Our Favorite Top 5 Public Relations Blunders List for 2007
Released in December 2007 was the 13th Annual Top Public Relations Blunders List, compiled by San Francisco's Fineman Public Relations
1. Turner Broadcasting: Buzz Marketing Gone Bust (reported everywhere, first
as a real scare!)
When Boston residents suddenly noted blinking, cryptic devices attached to bridges, bus depots and subway stations, they alerted city authorities, who shut down sections of the city to remove the devices and ensure that they were not related to a bomb threat or other terrorist activity. Turns out that Turner Broadcasting-affiliated Cartoon Network arranged for the covert placement of the battery-powered magnetic signs in 10 U.S. cities to promote offbeat program "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." Cartoon Network head Jim Samples eventually stepped down and criminal charges were filed against employees of consulting ad agency Interference Inc., in what an ad expert described to The Wall Street Journal as "the most significant blunder in the world of guerrilla advertising."
2. Ellen: Iggy Come Home! (reported everywhere!)
Ellen DeGeneres might have overdone it when she tearfully pled, during a taping of her popular talk show, for the return of Iggy, a dog she had previously adopted and given to her hairdresser's family after it took issue with her cats. On the other hand, Mutts & Moms, the agency she adopted it from, probably wasn't making the right decision when it repossessed the dog from its new family -- aggressively, on video, prompting criticism and threats from Ellen's fans after she gave them the tearful play-by-play. San Francisco Chronicle television critic Tim Goodman noted that " ... if you're Mutts & Moms, you've got to be thinking, 'Well, I guess we should have hired a real public relations person instead of Betty's daughter from payroll.'"
3. LA County Sheriff: "Not So Simple Life" (People.com)
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was widely criticized this year for reassigning socialite Paris Hilton to privileged home confinement -- complete with Mrs. Beasley's Gourmet Cupcakes -- after completing only three days of her 45-day sentence for violation of her probation for alcohol-related reckless driving. Baca told reporters that he had reassigned Hilton due to her "severe medical problems." Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times noted that "[releasing Paris] was big of [Baca], but [Los Angeles County Jail] is filled with people who have serious physical and mental problems. How many of them get sent home for cupcakes?" The problem, according to RadarOnline.com, may be the sheriff's "close ties to the Hollywood community."
4. If You Can't Stand the Heat ... (Slate.com)
Nobody loves a whiner, and that's exactly the part famed restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow played when he bought a full-page advertisement (http://gawker.com/assets/resources/2007/02/pete-wells-ad1.php) in the New York Times to decry Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni's no-star review of his Kobe Club steakhouse. Not only did Chodorow needlessly and heedlessly blast Bruni in the tiny-type, error-ridden rant, he actually chronicled the demise of two of his previous restaurants, Rocco's and Caviar & Banana, and paid handsomely for the privilege. Former Times food critic Mimi Sheraton wrote on Slate.com, Chodorow "was an to have run such an ad ... [because] of the added exposure of the negative review to so many who may never have read the original." Not to mention the negative media coverage that ran in newspapers from Stamford to Seattle.
5. "No Reporters? No Problem." (ABC News)
Already troubled by continued claims of inadequate disaster response and wasteful use of funds, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) truly fumbled when it held what the Washington Post described as a "phony press conference" in response to Southern California wildfires. "Questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters," "lob[bing] one softball after another so [Vice Administrator Harvey E. Johnson, Jr., could] praise FEMA's work," said the Post. Homeland Security Department head Michael Chertoff was reported by CNN, CBS and others to have said that "it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things [he has] seen since [he has] been in government." FEMA became defensive and insisted that reporters were expected -- albeit with only 15 minutes notice of the conference -- but did not show up, and that the questions posed by staffers were originated by reporters.
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