By letterhead | March 30, 2008
BUT FIRST… THE RUNNERS UP…
Second Runner Up… Harper Collins’ Children, Birthed by Stepford Wives
When criticized recently for product placements in children’s books, Susan Katz, publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, responded:
“If you look at Web sites, general media or television, corporate sponsorship or some sort of advertising is totally embedded in the world that tweens live in,” Ms. Katz said. “It gives us another opportunity for authenticity.”
Like totally… wow! But isn’t “sponsorship,” like, um, acknowledged publicly, like when you brand a sports stadium with a sign big enough to be seen from space? Or when you, like, name a whole children’s emergency medicine department after a totally barfy but way popular clothing line? (Clothes like the t-shirts for teen girls that say “With These, Who Needs Brains?” and “Do I Make You Look Fat?”)
Hiding brand names in story books for piles of cash is a lot little less honest than openly promoting bulimia and boob jobs for teen girls — and then funding an entire hospital wing dedicated to “children’s health.”
More troubling, however, is the attitude of the authors. One showcased her “authentic”genius this way:
Wells [marketer and aspiring author] said she would not change a brand that she felt was at the core of a particular character’s identity merely to cement a marketing partnership.
Like, totally wow… again. So really the concept of “authenticity” is really all about stealth marketing? Wait I don’t get it, are you saying that the core of “authentic” identity for every teen girl in the world is… a brand aspiration. So that makes it OK?
It makes one wish that somehow Edelman had been able to trademark the term “authenticity,” if only to keep it out of the hands of dimwits like Wells and Katz. But maybe it’s me, maybe I am being like so totally blond and not getting it…
First Runner Up… Dana Perino, a Walking Talking Product Placement?
It makes you wonder what these young identity-challenged girls might grow up to be. It makes me think of White House press secretary Dana “What-was-the-Cuban-Missile-Crisis?” Perino.
The spokesperson for the Leaderofthefreeworld recently admitted that she knew nothing about one of the most important moments in modern American History: the only time since the end of World War II when an American president actually had his finger on the BIG RED BUTTON. To be forgiven though… it probably wasn’t her shade of red.
And then there is her recent dismissal of the idea that Pres. Bush might boycott the opening Olympic ceremonies over the Chinese crackdown in Tibet. Because?…
“This should be about the athletes and not necessarily about politics.“
We are spending approximately three quarters of a billion dollars every day in Iraq for the cause of democracy and freedom.
But in Tibet, where you’ve got millions of people living under a brutal Chinese dictatorship since the country was forcibly annexed in 1959 — millions of people actually rising up and demanding their freedom — you turn a deaf ear, refusing them even your rhetorical support? Words are cheap Dana… c’mon, you can spare a few. No?
Maybe it’s not “authentic” enough. How about if it had a corporate sponsor?
We could make it the “Abercrombie Revolution” — tube tops, short-shorts, and belly-button piercings for everybody! Sounds like totally super-cute… right?
And The Winner!… Bear Stearns CEO Al Schwartz (please never take your daughter to work)
If women do end up someday being equals to men in business, let us all pray that the girls of the Aber-zombie generation are at least a bit less dangerous than the men currently in charge. (Even if it looks like they will be just as ignorant of their own failings.)
Which brings us to Bear Stearns CEO Alan Schwartz (let’s also hope he’s always been too busy to participate in “take your daughter to work” day). In a recent internal meeting to discuss the spectacular failure of the investment bank he ran, Mr. Schwartz made the following, stupefyingly moronic pronouncement:
“We here are a collective victim of violence,” he said, his voice cracking. “It’s natural to be angry, and you’re not sure who to be angry at. But we have to put it behind us.”
“Victim?”… “Not sure who [sic] to be angry at?”…
Anyone got a mirror handy?
Sanity and Reason Have Left the Building
I have been working in financial services for almost two decades now. (I have updated my bio page with a list of former clients, in case you’re curious... “Who Is Me?” under the About section.) And I have never ceased to be amazed at the combination of hubris and emotional immaturity of the titans of finance.
Most of them are personable enough, a good bunch for an after work brew, but truth be told their unique form of egotism can make them very dangerous. As a financial analyst at one of the big asset management houses told me recently, the current financial calamity rocking Wall Street was all the result of “greed without fear.”
On a less conceptual plane, Lyle Gramley, a former Federal Reserve governor and now an analyst with Stanford Financial Group, recently told the Associated Press:
“This problem begins with the fact that we underwrote mortgages sloppily, which means no one really knows what those assets are worth.”
A character flaw deep in the heart of the industry — in the people at the top of the industry — has cracked open once again into a yawning chasm of incompetence that threatens millions. But the good old boys at Bear don’t see it that way.
Ask them, and they will tell you that they’re the victims. Some of them are even ballsy enough to be demanding compensation! One Bear Stearns executive attacked the CEO of JPMorgan, which bought Bear, saying:
“In this room are people who have built this firm and lost a lot, our fortunes,” one Bear executive said to Mr. Dimon with anger in his voice. “What will you do to make us whole?”
Sometimes Spin is Blind
We in PR can get pretty cynical about the crap the passes for “authentic” communication. But in many cases — and I think these three qualify — these people really believe the “S” their spouting.
That is a big problem. Is there anything we can do about it?
The “authenticity” of communications is often blinded and compromised by commercial, political, and quite often personal psychological imperatives. Sometimes the best we can do is to be gimlet-eyed about it and try to push our charges toward “living up to the claims” of authenticity “in reality,” as Heather Yaxley writes.
The biggest challenge of “authenticity,” which Yaxley says must be “trustworthy, genuine and [having] sincerity of intention,” is the first one: trustworthy. All these people have sincere intention. All are genuine, within their own unique corporate/political/psychological realms.
Trustworthy? Hardly. The way they see the events is so obviously compromised by personal agenda that their vision cannot be trusted. And they are so ignorant of context that they cannot even see how stoopit they look when spouting this garbage.
So here is the prize for BS of the Month Award, let’s hope it can help them set their “authentic” worldviews right-side up.