Friday, August 1, 2008

Thinking Outside the Box

During my PR classes and often at the the PR firm I worked at, I always heard the phrase: "Thinking outside the box." As a PR team, we would often get together and brainstorm different crazy ideas that would eventually lead to some good press for each of our clients. Most ideas seemed a little too crazy....but now that I think about it....why? Let me show you the perfect example of someone's awesome brainchild that I am sure when presented, people said - dude, that's nuts. Maybe not so nuts now... This is the prime example of thinking outside of the box.

Here is the press release.

RICHTER7 SAYS NO TO PANTS AT WORK
FINES IMPOSED FOR WEARING LONG PANTS

SALT LAKE CITY, July 15, 2008 – Richter7, a Salt Lake City-based advertising and public relations agency, has mandated a “No Long Pants” policy from July 15 to Aug. 15, 2008, in an effort to keep cool and combat the effects of global warming.

For the four-week period, all employees, from the top brass down to the newest employee, will be encouraged to wear shorts, capris, skorts, kilts – anything but long pants – to work until the oppressive heat lets up, even in professional meetings with clients. Those found wearing long pants will face the “knickerbocker police,” who will fine offenders a quarter.

“We see this as a fun way to beat the heat,” said Dave Newbold , Richter7 president. “I don’t know of any other company that has actually insisted that all employees not wear long pants to cool down, but it’s in keeping with our motto to disrupt the status quo.”

July 2007 was Utah ’s hottest month on record, and August 2007 was 0.1 degree away from matching the hottest August on record. The forecast through August 2008 doesn’t seem to be cooling down any either, making staying cool a necessity.

In addition, the 40-person agency will buy each employee a pair of shorts of their choice and will also provide frozen treats for all employees every time the temperature tops 100 degrees.

“This is a huge morale boost for everybody,” said Tim Brown, Richter7 partner in charge of morale boosting. “With everyone cooler, creativity seems to be at an all-time high. Admittedly, the men in the office are reluctant because most are shy about displaying their untanned legs, but the women are huge fans.”

Having dominated the creative advertising scene for decades, Richter7 is known for its environment of creativity.

“This is what I love about Richter7,” said Teri Gibson , account supervisor. “We have crazy surprises constantly, such as live rock band lunches, parties at movie premieres and now a mandated no-pants policy. The entire culture here centers on generating creative solutions for our clients.”

Established in 1971, Richter7 has been named Utah ’s “Best of State” advertising agency for the past six years and is consistently recognized for effective advertising, public relations, Web marketing and design for local, regional and national clients.

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Here is the coverage that came from it.

Shorts Crack the Code. New York Times, July 31, 2008. See the full article below.

July 31, 2008
Shorts Crack the Code

FIRST came Casual Fridays, that dread episode in the history of fashion, with their invitation for men to trade in suits for Dockers and to swap a proper shirt and tie for an open neck and a daring flash of masculine d├ęcolletage.

Then the bare ankle migrated from country-club Saturdays to meeting-room Mondays and suddenly men, whether shod in wingtips or loafers, were widely seen without socks. Now it appears that, after some stops and starts in recent seasons, the men of the white collar work force are marching into the office in shorts.

It was no more than a moment ago, in the sartorial long view, that a guy who came to work wearing short pants would have been shown the door — or anyway, given the address for human resources at U.P.S. All that appears to be changing.

Consider that an advertising agency in Salt Lake City this summer introduced a no-long-trousers policy. Consider the octogenarian New York lawyer who ditched his seersucker suit for jaunty camouflage shorts on the job. Consider the pack of stylish young men on the streets of Manhattan who find it not only sensible, in thermometer terms, to beat the heat by wearing shorts but also, in style terms, cool.

“We try to have a little bit of fun around here on a regular basis,” said Dave Newbold, the president of Richter7, the Salt Lake City ad agency in question, whose clients include Medtronic and the Chamber of Commerce of Park City, Utah, where wearing long pants outside of ski season is practically a violation of the law.

When the hockey star Sean Avery took an internship at Vogue earlier this summer, the work uniform that the fashion-besotted left wing chose included a shorts suit that showcased his athletic calves.

“Why go to work and be hot?” he asked last week, adding that there was no compelling business reason to look modest and dull on the job. “You can look good and not have that boring-type look,” said Mr. Avery, who signed with the Dallas Stars this summer after several seasons with the Rangers. “Why are women allowed to do it and not men?”

The willingness of men to expand the amount of skin they are inclined to display can be gauged by the short-sleeved shirts Senator Barack Obama has lately favored; the muscle T-shirts Anderson Cooper wears on CNN assignment; and the Armani billboard in which David Beckham, the soccer star, appears nearly nude.

Not a few designers are pushing men to expose more of the bodies that they have spent so much time perfecting at the gym. “We have all these self-imposed restrictions” about our dress, said Ben Clawson, the sales director for the designer Michael Bastian. “As men’s wear continues to evolve and becomes a little more casual without becoming grungy, it’s not impossible anymore to be dressed up in shorts.”

While Mr. Bastian is a designer of what essentially amounts to updates on preppy classics, even he has pushed for greater latitude in exposing men’s bodies to view.

“Michael is a big fan of the third button,” said Mr. Clawson, referring to the neckline plunge that has somehow evolved beyond its cheesier Tom Ford (by way of Tom Jones) associations. “For women, legs are a sex symbol, where for men legs are more private.”

Yet for Mr. Avery, a man in a shorts suit is no more startling than a woman in a miniskirt. “Women have the option of wearing a dress,” he said with the assurance of someone who can hip-check those who fail to share his opinion.

“I haven’t asked them, but I’m sure women like looking at a man’s calves, or if a man has them, nice ankles,” Mr. Avery said.

That may be. Yet none of the New York City banks, law firms, stock brokerages or hospitals contacted by a reporter last week considered shorts an acceptable part of a work uniform, and for reasons that varied from the need to preserve institutional decorum to hygiene (imagine a hairy leg in an O.R.)

Still, it is probably worth remembering that there was a time when politicians were seldom seen, even out of the office, without their decorous suit coats, and never in short pants (Nixon famously wore shoes on the beach). And it was only a short while ago that news anchors who ventured out on combat assignment did so in more protective khaki than a Victorian ornithologist braving the wilds of Borneo.

Is Mr. Cooper more or less serious because he chooses to showcase the pneumatic biceps so obviously a part of his appeal? Are the folks behind Calvin Klein yet again on to some cultural shift with the underwear campaign that made its debut this week, featuring the model Garrett Neff bunching his unworn skivvies in front of his crotch?

“The idea of being threatened by the objectified male body has gone, the process is complete,” explained Aaron Hicklin, the editor in chief of Out magazine. “Men are the same as women now.”

Perhaps it is simpler than that. A relaxed approach to sexual display played a role in the policy at Richter7, the Salt Lake City agency, but so did a long stretch of days when temperatures routinely closed in on 100 degrees. “It’s so hot here in mid-July and August that we wanted to combine the two issues” of comfort and fashion, Mr. Newbold said. For client meetings, he pointed out, account executives are expected to “dress to the level of presentation that looks credible and respectable.”

A question arises, though, of what respectability looks like when underwear is routinely worn as outerwear and people travel in get-ups that look like onesies and the combined effects of a cosmetic surgery boom and an epidemic of obesity have given us all an uncommon level of intimacy with the contours of one another’s bodies.

Fifteen years ago, when Hyman Gross, a real estate lawyer in Manhattan, proposed wearing shorts in summer, his boss responded that the firm was not a beach club.

“It’s a pretty strait-laced office, and I quickly retreated from that position,” said Mr. Gross, who is in his ninth decade. Last year, though, looking at office workers of both sexes disporting themselves seminaked on the streets of the city, he concluded it was time for shorts. “It seems so strange on an over-90-degree day to subject yourself to sartorial rigidity,” he said.

And so there was Mr. Gross taking a break at Bryant Park, nattily attired in a black polo shirt from Target, a pair of sandy-colored camouflage shorts he bought in a shop in a subway arcade and a Panama topper from Arnold Hatters.

“I travel to and fro in shorts,” said Mr. Gross, who also wears his short pants to the ballet and the opera. “No one has ever spoken to me about it. And if anyone decides they don’t like it or they won’t take me, it’s their loss.”

Increasingly, said Andrew Bolton of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the “zones in which this kind of exposure is accepted are permeable.”

Seminudity, of the sort proposed by Miuccia Prada or Dsquared in the recent men’s collections, holds little appeal for someone like Kwesi Blair, a branding adviser whose shorts and blazer look became a wardrobe default during a recent sweltering spell.

Wearing a shorts suit, Mr. Blair explained, is not only more comfortable than the alternative, but a way to road test your own self-invention.

“I get a lot of looks and remarks,” said Mr. Blair, whose wardrobe runs to conservative labels — a Polo blazer, shirt and tie, a pair of J. Crew shorts. “On the street, people are like, ‘That’s a bold move.’ But, honestly, I’m just tapping into my own sense of style and sensibility and putting it out there. It’s not like I’m looking for acceptance.”

(Picture: Tanner Morrill applies for a job at Richter7 in Salt Lake City. Mr. Morrill was informed of the company's "no pants" policy and wore the shorts to the interview along with his shirt and tie.)

Photo: Brian Nicholson for the New York Times

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See what thinking outside the box did for this PR and advertising firm? Pretty awesome.

3 comments:

Kirsten said...

Some of those guys in the article were showing a little bit too much leg for me...please make it knee length, men! :)

robmba said...

John Stockton would be proud, but, but for everyone else, I agree with Kirsten.

Sam and Heidi said...

It's me--Heidi (Reed) Lewis. I just saw your name on Brent's blog. Thought I'd see how you're doing.
Wow--you're an incredible woman, and you seem to be having the time of your life.
BTW, I love the "thinking outside the box" idea. We've recently stepped aboard the Green train ourselves--trying to find ways of conserving and such. I don't know that our ideas are very new--like cloth diapers, drying clothes on a clothesline, using fabric totes for groceries, but I have started keeping a bowl or pot of water in the sink just to quickly rinse dishes as they go in the dishwasher. My own small way of "thinking outside the box" to save running the tap constantly.
heidi