Every October's push for "breast cancer awareness" brings another example of egregious pinkwashing, and this year was no exception. As if pink toasters, pink beer pong tables and even a pink Smith and Wesson handgun weren't enough, October, 2011 brought us pink, breast cancer awareness 12-gauge shotgun ammo, courtesy of Federal Ammunition.
The Center for Media and Democracy is asking Congress to reject a bill that could "open up everyone's cell phones, land lines, and business phone numbers, without their consent, to a flood of commercial, marketing and debt collection calls," according to a letter signed by the Center and a number of public interest groups. The Mobile International Call Act of 2011 amends the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a statute that regulates telemarketing and limits telephone solicitations and robo-calls. The bill purportedly makes sensible updates to the TCPA to allow consumers to be notified about fraud, appointment cancellations, drug recalls, late payments, and the like. However, other provisions of the bill would allow businesses to make pre-recorded robo-calls "for any commercial purpose that is not a solicitation." This applies to any consumer's cell phone, even for those that have placed themselves on the Do-Not-Call list. The bill also exempts modern automated predictive dialers from the TCPA, "permitting repetitive 'phantom' calls to cell phones doctor's offices, hospital rooms and pagers."
Today's teenagers are probably the most savvy generation yet when it comes to filtering out advertising, but that is no worry for junk food and drink companies who steadily deploy stealthier and more sophisticated interactive promotions that specifically target teens and exploit their emotional and developmental vulnerabilities. The newest generation of internet-based junk food promotions uses cutting edge marketing techniques with names like "augmented reality," "virtual environments" and "neuromarketing" -- the use of scientifically-devised digital marketing techniques that trigger teens' subconscious emotional arousal.
October is fast approaching, with its annual deluge of pink ribbons and cause marketing campaigns that leverage emotions surrounding breast cancer to sell products. In past years, PRWatch has reported on questionable "pinkwashed" products like buckets of fried fast food, cringeworthy "I Heart Boobies" bracelets marketed to teenagers, and even a pink "breast cancer awareness" Smith and Wesson handgun.
This year, the Susan G. Komen Foundation -- the nonprofit organization that created the corporate phenomenon of pinkwashing -- is hawking its own highly questionable pinkwashed product: a perfume called "Promise Me" that retails for $59.00 a bottle and reportedly contains chemicals, some of which are not listed on the label, that are a suspected hormone disruptor, a known neurotoxin and an anticoagulant banned for use in human food, respectively.
Businesses are seeking to cash in on the emotion generated by the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks by selling 9-11 related swag. The vintner Lieb Cellars released 9-11 commemorative bottles of wine priced at $19.11 per bottle, with "up to 10 percent" of the proceeds going to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Reebok is offering 9/11 commemorative sneakers and gloves, and a website called Ruby Lane is selling 9/11 commemorative cribbage boards with the words "Never Forget" emblazoned on them for $115. An assortment of 9-11 musical snow globes are for sale on EBay, including one that "features a revolving subway on the base of the globe that plays the theme of New York, New York when the globe is cranked." Consumers also need to be on the lookout for rip-offs involving the sale of 9/11 commemorative coins. A website cleverly named Govmint.com is charging a whopping $495 each for $1 Silver Eagle coins dated 2001 that it claims came from a vault that was dug up from under the rubble of the twin towers.
Food and family bloggers across New York received invitations from celebrity TV chef George Duran to attend an exclusive meal at an intimate underground Italian restaurant that had just popped up in the Village called Sotto Terra. The invitation promised "a delicious four-course meal," the Chef's "one-of-a-kind sangria," a discussion about food trends from a food industry analyst and "an unexpected surprise." Upon confirming attendance, bloggers got extra tickets to give away to their readers. But instead of a fresh Italian meal prepared by Duran, diners were quietly served Marie Callender's Three Meat and Four Cheese Lasagna, a frozen food line produced by ConAgra.
American Legislative Exchange Council corporate member Diageo, PLC, which owns Smirnoff, Ketel One, Captain Morgan, Cuervo, Crown Royal, Johnnie Walker and other hard liquore brands, will ramp up its spending on TV ads targeting Hispanics by 3,000 percent to convince them to drink more hard liquor instead of beer. In the past, hard liquor ads on Hispanic TV have been rare. Diageo spent $147.7 million on advertising last year, none of which was spent on Spanish-language network TV. But now Diageo has announced it will start pouring money into ads on the Univision network, which owns 36 Spanish-language TV stations covering 60 percent of the country. Diageo is basing its new Hispanic targeting on U.S. Census data that showed a 43 percent increase in the Hispanic population over the past decade, and statistics showing Hispanics tend to buy more beer than hard liquor compared to other groups.
ABC is dominating other news outlets this summer with stories about pretty, white women in distress. The network's special about former kidnap victim J.C. Dugard garnered 15 million viewers, which prompted ABC to re-broadcast it at a later time and date. ABC sent out a press release boasting that its primetime Nightline special about then-accused child-killer Casey Anthony won the network biggest audience it has had in that time slot in five months. After paying Anthony $200,000 years ago for video and pictures to help bolster her story, ABC held nothing back after Anthony was acquitted, grabbing the first juror willing to speak to cameras and having Barbara Walters interview Anthony's attorney on TV. ABC devoted more than twice as much time to the Casey Anthony story as either of its two rival broadcast networks (22.9 minutes, compared to NBC's 8.4 minutes and 5.4 minutes on CBS). ABC even hired pretty, blonde former kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart to comment on missing person cases, even though this type of crime is fairly rare. ABC argues that their hiring of Smart, the extensive coverage of J.C. Dugard and Anthony are all coincidental. Critics say ABC is falling victim to "Missing White Woman Syndrome," the phenomenon where news reports disproportionately favor coverage o crimes committed against young, attractive, white, middle-class women, while crimes committed against females of lower-class backgrounds and different ethnicities, and crimes committed against males, get less coverage.
Internet users can't avoid those obnoxious, animated ads showing a cartoon woman with a flabby belly that shrinks, and then gets flabby again, over and over. The ad urges people to click to get "1 weird old tip" to help lose weight. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says the ads are really a three-part scam: First, people click on the ads and get taken to websites with names like "ConsumerOnlineTips.com" or "WeeklyHealthNews.com," that appear to be about dieting or health news. Next, those sites show an attractive TV reporter discussing the benefits of incorporating specific products made from berries, fruits or hormones, into the diet. The sites carry positive information about the products, supposedly from credible news sources like CNN, USA Today or ABC, and include brief "reader comments" extolling the virtues of the product. Those sites link to another site where people can order a "trial sample" of the featured product. But people who order the free sample find out later that they have actually agreed to pay $79.99 for an additional shipment of the product two weeks later, and another $79.99 for a shipment six weeks later, and so on until they cancel -- which apparently isn't easy. According to the FTC, the sites are a scheme to grab consumers' credit card information and pile on additional, unapproved charges. The ads have led to thousands of complaints of unauthorized charges. The FTC has filed multiple lawsuits against the people and companies behind the ads.
Glenn Beck may have ended his controversial talk show on the Fox News Channel, but he's far from gone. Die-hard fans will still be able to listen to him on the radio for free, see his show for a fee, and then some. Beck plans to keep doing a three-hour-a-day radio talk show filmed by six TV cameras that will be available either live or on-demand. He also announced "GBTV," an internet-based, subscription webcast "reality series" produced by his company, Mercury Radio Arts. For just $4.99/month plus an internet connection and a $60 box from a service called Roku, fans will still be able to stream Glenn Beck onto their TV sets starting in September. For just a tad more -- $9.95/month -- fans can join Beck's "Insiders" club to get the privilege of being able to both watch Beck's show on TV AND view video of his daily radio program. Fans who can't wait until September and already belong to Beck's "Insider Extreme" club will be able to see a preliminary show-about-Beck's-show called "The Making of GBTV." Beck also announced a new, non-profit humanitarian project called "Mercury One" aimed at "saving America," and a new Glenn Beck clothing line called "1791: The Original Blueprint," the name of which is derived from the year the Bill of Rights was signed. The style will be all-American items like polo shirts and long-sleeved button-downs, the clothes will be manufactured in the U.S.A. and proceeds will go to charity. The loss of his TV show hasn't set Beck back too far financially. Beck will reportedly be moving to a mansion in Dallas, Texas that rents for $20,000/month.