Tag Archives: cheese

Let’s all go to Washyourhandsington to get ourselves a treat

Heard these on the radio a few times – they’re just begging to be shared.


Try it again, this time with a little more soul…

Washyourhandsington with Soul

The 50’s-styled campaign, from the Washington Department of Health’s (DoH), is definitely cheesy (Tim Church, the DoH communications director acknowledged as much in an interview with Spokane’s The Spokesman-Review), but the idea seems to try to be weird different enough that people complain talk about it.  More Feed your Kids the Arts than The More you Know.


All well and good, but does it actually work?  How does the DoH know that the expense was worth it?  The campaign outreach page assures visitors that the state spent no money on it – the campaign was paid for with a federal grant for flu prevention.  How do the feds know that money they sent to Washington State was well-spent?

Choosing a measure of success

You could look at the number of people who get the flu and compare it to flu incidence in previous years, but there are far too many factors at play.  Sure, a downturn in cases could be caused by the campaign, but it could also be caused by a weak flu strain or a particularly good match for the strain in that year’s vaccine concoction.  Or maybe the weather was just warmer.  There’s a lot going on, so tracking the number of flu cases doesn’t seem like the right measure of campaign effectiveness.

Instead, the campaign’s call to action is about proactive steps people can take to protect themselves from the flu.  Washing hands and getting the vaccine both lower your chance of getting the flu and are behaviors the campaign could reasonably hope to influence.  I’d say make those the key metrics.  If the campaign increases the number of people washing their hands and getting the flu vaccine, it’s a success.

Designing the campaign to succeed

So why am I writing this post? I started out just to share some ridiculous radio spots, but the more I thought about it, the more the campaign seemed like a waste of money — and not for the reason you may be thinking. While the creative is laughable, that doesn’t doom the effort (in this case, at least, the camp appeal seems to have been a conscious decision). No, the worse offense is what appears to be a key flaw in strategy backing it up — a reliance on TV and radio.

Not only is impact hard to measure with these traditional placements, but they also just seem like a poor fit. The trouble is, with specific hand-washing and flu shot metrics in mind, I think you succeed with an effort centered on timely reminders and local outreach rather than on TV and radio spots.  People already know that hand-washing and flu shots exist, so broad awareness efforts seem misguided.  The key would be to remind people to wash up and get a flu shot at moments they can act on the reminders.  The campaign could still be ridiculously cheesy (in fact we’ll take as a given that it has to be, based on Washington’s recent history with PSAs), but the application of the Washyourhandsington big idea needs a different orientation to actually affect real people’s behavior in a measureable way.

How could it work?

To get people to wash their hands, you need reminders in place where people should remember to head for a sink.  The state could give out free boxes of tissues emblazoned with a sticker reminder to take a trip to Washyourhandsington after reaching for a Kleenex.  Door handle hangers with a similar reminder provided to local businesses (who have a vested interest in keeping employees well), nursing homes, and hospitals would remind people to take a quick detour to Washyourhandsington while they’re headed down the hall.

The campaign could also bring Washyourhandsington locations out of the bathroom and into the public square with hand sanitizer stations.  Put the stations up in public places and offer retailers and restaurants a small subsidy toward installing their own.  In addition to the same branding as on other campaign pieces, each of these pop-up Washyourhandsingtons could be registered as places for people to check-in on Foursquare or Facebook.  Washyourhandsingtonians should be able to advertise each visit to their new home out to their network of friends back in regular old Washington (even if they’re doing it with an ironic smirk).  Then you’ve got a truly viral campaign on your hands (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

As for flu shot part of the efforts, radio and TV doesn’t seem like a bad place to start reminding, but the campaign could do more. It should take advantage of the personal interaction patients have with the medical practitioners giving the flu shots to turn patients into advocates.  The campaign could provide a packet of materials with the batch of vaccines. Suggest that before giving the shot, the practitioner mention the campaign and hand-washing stations and reinforce the importance of getting vaccinated to validate the trip.  Once the vaccine’s been administered, provide the patient with a sticker to wear for the day telling everyone that they’ve gotten the shot.  Even bring the two prongs of the campaign together by having a hand sanitizing station to use after getting the shot (or a free box of tissues?).

Budget-wise, I think you spend at least half of the money on these types of outreach initiatives.  Once you’ve got good coverage on the free tissues and hand sanitizer station fronts, then you can put the rest of the budget into media for awareness of the cheesy message.  Some banner ads online, Hulu PSA spots, pre-movie spots in local theaters, and sure, some local TV and radio.  Media should be cheap – it is a PSA, after all.

But will it blend?

Now the moment of truth. This rejiggered approach would be much easier to measure than TV and radio spots alone. To see if the effort is working, you monitor the number of posts online about the effort, the number of check-ins at Washyourhandsington portable locations, the number of businesses that install hand sanitizers (and how many refills they need to order), and the number of people getting flu vaccines.  Add to that a survey on hand washing habits for a small cohort before, during, and after the campaign and you’ve got a decently measured effort with a glimmer of hope for figuring out if the whole thing worked.

The next time around the block

It’s too late for this flu season, but I submit that a metric-driven approach is something to consider for next year (if that federal grant comes around again).  Measuring effectiveness can be cheap and easy if you design it in from the start.  Plus, it ends up forcing a critical look at whether your ideas would have any real impact early on — the perfect time to consider those questions.

Even if the state decides to repeat this year’s strategy again, here’s hoping that at the very least they hire a different agency next time around.  Maybe get the guy behind Read a Book? He seems to know how to add an entertaining slant to a PSA while retaining a super-clear message. Smile


Extra bonus PSA.  Washington’s government seems to have a particular weakness for cheese.  This video is an old TV spot, but there’s an updated TV spot and a similar song still runs on radio…

Drive Hammered? Get Nailed. Yeah, they went there.

Internet leaks into newspaper. Hilarity ensues.

The Sunday paper is always a good way to wind down from the weekend and catch up on what’s been going on in the world.  Normally, I find out about all sorts of things I’ve never heard of before (ratfish, anyone?); however, today’s Foxtrot started out vaguely familiar and ended up making me laugh out loud.



For the uninitiated, it’s a reference to this video and its 10 million views.  Another entertaining derivative (with 6 million views of its own):


The Internet is such a productive place Smile.

And, finally, what would the Sunday comics be without a really bad pun courtesy of Pearls Before Swine?

Pearls Before Swine comic from 8/15/2010.  With a really bad pun.


Is that better, Hannah?

Something’s awry at the Seattle Times (and it’s not the newspaper itself)

Pearls Before Swine

Bad puns aside, I’m a fan of newspapers.  While the Internet definitely has them beat for breaking news and news magazines edge them out on in-depth reporting, no other media is as local as a city’s paper.  Which is why I decided, as a new resident of Seattle, to subscribe to the Seattle Times.

A trial run

Seattle Times and PI boxes  An empty Seattle P-I box next to the Seattle Times. Courtesy of a KOMO story which reported the boxes would be gone in March. They still linger downtown.

Before committing to a subscription, though, I decided to do a trial run.  Seattle was a two-newspaper town all the way up to March of this year, and I wanted to be sure that the newfound lack of competition wasn’t affecting quality.  On weekdays the paper has collapsed into three sections, just like my hometown Atlanta Journal-Constitution did this past year.  Yet as I read the Times, it still had just the content I was looking for: stories about local political controversies, the latest on the uninspiring Seahawks, and the quirky news that makes a local paper feel truly local.

So the quality of the paper I was buying each day from the newspaper box was exactly what I was looking for.  Yet, there was already a problem: the Times is supposed to cost $0.75, yet all of the newspaper boxes would only take $0.50 before opening up.  During hard times for a newspaper, losing 1/3 of the purchase price to old equipment is ridiculous.  No wonder they can’t make any money – they raised the price but can’t charge the new price because of old machines!

But it can’t be that bad.  After all, how many people really buy newspapers regularly on the street?  Surely the bulk of the 1.7 million readers (flaunted in unsold ad space in every issue of the Times) are subscribers to home delivery.  The Seattle Times must make money on their subscriptions.

Adventures in home delivery

At $5 per week, a home delivery subscription is a steal.  Not only does it cost less than the newsstand price (ignoring the discount afforded by old newspaper boxes), but they bring it right to you every morning.  What a deal.  My subscription was to start last Monday. 

Monday morning, I stepped out the door on the way to work and found a fresh copy of the Wall Street Journal on the doorstep. Now I have nothing against Rupert Murdoch, but I didn’t want a copy of the WSJ.  Deciding it must have been a sorting mistake, I let it slide.  Surely the right paper would arrive the next day.

Tuesday morning and another WSJ.  Deciding it was not mere coincidence, I called my apartment’s leasing office to find out why the papers were being mis-sorted.  They passed the buck to the newspapers themselves; apparently the paper delivery companies have keys to the building. So I got on the phone with the Times on Wednesday morning, after the Wall Street Journal arrived for the third day in a row.

The customer service rep seemed unconcerned as I explained what was going on (note to Times: increase training on issue ownership).  As if the company delivered the wrong paper all the time, he said it would be fixed tomorrow and offered me a credit for the days I missed.  Yet despite his nonchalance (or because of it?), Thursday morning was another WSJ.

So I called again.  This time I got a service rep who was more concerned.  Much more concerned.  She offered to get me the right paper delivered within 90 minutes (not necessary), gave me another credit for another missed day, and assured me the issue would be fixed the next morning.  Contrary to the style of the first service rep, this one seemed deeply disturbed by the mix-up (note to Times: ownership of the problem is good, but taking it to the point of hysterics is a bit overkill).

The customer service rep also (strangely) suggested that I call the Wall Street Journal to ask why they were delivering the paper to me.  Deciding to duck a potentially awkward conversation [

WSJ: Customer number?
Me: Don’t have one; I’ve been getting your paper even though I didn’t order it.
WSJ: Yes we have no record of your address. Do you want to start a subscription?
Me: No. But I’m still getting your paper.
WSJ: So what do you want us to do about it? We have no record of you ordering the paper and we definitely haven’t been dropping it off for free just for kicks. You sure you don’t want a subscription?
Me: No. I… umm… hrm.

], I put off a call to the WSJ and hoped for the best.

And lo and behold, Friday morning the right paper came.  Finally I had the local coverage I wanted to take with me on the bus.

The moral of the story

In the process of getting me my paper, the Times took a pay cut on the copies I bought outright, lost out on four days of subscription revenue, had to employ people in a call center to help me, and maybe even had to pay Mr. Murdoch for his paper. (I’m assuming the Times does Seattle-area delivery of the WSJ under contract.  Delivering an extra copy of the paper means someone paid for it somewhere.).  There’s definitely some room in there for improvement.

So the moral of the story is that as newspapers pore over their content looking for cost savings and beg advertisers to stay, they need to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of the logistics half of the business to keep that revenue flowing smoothly.  I like the Seattle Times; I’d like it even better if they could stay in business for a while.

Your Moment of Zen

Now that I’ve finally been getting the Times, thought I’d share a few local story gems from the week:

*also spawned a pretty entertaining security notification at work