3
Feb

The Product Placement that Killed Jack Pearson

Brands love product placements. The perfect product placement can do wonders for introducing a new audience to brand or gain a brand new attention. One famous example of this is the relationship between Hershey and ET. When Mars passed on the chance to have M&Ms featured in the film, the path was cleared for Hershey and Reese’s Pieces. Within two weeks of the film’s release, Reese’s Pieces sales tripled. But what happens when a brand doesn’t ask for a product placement and that placement kills a beloved TV character? Crock-Pot recently found out when one of their devices was the cause of the fire that killed American’s most beloved father, Jack Pearson, on This Is Us.

This Is Us became America’s new favorite TV show in September of 2016. With emotional twists to rival those in Shondaland (Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder) and the lovable likeness of Parenthood, Americans fell in love with the Pearson family and the show that followed them on the journey of life. It was revealed in the first season that Jack Pearson, the father, had passed away tragically before the Pearson children went away to college and that his absence greatly impacted them years later. Through flashbacks, viewers got a sense of who Jack was and began to fall more and more in love with the character. As season 1 continued, Americans became more and more curious about how the beloved father met his demise.

Americans got their answer on January 23rd, 2018. Viewers watched as Jack went about cleaning the kitchen, turned off the Crock-Pot, tidied up the rest of the home, turned off the light in the living room, said goodnight to the dog, and threw a red towel up against the Crock-Pot. After turning out the lights and going to bed, viewers see the day the Pearsons’ were gifted the Crock-Pot and the original owner telling them about the wonky switch. It is only then that viewers watched in horror as the Pearson family home catches fire as the family sleeps on, unaware that anything is amiss.

Backlash for Crock-Pot began swiftly after the episode as Crock-Pot owners reached for their Crock-Pots to deposit them safely in the trash. Backlash continued on social media flooding both Twitter and Facebook with messages about #JusticeForJack and promises to never use their Crock-Pot again.

Crock-Pot acted quickly to attempt to put out the firestorm around them and their beloved slow cookers. Previously not on Twitter, Crock-Pot created the Twitter handle @crockpotcares to respond to frightened Crock-Pot owners and those placing blame on the company for killing off their favorite character. They began using hashtags like #TrustTheCrock and #CrockPotIsInnocent to help dispel fear and garner support for the brand. Dan Fogelman, writer and producer for This Is Us, even took to Twitter to remind fans of the show that “it was a 20 year old fictional crockpot with an already funky switch”.

On Facebook, Crock-Pot continued to respond to comments from scared Crock-Pot users to help assure them that the trusted Crock-Pot they had been using was perfectly safe. Crock-Pot also responded thanking dedicated Crock-Pot fans for their continued support. While some responses were the same, they tried to personalize each message and tied in something about This Is Us and Jack Pearson to try to connect with scared fans. Crock-Pot issued a statement January 25th on Facebook two days after the episode aired to try to stop the spread of the Crock-Pot disaster and reassure fans that Crock-Pots were safe to use.

The faulty Crock-Pot was a shock to many This Is Us fans and an even bigger shock to Crock-Pot. From their first response to a negative review, it is clear Crock-Pot was unware of the firestorm headed their way and were innocently sleeping while social media went into a frenzy. When they awoke from their peaceful slumber they took action to attempt to put out the firestorm directed at them. Crock-Pot was quick to get themselves on Twitter and replied to a handful of Tweets directed at their brand. They continued this strategy mainly on Facebook where they had more of an established presence and were better equipped to handle the amount of fallout coming their way.

While Crock-Pot did a great job quickly handling an unforeseen situation, they could have responded quicker and more efficiently if they had had the right tools in their arsenal from the start. Having software that listens for brand name mentions can help quickly identify references and let the responsible party respond quickly through one platform. Some programs even offer suggested responses that can help speed up response time and give the person managing social media something to work with.

Crock-Pot still needs to stay on their toes as another wave of Crock-Pot-hating could be on the way when the next episode airs after the Big Game. Good Luck Crock-Pot. We hope you use more than just Facebook in the future.

12
Jul

Why Fox Should Not Have Apologized for X-Men Billboard

Twentieth Century Fox apologized last month for an “X-Men: Apocalypse billboard because it shows Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Mystique, being choked by Apocalypse (a male character). The outrage over the X-Men billboard began when actress Rose McGowan posted her disappointment on social media after seeing the billboard in Los Angeles. After the public flogging, Fox issued this statement:

In our enthusiasm to show the villainy of the character Apocalypse we didn’t immediately recognize the upsetting connotation of this image in print form. Once we realized how insensitive it was, we quickly took steps to remove those materials. We apologize for our actions and would never condone violence against women.

The offended people and 20th Century Fox are both missing the point. When analyzed from a marketing perspective, both groups are making a mistake.

Is the X-Men Billboard Offensive?

Of course. Everything is offensive to someone. The legendary “Got Milk?” ad about the assassination of Alexander Hamilton may have offended people. Budweiser’s Clydesdale ads offend people against the use of animals in advertising. Does that mean they were bad or mean-spirited? No. Marketing is a combination of art and science. It should be understood that “you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time” (John Lydgate, adapted by President Abraham Lincoln). The important issue is whether or not the offense or the size of the offended party merits attention in your marketing.

In this case, the size of the offended group and their voice were extremely small until Rose McGowan used social media. After that, the size of the offended group remained small but they had a larger megaphone to broadcast their grievance. They became a very vocal minority. It can be said with some certainly that most people understood that the latest installment in the X-Men movie franchise had violence in it. Why was this violence so offensive?

Offensive in Advertising But Not on Screen

It is worth noting that the image depicted on the billboard is taken from the movie itself. It is an actual scene in which Apocalypse battles Mystique. But only the advertising was vilified. Why is the on-screen “violence against women” not decried yet the advertising depicting the violence is maligned? According to Ms. McGowan and followers of her cause, they didn’t feel it was right to have the image “forced” upon them (especially their children).

Some facts need to be added for the sake of marketing analysis and public perception:

  1. Both of these characters are fictional.
  2. Mystique (the female character) is the hero.
  3. Mystique (the female character) is the leader of the protagonists.
  4. Stan Lee, like many comic storytellers, created their characters for the empowerment of the oppressed such as women, homosexuals, and racial minorities.

It seems counterproductive to criticize a billboard for violence against women when that movie has a strong, female lead character who defeats all the men that stand against her.

Furthermore, the same level of outrage was lacking from Ms. McGowan and her fans when Mystique was killing military personnel in previous films or when she was beating up men at all. A double-standard in objecting to violence seems inappropriate.

X-Men Billboard Apology Mistake

Fox’s mistake came not in the billboard, but in their apology for the X-Men billboard and removing it from the campaign. As marketers, we fully appreciate the pressure on major corporations to walk many fine lines to please customers. In this case, we would not have advised Fox to apologize or remove the billboards. It is our opinion that they should have stood behind their campaign, the strong female lead character, and the film’s PG-13 rating which deems it appropriate for most of the world’s population to watch.

For parents, the billboard is an opportunity to have a positive discussion with their kids. They can explain Mystique, her strength, her redemption, he leadership, and her triumph over evil. Tell them Apocalypse is an evil character who thinks it is okay to use power over people instead of helping them.

The X-Men, like the Fantastic Four, and many other comic book characters are about good defeating evil, equality among all, and justice reigning supreme.

Fox could have told that story instead of apologizing for it.

21
Nov

Bill Cosby Is Making PR Mistakes

I decided to write this because the new storm surrounding legendary comedian and family icon Bill Cosby has stunned me. I watched The Cosby Show, Cosby, loved the book “Fatherhood”, and saw his standup comedy specials. When I started ProActiveDads in 2008, he was a role model for what we fought for when it came to dads in the media. Now, the accusations are coming in waves with woman after woman dating back 45 years. As all of this unfolds and I see Cosby’s reaction (or lack thereof), I continue to think that Bill Cosby is making PR mistakes.

Before this post continues, I want to make it clear that I am not second-guessing the PR people employed by Bill Cosby. From what I have seen and heard over the years, they are some of the most successful people in the business and have been for decades. But they are not the only people involved. A-list celebrities are surrounded by a variety of advisors including public relations specialists, lawyers, agents, studios, costars, friends, family, and many others. All of them have opinions. Most of them offer advice. Some are paid for their advice. That advice doesn’t always agree with another party or the celebrity. Ultimately, the celebrity needs to choose their own action.

Silence Anything But Golden

This is where I believe Bill Cosby is faltering. He is facing an expensive, damaging, and career-ending barrage of accusations. Could the lawyers really be the best helpers when they advise total silence? Every interview has been a “no comment”. Even when the AP tried to play “gotcha” with their recent interview release, he still said nothing.

I find myself more and more in the camp of spectators who believe that this many accusers can’t all be making this up. It is already public knowledge that Bill Cosby has cheated on his wife Camille. Also shocking is the fact that I haven’t seen or heard any reports of his Cosby Show cast members coming to his defense. Most of them were female. Where are they? Thus far, only Raven-Symone has said she was never a victim. But where are Lisa Bonet, Tempestt Bledsoe, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Sabrina Le Beauf…all of whom knew and worked with Bill Cosby when they were young? Where is his TV wife, Phylicia Rashad? To have so many accusers and so few supporters is surprising for a man so well respected. And each of them is now suffering financially because The Cosby Show reruns have been pulled from TV Land.

The women making accusations are not just unknowns who may be seeking a pay day. They are an assortment of women from all walks of life with a similar story: Cosby allegedly drugged (or tried to drug) them, then took advantage of them physically and/or sexually. Some have tried to sue him, others have come out now for the first time and say they aren’t seeking a dime.

Take PR Advice

Agents and PR experts are usually the ones advising clients to “get in front of the controversy”. Make strong denials, be bold, circle the wagons with friends and family, etc. Lawyers usually advise absolute silence because anything said can be used against their client in a trial. These accusations have been around for more than four decades and will not be going away any time soon. They seem to be the “nail in the coffin”, as Carla Ferrigno said, to his career.

Were Bill Cosby my client, I would certainly be advising more than “no comment”.

  • Speak to the media
    • Put your face out there to show a human side against so many accusations of inhuman acts
    • Don’t let the accusers control the story
    • Give the media new material
  • Work WITH the lawyers – but don’t allow them to be the only voice
  • Get your friends and family to defend you. Strongly. In public.
  • Highlight your history of charitable giving
  • Stop asking people to do things online, like recording laugh tracks and asking social media to “meme” you.

If he is guilty, he needs to admit it. Get counseling, stay with your wife, go to rehab, do jail time if necessary, and work to help victims. Take a page from Lance Armstrong – lying makes it worse. If he is innocent, he should proclaim it all day, every day. The truth shall set you free.

What Happens to Bill Cosby?

So many accusers.
So few defenders.
So much silence.

I don’t see any way for this to end well. Cosby’s career is destroyed. His wife and children (who many know about his true behavior) are forced to endure this. His former co-stars are forced to endure this.

He needs to speak. Now.

What do you think? Can his career be saved? Is he right to stay silent? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

This post reflects the opinions of Nathan Greenberg and may not represent the official position or opinions of Arkside Marketing, Inc., its employees, clients, vendors, or partners.

29
Dec

Law Firm Badly Disavows Racist Commercial

Cardinal sin of advertising: racism.

Divine blessing of advertising: a good ad agency.

The law firm of McCutcheon & Hammer seems to be the unfortunate victims of advertising that they didn’t want. According to them, they didn’t even pay for it. Or ask for it. A commercial production company created the offensive ad below using a horrible Asian stereotype character and it was uploaded to the firm’s YouTube channel. Check it out below (on the production company’s YouTube channel) and then scroll down for updates since the video was discovered last week.

Things got weird once the video went viral. The law firm claimed that it never commissioned the video and that their YouTube channel was hacked. It is a fair assumption that a local TV production company doesn’t have the ability to “hack” YouTube (which is owned and secured by Google). So let’s assume the law firm is using some legalese and hinging the accuracy of their statement on the first part of the statement. They never commissioned this particular video and, therefore, never authorized it being uploaded to YouTube.

Since both sides make opposing claims and the ad involves a very derogatory portrayal of Asians, the Natiaonl Asian Pacific American Bar Association has looked into the situation and made some odd discoveries:

1) Neither party is willing to produce documentation to support their claim.
2) Neither party is eliminating the idea that someone pretending to work for the law firm is responsible. (If this is true, the production company is disastrously negligent in their client authorization process!)
3) The video is still online.
4) The law firm has not followed through with any threat to sue the production company.
5) This is still very bad PR for the law firm and production company.

All that said, the judgment on this one is bad all the way around. The production company makes junk, and racist junk at that. The law firm has done terrible damage control. If this were professionally handled at the onset, it would have been cleanly wrapped up and the reputation of the firm would still be in tact. Such is not the case today.