Monthly Archives: January 2014

Scarlett Johansson should have thought twice before endorsing Sodastream

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When we hear Scarlett Johansson, we think cinema, blonde, sexy, maybe latest Marvel movie as well. But lately, Scarlett Johansson’s name has been associated with a much serious matter after she chose to appear in a Sodastream ad that will air during the Super Bowl in the USA.

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Factory in the West Bank

The Israeli company manufactures home carbonation systems that allow consumers to produce their own sodas at home. Their message has always been the eco-friendly part of their business but what has been left unsaid for some time is that they maintain a large factory in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, a territory captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by Palestinians. Recently, pro-palestinian activists have tried to draw the attention of the media and the public opinion on that matter, with some success, as many people have started boycotting the brand.

When Scarlett Johansson was revealed as the new brand ambassador though, it became a problem for Oxfam, a charity she has been an ambassador for since 2005. Indeed, Oxfam International opposes ‘all trade’ from Israeli settlements, saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights (source : telegraph.co.uk).

Scarlett Johansson has then decided to resign as an ambassador for the group, citing a ‘fundamental difference of opinion’. Following criticism, she released a statement on the Huffington Post’s blog (full statement here), saying that I believe in conscious consumerism and transparency and I trust that the consumer will make their own educated choice that is right for them. I stand behind the SodaStream product and am proud of the work that I have accomplished at Oxfam as an Ambassador for over 8 years. Even though it is a side effect of representing SodaStream, I am happy that light is being shed on this issue in hopes that a greater number of voices will contribute to the conversation of a peaceful two state solution in the near future.’

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The controversial Sodastream ad

Should Scarlett Johansson have thought twice before endorsing Sodastream while knowingly supporting Oxfam ? Probably, or she should have sought advice from a good PR practitioner beforehand. The power activists have today over organisations and their management decisions is not to be taken lightly. In their article Fringe public relations: How activism moves critical pr toward the mainstream’, Coombs and Holladay declare that ‘the activists act as the antithesis to the organization’s thesis. Synthesis occurs when the organization considers the needs of the activists.’ In that case, that’s exactly what happened to poor Scarlett, when Oxfam decided to push her towards the exit after activists’ criticism became louder and louder. However, instead of apologising, Scarlett Johansson chose to stand by her choice, resisting to the pressure. Bold move ? Certainly, but from a PR point of view, Miss Johansson should be careful when show business gets mixed with politics, as her reputation might take a big hit from this controversy, especially at a time when Israel and Palestine are conducting US-backed peace talks.

Bonus :

A recent video where Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe demolishes Scarlett Johansson’s support for Sodastream. Quite funny.

Source :

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/10597690/Scarlett-Johansson-defends-SodaStream-deal.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scarlett-johansson/sodastream_b_4661895.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2548557/Scarlett-Johansson-ends-relationship-Oxfam-SodaStream-endorsement.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-25958176

Coombs+Holladay-crtiitcalpr+excellencemodel

Further Reading :

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100257423/three-cheers-for-scarlett-johanssons-stand-against-the-ugly-illiberal-boycott-israel-movement/

http://www.markborkowski.co.uk/scarlett-oxfam-sodastream/

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Amazon.com : are they done ?

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One of Amazon’s warehouses

After the recent accusations Amazon faced concerning their working conditions, it has been very surprising not to hear them comment more on the matter. In fact, they are even trying to shift the attention of the media on their other recent achievements and innovations. Good PR strategy ?

As a great fan of cinema, music and literature, I have always been eager to find retailers that have the best offer. When Amazon.com was launched and soon became the number one online retailer for almost every sort of item, from CDs and DVDs to clothes and computer accessories, people discovered a new way to shop. Fast, easy and cheap.

Born in 1995, almost twenty years ago, the Internet giant had one of the fastest growth in Internet’s history, reaching $2,8bn of revenues within 5 years. Amazon has 51,300 employees, 13 times more than Facebook and they have an annual revenue of $48bn, 27% more than Google, to mention a few figures that undoubtedly prove that Amazon has become one of Internet’s biggest corporation (source : smartinsights.com).
Amazon describes the vision of their business as to : “Relentlessly focus on customer experience by offering our customers low prices, convenience, and a wide selection of merchandise.” Their vision is to offer “Earth’s biggest selection and to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.”

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As for customer’s loyalty, there is no doubt that Amazon has achieved that and that it is the key to their worldwide success. But recently, the innovative business has been strongly criticised in several countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The first time I heard about the working conditions at Amazon was during the interview of a French journalist, Jean-Baptiste Malet, in the talk show ‘Le Grand Journal’, who was talking about his experience as an Amazon employee. He wrote a book documenting his experience and how Amazon treat their employees and it is not a pretty image. Not long after that, Amazon workers went on strike in Germany, focusing on the issues of on-the-job injuries and mistreatment. Surprisingly enough, Amazon Germany executives then laid off hundreds of employees two days before Christmas. In the United Kingdom, unionshave criticised Amazon’s working conditions, claiming that the giant treats its employees like ‘robots with no say’ (source : heraldscotland.com). The BBC even secretly videotaped one of Amazon’s UK-based warehouse and found that the working conditions are so bad that a stress expert said it could cause ‘mental and physical illness’ (source : bbc.co.uk).

But the question here is : what does Amazon have to say about all those accusations ?
Well, as for now, not much. After the BBC broadcast its Panorama documentary called ‘Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click’, a spokesperson insisted that the company sought expert advice to make sure the shifts ‘comply with all legal requirement’, adding that ‘together we’re working hard to make sure we’re better tomorrow than we were today” and insisting on their employees’ well-being as their number one priority.

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Screenshot of results on Mashable for Amazon

I’m not sure that this statement convinced many people after journalists from many countries (France, the UK, Germany and even the US) all agreed on the poor working conditions at Amazon’s warehouses, having experienced it themselves on the field. Today, it doesn’t seem like Amazon is really worried about its reputation as they still hit the headlines with their new innovative shipping techniques and other drone-controlled fantasy deliveries.

Or is it actually their PR strategy to try and shape the news to their advantage in order to make people forget about the scandals that are hitting them ?

It may seem like an effective strategy for now, but in the long run, people will start questioning Amazon’s practices again and there will come a time when they will have to give real answers and even start changing their behaviour. They’d better start looking for a good PR agency right now.

Sources :

http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/amazon-workers-strike-in.html
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/amazon-working-conditions-criticised-by-union.23146894
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/amazon-hits-back-over-panorama-6337773
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25034598
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/amazon-working-conditions-criticised-by-union.23146894

Further Reading :

Malet, JB (2013) En Amazonie. Infiltré dans le meilleur des mondes. Ed Fayard, Paris.

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/01/week-amazon-insider-feature-treatment-employees-work

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/living-wage-petition-heads-amazons-office.html

http://www.nasdaq.com/article/amazon-workers-strike-to-continue-analyst-blog-cm313885

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/13/amazon-vs-walmart_n_4589724.html

http://mashable.com/search/?t=stories&q=amazon

http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2013/11/MALET/49762

http://www.boursier.com/indices/actualites/news/pre-ouverture-wall-street-amazon-et-mastercard-plongent-wal-mart-alerte-google-resiste-564567.html

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