I've been trying to let this go for weeks now, but it's still stuck in my craw. Nagging at me like a curmudgeon with IBS. (That's irritable bowel syndrome, for those of you who don't subscribe to the AMA journal.) It was dishonest, sure, but what boldness!
Here's the deal: Back in March, a talent agency called CAA (once run by Michael Ovitz, until he left to join Disney and get fired for a cool hundred mil) ran an ad in the Hollywood trade papers congratulating its clients for their Academy Award nominations. Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge) and Kristin Scott Thomas (Gosford Park) were among the actors named. There must have been some very surprised clients reading that ad and discovering they'd been nominated. Odd, they hadn't been mentioned at the nomination ceremony. Nor were their names on the ballot. What's going on here?
Turns out, half of CAA's supposed list of 32 client nominees were, in fact, not. When questioned, the agency did not even counter with an "Oops, our bad or a "Sorry 'bout that or a "Gosh, how did that happen? Uh-uh. They took the offensive. "We just like to celebrate our clients, they exclaimed.
CAA's client lovefest was not appreciated, alas, by the Academy, which for some reason, figured honesty, authenticity, and integrity were more important than "celebrating. Sheesh. Who would you rather party with?
The Academy took out its own ads criticizing the bogus list of nominees.
(I think CAA went a bit too far putting WC Fields on the nominees list, as most people are aware that, sadly, he passed away two years ago.)
This incredibly silly but daring PR ploy is exactly the kind of thing publicists are supposed be known for, and here we are being outdone by a bunch of slick-talking agents. Shameful. Well, an agent may have devised the "celebrate defense, but damnit, a publicist (me) is going to expound on it. Maximize it. Take it up a notch.
Let me begin by "celebrating my editors, the Nobel Prize-winning Jonah Bloom and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Eleanor Trickett. Two finer wordsmiths I have never met. In addition to writing and editing some of the most stunning trade prose to be found in the English language, their tireless dedication to such causes as fighting poverty, illiteracy, and the senseless spread of curling has made them two of the most admirable figures of our time. They are well-deserving of their 2001 nominations as "Carbon-based life forms of the year."
In addition to its value in flattering bosses and clients, the "celebratory PR technique may be used to skirt unpleasant realities that surface in your personal life. "Your honor, I wasn't drunk, I was 'celebrating' non-sobriety. "Officer, I wasn't shoplifting, I was 'celebrating' materialism. "I wasn't cheating on you, I was 'celebrating' sexuality. And so on.
Publicists, the "no limits spin gauntlet has been thrown down by Hollywood agents. Let us rise to the task and accept the challenge.