Posted by Amanda Chapel Thursday, February 15, 2007
5WPR CEO Scores with Girls Gone Wild
Here’s one that comes with mixed emotions and deep regret. Got a note from someone I consider a friend yesterday. Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, sent me an e-mail announcing a new client. Good for him, I thought. Continued success, I thought. I love that guy! But here’s the twist: Turns out, the whole thing has made me really question his principles and judgment. Apparently, Ronn has decided to cash in on hot barely-legal girl-on-girl action.
Here's the deal: Wednesday 5WPR announced that they'd been hired by Mantra Films as agency of record. Mantra Entertainment produces the “Girls Gone Wild” video series. Maybe you’ve seen them advertised on late-night cable. The videos feature a camera crew patrolling bars and stalking college spring break-like venues in search of young attractive typically "crunk" girls who agree to expose themselves. Harmless one would think... sorta year-round Marti Gras. Show your boobies for a string of beads. Hey, I’ve done that! (So I'm told.) So what?
Anyway, my first reaction was to send a sincere congrats to Ronn. I even thought there might be a potential tie-in with Strumpette. What the hell! Women making a personal choice; owing their sexuality; that's powerful. All good right? Well, that’s at least what I was thinking first thing this morning. I got up, set and determined to write a wee bit of a puff-piece about 5W (truth be known). Then I started to do a little research on “Girls Gone Wild.” Googled variously. Ended up on their site. Yikes! Reread Ronn’s release where 5W is “to provide marketing communications support.” DOUBLE YIKES!! 5WPR in bed with a pornographer! Oh boy. I contacted Ronn directly.
Okay, let’s back up. A few weeks ago we ran a piece likening Ronn to a Rock Star in the PR Industry. He’s truly a master showman that does not disappoint. He delivers results. When it comes to publicity, he’s the man that’s going to make things happen. As we had said, Ronn's made a national name for himself for good reason. Funny, when we had completed the article, I had asked if he might send along a picture of himself sporting sunglasses and wailing on a guitar. He responded, “If I did (have pics) I wouldn’t send them.... it’s a PR piece and biz stuff.” I admired his judgment.
But Girls Gone Wild?! Ronn describes it as "an iconic brand which reaches 25,000 young consumers per week and has a unique position in today’s youth market."
See, that captures it. I think it's the girl-on-girl barely-18 tongue-to-ass action that has Ronn confused. But can you blame him? If that doesn’t describe PR today, what does?
In my conversations with Ronn and Kevin Mercuri, SVP at 5W, they provided the following rationale:
- PR agencies take on controversial clients just like lawyers represent controversial public figures. We may not be under oath like an attorney, but we are believers in the First Amendment.
- If we’re going to be chastised for working with Joe Francis (GGW CEO), then: 1. The agency that represents Hilton Hotels should also be chastised, since Hilton’s in-room pay-per-view volume is almost one-third porn; and 2. The agency that represents Time Warner should be chastised since they allow pay-per-view porn in hundreds of thousands of US households.
- Even large, respected companies have laundry lists. It’s a sad reflection on the state of business in the US, but laying the blame on that company’s external service providers isn’t the answer. This is what PR folks do. We create and maintain positive perceptions for clients.
- But you’re holding us to your own personal standards. If you were a gun control advocate, you’d have a similar reaction if we signed Heckler & Koch. If you were a staunch environmentalist, you’d gag if we signed General Electric. Hill & Knowlton represents the Bin Laden family. Does the fact that GE makes energy-saving light bulbs for American households absolve them for polluting the river and poisoning children?
- He [Joe Francis] attends every single major event in the US - From the Grammys to NBA All Star Games.
- Youth is college market - Are they not having sex?
- Girls Gone Wild came to 5W PR because we’ve helped leaders in the entertainment world break into the business media and be recognized. Francis is generally recognized as the genius behind Girls Gone Wild, and boyfriend to various starlets; yet he presides over a 400 employee empire spanning the US and Europe that’s worth over one hundred million dollars. It’s our job to tell the bigger business story."
First to respond to 5W’s rationale: The lawyer analogy is crap. 5W is going to help them with marketing. With regard to "all companies have dirty laundry," no; they don’t. Furthermore, we’re not talking about what GGW did; we’re talking about what 5W is going to do.
Here's the bigger business story in a nutshell: Joe Francis is a pornographer that preys on the young and vulnerable and sells the booty to the seemingly endless parade of Chris Hanson perverts. 5W is going to help Francis sell more.
But that aside, this really comes down to PR 101. This is all about the perception of impropriety and guilt by association. Here:
Sorry to rain on 5W's dubious good fortune. Let’s look at the positive. Here are a few potential superlatives that we might draw from all this: I can imagine that they can now claim to be the home of the industry’s first Porn Practice. Certainly, “account service cums first.” Certainly, 5W will become renowned for their late-night “Bust-a-Nut Group Brainstorming Sessions.” And what client wouldn’t see the value in an account team that’s tested once a month? Lastly, it sure looks like the boys at 5W are like to single-handedly and feverishly reverse the overall female profile of the PR business.
Seriously, I predict this: This will be the basis of the industry’s largest sexual harassment suit ever.
Posted by Amanda Chapel Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Mea Culpa Sorta
In light of Dezenhall's excellent post about no apologies, I'd like to make an exception. This has been eating at me for about a week. We here at Strumpette would like to extend a sincere apology to Jeff Jarvis. Well... sorta.
Why? We've been called out for something by someone we deeply respect. A member of our staff here had a chat with Cluetrain author David Weinberger last week. David was insightful and also quite candid. The latter gave us pause. Frankly, to a person here, we were/are embarrassed. Not so much for what we had done; but rather, because we have disappointed someone whose favor and respect we value.
See... David is a white hat. He's an out-there theorist and likely card-carrying communist sympathizer but hell... he's a poor Harvard fellow. He may be all wrong, Cluetrain just might be the center of the biggest theoretical refutation in a decade, but his motives are absolutely pure. Sure, he'd love to sell a couple books, but so what. At the end of the day he's a philosopher with a deep passion for how the Internet is changing human relationships, communication, and society. No more, no less.
Anyway, we had called David last week to ask a few questions as to the subject of his new book "Everything is Miscellaneous." The subject soon became Strumpette and our often not so kosher tactics. Without mentioning any names, it was clear that we had played a little too rough with his buddy Jeff.
Okay, here’s our confession: With regard to Jeff (and others frankly)... we've been totally distasteful. We've been relentless and often heartless. As to Jeff specifically, we've called him a demagogue. We've accused him of being the Antichrist for Christ's sake. We've called him a former TV critic. We even referred to him as a U.S. Senator. In retrospect, the TV critic and Senator jabs might have gone just a little too far.
Seriously, this is Strumpette! That's what we do. We are a female Denise Rodman banging the boards of PR Blogging. If you're coming to the hoop in our house, you'd better come strong or you're gonna get mugged.
And that's exactly the point. David isn't coming to the hoop. He has no ulterior motive where 98 percent of what's out there does. Jeff does. This potential social transition is a big opportunity and he's seeing dollar signs.
Here's a little more perspective:
1. David's perspective comes from the venerated halls of academia. PR on the other hand was born under the big top. It's a circus of lions, tigers, elephants, Rubel on stilts and Gomes in the little fire truck. As such, we very much understand why David has a problem with PT Barnum interrupting his lectures (so to speak).
2. Strumpette is the dissident voice in a four-part harmony. We are the heckler in the midst of the junior-varsity cheerleading squad. That's our MO. We absolutely want to disturb people out from the trance of the lofty and false PR choir to pay attention to and examine the words.
3. We absolutely use ridicule as a tool to point out that the king has no clothes. And why not? It is in the fine and important tradition of satire. It's powerful and most effective. Proof is in the pudding.
THAT SAID... We absolutely recognize and respect: what's on the field is on the field and what's off is off. We certainly admit to trash talk. Our very aim is to take people out of their game. BUT, it's not personal.
Anyway... Jeff... if we've said ANYTHING that at all tweaked your feelings off the field, we are truly and deeply sorry.
END NOTE: Due out this May, "Everything is Miscellaneous" promises to be and interesting extension of Cluetrain. The book will deal with what happens when you lose the constraints of the physical on how you organize knowledge. David argues that in virtual world, it's much better to have giant pile of miscellaneous stuff tagged by users. The consequence is that ultimately this breaks hold on authority of idea-based institutions. The book is about the organizing principle of the "long tale."
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
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