Blogs | Ethan Shorey

This isn’t the first time IndieWhip has gone ‘cooler and warmer’

There’s been a lot of speculation about where the controversial “Cooler & Warmer” slogan for the comprehensive Rhode Island marketing campaign originated.

Oddly enough, the Providence-based advertising agency that created the “Rhode Iceland” video and helped with the campaign, IndieWhip, did work for another company with a stake in making people warmer and cooler.

The ”work” section of the IndieWhip site features a company called BedJet, a company that makes each side of the bed warmer or cooler, depending on the desires of those sleeping. The graphic even comes with a snowflake and sun.

I reached out to IndieWhip to see if the warming and cooling bed provided any inspiration for the campaign. A representative responded by email that the connection was "a very funny coincidence," but said the company was not part of the logo and branding team.

"That frame from the BedJet video was actually just a still from a motion graphic in the video showing how (with the BedJet) you can have two different temperatures on your bed," read the email. "Really an amazing product if you ever get the chance to try one. We were a part of helping BedJet raise over $1.4 million on Kickstarter making it one of the top 25 Kickstarter tech campaigns of all time. It was exciting."

I also spoke to Michael Mota, the owner of Atom Media who was spurned in his attempt to partner with others on a “Whatever you do…Rhode Island” campaign, to get his take on the connection.

“I saw that was a campaign they did in the past,” he said. “You really just don’t know where it came from."

Mota said the “Warmer and Cooler” slogan is one of many problems with the campaign commissioned by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. He said the slogan needs to be something you can pitch to someone in 20 seconds without having to give an in-depth explanation of what it means.


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The thing about fall-back positions is that you can only take so many before you're up against a wall.

When did IndieWhip first learn of Milton Glaser's "Cooler and Warmer" slogan? At that moment, did any bells start to ring for the creative geniuses who had come up with the BedJet "Cool/Warm" meme? If not ... Well, such a scenario simply beggars credulity.

So let's get this straight: The IndieWhippersnappers are informed of the "Cooler and Warmer" slogan yet fail to make their clients -- representatives of the taxpayers of Rhode Island -- aware of the damaging similarity with BedJet copy.

Does the term "dereliction of duty" finally ring a bell?

Dodged questions multiply: When did Glaser and his associates first learn of the BedJet slogan? Did they rip off BedJet? Will they claim ignorance, or simply explain it all away as a case of subliminal inspiration?

Bottom line: Taxpayers are paying "new" prices for "used" goods. Their handsomely remunerated consultants are trying to pull the BedJet over their eyes. Neither originality nor professional ethics are anywhere in sight.

The only way out is to get out, Governor Raimondo. Start the process anew. Do your best to get your money back. Demonstrate to the world you wish to bring to Rhode Island's door that their destination does not provide safe harbor for incompetents and scoundrels.

As Gina Raimondo, with Betsy Wall and the IndieWhippersnappers in tow, stands in Kennedy Plaza awaiting the RIPTA bus with a special high-rider suspension designed to accommodate freshly tossed scapegoats, let us pause to consider what should be done about “Cooler/Warmer” and what likely will be done.

The problem is not a poorly developed slogan. The problem is not a mistake-ridden video.

The slogan did not develop itself. The mistakes did not make themselves.

Anything less than a systemic flush of the sewage that was generated by the Glaser/Havas/Connelly/Wall/IndieWhip polluters, coupled with a comprehensive redesign of the fatally flawed process that allowed them within a parsec of this contract award, will be the equivalent of treating cancer with ChapStick.

Put in place a truly transparent system that includes regular, comprehensive, public progress reports from appointed state officials charting the evolution of the RFP process from issuance through evaluation and award.

Solicit taxpayer counsel – but hold any ideas and creative product that emanate from non-bidding amateurs and professionals to the same rigorous standards being applied to the contents of formal submissions.

Solicit out-of-the-box thinking regarding ways to secure private sector investment to enhance limited public funding.

Investigate possible “Cooler/Warmer” bid-rigging and favoritism, including the highly suspect Connelly-Wall relationship.

Let the heads of the truly culpable roll. There must be a price to pay for criminality, incompetence, and disingenuousness – unless, of course, such behavior is acceptable as a “Cost of Doing the People’s Business” line item.

Bottom line: “Cooler/Warmer” is not just flawed. It is fatally flawed. It was dead quite literally on arrival. The only salvageable quantity is to be perceived in the lessons to be learned from all of this ugliness – lessons, alas, that Rhode Island politicians and punditry have yet to demonstrate the willingness, let alone ability, to learn:

Public service and self-service cannot co-exist. Simple analyses of deeply complex issues do no good even as they do great harm.

And let us work together. For as the poet John Donne reminds us, “no man is an Iceland.”

The “Haldeman/Ehrlichman” character who facilitated the conspiracy (Betsy Wall) has resigned. The “Archibald Cox” character charged with the responsibility to investigate the cover-up (collectively, Rhode Island taxpayers) has been fired. The “Robert Bork” character (Seth Goldenberg) tasked with re-branding the cover-up and sweeping its rot under a State House rug has been installed.

But the cancer on the “Nixon presidency” character (Gina Raimondo’s governorship) that presents as “Cooler/Warmer-Gate” continues its metastasis through the state’s body politic. And the history of its infamous model seemingly is lost on a chief executive who is all but certainly doomed to repeat it.

Unless …

You’ve got one shot at survival, Governor Raimondo: Cut away the necrotic tissue of Cooler/Warmer—Gate. All of it. There is nothing of value to be saved, and even a single cell of what remains is sufficient to rekindle the fatal malady.

Throw it all out. Break the mold. Be remembered as a person of vision and courage. There is no political upside to any other course. Begin the process anew.

But understand this inescapable reality: Should you segue into the role of the “Gerald Ford” character and pardon the conspirators and cover-up facilitators and yourself, you will take your place in a long line of self-absorbed, myopic politicians who conflate self-service with public service at a terrible cost – one paid not only by themselves but, in the final analysis and to a far more devastating degree, by the people.

One organization will build up the brand, another will advance it through promoting, and the third will arrange occasions that recognize Rhode Island from different states.