BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Globalisation furore hits Edinburgh Perriers

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

Peter Leone.

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

boycott itself.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in