Friday, July 22, 2011

9058: C’MON WHITE MAN! Episode 12.

(MultiCultClassics credits ESPN’s C’MON MAN! for sparking this semi-regular blog series.)

The yanking of Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ “Got PMS? milk campaign should come as no surprise to anyone. However, the surprise expressed by Jeff Goodby and the California Milk Processor Board demands examination. The subsequent promotional response by the advertiser and agency invites scrutiny too.

First, Goodby acknowledged that the “Milk Cures PMS” strategy is not new, and that a commercial focusing on the angle ran in 2005. NY Times columnist Stuart Elliott wrote:

Goodby, Silverstein and the milk board introduced a similar campaign in 2005 that was meant to humorously present men as suffering when the women in their lives had PMS. That campaign also drew complaints that it was sexist and offensive, but it continued through its planned run.

In other words, despite receiving complaints in 2005 that the message was insensitive, Goodby and the client replayed it in 2011—and even enhanced the offensiveness. That demonstrates serious arrogance and stupidity.

But wait, there’s more. The NY Times column recorded this Goodby comment:

The response “shows the power of social media as much as anything I’ve worked on,” Mr. Goodby said. “It’s a real tribute to the power of the Internet.”

Hey, Mr. Goodby, it’s also a real tribute to your ignorance regarding social media, as well as your audacity to attempt to blame social media for the failings of a reckless campaign. Social media simply permitted people to communicate their disgust. Your agency and client are guilty for having knowingly resurrected a disgust-inspiring message.

Rather than apologizing and cutting their losses, GS&P and CMPB are seemingly trying to defend themselves via a new website titled, “got discussion?” The website features the research and rationale behind the “Milk Cures PMS” strategy; plus, there are links to a variety of campaign critics. Visitors are encouraged to “continue the discussion” at Facebook and Twitter. The bullshit tactics are fucked-up on at least three levels:

1. The research and rationale are irrelevant—and it all ultimately proves GS&P and CMPB are idiots. No one would dispute the scientific data. How the agency and client chose to interpret and broadcast the information is the problem. There were endless ways to present such a claim in breakthrough fashion without offending the public. In this scenario, the key players picked a very wrong way that they knew was wrong.

2. Displaying links to critics is wildly insincere and cynically calculating. The website inventors were sure to balance the criticism with plenty of supporters, including the stereotypical comments that start with, “I’m a woman and I’m not offended.” Sorry, but having supporters does not lessen the authenticity of detractors. It’s like publishing remarks from Ku Klux Klan members to offset protests by the NAACP.

3. Encouraging online discussion clearly indicates GS&P and CMPB are digitally challenged. Ad agencies and advertisers do not control the Internet. Ever. Plus, critics are unlikely to “join the conversation” sponsored by the violators. People have already said what they wanted to say. If you’re not offering a downloadable coupon for free milk, there’s no reason to visit.

Of course, GS&P and CMPB have sympathizers whining that folks can’t take a joke, are too politically-correct, don’t understand the imperative for edginess in advertising, etc. Such condescending positions are tired, clichéd and hackneyed. To avoid the hassle of repeating the standard rebuttal, please read this.

For the record, MultiCultClassics is disturbed to recognize Goodby in this series for the third time, as the man’s advertising accomplishments definitely warrant praise and respect. But as Spider-Man often said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In the end, Goodby and the California Milk Processor Board are completely responsible for dumping a culturally clueless cow pile.


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