realized that the price hike was coming all at once.  Normally, when Netflix raises its prices (which it has done multiple times in the past), it’s by a dollar or so and nobody takes notice.  This most recent announcement, however, came as one large blow to all if its customers and nobody was prepared for the fiscal and emotional toll it would take.  Perhaps the most unprepared group of people was the Netflix PR team.  They had predicted that there would be some serious backlash from this price hike, but they were thwarted with threatening emails and letters by their once devout customers.  It quickly fell upon the PR team to salvage this disaster in order to keep the company alive.

The PR team had already made one grave mistake – releasing the information about the price hike via blog post and then remaining silent for a few days after the message was heard.  They did not respond or explain themselves for quite some time after the information was released. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has made it a point for a few years to try and phase out the DVD aspect of the company, which in the long run makes perfect sense.  This did, however, instill some fear in subscribers as they did not know how else their subscriptions would change.

The team eventually released a statement declaring that this change in payment was a way for the company to remain cost effective and to segregate the Netflix consumer base into its DVD users and its streamers.  This cleared the air for some users, but those who fervently use both are still caught in this Netflix maelstrom.  The PR team has remained relatively quiet over the past few weeks, and some Netflix users are still up in arms about what they are spending their money on.

How do you think the Netflix PR team should have edited their strategy in order to maintain the price change but keep the customers happy?

Jonathan Graziano is a PR intern at 451 Marketing. Jonathan is currently a junior at Emerson College majoring in Marketing Communications.