“I don’t want to be here. I was made to be here. This is a terrible inconvenience to me… Obviously I just want to get this over with and get on with my life.” – British supermodel Naomi Campbell about how much trouble it is for her to appear as a prosecution witness in the trial of African warlord Charles Taylor. Ms. Campbell testified that she was anonymously given a small bag of diamonds which she then gave to someone else seemingly for no reason whatsoever. Taylor, former leader of Liberia, is charged with trading weapons for blood diamonds with rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone. More than 100,000 people died in Sierra Leone’s civil war.
Some hugely successful companies are never going to be loved or even liked. Top of that list: Oil companies and banks. The smart move would be to take their billions in profits and be happy with that. For some reason, though, that’s not enough.
Thus we get
The oil industry tried something similar a few years ago. Here’s what I wrote then and it stands up: The oil industry should just give a gag order to itself. Yes, they are making a helluva a lot of money — the biggest challenge they face is choosing between "obscene" and "pornographic" when describing their profits. They feel compelled to defend their earnings because … well, I don’t know why. Because some PR person said they have to? The only explanation that anyone would believe — "Because we can" — is apparently not an acceptable sound bite.
The oil companies’ profits don’t depend on the public’s goodwill. They make the overwhelming majority of their money on wholesale, not retail. For them it’s all about price and reliability. As BP has proven all you really have to do is keep your head down and your environmental disasters in Africa or other places the major media don’t cover.
True, Goldman et al. do depend slightly on public goodwill. The fact that they’re being investigated by everyone except the commissioner of baseball has made some public groups suspend their relations with Goldman. But a PR campaign about what alleged good Goldman does is exactly the wrong move. All it will do is keep the issues alive in the public eye. The public isn’t going to believe a damn thing Goldman says anyway. I mean I don’t even believe their justification for the campaign:
Fiona Laffan, Goldman Sach’s head of media relations in Europe, Middle East and Africa, told a communications industry event here that mistrust and hatred of bankers, not just those at Goldman Sachs, remained near an all-time high and that the bank, as an industry leader, needed to do a better job of explaining what it did and how.
Please. We all know what you do and how and we were all in favor of it until you nearly cost us the economy. You’re just scared about how we’ll respond if someone can prove you were betting on the failure of companies you were giving financial advice to. Look, just sit still and shut up and we’ll forget all about it. The US public has the attention span of a mayfly on crystal meth. Just wait and let BP’s decision to roast turtles work in your favor.
"I would not describe any section of our site as ‘sex related,’ " [Craigslist CEO Jim] Buckmaster wrote in response to a series of e-mailed questions from the Globe. He acknowledged that Craigslist offers an "erotic services" section that should not include more than "legitimate escort services, sensual massage, exotic dancers, etc.," but said that offers to exchange sexual favors for money are "strictly prohibited" and removed from the site.
What’s that Capt. Renault? You are shocked, shocked to find out there is gambling in the casino? I don’t blame you at all. And here are your winnings.
This is exactly the wrong PR approach. Don’t proclaim that there is such a thing as “legitimate escort service.” What you say is, “Have you looked in the Yellow Pages under ‘escort’ or ‘massage’? How is what we are doing different from that?” Look in any alt-weekly and you’ll see more of the same but with explicit pictures.
Buckmaster is caught up in a frenzy of outrage created by media companies that have had their revenues devastated by Craigslist. They would have done this to anyone but I suspect they are enjoying this a bit more than usual. Does anyone actually think that people who advertise their services in other media are any more or less at risk than those who do so via Craigslist? The hypocrisy is all this self-righteousness is astounding. The advertising alone makes it clear society views prostitution about as seriously as it does the speed limit.
The story that has yet to be examined on this topic is whether Craigslist is actually cutting down on pimping by making it easier for women and men of negotiable morals to run their own businesses. Of course that would also beg the issue of whether the prostitutes and the people who pay them wouldn’t all be safer if it were a legal and regulated activity. The other option is to vigorously and effectively enforce the laws against – and we have proved we have no interest in doing that.
Yeah, there’s a lot more than 10 here. What can I say? It was a very good year for very bad things.
GRAND PRIZE FOR SUSTAINED ORGANIZATIONAL EFFORT
The John McCain Presidential Campaign
- “Our economy, I think, is still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
- Has no idea how many houses he (or his wife) owns.
- Picks Sara Palin, the Broad to Nowhere who couldn’t find Russia or Africa on a map.
- Campaign adviser and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina says Palin couldn’t run a major corporation.
- Campaign adviser and former senator Phil Gramm says Americans are whiners about economic problems.
- “Shutting down” his campaign to fix the bailout.
- “Lipstick on a pig”
- Egregious attack on Dungeons & Dragons that clearly cost him the election. (OK, maybe not so much the last one).
- June: with gas heading to $4-a-gallon, company announces it is trying to sell the Hummer brand. As of today, sale is still pending.
- August: with gas at $4-a-gallon, company announces it will take the bold move of investing “$500 million to build a new fuel-efficient, small car the automaker says will show it can make money in head-to-head competition with its Japanese rivals as it fights to return to profitability.”
- October: Asks Treasury Dept. for $10 billion to pay for proposed merger with Chrysler
- Early November: car company that already isn’t selling cars argues it can’t file for bankruptcy because “people won’t buy cars from a bankrupt car company.”
- Late November: leads troika of Detroit CEOs to DC to ask for taxpayer money to balance the books. Each flies in on wings of attitude and three separate corporate jets.
- December: runs weasel-word mea culpa in Automotive News: “While we’re still the U.S. sales leader, we acknowledge we have disappointed you. At times we violated your trust by letting our quality fall below industry standards and our designs become lackluster. We have proliferated our brands and dealer network to the point where we lost adequate focus on our core U.S. market. We also biased our product mix toward pick-up trucks and SUVs. And, we made commitments to compensation plans that have proven to be unsustainable in today’s globally competitive industry.“
- Ford features “Space Oddity” — a song about astronaut suicide — in new car campaign.
- Framingham State College uses the word blah 137 times in a 312-word fundraising letter.
- Disney (multiple entries): Bans kids from DisneyWorld restaurant; Changes “It’s A Small World” to “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America”; and Sells “High School Musical” panties for tween girls with the phrase “Dive In” on them.
- Woolworths (UK) launches Lolita brand of beds for young girl
- JetBlue lives up to Southwest’s parody ad by charging for pillows.
- Russia uses smiling kids in tourism ad for war zone
- Residents of Lesbos sue those other lesbians over brand name
- Motrin gets headache from viral moms video
- Butcher’s ads feature “Meat Products, Fresh Service” on naked woman
- Hershey asks if you’ve found Mr. Goodbar
Special Jury Awards
Co-Branding That Shouldn’t Have Been
- Windows Vista toilet paper
- The Muppets appear on DVD for Law & Order: SVU
- Barbie® Rice Krispies® Treats
- P&G starts hip-hop record label (Bounce® and Beyonce? Jay Z and Oral B®? 50 Cent and Febreze®? Snoop Dogg and Eukanuba®? Ghostface Killah and Ghost®? Lil Wayne & Pampers®?)
The Alpha & Omega of Over-reaching
- God’s chosen racing team loses at the Indy 500
- “Pope’s Cologne Provides Solace to Grieving Widow”
- “Can Batman Teach Spiritual Truth?”
- Email service lets you taunt friends after The Rapture
- McDonalds compares Ray Kroc to Martin Luther King Jr.
- LifeLock ID protection service fails to protect CEO’s identity
- Anti-shark device found to attract sharks
The Penguins Of Irony “Oh NO You Din’t” Awards
- Publisher says bankruptcy puts magazine chain in “a position poised for wonderful growth
- WaMu continues to send credit card offers after going out of business
Previous years’ lists