Yesterday, we got an email from a PR guy who'd written, "I have a huge exclusive story for you from our corporate client that will make headline news and would like to break it with you."
Curious, we asked for more info. He sent us this:
"The Board of Directors at EXLEY (http://www.GetExley.com), owned by public trading company Quint Media Inc. (QUNI), has passed a motion to tentatively work together with a private investors group from Europe to move forward with two separate $80-million bids to purchase the naming rights to two of the most popular landmarks in the United States.
"Although the bids are not scheduled to be formally announced at this given time, EXLEY’s intent regarding the renaming rights has been discussed with members of council in both New York and Hollywood, including associates of Manhattan Rep. Melissa Mark-Viverito, Director of Economic Development Marianne Vernetson, and the President of the Board of Commissioners of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Barry A. Sanders.
"The bids propose that EXLEY obtain the rights to rename both 'Times Square' in New York City and 'Runyon Canyon Park' in Hollywood whilst New York City Council's Community Development Committee / The Times Square Alliance and The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks maintains their current ownership. The renamed assets are proposed to be called 'EXLEY Square' and 'EXLEY Canyon Park'.
EXLEY's design plans are in their preliminary stages, however, the company maintains that it will work closely with both city councils to ensure the new renamed assets set a benchmark in environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility."
He also included the two mocked-up images you see at the top of this page.
EXLEY, according to their website, is a tabloid-news website that's about to launch, that is "re-imagining and advancing the way we consume entertainment news". How, you ask? "It will transform the way we read, publish, and report gossip stories, celebrity news and information. EXLEY will also revolutionize the way we interact with others and become part of the publishing process."
The website's tagline is the achingly generic: "Get it. Spread it. Live it. First."
So, to put it in simpler terms, EXLEY is a bullshit, confusing startup that, like all new online ventures that can't easily be described in a single sentence, is destined to fail.
Also, obviously, the story about them renaming landmarks is bullshit. If Times Square and Runyon Canyon were available to be renamed for advertising purposes, some shitty, doomed website (that almost certainly does not have $160 million) would not be the first to do it. They would've been renamed McDonald's Square or Coca-Cola Canyon 50 years ago.
This is something EXLEY is saying because it knows people will react negatively to it, thus generating "buzz".
A copy of the "letter of intent" that EXLEY claims to have sent to the head of the Times Square Alliance.
Usually I would just ignore any attention grab as obvious as this, because even calling it fake is drawing attention to their stupid website, but the thought of them taking their "exclusive" to someone else who might not realise they were lying made me angry. So I figured I'd talk with their PR guy so he could tell me about it.
VICE: Could you just explain to me what the story is that you're giving to us?
Zack Teperman, Lexicon Public Relations: EXLEY is a technology application for the phone and the web, that pretty much is tracking celebrities, so if you go to New York or you go to Los Angeles or you go to Toronto, you go anywhere in the world, you can search like, "Angelina Jolie" and it will tell you where she is and what she's doing. It's a cool technology that hasn't ever been introduced in the world.
So it's like the Gawker Stalker thing that existed a few years ago?
I guess so. It's a little more hi-tech. So what Exley have been doing, is they've been in discussions for the last few months with the city council in New York, the Times Square Alliance, and the LA Parks and Recreation here in Los Angeles to put in an $80 million bid for each place seperately, over a 30-year span.
So they've been in discussions, and they want to rename Times Square to EXLEY Square, and Runyon Canyon to EXLEY Canyon Park. And what they want to do with the money is not really give it to the government, they wanna give the money to the businesses around Runyon Canyon and in Times Square because the economy is dying, so they want to give the money back to the public. So the discussions over the last few months have led to them sending out these letters of intent. I got calls from the New York Times and CNN this morning wanting to know what the deal with this is, but I didn't want to reach out to them because I offered you the story yesterday.
Okay, so when you say there have been discussions, you actually just mean you're actually just sending out a letter.
No. There have been discussions with associates of the people that the letters were sent to.
What exactly is an "associate"?
So Barry Sanders is the head of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation, the discussions haven't been with him. I don't know the details of who the talks were with, but there has been an interest where they said, "If you send in a letter of intent we can move this forward."
So you're saying that both the Runyon Canyon people and the Times Square people said the exact same thing and also agreed to the same $80 million fee?
I don't know if they've agreed on the $80 million, I just know they've expressed interest.
A photo that EXLEY's PR guy claimed was a paparazzi photo of their CEO, which seems to have been taken on a cell phone. When I asked why a paparazzi would take a photo of their CEO, he told me, "He was having dinner with Eva Longoria last week!"
I'm gonna be frank with you, I don't believe what you're saying. I think this is something designed to get publicity for your website.
It is 100 percent an honest and legitimate proposal in the sense that, once accepted, they'll do it.
I think if it were this easy to brand public space, it would have been done by a much larger company.
It isn't that easy. It's been in the works now for three months.
Three months isn't very long for something like this.
It's three months to a letter of intent, it's probably another few months away from a contract. And maybe one will get rejected.
But I thought you said they'd already been approved?
Not approved in the sense that the contract has been signed, it has been approved that it's going into discussion.
So, just to be clear, you're denying that this is just you guys sending out a letter for the sake of media attention by claiming you're going to rename two things that are held dear by the public?
This is a legitimate offer and legitimate proposal and a legitimate process to actually acquire the naming rights.
I don't believe that this is a real story, I think it's a publicity stunt.
And I think that's fair for you to say, but I'm telling you it's not. Yes, it will garner publicity for the company, and yes, that's one of the ideas here, but we want that to come after the name has been acquired and people are saying, "Hey! I'm going to EXLEY Canyon Park for a hike today!" or, "A celebrity was spotted in EXLEY Square." That's the kind of thing that we want to do.
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