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Archives: August 2012

Disney Starlets Go Grunge—How Far Is Too Far?

Say you have a client (or two) who made her name as a squeaky-clean Disney Channel kid, rising from the ranks of the Mouseketeers to land her very own show and an attendant career in pop music. Say that she’s now known for dating the world’s favorite pre-pubescent pop star, but she wants to move into an acting career and needs to prove that she can pull off mature roles?

What if her new breakout movie was set to be directed by Harmony Korine, best known as the screenwriter behind Larry Clark’s notoriously explicit “Kids”, which was one of the most controversial films of the 90’s and one of the few movies that you could never rent at Blockbuster unless you were over 21? What if promos for the movie involved your clients wearing bikinis and engaging in what seems to be some form of bad behavior?

Good move? Positive PR? Well here’s the trailer for “Spring Breakers”, starring former Disney stars Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez. We don’t quite know what to think (except that the movie’s promoters are hoping to stir up some controversy):

Kinda creepy!

Beyoncé Brings the World to Attention for Humanitarian Day

How do you get 1.13 billion people to “do something good, somewhere, for someone else”? Why, you show them a Beyoncé video, of course! Throw in some impressive CGI and inspiring imagery from around the globe and you’re golden, baby!

For this year’s World Humanitarian Day, which took place on August 19, the United Nations partnered with digital ad agency Droga5 to reach hundreds of millions of people with that very simple, universal message. The campaign, titled “I Was Here” (Twitter hashtags #WHD2012 and #IWASHERE), drew its inspiration from a Beyoncé song of the same name, so of course she was a natural choice to take part in a campaign that will also help burnish her humanitarian cred (the video already has well  over 4 million views):

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Apple Keeps Blocking Drone Strike App

According to Wired, developer Josh Begley just can’t seem to get his app approved. It’s nothing but a harmless little add-on that sends a pop-up message to users every time the United States conducts a fatal unmanned drone strike somewhere in the world, yet Apple has rejected it three times in the last month alone.

Josh says he doesn’t understand–the app doesn’t display photos of collateral damage, and it runs on data provided by the U.K.’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, so it’s public information. The company’s original objections centered on functionality, but their motives appear to be shifting–on the last occasion, they noted that the content may be offensive to some users. We can understand a bit of confusion, considering the fact that Apple considers up to 10,000 new apps for its store every week, but Begley is suspicious.

This wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the PR interests of the Pentagon, now would it, Apple?

Is Chipotle’s Change-Rounding Frugal or Sneaky?

Popular chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, which touts its organic ingredients and claims to follow a rough approximation of fair trade policies (though it was once owned by McDonald’s), found itself in a bit of hot water this week.

The issue? A story first broken by the New Jersey Star-Ledger revealed that the chain has adopted a computer program that rounds customers’ bills up or down to the nickel. Spokespeople claim that the practice helps save time wasted by counting worthless pennies, but some diners are seeing red.

While the literal pennies involved in each transaction don’t amount to much, they do build over time–and the practice may rub against certain rules established by Consumer Affairs that require retailers to be very clear about how much they’re charging and why. Read more

World’s Richest Woman: Poor Should Stop Complaining and Have Less Fun

The wealthiest woman in the world has a message for all the lazy complainers who can’t handle the fact that they have less than she does:

“If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working. Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build, and at the same time create employment and opportunities for others.”

This isn’t the only opinion that Australian mining heiress and PR genius Gina Rinehart holds: She also thinks the government should cut taxes on industrial entities like her company while limiting immigration restrictions and lowering the minimum wage—presumably so she can attract more overseas workers to man her mines and spend less money doing it!

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Little White Lies: What Good Are Fact Checkers Anyway?

Today in Negative Retail News, New York State’s attorney general is investigating the makers of popular caffeinated energy drinks like Amp, Monster and 5 Hour Energy for playing a little loose with their facts and ingredients. On the other side of the grid, nearly every opinionator across the board—and yes, that includes Fox News—has pointed out a series of glaring inaccuracies in the speech that Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan gave at his party’s convention last night (while also noting that his presentation was impressive and that he hit all the right notes for the home team).

How do these stories relate? They both highlight the role of the independent fact-checker, and they raise a series of questions about the value of accuracy and transparency in public relations. So:

  • Does the additional of “herbal supplements” like guarana allow 5-Hour Energy and Monster drinks to contain “undisclosed” amounts of caffeine large enough to raise eyebrows?
  • Are they particularly dangerous when paired with alcohol?
  • Are big soda makers like Pepsico and Coca-Cola downplaying the unhealthy aspects of their most popular get-up-and-go products?

And:

  • Did Paul Ryan serve as the best-known Republican representative on the bipartisan debt commission that he just excoriated President Obama for ignoring?
  • Did he in fact vote against the very proposal that he seemed to suggest the President should have followed?

The answer to all these questions is yes. But in the interests of the brands in question, does it even really matter?

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Whoa, There: Spanish Mag Depicts First Lady as a Slave

A Spanish magazine recently made one of the most baffling art choices in memory by running a cover that clearly depicts First Lady Michelle Obama in the guise of a bare-breasted French slave. That’s right–let it settle in. You think they were aiming for controversy? Just a little bit?

The entire internet has subsequently condemned Fuera de Serie (roughly translated as Off the Charts), whose editors seem to be following in the footsteps of the Dutch mag that earned quite a bit of (very negative) attention last year for calling Rihanna a couple of names that we won’t reprint here.

We’ve posted the full image below the “fold” for braver readers:

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PR Innovations: Top Chefs Star in ‘Trading Places’

Today in truly interesting PR schemes: Eleven Madison Park and Alinea are two of the most esteemed restaurants in the country. Spending an evening (hell, even an abbreviated lunch hour) at either location is a true event for those among us fortunate enough to have the opportunity (we haven’t been so lucky, and now we’re sad). The chefs at these top kitchens also happen share both a friendship and a mutual respect. The problem? Eleven Madison Park is in Manhattan and Alinea is in Chicago.

The restaurants’ runners have found what may be the most innovative possible solution to this challenge: they’re trading faces. Or places.

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The Ticker: Obama on Reddit; Amazon vs. Netflix; Spyware; Summer Movie Saviors; Barclays’ CEO

Yahoo News Fires D.C. Bureau Chief for Anti-Romney Remarks

PR professionals know all about the damage that undisciplined outbursts, remarks and commentary can cause to one’s career and respective employer—especially in the Internet age, when political outrage travels faster than videos of adorable kittens.

David Chalian, the now former D.C. Bureau Chief for Yahoo News, knows too.

Mr. Chalian was fired within hours of commenting about the Republican National Convention festivities being held in Tampa Bay, FL, while Hurricane Isaac battered the Gulf of Mexico. He remarked on the Romney campaign’s seeming lack of concern for the storm’s victims–and the Republican base immediately clamored for justice.

Yahoo News, in an effort to limit negative PR fallout, acted swiftly. So Mr. Chalian is out—and he’s probably not having the day he envisioned when he put his socks on this morning. Read more

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