Yo Ho Ho and a Mac G5

Strategy's ongoing investigative series into the random thoughts of agency folk on swag continues. This issue MacLaren McCann West's Paul Long asks why companies persist in giving office supplies as swag when anyone can just raid the supply cupboard.

I love getting free stuff. It’s kind of like being a pirate, but without all the bloodshed and scurvy. So in the interest of adventure (and the free logoed pen that Strategy promised me) we set sail on a treasure hunt to find Calgary’s best swag ever.

All swag we collected was rated on the Standard International Pirate ‘Arrrr’ scale. At the low end of the scale, we find items like tubes of hemorrhoid cream with a company logo on it (a touching gesture, but no). Rates one half-hearted Arrrr. On the upper end of the scale we have Olympic-quality swag (Just one Rolex? Mon Dieu! But I have two wrists!) We’ll give that a hearty five Arrrrs.

Let’s start with my collection of golf swag. The mere idea of golf swag rates at least four Arrrrs. Any activity where gallivanting around outside of the office can somehow still be related to business, I gotta give four Arrrrs. Piracy at its finest.

But the actual golf-related items themselves shall be ranked individually. For example, Hit ‘em Further brand golf balls with a company logo on them rank one Arrrr, tops. I get no satisfaction unless I am smacking a decent ball, say a Titleist, which will get you two and a half Arrrrs. Top marks of five Arrrrs go to giant big-headed drivers made of titanium or plutonium or dilithium crystal, whatever rare substance is hot. For the rest of the stuff – golf shirts, hats, umbrellas, towels, etc. – the bigger the company logo, the fewer the Arrrrs. Unless I am on the PGA tour, and you are paying me $10,000 a week to wear your logo (with a bonus of $25,000 if I make the final twosome on Sunday), keep it subtle.

Next category: office supplies. Stop for a minute and consider what an odd thing this is as swag. Things you can walk down the hall and get from the supply cupboard or steal from your neighbour, are slathered with company logos and awarded as a gift. Astonishing. For the most part, it just guarantees that it won’t be stolen.

To advance beyond a paltry one Arrrr, the swag in this category must be special indeed. Like my authentic astronaut pen with the logo on it. Genius. The actual pen developed by NASA at the cost of billions of dollars that will write upside down, underwater, at 300 degrees above zero and 75 below. One small step for man, one giant step for swag!

Contrast this with the Soviet Space Program’s solution to the same problem: give the cosmonauts pencils. Sure, they work in space, but they make lousy swag. It’s this kind of small thinking that results in people having to keep an eye out for bits of the Mir space station falling from above.

The five Arrrr award in this category goes to Mac G5s. I would take one even if it had a massive Mentos logo on the side (oh please, God, may someone be reading this and heed my advice).

In the miscellaneous category, we have quite a wide variety of Arrrrs. Let’s start with coffee mugs. Please make them stop. They are as ubiquitous as they are unwanted. Use some imagination. Why not a rum mug with your logo on it? Now that’s jolly.

Balloons full of sand as stress relievers (one and a half Arrrrs) are slightly more interesting, but my stress level goes through the roof when they burst on my keyboard and I need to replace my old computer with a new G5 and, no wait… that’s a good thing. Three Arrrrs for the sand-filled balloon.

The five Arrrr winner in this category is awarded not to an item, but to a company. Toronto’s Partners’ Film Company is the master. They give jackets, briefcases and director chairs that are sharply designed, good quality and relevant to their business. I’m sure the jackets alone made them millions. ‘I know Production House X’s quote is $300,000 less than Partners’, but dammit I want one of those jackets!’ I still covet a production friend’s hoard of Partners swag.

Well, that just about scrapes the bottom of my treasure chest, so I’ll leave you with this one thought. Any swag you need judged can be sent to me through Strategy, and you’ll receive an official-looking certificate with a complimentary Arrrr rating in big felt marker. Returns will be at the discretion of the pirate.

Paul Long is a CD at Calgary’s MacLaren McCann West. He can be reached at paul.long@maclaren.com (it rhymes!).