Stalkerish Buzz-Building Effort Gets an F

Agency Is Lucky We Didn't Call the Feds

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Judann Pollack's head, Calista Flockhart's body
Judann Pollack's head, Calista Flockhart's body
Now here's a novel press-outreach strategy for ad agencies seeking to build buzz: Anonymous sexually-suggestive stalking of reporters.

A Midwestern branding firm -- which we won't name because we don't want to reward its creepy tactics -- tried to get a certain Chicago-based Ad Age reporter's attention by mailing him a pair of pink panties in an otherwise empty envelope, which was scribbled on by what appears to be a crazed teen admirer ("U R My Idol!").

The next day came another scribbled-on envelope, this time holding only a crazed-stalker collage of magazine letters, spelling out "I've got my eyes on you," with a Photoshopped picture of the reporter in question mugging with Penelope Cruz.

The third day, the shop came clean with a scribbled note from "your secret admirer" and a red rose, as well as promotional materials for the agency and its hallowed award. "Sometimes I dream about winning an (award)," the note read. "That is, when I'm not dreaming about you." New York-based managing editor Judann Pollack received similar mailings in a slightly different order. She received the Photoshopped item first (her version featured Harrison Ford) and the panties last (her panties were black).

One of the envelopes.
One of the envelopes.
While, again, we didn't want to reward these shudder-inducing tactics by naming the shop involved, we did wonder what some of its larger clients thought of its PR-stalker strategy, so we called them to see if they'd taken advantage of anonymous-panty mailings in their own press outreach.

Said a spokesman for American Century Investments -- which, despite its place on the shop's online list of clients hasn't used them for more than a year: "That's not something we would do as a company."

A spokeswoman for Hallmark—whose famously saccharine brand just screams "sexually suggestive anonymous stalking,"—said, "Because we're Hallmark, we're about connecting and communicating with people openly, so that's not probably not something we'd do." In an interview, the shop's creative director confessed to pulling a similar crazy-stalker stunt at another agency, and said it led to greater awareness. "Some people thought it went a little over the line," he said. "But it broke through."
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