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Entries in PR (5)

Wednesday
Jul042012

PR - Shackled by Shackles

Recently Adidas pulled the launch of new shoes designed by fashion designer to the stars, Jeremy Scott called, “The Shackles”. The shoe caused outrage in some sections of the community who claimed the shoes celebrated slavery.

While I personally do not  believe this was Adidas or Jeremy Scott’s intention, it does highlight the sensitivities companies have to work within in the modern day world. As always, prevention is better than the cure, these faux paus can be minimised by:

1. Diversity Management - use diversified focus groups, brand checking companies, staff, and stakeholders to vet campaigns before launch

2. Have clearly stated and enforced company values - all stakeholders should know the boundaries they are to work within

Despite this, as some of the examples below show, it is increasingly likely you will offend someone at some time. When this happens and you are at fault:

Apologise from the top - the apology must come from the CEO - not a media manager. The apology must be authentic and quick.

Sunrise segment we did on the Adidas Shackles

This is the transcript from the show.

Melissa Doyle: Well, shoe giant Adidas has been forced to issue an apology and shelve its latest sneaker design following a storm of public criticism. Dubbed the Shackle Shoe, the controversial design features bright orange cuffs and chains around the ankles. After being posted on the company's Facebook page, thousands left angry comments accusing Adidas of mocking black slavery. The shoe was set to be released in August, but now won't make it onto the shelves at all. Our marketing expert Matthew Bywater joins me. Good morning to you. What do you think, has Adidas done the right thing by pulling the shoe? Is it all they could have done?

Matthew Bywater: Yeah, that's all they could have done. It's a very costly exercise. As you can imagine, they spent millions of dollars in product development, but they made a mistake in not vetting this earlier. They should've actually tested this in the marketplace a lot earlier. Get some focus groups done, put it all together and test them. So what do you think about these shoes? Because this should be done on a global brain or in every country culture, creed, religion that you could possibly do.

Melissa Doyle: So they haven't done it as a publicity stunt to get us talking.

Matthew Bywater: I don't think so. Jeremy Scott, the fashion designer who actually created these shoes, he deals a lot of diversified people. I mean he designed for Beyonce, Paris Hilton, Kylie Minogue, Victoria Beckham. The guy himself is not a racist. I think he's a guy that goes for fashion statements, so he perhaps step over lines as far as fashion goes maybe, but certainly there's no malicious intent here.

Melissa Doyle: Yeah, it might just not have occurred to him until someone pointed it out. I know that their other competitors have not been immune to this as well. Nike forced to change the name of one of its shoes because it was offensive to Irish people. What was the point?

Matthew Bywater: Yeah. Once again, you can see how Nike got this wrong. Black and Tan was the pair of shoes that they actually released. Black and tan in Ireland, much as the same in Australia, means a dark beer and a light beer, but in fact in Ireland is where it started from, again, is with a light beer mixed together. What Nike didn't look at was a history. This emanates from the Troubles in Ireland back in the 1920s, when a British paramilitary unit actually went through and actually killed a lot of people. So something, Nike, you can understand the mistake, but they had to cut it as soon as they became aware of it.

Melissa Doyle: Yeah. Okay. And Reebok had a similar situation.

Matthew Bywater: Yeah, Reebok did too. This was more about somebody cheating on their partner and it was telling the guys, get up in the morning, you can cheat on your partner and...

Melissa Doyle: Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout. Oh.

Matthew Bywater: Get out and train. Yeah.

Melissa Doyle: All right. So a lot of these situations, do you think it's not until, I don't know, down the track, someone notices it, points it out and realizes that it offends somebody?

Matthew Bywater: I think it's always going to happen. We're in society now, which is easily very, very sensitive. So when it does happen, the important thing is to actually straight away cut it or completely stop.

Melissa Doyle: Gee, it must be hard for advertisers though. It must be really difficult.

Matthew Bywater: It's increasingly difficult. And the problem is that there are so many little minority sensitive groups.

Melissa Doyle: Yeah.

Matthew Bywater: Somebody needs to validate it. So what the minority groups have to understand is, we will make mistakes because we don't know. We can't know everything. We will make mistakes, but let us to actually be able to change those and move on.

Here is another segment from The Morning Show discussing Oprah’s Bad allegiances

Transcript from this segment above.

 

Larry Emdur: Well, landing a spot on Oprah's couch can be a ticket to fame and to fortune.

Kylie Gillies: But the latest scandal involving one of her show's leading experts proves that not everything she touches turns to gold.

Kylie Gillies: She's a woman with a whole lot of power.

Oprah Winfrey: I love Australia.

Kylie Gillies: And on the receiving end of that fame, are the experts she enlists.

Dr. Oz: [inaudible] the TV, and now for web they're having a national conversation about health and [inaudible] So let's start talking.

Dr. Phil: I'm not asking you to save the world, I'm just asking you to save yourself.

Kylie Gillies: Both Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil have enjoyed international success, all thanks to Oprah. But sometimes there's a flip side to the fame. One of Oprah's leading child experts, Dr. Melvin Levine, committed suicide on Friday a day after 40 of his former patients filed sexual abuse charges against him.

Carmen Durso: And they said, "This is a famous doctor. You're lucky to be treated by him and to be seen by him for this stuff."

Kylie Gillies: It's not the first time experts have landed the talk show host in hot water. Plastic surgeon, Dr. Jan Adams appeared on Oprah before operating on Kanye West's mother just before her death resulting from surgery complications.

Oprah Winfrey: Can you get rid of stretch marks through surgery?

Dr. Jan Adams: I don't believe so. We call them stretch marks, but they're really not stretch marks.

Oprah Winfrey: What are they?

Dr. Jan Adams: They are actually scars that are formed underneath the skin.

Kylie Gillies: And in 2006 Oprah invited author of A Million Little Pieces, James Frey on the show for a second time, after his memoir proved to be fabricated.

James Frey: I have been honest with you, I have essentially admitted to-

Oprah Winfrey: Lying.

James Frey: That I've been-

Oprah Winfrey: To lying.

James Frey: To lying.

Larry Emdur: There've been a few hits there. So can Oprah's credibility recover. Well, joining us to discuss this a little bit further, journalist Mark Joyella, who's in New York here on The Couch, marketing expert, Matthew Bywater in Canberra, entertainment columnist for the Sunday Telegraph, Jonathon Moran. Good morning everybody. Mark, first up, the US media contingent is reporting that celebrity pediatrician, Dr. Mel Levine committed suicide, the course of the class action against him. What else can you tell us?

Mark J.: Well, good morning guys. The latest on that this morning is that police investigators say this was in fact a suicide. They have ruled out anything else. And they say that the doctor did leave behind a suicide note. The contents of that note, of course, have not been revealed, leaving many questions unanswered about whether or not the suicide was directly related to the lawsuit, and if he was in fact killing himself out of guilt.

Mark J.: Now, the family continues to maintain that the doctor was innocent of the charges against him. They released a statement saying in effect that he did groundbreaking work for kids and that that legacy will continue to benefit children worldwide. But of course, as you can imagine here in the US, especially parents who looked to this man, read his books, depended on his advice are devastated by these accusations. Many of course, still believe in the doctor, but there's an awful lot of questions this morning.

Kylie Gillies: Well, Mark, as you say, parents looked to him because he had almost Oprah's stamp of approval, if you like. What's been her reaction to this?

Mark J.: Officially no reaction other than any reference to the doctor has been removed from Oprah Winfrey's website where you could usually go and find clips from the show and the words and recommendations of books from folks who've been associated with Oprah over the years. Oprah's fans interestingly, are having a very specific kind of reaction to this. They are saying essentially, "This is a woman, Oprah Winfrey, who has been very honest about her own abuse in childhood and has devoted so much time and attention over the years to trying to protect kids." And they say, given how many years she has been on television with so many guests and experts, how could she have known? Of course we'll have to wait and see.

Larry Emdur: Yeah, Matthew [in Cali 00:00:04:06] set up package there. We saw that Oprah's taken quite a few hits. There's one thing or another circulating almost all of the time around Oprah. Could this sort of thing affect her credibility albeit by association?

Matthew Bywater : Absolutely. The trick here now though is whether this is going to be a dip momentarily or it's going to be a longer, deeper dip in her credibility. Now that will all depend on the approach that she takes and team overtakes to actually respond to these allegations.

Kylie Gillies: But Matthew, these experts who wield so much power, it's so important that they remain squeaky clean. I mean, I think it's important they remain squeaky clean regardless of whether they're on the Oprah show or not. But they've certainly put their life in the spotlight, don't they? And they are under much scrutiny.

Matthew Bywater : They're under a lot of scrutiny. And this is the thing about celebrities is that we hold them to a much higher standard than the average person has to actually live with. So there's a a higher account or a higher degree of accountability. So they have to be absolutely squeaky clean in everything, not just themselves in case of Oprah, but in everyone around her.

Larry Emdur: We'd be naive to think that Oprah's camp wouldn't have plans in place for something like this. But having been through it before-

Matthew Bywater : They would have Preempted-

Larry Emdur: A disaster plan.

Matthew Bywater : Yeah, they would have preempted plans already in place. And I think we're seeing stage one of that right now. This is no comment stage we're going through, that's actually reconnaissance stage. They're looking around to see what else is out there. They don't want to come in too early because there might be more information comes out that's damaging. They can get broadsided from the side. So they want to really survey the landscape and see what's out there.

Kylie Gillies: Okay. Jonathan, we turn to you now. This isn't the first time of course that one of Oprah's experts has hurt the TV stars reputation, is it?

Jonathon M.: There's been numerous examples, but let's bear in mind she's been on air on this show for 25 years. You can put on her a whole list of things, but I mean comparatively, I don't think it's that massive. You've got various examples and they're very public examples, so we see it very openly. You've got the abuse for her orphanages that she set up in South Africa. You've got her endorsing the book, The Secret, and then the author coming out and saying the tsunami in 2004 was called upon by itself and deserve it almost. So there's a whole bunch of examples but not that many comparatively.

Larry Emdur: Jonathon, are Oprah's producer sitting down with Oprah's legal team and coming up with ways of better vetting the potential talent in the future?

Larry Emdur: Well I'm looking at this is like Oprah runs a business like a small country. Just look what she did in Australia. For all of us media covering that extravagant extraordinary event, it was like getting a presidential visit accreditation. So look, I'm sure she is very careful with vetting her guests and so on, but yet not everything is full safe, and short of being the FBI, how was she supposed to predict that this guy was going to have a class action of pedophilia brought against him?

Kylie Gillies: Yeah, and has taken his own life, sadly. Jonathon, thank you. In New York, Mark, thank you. And here on The Couch, Matthew thanks as well.

Matthew Bywater : Thanks guys.