Staff takes the plunge-literally

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What's white and wet and shivery all over? The ad sales staff at Men's Journal, that's what. In yet another example of sales staffs doing just about anything to impress their clients, the Men's Journal staff held a "Dare Your Rep" campaign, in which clients and agencies voted on which adventure they dared the New York ad staff to complete. (This was part of a promotion for the May adventure issue.) Beating out such fun-and mostly dry-things as ice climbing, bobsledding, the luge and rope climbing was a Polar Bear Swim.

You know what a Polar Bear Swim is, right? It's when crazy people-usually older men with plenty of back hair and ample midsection insulation-go for a plunge in near-freezing water.

But Men's Journal Publisher Will Schenck is not one to back out of a deal. So he and Associate Publisher Matt Mastrangelo led their crew to Todd's Point in Old Greenwich, Conn., for a mid-January swim. And if you think that's cruel and unusual, the staffers had to report to work prior to the swim.

Says Schenck, "We asked our staff to come in at 5:30 a.m., call their clients, drive to Connecticut, then dive into frigid water in the middle of winter-and they were all into it." He even went so far as to describe them as "enthusiastic."

Hey, we're all for adventure-we've sailed the East Coast, we've spelunked in dank, dark caves, we've ordered furniture in New York and expected it to be delivered in a timely fashion-but cold-water swimming, you can keep. And while we questioned the claims of enthusiasm among the Men's Journal sales staff, the pictures don't lie.

So there you go. They WILL do almost anything to please their clients. But wouldn't it have been easier (and healthier) just to give away some free ads?

Up next: agency bootcamp

Meanwhile, in a similar (but different) scenario, Fitness Publisher Lauren Buerger announced something called a "You Can Do It!" Agency Challenge. Adages was disappointed to learn that she was not challenging ad agencies to a Polar Bear Swim. Instead, Fitness is teaming up with 22 ad agencies around the country to help over 1,000 agency staffers "reach their health and fitness goals." MindShare, Starcom, OMD, Fallon, Doner, JWT and Foote Cone & Belding are among those participating. When one of our office colleagues was invited to participate, he practically choked on his cigarette (then, we imagine, politely made up an excuse about a torn ACL).

An interesting alumni mag?

We were flipping through the January/February issue of The Atlantic when we happened upon an ad for a magazine called 02138, purporting to be a different kind of magazine for the Harvard grad. Now, the closest Adages has been to Harvard is this lobster-roll place in Cambridge, but it did seem a little intriguing.

As luck would have it, an Atlantic spokeswoman put us in touch with Bom Kim, one of the magazine's founders. Kim and partner Dan Loss graduated from Harvard in 2000 and began their careers as journalists at George, Brill's Content and The New Republic. And now? Now they're preparing a title Kim likens to a "Vanity Fair for Harvard." Instead of filling pages with mainly boring stories about physical-plant improvements (or whatever alumni magazines run-our own college went bankrupt ... seriously), 02138 will center on personality. "Our aim is to deliver compelling profiles, spotlight the good life, provoke lively water-cooler debates ... even break some news." OK, so sounds like good journalism, which probably isn't a high priority for the typical Adages reader. So this might get you interested in 02138. Kim promises they won't be cheerleaders. "Our readers carry around just as much schadenfreude as other Ivy League alumni." And, he adds, "We aim to be a meeting place where this community can engage on a variety of topics, from who has a gorgeous new house to who's under house arrest." Or, as the ad copy says: "Who's making a fortune? Who's frittering one away?" Now we're cooking with gas!

The mag was initially backed by a mix of media and Harvard investors and its current primary backer is David Bradley, chairman and owner of Atlantic Media (who went to grad school at Harvard). And plans for advertising? Absolutely. A no-brainer. As Kim points out, the readership of 02138 will count quite a few millionaires among its members (and presidents and senators and such).

Oh, if the title's been bugging you, let Adages show off our brain power: 02138 is the ZIP code for Cambridge, Mass.

The magazine launches in June and promises to feature the Harvard 100, the most powerful living alumni. Sadly Kim was mum on who made the list.

Reminisce with kwheaton@crain.com

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