And the Academy Award Goes to… Embedded Ads

 And the Academy Award Goes to... Embedded Ads

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Ellen DeGeneres and the Academy Awards.

This past Sunday’s Academy Awards were long at over three and a half hours, but by all accounts most people came away satisfied – notably, advertisers, fans of host Ellen DeGeneres, who was a marketer’s dream pitch person, and the network, which enjoyed higher than usual ratings.

DeGeneres quickly established that this year’s awards would be less like the usual ceremony and more like a star-studded version of her talk show. She took selfies with celebs, ordered pizza to be distributed among them – there was fun spontaneity.

Or fun product integration, more like. The star-filled selfie was taken with a smartphone made by Samsung, one of the show’s sponsors. Mild oops when Ellen used an iPhone for later selfies backstage, and when Coke came with the pizza – sponsor Pepsi was not amused. But overall, the free-for-all worked: This year’s Academy Awards pulled in a higher viewership of 43.7 million, and sponsors love those eyeballs.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Ellen DeGeneres and the Academy Awards.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep both sponsors and viewers in mind. At what point does embedded marketing become obvious, even obnoxious? When it’s not fun. Show producers worked well with advertisers to come up with seemingly impromptu, entertaining ways to spotlight brand names. Not that viewers may even have noticed: A recent Frontline segment showed that young social media users have no idea what the term “selling out” means. Advertisers are moving away from the clunky early days of obvious product integration in movies and TV shows and into an age of clever brand spotlighting.

When Coke isn’t the Real Thing

COKENZ2 150x150 When Coke isnt the Real Thing

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Coca-Cola.

Death by Coca-Cola? The Coca-Cola Company is waging a PR battle in New Zealand after a coroner found that its signature Coke product likely contributed to the heart attack and subsequent death of a young woman, Natasha Harris. The coroner said this week  that the amount of Coke drunk by Harris likely created a metabolic imbalance resulting in an irregular heartbeat. He called for Coca-Cola to put warning labels on its products that make clear the dangers of excessive consumption and to consider lowering the caffeine content.

By all accounts, Harris’s Coke addiction was uncommon. She is estimated to have drunk between 6-10 litres (2-2.5 gallons) per day, the equivalent of more than 2 pounds of sugar and nearly 1000 milligrams of caffeine.  Routinely vomiting and having no remaining teeth of her own, one or more of her eight children was reportedly born with no tooth enamel. Even the coroner conceded that Coca-Cola could not be held responsible for Harris’ irresponsible use of its beverage.

When Harris died three years ago, Coca-Cola resisted the implication that its soda could be linked to her demise. This time around, Coca-Cola is saying it is “disappointed” in the coroner’s findings because there is no conclusive proof that Coke was a substantial factor in Harris’ death. Media outlets around the world are unmoved and sceptical.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Coca-Cola. When the coroner says your product contributed to someone’s death – and common sense supports that view – saying “Did not!” is guaranteed to create new problems and additional coverage.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Aim at the perception not the reality. While the coroner’s report may well have legal holes to be later fought in a court, the real battle here is the reputational risk of Coke being seen as inherently dangerous. Coke is not a nutritionist’s best friend but then again, neither does it kill people on a regular basis. A more persuasive statement would have been to point to the coroner’s own acknowledgement and stress that anything, including water, can be damaging when it’s taken in such dramatic excess. With a response like that, Cocoa Cola may only have had to deal with one day of troubling press coverage and not the multiple it is now facing.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) TO Hillary Clinton. For turning the tables in an argument, the prize must go to the now-former Secretary of State, who testified this week at a congressional hearing regarding the deaths of US personnel in Benghazi, Libya. The PR turning point? When Hilary fired off her exasperated question, “What difference does it make?” in response to one particularly long-winded question from a committee member. Rhetorically asked with a flash of obvious irritation, this was THE moment that captured the media. Bad news for the committee, but good news for Clinton; her question implied that the scandal critics and pundits were hoping for was a non-starter.  Ah! The power of a question to change the conversation.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO TO) Coca-Cola. In a reaction to never-ending statistics about the rise of metabolic syndrome – the name now given to the grouping of damaging physical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension – Coke launched a new initiative called “Coming Together.” In the heartwarming commercial, Coke assures us that “all calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola.” Translation: We’re blameless! Result? Critics pounced. The PR problem is that this tactic is akin to sharks saying they’re not dangerous unless you insert your leg in their mouths. Metabolic syndrome is a national conversation, but Coke must realize it’s one they cannot possibly be a part of without looking self protecting and insincere. Yes a calorie is a calorie but sugared sodas have never been the healthy eater’s friend.Have they?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” PR AWARD TO Beyoncé. After a rousing rendition of the national anthem at President Obama’s inauguration, rumors began to swirl: Was that performance live, or did Beyoncé lip-sync? Given the condemnation and amount of media attention this question was given, one would think lip-syncing was on a par with treason. The temperature on the mall hovered around 40 degrees; who could blame Beyoncé for not wanting to take chances with such a public performance? Much ado about nothing, and Beyoncé, whose megafame invites examination of her every move, would be wise to remain silent and keep them guessing.