Thursday, October 27, 2005
PR WATER WAR… Squid wasn’t really surprised to hear about the early-morning call from Cal Am spokesman KEVIN TILDEN canceling the company’s ads in the Weekly. But it’s always a bit of a shock to witness the shamelessness of corporate America.
Tilden is by all accounts a smart and nice man—Squid’s boss, the Weekly’s publisher ERIK CUSHMAN, has good things to say about him. It’s possible that in his personal life, Tilden can take a joke, and would hesitate to resort to such a spiteful over-reaction. But Tilden works for a big, heartless multi-national corporation, and those entities do not hesitate to flex their monetary muscle when they don’t get their way.
Tilden pulled the last two weeks of the ad campaign because he didn’t like the way Cal Am was characterized (caricatured is more like it—some would say character-assassinated) in an over-the-top, comic-book-style feature in last week’s issue. Squid can’t blame him for being miffed about seeing Cal Am depicted as an outsider-owned conglomerate that practices bad corporate citizenship; or seeing RWE (Cal Am’s German-based parent) depicted as a voracious global polluter. In fact, Squid has been known to be petty and vindictive Squidself.
But these heinous slurs were not the real issue. Nor was the depiction of ALVIN EDWARDS, Cal Am’s nemesis, as a superhero.
To hear him tell it, the issue that forced Tilden to yank his ads was a passage referring to CATHERINE BOWIE, formerly of Armanasco Public Relations and now of Cal Am, as a “PR babe.”
For the record, Ms. Bowie is a brainy, capable and apparently very honest professional. She has worked for years in the area, and everyone here at the Weekly respects her. (Also for the record: Although the article was researched and written by JESSICA LYONS, Squid has reliable information that the offending description was inserted by ERIC JOHNSON, the Weekly’s editor.)
Believe it or not, Tilden claimed that “sexist” comment as his reason for pulling his ads.
If this seems like a lot more inside-baseball than Squid ordinarily inflicts on readers, there’s a reason. It’s not that Squid believes Tilden or Cal Am have a responsibility to overlook politics when spending their ad dollars (although that would seem like the pro-First Amendment, pro-democracy way to go). And it’s not that Squid can defend the Measure W piece as fair-and-balanced journalism (it seems to have been conceived, instead, as a counter-balance to Cal Am’s spendy Anti-W campaign).
Squid is dwelling on this issue to correct an oversight.
Tilden mentioned, or so Squid is told, that in all of his years in public relations, he has never been referred to as a “PR stud.” That is clearly unfair.
It is common, in journalism, for the physical attractiveness of a female to be lauded while a man’s attributes and obvious sex appeal go unmentioned. That is not right. Squid wants to take this opportunity to right that wrong.
Kev, you can clip this and tape it to your monitor:
PR stud Kevin Tilden may be acting like a petty, vindictive corporate pawn, but he’s hot.