May 13

The historical atrocity that is the Jonathan Rhys Meyers portrayal of King Henry VIII

May 12  
the time of his death in 1547, the 55-year-old British King Henry VIII stood
6’2”, boasted a 53-inch waistline and weighed more than 400 pounds. According
to various reports, he most likely suffered from Type II diabetes, syphilis,
gout or some variation thereof, and his painful, pustule-riddled leg forced
minions to not only create mechanical devices to hoist the immobile monarch
from his bed, but flee from its horrific odor. I bring you this tidbit of
unsolicited history because of my escalating disgust with the Jonathan Rhys
Meyers ‘interpretation’ of Henry Tudor in Showtime’s ‘The Tudors.’

held my tongue for the past four seasons because, until lately, Rhys Meyers had
been portraying the youthful ‘rock star’ Henry. This younger Henry was a
world-class brawler, hunter, composer (‘Green Sleeves’) tennis player and, most
obviously, womanizer.

though, time has passed. And the historical Henry is now long in the tooth.
From an historical standpoint, Henry VIII is now 49 and being cuckolded by his
fifth wife, 17-year-old Catherine Howard. Yet, in a sleight of hand that would
dazzle even Dorian Gray, Rhys Meyers has not aged one iota. Nor has he gained a
single ounce of fat. In fact, except for an occasional limp, Rhys Meyers looks
like the rock star Henry he portrayed in season one.  Even the damn limp
seems to be a minor annoyance at best, and has a nasty habit of disappearing
from one scene to the next (which reminds me of Marty Feldman’s classic
character ‘Igor’ in ‘Young Frankenstein’, whose hunchbacked lump would move
from one side to the other in successive scenes). As for height and weight, the
inaccuracies are off the blooming scales! According to Rhys Meyers’ web site,
he’s 5’10” and weighs 155 lbs. Knowing how badly actors fudge their vitals, I’m
guessing Rhys Meyers is closer to 5’7” and 140lbs. So, he’s seven inches
shorter and 250 pounds lighter than the character he portrays. Oh, and Henry’s
hair was orange-red. The actor’s is dark brown.

a result of this total charade, I’m officially placing Jonathan Rhys Meyers in
the Repman Hall of Shame for worst casting ever. Other members include: 

– Gary
Cooper as Lou Gehrig in ‘Pride of the Yankees.’ Cooper batter right-handed in
the movie even though Lou was a lefty (and Cooper was a weathered-looking
50-something trying to portray a teenaged Lou at Columbia University. Ugh.).

Goodman as Babe Ruth. Babe was big, but he was never
that big.

Bendix as Babe Ruth. Bendix’s total lack of athleticism was laughingly bad.

Costner as Robin Hood. A Hollywood accent in Sherwood Forest. Not likely, mate.

Cruise in Valkyrie. See above for accent abuse.

actor portraying Abraham Lincoln (if you have a chance, check The History
Channel’s ‘History of Us’ mini-series. You’ll see the Lincoln character
surrounded by men his own height. Never happened. At 6’4”, Lincoln was our
tallest president. And, he lived at a time when the average man was, well Rhys
Meyers-sized. He towered over one and all).

casting can undermine the integrity, image and reputation of a production. In
the case of the Tudors, it has positively ruined what was an otherwise
enjoyable mini-series. One only wonders what the real Henry and his six wives
must think of the Rhys Meyers character. Knowing Henry Tudor, he’d probably
scream, ‘Off with his head!’ 

May 12

From PR to PM

Guest post by Carl Foster, Peppercom London

May 12 london  A common gripe in our industry is that PR doesn’t have
a ‘seat at the table.’ Well, in the UK one PR man has blasted past the table to
become Prime Minister. Last night, in the most exciting political drama seen in
Britain for 65 years, David Cameron got the top job in the country.

David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party
in 2005 (as Carl
at the time), but before that he was head of corporate communications
at Carlton Television. However, to define him as a ‘PR man’ is somewhat
inaccurate. Cameron became a researcher for the Conservative Party right after
graduating from Oxford and then went on to become a political advisor for the
then Prime Minister, John Major and also the Treasury. Cameron was well aware
however that if his political ambitions were to be fulfilled he needed to
demonstrate success outside of the world of politics. According to
in The Guardian, the mother of
Cameron's then girlfriend Samantha, Lady Astor, contacted her friend,
Michael Green, then executive chairman of Carlton. Apparently she suggested he
hire Cameron, and Green

How did this political animal perform as a Public
Relations Officer? The former business editor of
The Sun, Britain’s
biggest selling newspaper, described Cameron as a "poisonous, slippery
 Highly respected
business journalist, Jeff Randall, said, “In my experience, Cameron never gave
a straight answer when dissemblance was a plausible alternative” and that he
would not trust Cameron “with my daughter's pocket money.” Not good. But to be
fair, Cameron was the conduit between the media and Sir Michael Green, someone
with a fiery reputation and a dislike of journalists. Additionally, Carlton TV
was trying to navigate the new fangled world of digital TV when the behemoth of
BSkyB was way out ahead already. Perhaps the greatest lesson Carlton taught
Cameron was that no amount of presentation and PR could overcome a broken
organisation with a leader that doesn’t prioritise communications.

Cameron has bought the Conservatives a long way since
2005 and has fundamentally changed the party (albeit not as radically as Tony
Blair transformed Labour into New Labour in the 1990’s). What comes now is
anyone’s guess. The Conservatives won more seats and votes than any other party
in the election on May 6
th but did not win an overall majority. Last
night, in the
dramatic 90 minutes
British politics has seen in half a century, the
Conservatives struck a deal to form a coalition government (the first since
Winston Churchill’s in World War Two) with the Liberal Democrats. The Tories are
going to need more than good PR though if they are going to bring the
change they promised in their campaign.

May 10

To Play or Not to Play?

post By Rebecca Maas and Alyson Buck, Peppercom

May 10  
read the details surrounding
Love’s death
is difficult. To understand is impossible. Countless articles,
news segments and blog posts have revealed the violent – and alarming –
behavior of her alleged killer and ex-boyfriend, George Huguely.

he sits in prison, Love’s University of Virginia family – friends, teammates,
coaches and faculty – are left to pick up the pieces. We sure don’t envy UVA
president John Casteen or Athletic Director Craig Littlepage – and the series
of decisions they face to properly honor Love, while also keeping the
reputation of the University community in mind.

decision to keep Virginia’s women’s (ranked no. 5) and men’s (ranked no. 1)
lacrosse teams in the NCAA tournament for the national championship had to be
tough. How do you balance the emotions and fragility of spirit of these players
with the legitimate shot each team has at winning this whole thing?

a look at both sides.

To play…

one hand, the college and surrounding community must move on from the tragedy.
The school cannot punish the entire student body and lacrosse clubs for the
actions of one. Politically, UVA must be fair and allow the teams to compete
and complete their seasons if they so choose. To play is a tribute to Love. Her
high school alma mater Notre Dame Prep
by writing Love’s number – 1 – in eye black on their arms and legs.
In a way, participating in the NCAA tournament is a similar gesture by the UVA
men’s and women’s teams – the teams will play in honor of Love, which will
rally the community and show solidarity against the crime that resulted in her

addition, university athletics, especially at the Division I level, are a huge
recruiting tool for the schools. Since UVA’s men’s and women’s teams are so
well positioned to vie for the title, the school essentially had an obligation
to participate in the tournament in order to stay competitive with other
schools with similar offerings and athletic programs. By participating in – and
potentially winning — the tournament, UVA will attract the attention of high
school students nationwide who may choose the University for its

not to play

what if the decision had gone the other way?  By withdrawing from the
tournament, the University could have avoided an extended stay in the spotlight
– a constant reminder of this tragedy. Even if either or both teams do well,
its presence at the tournament will continue to spark commentary and sympathy
linked back to Love and the night she died. And what about lacrosse as a sport?
It certainly has seen its share of scandal (no comment on the irony that
Huguely attended the same prep school as a number of players involved in the
incident at Duke University) and the overall image of the sport is shaky at
best. There are thousands of young kids who play lacrosse and – like Yeardley
when she was younger – dream of playing for a top-ranked school like UVA. No
doubt they will be glued to the contests, idolizing the collegiate players who
are older, stronger, and more talented. Won’t it reinforce
mindset that lacrosse players are invincible
and rules don’t apply?

Till, a research fello
with the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation in Washington,
D.C., wrote in a
on Friday:

fact that Huguely was at times reckless and violent, particularly when drunk,
and was alarmingly
 obsessive about
Love, would have been recognized by fellow players, and perhaps coaches, too,
and certainly should have been addressed. The fact that this was not his first
 interaction with Love
is the strongest charge against the friends and teammates that failed to
recognize the severity of the situation.”

point the proverbial finger at the players and coaches is an easy out in our
opinion. Would playing say that the sport chose to turn a blind eye to the
situation – or worse, accept violence as acceptable behavior
? Unfortunately, this men’s lacrosse team at the
University of Virginia did not stand up to a team member who acted out of line,
nor support him during a time when he so desperately needed help. By not
playing in the tournament, this team can instead devote the time and energy to
take an honest look at its commitment to teamwork – while at the same time
setting an example to the lacrosse community at large.

the authors understand there is always more to the story and that we don’t have
the full picture of the individuals involved in this tragedy. This post on
research of media coverage only, not of personal accounts of individuals
involved in the situation.

May 07

The (not so) good, old days

had the opportunity to dine with two Peppercom alumni last night. I hadn't seen
one for several years and the other for at least a decade.

May 7  Talk
naturally turned to the good, old days and some of the crazy dotcom clients
from with whom we'd worked. To wit:


The group of Israelis who, until they leased their own Manhattan office space,
walked up and down our hallways day after day screaming in Yiddish into their
cell phones.

The 23-year-old PR director of another dotcom who, in our brief kick-off
meeting, dropped more F-bombs than the entire cast of Goodfellas did in their
two-hour plus movie. This ill-mannered young lady later went on to be named a
PR Week Young PR Professional of the Year. Talk about a f**king injustice

The dotcom CEO who, on the day of his firm's IPO, went ballistic on our hapless
account supervisor for some slight transgression. The latter now practices law.

The 'me-too' dotcom company who aspired to be seen as nothing more than another
Scient or Sapient so they could make the same kind of killing when they did
their IPO. We ended up suing them for unpaid fees after they went belly-up.

The brand-new dotcom client I confronted after learning from a Peppercom job
prospect that her agency was actively pitching the account. We fired the client
on the spot. That was fun.

The dotcom client that hired us in the morning and, after learning their
funding hadn't come through, fired us the very same afternoon. They still hold
the record for shortest client relationship ever. 

then, the talk turned to the employees. Because we were growing at an annual
clip of 75 percent, we hired anyone who could walk and chew gum at the same
time. So, we had:

– The employee who, one month after joining us, strolled
into my office, sat down, folded his arms behind his head and sighed, "You
do know I'm working on two of the hottest btob tech accounts in the nation
right now, correct?" I nodded my head. "Well," he continued.
"I want a raise and promotion now." Let's just say he moved on to
another agency shortly after that conversation.

One employee who got in a heated argument with a client, telling the latter he
had no clue what public relations was all about and singlehandedly killed the

Another employee who, on his first day of work, simply disappeared after lunch.
We sent out a search party around 4pm and found him chatting amiably with a
friend at a nearby Starbucks. He didn't think there were time limits to lunch

The two employees who, anticipating today's vitriolic Fox vs. MSNBC shout
downs, would scream at one another on subjects ranging from gender and race to
dress code and education. That sure made for a great workplace culture.

those were the days. Today seems so pale by comparison. How about you? Any
memorable dotcom tales you'd like to share? 

May 06

Traditional print advertising is nothing more than white noise

May 6  
I engaged in my daily mental exercise of flipping through the pages of
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, it occurred to
me that I never, ever stop to read the print ads. In fact, I ignore them
completely. They're physical versions of white noise.

the average full-page ad in each paper runs about $100k per and that each
contains 40 or so full-page ads, I realized that marketers are probably burning
upwards of $4 million a day on this shotgun approach.

the exception of affinity publications (mine would include climbing, fitness,
running and outdoor trade press), I never read ads. And, I know I'm not alone.

ads are increasingly irrelevant because we live in a society suffering from
what Richard Edelman calls 'trust deficit' (See Richard's interview with new
PR Week Editor-in-chief Steve Barrett at Edelman's 100 percent
correct. Thanks to the shoddy behavior of such brands as BP, Tylenol (the
once-fabled gold standard), Toyota, Tiger, Goldman, the Catholic Church and
countless others, we simply don't trust what organizations tell us.

that's why PR is so beautifully positioned to fill the trust gap. We're all
about engaging in conversations with trusted sources
such as reporters and
influential bloggers who vet our messages first before putting them in motion

back to the utter irrelevance of mainstream print advertising. To test my
theory, I scanned the ponderous, premiere issue of
Bloomberg Business Week (now, there's a catchy name) and selected
three print ads at random. I wanted to see if they caught my attention,
communicated a clear and credible message and, critically, contained a call to
action. Here are the results:

May 6 - fish  
Headline: 'Is your business in shape to compete'? Visual: a school of fish
aligned in what appears to be the outline of a shark. The advertiser? Accenture.
My reaction? Ugh. Talk about bad timing. Who wants to see a school of fish when
we know millions are dying in the Gulf of Mexico as we speak? Plus, the message
is mundane, trite and overused. I'd grade it F.

Headline: 'NEC gives the Peninsula Shanghai what it needs – seamless service.'
The visual depicts a smiling Peninsula Hotel IT manager with some
happy-go-lucky bellhop in the background talking into his cell phone. My
reaction: I want a clean room, good service and palatable food from my hotel of
choice. But, since I'm not a hotel IT manager, I'm not interested in NEC's
I'd grade this one a C+.

'In my world, not connected means not in business.' This one's from Panasonic
and depicts a pretty angry-looking
businessman who, it would seem, can't get
his wireless connection. I sure hope he's not using Pa
nasonic's new Toughbook
computer. The problem with this ad is its total lack of credibility. I should
buy this Toughbook because Panasonic says so? Sorry. Not happening. I'd give
this print ad a

sure the marketing powers-that-be justify shotgun advertising in an age of
one-to-one marketing by arguing that it only takes one or two sales to offset
the wasted spend. I disagree. And, I think you'll see less and less print
advertising as social media, mobile, digital and other means with which to put
one's messages in motion become more mainstream.

for me? I'm buying that new pair of Sauconys I just saw advertised in
Men's Fitness

May 05

Hooray for Hollywood

Guest post from Gaetano LePoer

May 5
Throughout my life my passions have been sports, American history and the movies. This past week, in “
Wizard of Oz”-like fashion, I got to see behind the proverbial curtain of Hollywood.

My bucket list includes being in a Hollywood movie. With that in mind, I went to an open casting call for background actors for the upcoming HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce,” a remake of the original starring Joan Crawford who won an Academy Award for her role. Amazingly I was selected. The five part miniseries stars Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce and is a 1930s period piece that takes place in Los Angeles. Part of the movie, however, was being filmed in Peekskill, New York.  

As I prepared for the shoot, I knew the days would be long. After an initial report for wardrobe fitting and a 1930s era haircut, I had a 5:30 a.m. report for my first day on set. The folks who manage the background actors prepared us by running through our cues and pointing out where we needed to walk, stop, talk, etc. Their job is to synch the movements of the background actors to the main scene inside. My scene took place in a restaurant and my role was to walk outside on the street. During the eight to 10 takes for each scene, we’d repeatedly hear, “Cut!” “Reset!” “Let's do it again!” And then came my big break. The production team requested a “Lawrence Tierney” type – an old school, tough guy – to  stop near the front door of the restaurant while smoking a cigarette and talking to a friend. After a few hours of shooting, it happens. If you are a background actor and they are sure that you are going to be seen in a particular scene, you are finished. They don't want the same background characters showing up in later shot. 

While the directors, principal actors, wardrobe team, makeup people and set designers are true artists, I was shocked at the number of ne’er-do-well’s that were all over the set. The grips, best boys and gaffers are like a group of renegades from the used car business. As Howard Cosell would say, “they were the sleazy underpinnings” of a Hollywood movie. It really broke my expectation of the beauty of the Hollywood set. It was fun, but if there ever is a next time I will be prepared for the “Dark Side” of the business. In a sense, a movie is sort of like a hot dog – I still love them but I don’t ever want to see how they are made

May 04

But Today Is Supposed to be MY Day

Guest post by Beth Starkin, Peppercom 

May 4
Today is my birthday (for the record, I like vanilla cupcakes). Call me selfish, but I’ve always thought of my birthday as my very own special day. The one day out of the year where I make the all the decisions, do whatever I want, and no one bothers me. It’s a day all about me.

Alas, we’ve entered the digital age, where it seems everyone wants to co-op my birthday for their own profit. Starting weeks ago, the emails began rolling in. May 4th is coming up (like I’d ever forget – cake and gifts – it’s a big deal to me). We’ve noticed you have bought books by this author before and thought you’d like to know she has a new book coming out on your birthday! Or, Happy Birthday!  Purchase a flight before the end of the month and we’ll give you bonus miles as our gift to you. Or, this year, for your birthday, change your Facebook status to ask your friends to donate to your cause.  

Um, no. It’s not “Stop skinning baby seals for their coats day” (though I will say right now that this is a disgusting practice that needs to end, and it is one of my Facebook causes). It’s MY BIRTHDAY!

This practice of trying to glom on to my celebration, using stored data from past purchases and near and dear causes to get money from me, my friends and my family is intrusive, and, yes, I’ll say it, a bit tacky. If I’m interested in your cause or what you’re trying to sell, I’ll probably be more interested on some other day, at some other time, when I’m not so inwardly focused. Try selling to me then. For today, let me celebrate in peace.

May 03

It wasn’t our accident

Mar 3 BP CEO Tony Heyward has been beautifully trained to handle the mainstream U.S. media questions in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill.

He begins each interview by thanking the anchors 'for the opportunity,' then makes it quite clear that, while the oil spill wasn't BP's fault, the clean-up is the corporation's responsibility.

He deflected questions wondering why BP so badly miscalculated the initial amount of damage by likening the repair work to 'performing open heart surgery 5,000 feet below the water' (that phrase has some PR person's fingerprints all over it). Finally, when given the chance, he waxes poetic about the 'armada' of ships and 'fleet' of planes BP has harnessed to 'contain' the spill.

From a PR standpoint, BP is making the best of a horrific situation that, excuse me, they caused. Their only mistake is blaming the oil rig owners for the spill (pointing the finger at others never works in these situations, but lawyers insist upon it in order to limit future civil and criminal lawsuits).

All in all, though, Heyward did a nice job staying on message and conveying BP's key message points. When I see a CEO under duress, I always chuckle and think about Brad Irwin, the president of North American operations for Cadbury-Schweppes. Check out this video. The guy was so well trained (or, so poorly trained, depending upon one's P.O.V.) that he was unable to think on his feet and answer any other, industry-specific questions. In the end, he comes cross as a buffoon whose only answer to macro questions is to hawk his new sugarless gum.

A CEO like Heyward can calm fears and inspire confidence in the midst of chaos. An executive such as Irwin can create a mini-crisis by being inflexible, incompetent and inept.

So, here's hoping BP can get the spill contained sooner rather than later (and that Cadbury's in-house PR team and agency partners will study Mr. Heyward's performance). In fact, they should chew on it awhile before they place another high-ranking official on network television.