Posted by Kailey Astor
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The web page opens with a quote from Nelson Mandela. The company claims it is taking the lead in fighting deadly diseases in Africa. In the News Archives, the top story describes a company announcement of a $2 million project to reduce poverty in Tanzania. The Clinton Global Initiative was the politically-correct venue at which this gift was proclaimed. The company is De Beers, the 118-year-old South African cartel which supplies 60 percent of all the diamonds in the world.
But like a schoolgirl from Encino, they lost it over Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio’s upcoming “Blood Diamond” sounds like sure Oscar bait. It will be released in December. Amnesty International is expected to get proceeds from the benefit premiere. It’s a story based on recent history: In the late 90s, Sierra Leone’s diamond mines were taken over by a bloodthirsty militia, which purchased weapons with the booty and used them to wage civil war that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced 2 million. DiCaprio plays a fictional mercenary who gets caught up in the mayhem.
According to the LA Times, DeBeers and the World Diamond Council together hired a phalanx of PR agencies, including the high-priced Sitrick & Co. to combat any impression left by this yet-unseen film that the diamond you were thinking of buying your honey financed human rights abuses.
These unromantic notions might suppress Christmas and Valentine’s diamond sales, DeBeers CEO Jonathan Oppenheimer fretted. He asked the filmmakers to include a disclaimer to the effect that everything’s okay now – all the bad diamonds are gone. The filmmakers declined. So the industry ordered up a multi-million dollar advertising and PR campaign aimed at assuring consumers that a diamond is still nothing more, and nothing less, than “the crystalline Revelator of the achromatic white light of Heaven.”
So far, the PR campaign has been a gem – for Leonardo DiCaprio, “Blood Diamond” and Amnesty International. For the diamond merchants—not so much. About the campaign, Amnesty International’s celebrity outreach director said, “Oddly, none of this is working in their favor. Everyone is asking, ‘Why are they doing this? What do they fear?’”
DeBeers wanted to call attention to the Kimberley Process, which was designed to assure diamond buyers that their purchases were murder-free. Attention has been paid. Now everyone knows that Amnesty International and the U.S. government believe the Kimberley Process is ineffective because it relies on taking the diamond importers’ claims on faith. The General Accounting Office last month criticized the Department of Homeland Security for failing to certify whether diamonds entering the U.S. are really from where their certification documents say they’re from. Homeland Security announced last week it will upgrade its inspections.
Meanwhile through a spokesman DiCaprio thanked the diamond industry for helping publicize his film. Amnesty International went further and said the industry’s response to the film has raised consumer awareness of the illicit diamond trade to levels much higher than when the civil war in Sierra Leone was in full cry and blood diamonds flooded the market.
A cashiers’ check equaling half the amount of money to be spent on the DeBeers and World Diamond Council’s campaigns, made out to Amnesty International, might have been the better PR play, in retrospect. But, alas, good PR advice, like a diamond, is rare.
Has anyone seen this site yet: realdiamondfacts.org (Real Diamond Facts)? A friend of mine just emailed it to me knowing how I feel about the blood diamond issue. Check it out - it's great that someone is willing to tell the "other side of the story" and go up against De Beers. Should be interesting to see what happens with the movie!
"A cashiers’ check equaling half the amount of money to be spent on the DeBeers and World Diamond Council’s campaigns, made out to Amnesty International, might have been the better PR play, in retrospect. But, alas, good PR advice, like a diamond, is rare."
Priceless. The thing about solid PR advice is that it is usually just that obvious: Do the right thing. Never knowingly deceive, never stifle the truth. And as your friends at Edelman now know, the truth will be laid bare soon enough.