Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Business We Are In 

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a headline yesterday in Advertising Age. The story was worse. Here it is in its entirety with a link to the site so you can see for yourself I am not making this up.

'It Raises the Bar for All of Us,' Says Executive
February 09, 2004
By Claire Atkinson
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- For those in the business of masterminding
public-relations stunts for marketers, Janet Jackson's big expose during
CBS's airing of the Super Bowl has raised a serious issue: how to top it.

For James LaForce, partner in New York PR agency LaForce & Stevens, the
Jackson episode was "extremely successful. ... We love stunts at our agency
and she opened the door for more people to take risks," he added. "It raises
the bar for all of us."

A stunt 'gone right'
Whatever the impact on advertisers, CBS and the National Football League,
few in the PR field think the stunt harmed Ms. Jackson. Desiree Gruber,
president of Full Picture, a PR management company that counts Lisa Marie
Presley and Arnold Schwarzenegger as clients, agreed it was a stunt gone
right for Janet, and a stunt gone wrong for everyone else, but so what if
she upstaged the advertisers?

"Janet is a brand, just as much as a Frito-Lay is," Ms. Gruber said. "Where
does a brand begin and end? She sells and she sells directly to the public."

Mr. LaForce thinks that it will be discussed for years to come. In terms of
coverage, Ms. Jackson certainly overshadowed the main event, both the game
and the commercials. According to media research firm CARMA International,
Washington D.C., Ms. Jackson garnered twice the number of U.S. press
mentions as the commercials in the four days following the event, though
much of that coverage was driven by the Federal Communications Commission
investigation of the incident.

Album release
The "costume reveal" also catapulted Ms. Jackson into search-engine record
books, conveniently just weeks in advance of her first album in three years,
Damita Jo. According to janet-jackson.com, one of the singles from the album
was released to radio stations around the globe on Feb. 2 -- the day after
the Super Bowl. Ms. Jackson is also planning a world tour and is starring as
singer Lena Horne in an upcoming ABC special.

Said Andy Morris, principal at Andy Morris & Co., a New York PR firm that
works closely with the music industry: "It is the ultimate stunt. I don't
see any downside for her. It fits perfectly with the new CD that's about

Howard Rubenstein, president of Rubenstein & Associates, however, is taking
steps to ensure his agency doesn't receive any backlash from media outlets
covering PR stunts in the future.

'Can it backfire?'
"It has absolutely changed a lot of things about how we do stunts," Mr.
Rubenstein said. "Right now we are asking ourselves: Can it backfire in any
way? Can anyone be injured, will it insult anyone, does it make fun of
people with a defect, is it over the edge sexually? Now PR people will have
to be very cautious."

Mr. Rubenstein, who at one time represented Michael Jackson, is asking his
staff to be wary if stunts might cause the company to be punished or barred
by the media. In fact, Ms. Jackson was originally scheduled to perform on
Feb. 8's Grammy Awards show, also on CBS, but at press time, her appearance
was in doubt.

Peter Himler, a managing director at Burson-Marsteller, a WPP Group company,
said he thinks such stunts are overrated.

"So many firms are about creating short-term PR or publicity or buzz and
forget that the best way to build your brand is to produce a quality
product," he said. Burson represents consumer marketers such as
Hewlett-Packard, McDonald's Corp. and Coca-Cola Co.

'Boobs conquer everything'
One PR executive representing a Super Bowl advertiser said the stunt smacked
of desperation and that the public was left feeling manipulated. An
exasperated music publicist, who did not wish to be named, said simply:
"Boobs conquer everything from the networks to the media to corporate

So you can check me out, here is the link.

If the PR firms that approved of the stunt are right, Frank Sinatra should have exposed himself while performing and Ella Fitzgerald performed a strip tease. But they didn't have to because they could sing and hold an audience with their sense of music and meaning.

What's happened to the music industry and to the PR firms that serve it?


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