Today, as I received yet another email about this post I wrote last week, I understand what it must feel like to be a politician after a story is leaked to the press that YOU DID inhale during that one time you said you smoked pot in college, and now you have to pose at a press conference, your conservatively-dressed wife at your side, your hooker girlfriend as far away as possible, as you strongly condemn all forms of drug abuse and promise, if elected, to start a new WAR ON DRUGS.
In politics, these leaks always come from an old roommate still pissed at you for stealing his girlfriend twenty-five years ago. In blogging, proof that bloggers are mostly idiots with no career potential, we LEAK THESE INCRIMINATING STORIES ourselves!
Of course, as blogging becomes more professional, bloggers are growing smarter and more media savvy. Let me re-phrase that. Some bloggers are growing smarter. As we become brand enthusiasts for Kraft and Walmart, we move beyond just telling stories about our lives. We become representatives of something bigger than us. A company or a cause. And that is great. But it gives me pause. I wonder if I would have written my post, or many of my posts, if I was a brand ambassador for Nintendo or Sony? Would my writing feel stifled? Would there be any repercussions for writing about my past real-life actions? Is my image, and what it represents to the company, more important to the company than my “real” self? Is this what the exciting field of social media is all about, turning us all into one-dimensional avatars, the online equivalent of air-brushed celebrities, so we can effectively market products to each other? No wonder why social media mavens love Twitter. Marketers can speak to many at once, without really interacting with anybody.
Frank Rich, in one of his last NYT columns of 2009, named Tiger Woods as his “person of the decade” because he symbolized everything wrong with a decade where branding, PR, and illusion became more celebrated than the reality outside. Frank Rich sees the decade as filled with con men, “influentials” eager to bamboozle their gullible victims.
The men who played us for suckers, whether at Citigroup or Fannie Mae, at the White House or Ted Haggard’s megachurch, are the real movers and shakers of this century’s history so far. That’s why the obvious person of the year is Tiger Woods. His sham beatific image, questioned by almost no one until it collapsed, is nothing if not the farcical reductio ad absurdum of the decade’s flimflams, from the cancerous (the subprime mortgage) to the inane (balloon boy).
Enron? The Housing Market? The Stock Market? Baseball players with monster steroid bodies? “Reality” Television? Bernie Madoff? That was the decade. The blogosphere mirrored this fakery as marketers, SEO, and PR experts became our gurus, promising us big bucks and millions of followers, but mostly making themselves well-known by writing about marketing.
For six years, Tiger Woods was the multi-million dollar advertising face for Accenture, the big consulting firm. While this firm has nothing to do with golf, Accenture liked having their advertising campaign revolve around “high performance,” and Tiger Woods certainly fit that bill. The firm just didn’t realize how “high performance” he was!
Accenture is “a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company,” but who cared about any fine print? It was Tiger, and Tiger was it, and no one was to worry about the details behind the mutually advantageous image-mongering. One would like to assume that Accenture’s failure to see or heed any warning signs about a man appearing in 83 percent of its advertising is an anomalous lapse. One would like to believe that business and government clients didn’t hire Accenture just because it had Tiger’s imprimatur. But in a culture where so many smart people have been taken so often, we can’t assume anything.
After Mr. Woods confessed to infidelities, Accenture had a PR nightmare. They immediately purged all record of Tiger Woods from their existence.
On Sunday, hours after Accenture ended its sponsorship deal, the golfer’s face was replaced by an anonymous skier on the company’s home page. His name was scrubbed almost completely from the rest of the Web site. The company’s advertising campaign is about “high performance,” and Mr. Woods “just wasn’t a metaphor for high performance anymore,” a spokesman for Accenture, Fred Hawrysh, said.
By Monday afternoon, Accenture staffers had swept through the company’s New York office and removed any visible Tiger posters. The next day, marketing and communications employees around the world were asked to turn in any remaining Tiger-emblazoned posters and other materials. Accenture marketing employees did not respond to requests for comment about the Tiger purge on Wednesday.
This was a relationship based solely on business, not unlike so many of the “friendships” we have online, where we follow and unfollow each other daily, depending on the direction of the wind.
So, basically — Can a Walmart Mom write a post about the time she stole some jewelry at Walmart when she was 17 and still remain a Walmart Mom?
If I start sleeping with a high class hooker, do you want to hear the stories about my adventures, or do you want me to hide them from you, so that I maintain my good “brand.”
Do I know any of you at all?