The Cure for Digital Distress
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

The Cure for Digital Distress

In February 2000, RCA – a long-standing Maloney & Fox client – asked the agency to create a program that would support its latest venture, the RCA Digital Entertainment Center at RadioShack (RCA DEC).

Paul Holmes

Americans are more stressed out than ever…and now, the abundance of consumer electronics choices are adding to this anxiety.  In fact, a Harris Interactive survey* confirmed that more than one-third of Americans admit to suffering from “digital distress” as they try to keep up with the dizzying pace of technology in digital home entertainment products. (*Survey was commissioned by RCA/RadioShack, May 2000, as part of Maloney & Fox’s recommendations to support its “digital distress” positioning)
In February 2000, RCA – a long-standing Maloney & Fox client – asked the agency to create a program that would support its latest venture, the RCA Digital Entertainment Center at RadioShack (RCA DEC). That’s when M&F started stressing.   You see, M&F was brought in as part of a post-launch program to create news about the RCA DEC at RadioShack stores nationwide.  And, our work was to begin AFTER the big event and AFTER the news was already told to the national consumer press.
M&F found a creative, humorous way to create the news and tell a new story to generate attention and news coverage for RCA and RadioShack. The approach?  Coin the phrase “Digital Distress,” raise awareness and educate consumers about this digital “syndrome” in an effort to stimulate store traffic.
Generate news coverage AFTER the news story was told.  M&F was asked to create incremental news coverage nationwide for RCA DEC at RadioShack AFTER a glitzy, celebrity-driven news briefing and event featuring a special VIP only concert with Jewel and Lyle Lovett held in New York City.

-        Generate overage AGAIN for the RCA DEC at RadioShack through June 2000

-        Drive traffic to RadioShack and to the RCA Digital Entertainment Center in select markets

-        Create ideas that quantifiably measure traffic specific to in-market promotions

-        Design national “overlay” public relations program to reach RCA/RadioShack markets not directly affected by special in-market promotions
Target: Consumers, in general
So, How do you take the momentum from a private concert for industry analysts and employees and translate it into a viable, sustainable program for consumers?  Moreover, how do you get consumers to embrace what many of them shun? 
By taking a no-frills approach that would: create awareness; educate consumers; and drive deeply and smartly into local markets 
The first thing that Maloney & Fox designed was a survey with Harris Interactive to determine what and how much American consumers knew about digital home electronics.  Once the results were in and tallied, we discovered that more than one-third of those surveyed were more than a little confused by the dizzying pace of technology in home entertainment products.  We coined the phrase “Digital Distress” to describe consumer reactions and used it as a thread through all of our media relations activities. 
One of our most important goals in this program was to drive consumers into RadioShack to provide them with answers to all their questions about digital products.  To do so, M&F set out to intersect consumers on a number of levels, and create a high degree of awareness for the new RCA Digital Entertainment Centers through a variety of programming channels.
M&F’s portion of the RCA DEC launch was to take place after the June 6 launch event.
National Survey – In March 2000, M&F worked with Harris Interactive to conduct a national, online survey to determine what American consumers know/or don’t know about digital home electronics, terminology and new digital technology
Coining the Phrase: Digital Distress – More than one-third of those surveyed we’re very confused about digital products and technology.  So, M&F coined the phrase “Digital Distress” as a way to raise the awareness of the “problem” and then suggest consumers visit RCA DEC at RadioShack“ for digital solutions.
Digital Distress Press Package – M&F developed consumer press materials containing all information related to the RCA DEC at RadioShack, including collateral leveraging the survey results, product facts, etc.
Delivering the Digital Distress Message and Solution – M&F developed key message points to convey that the RCA DEC at RadioShack as the source for digital electronics and the place for consumers to go for answers (a play on RadioShack’s “you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers” advertising tagline).
Our “Digital Doctor”  – M&F engaged actor, comedian and techno-guru Wil Shriner as the face for RCA’s DEC at RadioShack to offer wisdom, advice and support to frustrated consumers.  A third-party endorsement of the product, Shriner is quoted throughout the press and collateral materials and was used in efforts such as the satellite and radio media tours and radio news releases.
Delivering Digital Distress Broadcast Coverage (satellite media tour, radio media tour and radio news release) - conducted successively between June 8 and 9, to coincide with the launch event concert.
Delving into Local Market with Digital Distress News and Solutions – M&F wrote and distributed a feature news story, incorporating key message points, tips for alleviating Digital Distress and brochure availability to more than 10,000 newspapers nationwide mid-May, allowing story to break in time with other media-driven elements.
National “Digital Distress” Radio Promotions and Sweepstakes – M&F partnered with top-rated, local radio stations in 12 major metropolitan areas; radio promotions combined on-air message elements with an Internet-based sweepstakes to “spread the word” about the RCA DEC at RadioShack.  This included:

-        Creation of customized messages to be delivered on-air in all markets that encouraged listeners to check out the new RCA DEC at RadioShack or log onto for more information; messages and promotional copy were provided to the stations; each produced their own special promotional segments based on their station format.

-        Creation of web links with local radio station partners for online sweepstakes; web links from the station’s sites and RadioShack’s site directed listeners to a special RCA DEC page containing additional information about the DEC.

-        An instant win component where every 25th or 50th listener to click through to a special web page was an instant winner of an RCA prize, ranging from t-shirts to Digital Satellite System, DVD Player or Lyra, RCA’s MP3 player.

Digital Distress Media Tour
38 broadcast on 17 local network affiliates and cable stations nationwide
Digital Distress Radio Media
27 broadcasts on 22 national, syndicated and/or local radio stations nationwide
National Print Feature
284 articles
Digital Distress Survey
2 USA Today Snapshots
Radio Promotions
More than 1,400 on-air message announcements in 12 major metropolitan markets nationwide
23,202,800 Total Gross Impressions
Number of Sweepstakes Entries
Number of RCA DEC message announcements
Original Investment
Estimated  advertising equivalency
In one month
51 Million
M&F succeeded in delivering national television, radio and print news coverage for the month of June, even after the major news announcement blitz for less than one-third of the cost of the glitzy event.  We hope America is a little less digitally stressed, now that they know RCA DEC at RadioShack can calm them down.
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