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.

Team Romney’s Big Kiss-Off

 Team Romneys Big Kiss Off

The PR Verdict: C (Distinctly OK) for Romney spokesperson Rick Gorka.

Rick Gorka, mind your manners. Gorka, Mitt Romney’s press spokesperson, is in the news for losing his temper on Romney’s already rather problematic foreign tour. Having generated negative headlines in the UK and in the Middle East, the Romney campaign now finds itself in the media spotlight again because Gorka, its spokesperson, told journalists to “kiss [his] a**” and “shove it.” Now, is that any way to behave–especially for a spokesperson?

On the other hand, who can blame him? This tour has not been the most wildly successful of trips. Gorka’s not-so-friendly advice to the press corps came after journalists fired questions from behind a rope. Reporters from the New York Times, CNN, and Politico.com yelled questions about Romney’s European gaffes, wanting Mitt to respond. Gorka, on his last nerve, told them exactly how he felt.

The media went wild, Mitt looked embarrassed, and Gorka made personal apologies to the journalists concerned the next day. Any harm done? Hard to say. Everyone has an off day, and if Gorka has media relationships worth anything, one might hope this will be forgiven. What seems the bigger issue is the media’s complaint about access to Mitt himself, and that might be worth a rethink.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Rick Gorka. At least he said “sorry” quickly and turned the page, but is there a wider issue at play?

The PR Takeaway: Apologizing is the easy part. The persistent complaint from the media is that Romney has simply been unavailable for much of his grand tour. In this latest blowup, the journalist yelled at Gorka, “We haven’t had another chance to ask a question!” Since Romney’s tax issues put his PR team on alert, the media have been complaining about restricted access. Romney did not address members of the press flying with him on any of the three charter flights–two that lasted more than four hours. One sure way to annoy the media? Ignore them. And for that, Gorka may be apologizing for some time to come.