Airbnb Fights XXX Party’s Bad PR

 

 Airbnb Fights XXX Partys Bad PR

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Airbnb.

An amusing story about a man who inadvertently rented out his apartment for an orgy via  popular website Airbnb is anything but funny for the company.

Airbnb pairs travelers with homeowners willing to rent out their personal space – a popular option in New York City, where the price of even a modest hotel room often daunts out-of-towners. One resident, Ari Teman, agreed to rent his apartment out to “David,” who said he was seeking accommodations for a wedding. As he’d done before, Teman met with the renter, showed him around the place and went to spend the night elsewhere. But he returned to pick something up – and  walked in to a large crowd, overturned furniture, and a bag of condoms and liquor bottles strewn about his digs. Teman’s pad, it seems, was the venue for the “XXX Freak Fest.”

Many have gotten a chuckle out of the tale, but the top brass at San Francisco-based Airbnb aren’t laughing. Although Airbnb employs several methods  to validate the authenticity and trustworthiness of both owners and visitors, they  can’t guarantee that nothing untoward will happen in a client’s home. How to react to the bad PR? Airbnb immediately banned the renter from the site, put Teman up in a hotel for a week, wired more than $20,000 to him and said they will cooperate with law enforcement. Overkill? Not if there’s a possibility the salacious soiree could kill their business.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Airbnb, which recognized that this funny story could have a sad ending – for the company.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Don’t underestimate bad PR. Airbnb’s entire business model relies on homeowners trusting the people who rent their abodes. Since they can’t ensure that nothing bad will ever happen, they can do the next best thing – meaning, everything – when it does. Crises arrive in many forms. Sometimes they’re obvious;  other times less so. Airbnb was smart to see this as more than a joke. There is no such thing as too much damage control.

Arizona Governor May Win Battle but Lose PR War

Jan Brewer 150x150 Arizona Governor May Win Battle but Lose PR War

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

America is sending decidedly mixed messages to its LGBT citizens. This past weekend’s headlines included clothing chain Banana Republic unveiling an ad campaign with interior designer Nate Berkus and his fiancé Jeremiah Brent. The Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins, who becomes the National Basketball League’s first openly gay player. To balance out the notion of acceptance, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer remained undecided on whether to sign a bill allowing businesses to deny service to gay and lesbian customers on the grounds of their religious beliefs.

Whichever way Gov. Brewer decides will cost her. A former small business owner known for her conservative views, she told CNN, “I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don’t work with. But,” she hedged, “I don’t know that it needs to be statutory.” While refusal to sign the bill may anger her religious constituency, signing it would have repercussions as the worlds of advertising and sports accept – and capitalize – upon the LGBT community. As Arizona prepares to host next year’s SuperBowl, companies were already informing the state that it would be dropped as a potential investment location, should the bill pass.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: It’s better to lose the battle and win the war. Brewer, a conservative, may personally align with the bill. But in signing it into law, her state will be identified with discrimination. Tourism will suffer. Arizona will become the target of protests. The businesses so intent on maintaining their religious beliefs by refusing service to gays and lesbians may find themselves with less business overall. SuperBowl advertisers may shrink from the potential for negative publicity via association. In the end, letting go of the bill may be a lose-win situation.

Soda Endorsement Lands Johansson in Hot Water

 

ad 124673358 150x150 Soda Endorsement Lands Johansson in Hot Water

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Scarlett Johansson.


A seemingly routine product promo has put Scarlett Johansson in the middle of a geopolitical mess.

Johansson recently agreed to front SodaStream, the popular beverage maker. As part of the campaign, the 29-year-old actress will be featured in a commercial this weekend on Superbowl Sunday, one of the most widely viewed events in US television. The deal, however, is causing a furor. Oxfam, the UK-based international charity, has harshly criticized Johansson, saying SodaStream’s facilities in the hotly contested West Bank region of Jerusalem are an affront to the work Oxfam does on behalf of Palestinians.

It’s a particularly big “oops” for Johansson, who’s been an Oxfam ambassador since 2007. In a public war of words, Oxfam said businesses that operate in Israeli settlements “further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.” Johansson countered that SodaStream’s policy of providing equal pay and benefits to Israeli and Palestinian employees shows it wants peace between Israel and Palestine.

Johansson claims she “never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance.” However, there’s no disputing she’s there now.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Scarlett Johansson, whose “belief” that SodaStream is helping build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians strains credulity. SodaStream makes soda – not peace agreements.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Due diligence applies to celebrities too. In 2009, a similar scene played out between Oxfam and Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis, who endorsed a cosmetics company with a West Bank factory. She cut ties with the company after negative media pressure. With Oxfam’s position well known, it seems unlikely Johansson’s camp didn’t expect their reaction. She also could have spoken privately with Oxfam before inking the SodaStream deal. Instead, she’s choosing to battle a charity in the public eye. The result? The unfortunate impression that she’s willing to imperil years of good works for a lucrative spokesperson gig.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to H&M, the sole clothing retailer set to advertise during the Superbowl. They’re going against heavyweights in the automotive, fast food and alcohol groups, but their $4 million gamble will likely pay off thanks to advance buzz on their commercial. In it, soccer star David Beckham, who has a line of underwear with H&M, will appear either in his briefs or naked (by TV standards) according to fan votes of #covered or #uncovered. This could be the first Superbowl in history with higher female than male ratings.

dimon The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, for telling CNBC that the expensive government legal cases against his bank were “unfair.” In swanky Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, Dimon said the bank, which paid $13 billion to settle claims over mortgage securities dealings and $7 billion more over hinky derivatives, power trading and overselling of credit card products, faced “two really bad options” between settling or fighting the cases. Going to court “would really hurt this company and that would have been criminal for me to subject our company to those kinds of issues.” Criminal as in, say, fraud? Better not to have picked up this gauntlet.

george zimmerman painting 300x235 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to George Zimmerman, acquitted of murder and now trying his hand at  “art.” Last July, Zimmerman was found not guilty of the 2012 murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. With a stack of hefty legal bills and job prospects presumably thin, Zimmerman has miraculously found his inner painter. His first piece, a blue flag with a patriotic verse painted on an 18 x 24-inch canvas, sold for more than $100,000 on eBay. His second work depicts prosecutor Angela Corey holding finger and thumb slightly apart with the caption “I have this much respect for the American judicial system – Angie C.” We fervently hope the art-buying world has even less than that for George.

 

Old Spice’s “Oedipal Nightmare” Is PR Dream

 Old Spice’s Oedipal Nightmare Is PR Dream

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) to Old Spice and it’s “Momsong” campaign.

Old Spice, that old seadog of an aftershave, has been around since before World War II.  Little surprise that, with “75 years of experience helping guys improve their mansmells” and a lot of awards for their clever adverts, the Old Spice marketing team has done it again.

As part of its new “Smellcome to Manhood” campaign, Old Spice began airing an attention-grabbing commercial called Momsong this week. In it, mothers prowl around their teenage sons who are out on dates, bemoaning the day “Old Spice sprayed them into men.” Moms hide behind curtains, hang onto car bumpers, and pop out of pull-out couches while their sons obliviously flirt with the fairer sex.

If it sounds odd, that’s because it is. Some of the adjectives used to describe it? “Freaky,” “creepy,” and “bizarre” – and, nearly universally, “hilarious.” Momsong is unquestionably strange, but it’s also the perfect mix of witty and weird. Most importantly, it’s gotten people talking. In just three days, the commercial garnered more than 1 million YouTube views.

Momsong isn’t the first commercial coup for Old Spice, a division of Proctor & Gamble. Although the brand name’s most iconic figure is probably the duffel-laden sailor returning from sea into the arms of a waiting woman, Old Spice has always excelled at marketing its line of body products. Add Momsong to the repertoire.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Old Spice, whose “Oedipal nightmare” is a PR dream come true.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Taking a chance on unusual ads is not for the faint of heart, but it’s something many companies consider under pressure to stand out. Old Spice gets away with wacky commercials because its name is embedded in American culture, and because it’s known for an unusual advertising approach. Lesser known companies should do careful market research and not skimp on the focus groups. A zany ad campaign can make – or break – a brand.

 

Samsung’s Embarrassing Moment at CES

 Samsungs Embarrassing Moment at CES

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Michael Bay and Samsung.

Being a trend topic on Twitter is something most people would pay good ad dollars for, but action movie director Michael Bay would probably pay to get off the feed. Making the rounds of social media and the morning shows is a videotape from tech convention CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, where Bay took to the stage for a talk – and then walked.

Bay was set to unveil the new Samsung UHD television, one of the big presentations at CES. The director of such blockbusters as Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and the Transformers series was introduced by Samsung Executive VP Joe Stinziano, and began, “My job, as a director, is I get to dream for a living…And what I try to do is…” He then faltered, saying the teleprompter was off, and promptly left the stage.

The spectacularly clumsy and uncomfortable few moments were, of course, captured as part of the conference, but could there have been a worse place than a gadgets convention for this to happen? Hundreds of phones recording it all, tweets sent immediately. A few rushed to Bay’s defense, but the mortification made the rounds by the time Bay posted a blog on his website. “Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES…I guess live shows aren’t my thing.” For a blockbuster director, that’s rather understated.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for director Michael Bay and Samsung, for an embarrassing show at CES.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know thyself, and say no. If live shows aren’t your thing, don’t do them. What could Bay have netted from this appearance? Surely the money couldn’t come close to what he’s made on a single Transformers movie. If he owed Samsung in some way, best to make it up with an offstage endorsement. Public speaking need not be part of one’s package. Those who are not born showmen would be better off letting others do the talking, with or without a teleprompter.

No Apology for Snapchat Security Breach

snapchatspeigel No Apology for Snapchat Security Breach

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel.

Does being CEO and founder of the Internet’s overvalued social fad of the moment mean never having to say you’re sorry? Looks like CEO Evan Spiegel of Snapchat, the self-deleting photo-messaging app, thinks so.

Hackers celebrated New Year’s Day by publishing the user names and private phone numbers associated with 4.6 million Snapchat profiles. The breach occurred after the start-up, whose very appeal derives from its promise of privacy, seemingly ignored an outside security firm’s warning about a security hole. Citing Snapchat’s months-long lack of action, the firm made the warning public on Christmas Eve.

It’s not the first time Snapchat and its founder have been called out for hubris, but this one could really cost. In the days after the breach, security experts lined up to predict class-action lawsuits and regulatory investigations. As for Spiegel,  he declined to offer any kind of apology or mea culpa, telling an interviewer that in a fast-moving business like his, “If you spend your time looking backwards, you’re just going to kill yourself.” An attitude like that could make Snapchat as short-lived as the photos its users share.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Evan Spiegel, for a tone-deaf response to a crisis that only a company lawyer could love.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Own your mistakes. A 22-year-old CEO of a $2 billion company, for all his genius and entrepreneurial skill, probably doesn’t possess the maturity to get beyond the “It’s not my fault” mentality. But Spiegel’s non-apology almost certainly came on advice from nervous lawyers that he avoid admitting culpability. It showcases the dynamic tension that typically exists between corporate legal and PR teams, whose overlapping missions occasionally chafe. We’ll see if Snapchat remains as blasé when users fight back.

Lululemon Founder Steps Down After PR Gaffe

 Lululemon Founder Steps Down After PR Gaffe

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to Lululemon, for taking a drastic measure.

Time was a company founder could be forced out of the corner office by flagging sales, tumbling stocks – the usual business problems. But with the advent of the Internet, one bad statement can take a company down fast. This is what Chip Wilson, founder and chairman of Lululemon Athletica, found out the hard way.

Yesterday the company announced that Wilson resigned as chairman of the board of directors after a series of PR gaffes that will make the textbooks. The upscale yoga and exercise apparel company initially irked its cult-like following with product issues. Wilson blamed some women’s bodies for not “working with” their designs.

His comments went viral and were met with demands for an apology. Wilson did apologize – to Lululemon staff for having to deal with the results of his actions. Insult, meet injury.

Lululemon was also a case study in crafting a devoted following. They felt betrayed. The logical solution was to serve a head on a platter. Wilson will remain on the board, but he’s been replaced by Laurent Potdevin, recent president of Toms Shoes. It’s suspected that Potdevin’s tenure with that socially conscious company will help put Lululemon back on track.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to Lululemon, for taking a drastic measure to calm some insulted customers.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Chivalry is not dead. At the heart of the Lululemon fiasco was a man who insulted his female constituency by blaming his product’s failure on their bodies. How to win them back? Show them that the company stands by its customers. Why, they’d sooner make their founder resign than let consumers feel bad! Desperate times call for drastic measures – none of which would have been necessary had Wilson not kept in mind the most basic principle of business: The customer is always right.

Amazon Drones: Bezos’ Folly or Smart PR?

 Amazon Drones: Bezos Folly or Smart PR?

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Distinctly OK) for Amazon.

Last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gave CBS news program 60 Minutes access to the world’s supply store, boasting that some day, “Anything you want on Earth, you’re going to get from us.” He showed how he envisions customers will get things, too, unveiling his grand plan for delivery: drones.

Yes, Amazon plans to use small flying machines programmed to deliver that must-have item to your door. Bezos’ calm delivery and demonstration of a drone model indicated that this wasn’t a joke, though it seems to have been taken as such.

The problems with drone delivery, including entanglement in trees and phone wires and the drones’ limited weight capacity made the idea ripe for humor. One meme shows men shooting rifles with the caption, “What’re you boys doing? Hunting for Christmas presents.” A fake Amazon delivery attempt notice reads, “Your package has been destroyed along with the drone after it strayed into restricted airspace.” Amazon got an infomercial on a news program by allowing unveiling a surprise that may have made been the butt of jokes but also got people talking.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Amazon.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Cultivate mystique and draw back the curtains – briefly. Amazon’s operations and Bezos’ strategies were recently revealed, in a not entirely pleasing light, in a book called The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. Two ways to deal with negative publicity: fight it, or distract from it. In this case, Bezos unveiled a pie-in-the-sky idea, complete with cute flying prototype. Insane or inspired? It hardly matters; whether people are joking about it or hoping for it, a week later they’re still talking about Amazon.

Walmart Chooses to Show Face Rather Than Lose It

 Walmart Chooses to Show Face Rather Than Lose It

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Walmart showing face.

Thanksgiving in America is a celebration of abundance, but not so for workers at Walmart. Just before the holiday break, petition group MoveOn.Org released a statement about Walmart  setting up a food drive to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving – not for the homeless or a charity bank but for their own workers.

A long-known fact that minimum wage is not a living wage has received special attention in the past year. McDonald’s employee budget sheet would have been laughable had the need for it not been so dire. Employees of fast food restaurants and retail stores are barely able to pay bills, buy food, clothe their families.

Yesterday, TV news magazine CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on “Fight for 15,” a campaign to raise minimum wage to at least $15 (the federal minimum wage starts at $7.25 and is adjusted at the state level). The report noted that “of all the corporations Sunday Morning reached out to, Walmart was the only one that would provide an interview.” While David Tovar, Walmart’s VP of Communications, was only quoted as saying that they “don’t want people to stay in entry-level jobs very long,” the fact that the demonized company allowed an interview was a bold move indeed.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to Walmart for showing face toward an ugly accusation.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Silence is not always golden.”Guilty as charged” is the only conclusion the public can, and will, draw from a corporation that turns down a request for interview. Given the way the Sunday Morning segment was edited whether direct questions weren’t asked or weren’t answered is unclear but Walmart main PR point was made: Walmart creates jobs. Not the entire story, to be sure, but the PR task at hand was to remove the demon mask from the corporation. Keep the good face on and there may be reason for all to give thanks.