Protest against global corporate power has stuck at the heart of
the Edinburgh Festival.
The event's comedy showcase for the past 21 years, the Perrier Awards,
is being boycotted by activists accusing the sponsor's Swiss parent
company Nestle of bad practice. The food and drink giant is accused of
promoting the use of baby powder milk products over breast feeding in
the Third World.
Leftfield comedian Rob Newman - who shot to fame as part of a comedy duo
with David Baddiel - set to release a 'sardonic' video about
globalisation in the coming weeks, sparked the furore with a
pre-festival interview in Scotland on Sunday, in which he told the paper
of his boycott, and urged other acts to follow suit.
The story was picked up by The Independent on 24 July, and pressure
group Baby Milk Action (BMA), seized on the comedian's un-canvassed
support for its own 20-year protest against Nestle.
Seizing on the Pr opportunity, it contacted its own supporters,
including former award winners such as Emma Thompson and Victoria Wood -
to pledge their support.
'We have been in overdrive answering media queries,' said BMA policy
director Patti Rundall. With no PR team other than herself - 'nor any
strategy to speak of', she admits the BMA has been responding to events
'on the hoof'.
'Our PR is non-existent. We rely on telling the truth. This has been our
busiest media period since the Church of England called for a Nestle
boycott in 1992,' she added.
On the other side, Nestle was jolted into life as the BBC ran an item
last Friday on a fringe group that had created the 'Tap Water
The Nestle UK press office responded by issuing a release defending its
Head of communications Denise Kennedy said: 'We've dealt with this issue
for years and consider this a blip. This is not an occasion to discuss
our PR strategy.'
Awards director Nica Burns, and past winners, have been made available
for media comment via PR firm, Anna Arthur PR (AAPR). 'Our strategy is
to steer clear of a debate about globalisation, and to focus on the
nature of the awards - to promote good comedy,' said AAPR spokesman
As PRWeek went to press, this strategy seemed to be working, and the
backlash against the boycotters had been at least as successful as the