Oct 27

“We are sorry the guy died, but what can we do?”

United Arab Emirates Swimming Association executive director Ayman Saad was direct and to the Products_image2-2660-d point when asked to comment about the death of 26-year-old American swimmer Fran Crippen this past weekend. He sighed and said (Saad?), “We are sorry the guy died, but what can we do?” What can one do? The answer is: a whole helluva lot more than the UAE Swimming Association apparently did.

Crippen was competing in a 10 kilometer open water race in the UAE and, according to a top official with FINA, an international organization governing swimming, likely died from overexertion. The ever-sympathetic Saad, added: “This guy was tired and he pushed himself a lot.” Oh. 

Other swimmers disagreed with Saad’s moronic observations. The winner, Thomas Lurz, said it was far too hot to even hold the competition. "The water was amazingly hot. There were many swimmers who had serious problems in the water,’ said Lurz. Several swimmers complained of dehydration and disorientation after swimming in the warm water and three were taken to the hospital. The UAE Swimming Association said the water was 84 degrees at the start of the race. Many other swimmers have said the water temperature was more like 90 degrees! Man, that’s bathtub hot.

Two reactions:

-      I’m not a competitive swimmer, but have competed in many long distance running events where the same exact thing happened. In April of this year, for example, I ran the Long Branch Half Marathon in 90 degree temperatures. More than 30 runners collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital. I stopped four or five times during the run and took a full month to recover from the severe dehydration. Too many race officials such as the ones in the UAE and Long Branch turn a blind eye when it comes to protecting the safety of athletes. They’re more concerned with getting the race started on time and pleasing the sponsors.

-      Saad’s comments have to rank on my all-time top 10 list of stupid remarks. Others would include:

  • “I’m not a witch,” Christine O’Donnell, Delaware Tea Party candidate and erstwhile witch.
  • “We seem to have a major malfunction,” NASA official witnessing the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding in mid flight.
  • “Mission accomplished,” President George W. Bush, declaring the war in Iraq won in 2004.
  • “The Gulf of Mexico is a big ocean,” Tony Heyward, erstwhile CEO of BP, immediately after the massive oil spill had occurred.
  • “I did not have sex with that woman,” President William Jefferson Clinton.

Help me here, Repman readers. What are some other all-time horrific public comments? Let’s create a list and ask Jack O’Dwyer, Paul Holmes or Erica Iacono to publish it. Hey, if we go about this the right way it could become an annual ‘Repman and friends Top 10 most stupid statements of the year’ kind of thing. Alternatively, we could give credit where credit is due and name our list, ‘The Ayman Saad Most Moronic Comments of the Year.’ What better way to pay tribute to that ass?’

So, send me your thoughts. Assuming I collect 10 or more, I’ll issue a press release and ask our crack agency publicity team to pitch it to one of the PR industry trades. I can’t think of a better way to ‘out’ Saad while paying tribute to the late Mr. Crippen.

A tip o' RepMan's the mountain climbing hat to The Danderoo for this suggestion.

Jul 07

If not us, who? If not now, when?

Two recent blogs on the subject of the ad industry awards event at Cannes both missed the
2010 Cannes Logo mark for different reasons.

The first, authored by Paul Taaffe, chairman and CEO of Hill and Knowlton (my alma mater) is a cautionary tale. In it, he laments the PR industry's poor showing in the recent competition. Taaffe worries that, if PR doesn't do a better job of putting our collective best foot forward, we'll lose future opportunities to the more creative and dramatic advertising types.
That's a flawed POV for a number of reasons. First, Paul forgets that ALL ad agency creative directors are frustrated Steven Spielberg wannabes. They create campaigns to win awards, not to sell products (which is one of the reasons why advertising finds itself in such a sorry state, BTW). Second, advertising has been operating in a 'video' medium for years so, naturally, their submissions would run rings around the typical three-ring binder we enter in a Silver Anvil competition. Third, who cares who wins the most awards? Clients want firms who can solve business problems, not win awards.

Paul Holmes weighed in on the Cannes competition as well but, predictably, had a different suggestion. Rather than sweat how many awards we don't win, Holmes suggests the PR industry needs yet another awards program (one that, presumably, would match the glitz and rock star quality of Cannes).

What we don't need right now is yet another awards program, especially when a double dip might be in the offing. Nor does PR need to prove itself the equal of advertising. We've already won that battle.

Instead, organizers of awards programs should focus on making them more equitable. Right now, every competition charges a fixed entry fee. That's wrong. It immediately skews the competition. It enables large agencies with big marketing budgets to submit scores and scores of entries. I recently judged a single category that contained 70 entries. No fewer than 20 were from Weber Shandwick. When I complained, I was asked to excuse myself from the judging.

Instead of fretting about besting our advertising brethren or convening yet another high-profile, high cost awards shindig we should, instead, be leveling the playing field. I'd like to see the two Pauls and their peers at the largest agencies and PR media properties put their heads together and figure out a tiered pricing solution for awards programs. Sure, Ketchum may not win another 117 Silver Anvils (which it proudly proclaims is more than any other PR firm in an ad), but wouldn't it be great to see lots more entries from small, emerging contenders?

It's high time our industry's power brokers paid attention to a real inequity. As Paul Holmes asks at the end of his blog, "If not us, who? If not now, when?”