PR Lessons Learned From Seinfeld!

This year marks the 25-year anniversary of “Seinfeld,” the ultimate “show about nothing” that became quite something. Though you may think of Jerry and the crew as a bunch of laughable slackers, in watching many episodes (several times!) there are some business takeaways that apply to public relations. Read on and see if you agree.

Read the social cues. Seinfeld explored the minutiae of relationships, and much of his comedy questioned etiquette or social discourse. For example, which conversations are too important to be made via cell? (or via text, as we’d say now) How many dates must you have been on before you need to end a relationship in person? These questions can be applied to the proper handling of client-agency situations as well. Can you read the signs of a faltering relationship? Do you know which situations can be addressed in a call or which demand the “personal touch?”  It may take some finessing, but the better able you are to read between the lines of an email or understand the subtext of a conversation, the better decisions you will make. As Jerry once astutely observed, “The fabric of society is very complex.”

What goes around comes around.  On the show, the characters extend themselves to help others fairly grudgingly, or they ignore the needs of anyone outside their own world, though in a hilarious way. Anyone remember George knocking down an older lady in a walker to escape a house fire? Or Kramer, Jerry, and Elaine trying to force-feed cookies to an unconscious man? The characters repeatedly live up to our low expectations of them, and in the end, they pay the price. The same is true in the business world. A good turn may come back to you years later, but a burned bridge can haunt your career forever.

Healthy curiosity has its limits.  A good agency-client relationship breeds curiosity and should come with the ability to discuss  issues without destructive, “Seinfeldian” obsessing.  (As when Jerry spends an entire episode torturing himself to figure out why Audrey, the dessert-loving girlfriend, won’t sample the best apple pie in town.) But curiosity has limits, and we should know  them. There’s a time to push in a productive way and a time to accept the circumstances or decisions of others.

Worlds really do collide.  George’s famous hand-wringing over certain people in his life meeting others is funny, but it also calls into question how PR agencies (or anyone) chooses to staff interactions. Whom to bring to the new business presentation? Who to lead the account? To whom will we assign the “difficult call?” Good leaders know how to read each situation and “futurecast” outcomes before strategizing a next move. They also know that business gaffes are rarely as funny as anything that happened on “Seinfeld.”

Who’s Winning the Super Bowl 2012 PR Game?

The run-up to Super Bowl XLVI has definitely begun. And every year the pre-game show ( the ad-fest that leads up to Sunday) seems to get longer.

Now, the Super Bowl has never been known for cutting-edge advertising creative. The challenge is to go big, go broad, and generate chatter. And it’s the early buzz that helps justify the jaw-dropping $3.5 million per spot. Here’s a hint about 2012: cars and dogs are still big.

But the loudest noise seems to be around the commercials designed to evoke fond memories of years gone by. Call it the Nostalgia Bowl. Downy fabric softener, of all brands, is reprising the Mean Joe Greene ad that Coke made famous in 1979, with a twist. (Ordinarily this would be shameless plagiarism, but the aged Joe and the incomparable Amy Sedaris make it surprisingly fresh.)

Then there’s Seinfeld and Jay Leno fighting over an Acura, complete with the Soup Nazi thrown into the sentimental stew. Not bad, actually.

But the PR winner has to be Ferris Bueller. When Honda released a preview version of its “Matthew’s Day Off,” the ad featuring Matthew Broderick playing hooky to ride in a CR-V, Twitter went crazy. The tweets were so fast and furious that they sparked a little backlash. And there’s plenty to pick on here. A minivan isn’t the sexiest car, and some have accused Broderick of selling out his character in doing something they insist the youthful Ferris would never do.

So it may not be a perfect marketing vehicle. But the spot has racked up four million free views on one YouTube channel alone. It’s the clear front-runner five full days before kickoff, and the dozen or so “Easter eggs” – hidden references to the iconic 1980s film – probably guarantee further mileage for Honda.

What’s even more refreshing is that Bueller and other entertaining spots have crowded out the GoDaddy girls and the “banned ad” also-rans, for once. The tired PR gimmick of claiming an ad has been banned or rejected by the network and posting it online is still in evidence this year, most notably in a spot put out by dating site TheBigandThe Beautiful. It claims the sexy commercial it submitted was rejected by NBC due to bias against women of size.

But so far the hijackers have had slim pickings. Honda’s Bueller isn’t a Ferrari (either literally or creatively) but it is a crowd-pleaser. Which for Super Bowl Sunday, may be just what the doctor ordered.