"What I learned in 2011." - Steve Wehrenberg, CEO, Campbell Mithun
Recently I participated in a panel discussion at the U of M on the topic: “That’s a Good Question: Strategic Communication, Law and Life as a Professional.” The panel was moderated by Gordon Leighton, Lecturer and M.A. Program Coordinator, and included John Pickerill, a trademark attorney at Fredrickson & Byron, and Jeff Falk, University Relations.
The focus of the panel discussion was First Amendment rights and free speech as it applies to strategic communications. We considered examples of companies countering negative media stories, specifically the case of Nike’s response several years ago to criticism of labor conditions in its contract factories.
Nike used a PR campaign that included news releases, charitable donations and the appointment of a “VP of Corporate Responsibility” to present itself as a “responsible global citizen.” A consumer activist tried to sue Nike on the basis that certain PR statements made by Nike were false and misleading. Nike’s defense was that their PR campaign was protected under the First Amendment, and that a private individual cannot use the courts to police what companies say about themselves.
The Supreme Court of California made an interesting ruling: they determined that “when a corporation, to maintain and increase its sales and profits, makes public statements defending labor practices and working conditions at factories where its products are made, those public statements are commercial speech that may be regulated to prevent consumer deception.”
Whoa! That’s pretty earth-shaking for those who have believed that PR was sort of exempt from the regulations covering advertising. In the end the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to decide whether Nike’s corporate ads and statement were protected by the Constitution’s right to free speech.
Indeed, these days, the lines are blurred. Strategic communication students need to be more aware than ever of how various areas of the law, including privacy, copyright and trademark, may impact their everyday work.
One of the journalism professors posed this question: Which comes first, ethics or the law? My answer: the law exists first, and marketing ethics requires that agencies always keep in mind possible legal ramifications when creating advertising on behalf of our clients. In this regard, Campbell Mithun is responsible for following IPG’s standard policies and procedures.
A closing sentiment: Communications can be fun and entertaining, but, as I often say, we should strive to push the creative envelope, not the legal one.
--Carolyn Carter, Manager of Legal Compliance (and friendly rule enforcer)
Parking by phone at MOA
Campbell Mithun’s new Land O Lakes® Butter campaign asks consumers a big question: “Do you know where your butter comes from?”
The sweet cream in Land O Lakes Butter comes from fresh milk produced by Land O’Lakes Cooperative farm families across the country, of course. But why tell people when we could show them? We decided to film two Land O’Lakes farm families, located just a mile apart in central Pennsylvania. Despite Pennsylvania’s severe flooding and threats of washed out bridges, we set off to talk butter and what makes it great.
A Simple Plan
CM would capture footage for the new online campaign as well as longer interview segments for the Land O’Lakes website.
With limited budget and time, our production would be modest; we would do the shooting/directing/recording ourselves.* And we’d do it in one day. We had a Canon 5D Mark II, a basic field audio package and crossed fingers for the rain to stop.
Lights, Camera, Moooooooooo
We knew it was a good sign when we woke up to sunlight. Our luck continued as both families graciously let us take over their farms, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. They put up with things like wardrobe suggestions, tedious attempts to manipulate natural light, and being asked to repeat their answer because the cows were too loud.
Both families had young kids who politely did what we asked, though we suspect they would have rather been playing with farm kittens than hanging out with advertising people.
Both families were honest and insightful when discussing hard work, raising children, and being part of something important. More than one CMer got a little teary during the interviews. And it’s hard to wipe your eyes when you’re holding a boom.
What We Learned
· Cows don’t care if you’re recording sound; they’ll moo when they want to.
· Farm families face the same challenges as all of us, like getting a meal on the table every night.
· Farm dads are uncomfortable wearing make-up. But it makes their daughters giggle.
· Scrapple, a meat-based breakfast delicacy to Pennsylvanians, is an acquired taste.
· Land O’Lakes farm families work every day to produce a product they’re proud to put on their own table. And that’s what makes Land O’Lakes butter so good.
After a long day, we were tired, dirty and thrilled with everything we’d captured. And as hard as farming is, the Land O’Lakes families were happy to get back to it.
*CM’s production crew consisted of Heath Rudduck, CCO (shooter/director); Randy Gerda, art director (boom operator, if you can call resting it on your head “operating”); Richard Pizarro, editor (2nd camera guy); Bill Smallacombe, producer (sound master/caterer); Peggy Arnson, writer (interviewer) and Lisa Greenberg, account director (team-wrangler).
-- Peggy Arnson, associate creative director, cow-shusher