Advertising 101: Get Us Talking About Derek Jeter

Do those Jeter/Manning billboards on I-95 piss you off? Exactly the point

Like much of the Delaware Valley, I spent the past week in a state of giddy euphoria over the signing of Cliff Lee. It didn’t take long for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation to tack up a clever billboard on I-95 South:

Dear Cliff,
You are…This is…
I promised myself I wouldn’t get choked up.
Welcome home.

With love,

I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about the Phillies rotation next season. But on that same side of the highway, there’s another billboard that turns stomachs as we drive to the misery that awaits us at work, or the airport, or a Sixers game — the one with the grinning mug of Derek Jeter staring us down. Remember him? One of the New York Yankees that cost Lee, and the 2009 Phillies, a World Series title? The guy’s also dating Minka Kelly, the sexiest woman alive, according to Esquire magazine. Enough is enough, dude. You’ve got the rings, the babes and the money. You’re smiling because even if we scrape up enough cash to buy that Movado watch you’re hawking, it won’t make us the MVP of our beer league softball team. Or help us score with the sexiest woman in Delco (maybe in some parts of Kensington, though).

As it turns out, the guy who paid for that billboard, Derek Koss, isn’t a Yankees fan. He’s a Philly guy who sells Citizen and Movado watches. Jeter and Eli Manning (who’s on two 95 billboards, one in each direction, so we’re mocked by a Super Bowl champion quarterback coming and going) are Movado’s national spokesmen. Koss told the Inquirer that he can’t choose his own athletes to pitch their wares. But Movado is also endorsed by a NASCAR driver and Paula Creamer, a successful (and hot) pro golfer. Why not promote two innocuous sports figures instead of Jeter and Manning, who’ve collected championship rings at our expense?

Because we’re talking about it. That’s Advertising 101. I couldn’t pick Matt Kenseth out of a police lineup (he’s the NASCAR dude). And before this all became water-cooler talk, I couldn’t have told you that Koss’s company is called Time After Time, even though its name and phone number is on those billboards. Who’s got time to read fine print when you’re trying to survive rush hour traffic?

[SIGNUP]Woodbury Nissan has this figured out, too. They made an endorsement deal with Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, his first since leaving the slammer and returning to the NFL. It was a risky move, considering the significant number of people who still see him as a dog killer first, athlete second. But the dealership’s new television ad is amusing — a parody of The Office with Vick as the rookie salesman. Acting lessons are clearly not a part of Vick’s in-season schedule, but he comes across as likable. For him, it’s another step toward rebuilding his image. For the South Jersey car dealership, well, their little spot made national news, from USA Today to the Boston Herald, and was one of Yahoo’s top stories.

Sure, the watch guy is gambling that his ads aren’t driving business away. Same goes for the car folks in Woodbury. But the key isn’t always the message, or even the messenger. Get people talking. And writing. And blogging.

As it turns out, Woodbury Nissan plans to reach out to Cliff Lee for an endorsement similar to Vick’s. Surely no one would complain about that ad. But would anyone remember it? My advice: See if Tony Romo is available. Or better yet, Minka Kelly.