January 19th, 2012
For all two of you who don’t already know, Paula Deen has Type 2 diabetes. Sounds like a stretch, I know. All those deep-fried Twinkies could not have possibly had anything to do with it. What’s drawing even more attention though is that not only has Ms. Deen been tucked away in the diabetes closet for three years (more on that below), but she has also timed her announcement with a deal to promote a diabetes medication. In the words of Ad Age contributor Eric Webber, “the irony has not been lost on the public,” and while this may result in some bad press for Paula, it’s also bad press for the industry. Webber does a great job explaining why this is bit of a booboo for all of us PR kids (so read the article), I wanted to highlight a few particularly good points.
Bad timing Deen’s claim that her limited knowledge of the disease kept her from going public says one of at least three things: 1.) Her doctors lied and told her she has something WAY more exotic than diabetes, 2.) she doesn’t know how to use Google (in which case, I have a great site for her friends to check out), or 3.) she had plans to time the announcement so that she’d be a prime candidate for a lucrative spokesperson deal.
Two steps back The do-gooders of the branding industry are fighting a seemingly endless battle against the stigma that people in PR, marketing and advertising are all soulless spin doctors who are only after dollar signs. Admittedly, there are folks who are only in it for the bottom line, but it certainly isn’t standard. As Webber put it, it gives the industry a black eye.
Celebrity endorsements “But, of course, I’m being compensated for my time,” we hear from Deen when asked about how she’s benefiting financially from the partnership. “That’s the way our world works.” Again, with the making us all look like money mongrels, especially when it comes to celebrity partnerships. There’s a common assumption that celebrity spokespeople are sell-outs, but Webber reminds us that not all of them are about the contracts. Some, like Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve, may not have agreed with Deen’s perspective.
Not sure if Deen and her team have been sitting on their hands in the three years that they’ve had to plan for these announcements, or if they thought that the Boy Scout motto of always being prepared didn’t apply to them. I’m guessing at least one person involved in this strategy (or lack thereof?) is scratching his head saying “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” What do you think was going on during the planning stages?