Marketing of guns proves biggest misfire

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IN THE LINE OF FIRE: The media were on a hair-trigger for marketing controversy in 1999, and found just the subject when a backlash over gun-related marketing emerged in the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre. Gun-related advertising ranked as the top marketing story of 1999, according to a special review edition of SPINdex.

The sample of influential media outlets showed 414 print and electronic media stories devoted to gun marketing in May/June, giving it a SPINdex of 3,975, enough to surpass the coverage devoted to the second biggest marketing story of the year: Coca-Cola's European recall. With 416 stories in June/July, Coca-Cola's continental marketing woes earned a SPINdex of 3,558.

Baseball, meanwhile, got on third base with the third-most coverage of any SPINdex topic in 1999. The resurgence of baseball -- both as a sport and a marketing event -- provided a score of 1,799 for the March/April period. Two perennial marketing events -- Super Bowl advertising (a SPINdex of 1,613 during January/February) and 1999 holiday-season retail marketing (a SPINdex of 1,525 during November/December) -- rounded out the top five of 1999, while another controversy, the Olympics scandal, just missed out of the top five, gaining a SPINdex of 861.

Surprisingly, many perceived spinfests turned out to be also-rans, including: Ty's heavily publicized announcement to cease marketing Beanie Babies (463 in August/September); controversy surrounding casino advertising (753 in June/July); the galactic-style marketing of "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace"; and marketing stories related to President Clinton's (think cigars) impeachment (484 in December/January).

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