Battered Women, A Tasteless Ad, And A Clueless Apology

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 6, 2011 – 6:31 am

Ad campaigns for Canadian hair salons don’t usually make international headlines.

That was true, at least until Edmonton’s Fluid Salon released a tasteless campaign featuring a battered woman with a black eye, along with a tag line saying “Look Good In All You Do.”

The ad received international coverage last week after several bloggers (notably this one) called Fluid’s owner out for the ad. Fluid’s owner, Sarah Cameron, initially responded by saying she had the “artistic right” to release the ad:

“Media genre that promotes freedom of speech and expression only for themselves are hypocritical. Please interpret the ad as freedom dictates – that is your right – just as artistic expression is our right.”

That inane response fails, in part, because nobody is contesting Fluid’s freedom of speech; they are contesting the wisdom of it. And her response completely misses the point. If Ms. Cameron’s intent was to release an ad that highlighted domestic abuse (as she claimed), she should have done it without simultaneously making a pitch for her hair salon. 

Making matters worse, Ms. Cameron used the hedged “if you were offended” apology, rather than an unequivocal one:

“If survivors of abuse interpret this ad to make light of any abusive situation, we sincerely apologize.”

 

Ms. Cameron seemed to finally concede the obvious in a recent Facebook post, when she wrote:

“It seems as though the subject matter and photo series itself is accepted by people if it wasn’t an ad.”

 

Exactly. But then she proceeded to undercut her own statement by again trying to make the case that the ad wasn’t meant to be, well, an ad.

Ms. Cameron’s crisis response fell into the usual trap – she got defensive and wasn’t able to see that she made an error in judgment. She was so sure that her motives were pure, that she was unable to offer an unequivocal apology – which would have made this crisis go away much sooner. Instead, her salon has reportedly lost a significant amount of business. 

The shame here is that elements of her crisis response were tone perfect, such as when she pledged that:

“…any person that comes into Fluid from now on and mentions this ad we will donate proceeds from all services booked to the Edmonton Women’s Shelter.”

 

Given that promise, imagine how different things would have been if she had simply offered the following response from the very beginning:

“I made a mistake in judgment, understand why people were upset by the ads, and apologize completely. We have canceled the ad campaign. My goal was to highlight the plight of domestic abuse victims, and I went about it in a clumsy way that distracted from the real issue. We are going to donate every cent we earn over the next week to the Edmonton Women’s Shelter, and will work to highlight the issue in different ways in the future. On behalf of my entire team, I apologize.” 

 

I’m willing to accept Ms. Cameron’s sincerity. She appears to be genuinely passionate about the topic of domestic abuse, and comes across more oblivious than malicious. Although the above apology is too late to spare her bad press, it’s still the right thing to do. She has my permission to post it, verbatim, on her Facebook page.

A grateful tip o’ the hat to fellow tweeters @kimharrold and @forgetful_man for sending me this story.

Related: The Right Way to Apologize In a Crisis (Video)

Related: Seven Rules to Remember When a Crisis Strikes

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

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    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

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    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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