11/30/2007

An Open Letter to the AMPTP's PR Person of the Hour

Hey, there. So, I understand that there's been a lot of turnover in your job lately. In the very likely event that you get fired before you finish reading this, I hope you'll be so kind as to mark your place so that your successors can pick up reading where you leave off. Thanks.

I'm writing to let you know that I understand how hard it is to be you. It seems like the AMPTP goes through PR firms faster than Nick Counter goes through wolf-headed walking sticks. It must be very dispiriting to know that you are facing a task that not even Hill & Knowlton wanted. Nikki Finke reported that the AMPTP had hired H&K, the company responsible for defending Big Tobacco in the 1950s. But two days ago, H&K called Nikki to deny they had any relationship with the AMPTP. So what that tells us is, H&K would rather admit to working for a carcinogen than for Nick Counter.

In the few minutes you've been on the job, I bet you've already realized what an uphill battle you're facing. The media have been reporting all week about how your client is losing the PR war. Read this piece from yesterday's LA Times for example:

As the strike has dragged on, studio executives have become increasingly worried that their side has been drowned out by relentless pickets in Los Angeles and New York. The writers' blitzkrieg has triggered a heated debate within the alliance about how to burnish its public image.

Over the weekend, [Barbara] Brogliatti told alliance chief negotiator Nick Counter that she was stepping down from her day-to-day job as chief spokeswoman.

Brogliatti, a former Warner Bros. executive, has been consulting for the alliance and will stay on as senior advisor. The alliance is in the process of hiring a replacement.

Whomever is hired faces a formidable task.
Or listen to this story from NPR.

All that talk is quite flattering to us, but we don't pay much attention to it. I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Your PR problem isn't us. It's the AMPTP.

We're not some crack team of PR geniuses, we're just a bunch of volunteers. All we've done is tell our story. All we've had to do to "win the PR battle" is get the facts out there. Every bit of PR we've done has said the same thing -- "All we want is a fair deal."

Unfortunately, your client's story can be summed up in one word: GIMME. And that's not even a word, it's more of a pig-like grunt.

That's a very tough story to sell. I'm not sure there's a PR person in the world who could do it. Our proposals are so reasonable, and your client's are so "sensationally wrong" as the New Yorker's tv critic put it, that your client can't open its mouth without digging itself a deeper hole.

That's why the AMPTP had to have a media blackout. Hiding was the only option. Coverage of the negotiations only hurt your client because even slight scrutiny shows us being rational and the AMPTP, you know, grunting. The blackout would take the public heat off your client and toy with the writers' emotions, weakening their resolve to stand firm.

Except that didn't happen. Even with a blackout, the story of a fair deal was beating GIMME. The writers didn't back down.

So, perhaps in frustration, someone working for your client said, "Wait, let's lift the blackout and announce a bold New Economic Partnership. The name alone will wow 'em. It'll be a huge and insulting rollback, but if we smile hard enough, no one will notice!"

You're cringing, I know. Everyone noticed. And this is the mess that's been left for you to clean up. You now have to deal with the revelation that your client was negotiating in bad faith. Your client wasn't just wasting our time, they were putting more and more people out of work, hurting thousands of families and costing the LA economy millions rather than give us a fair deal.

It's now clear to the whole country -- and increasingly, the world -- that it would be easier and cheaper to negotiate honestly. How can you explain the fact that the AMPTP quite possibly has already lost the conglomerates more than they would have to pay if we got every single thing we're asking for?

As I said, I feel for you. I bet you're wishing you could punch the dolt who fed all that nonsense to Nikki Finke about a sweetened, comprehensive new media offer coming out. They built up all this excitement, then offered shit and called it a sundae. It would be funny if it weren't so shameful. With the blackout lifted, the facts of what's happened will only spread further and further, and the outrage will grow.

That is, unless you do something about it. That's what you've been brought on to do. And because I'm a nice guy, I'm going to tell you how to do it.

Tell the AMPTP to make a fair deal.

It really is that simple. Tell them to hold their noses and actually negotiate. Tell them that the longer they drag their feet, trumpet fake proposals and spend more money fighting a deal than a deal would actually cost, the deeper a hole they dig for themselves. The only way out of this mess is for the conglomerates' CEOs to step in and say, "Enough. Wasting a huge amount of money to save a tiny amount of money is not good business, it's idiocy."

My friend, if you can do that, you'll be a hero. You'll be acclaimed from every corner of the industry. You will have literally saved the future of not only thousands of working families but of the conglomerates themselves. The companies and the workers can get back to figuring out the digital future of entertainment together instead of letting someone else do it without us.

And the icing on the cake? It'll be Nick Counter who gets fired this time, not you.

21 comments:

Danny Zuker said...

Well said, John. I actually think Tony Snow was more convincing spinning the "we're winning in Iraq" message then these poor bastards have been with the "economic partnership" crap.

Jeffrey said...

I try to think what it's like at night... when these old white men get into bed with there second... er third ... wives and they chuckle about what they're up to and their spouses, thirty years their junior roll over and mutter "good-night" under their breaths. Do they realize it's not actually "good-night", but asshole?

I'd love to know that.

Anonymous said...

How about selling WGA strike support t-shirts on the web? Let's see how the AMPTP fights a guerrilla PR war in the streets of flyover.

Anonymous said...

http://www.elfyourself.com/?id=1124858265

Exclusive video of Nick Counter presenting the lame proposal.

WGA Writer With Business Sense said...

This is very well stated. The idea that the companies are digging in to avoid a cost of $50 million a year seems like an impossible bad joke. It's peanuts. Make a deal, a real deal.

Speaking of Nikki Finke, where is she? There hasn't been a headline on deadlinehollywooddailly all day.

As a somewhat lapsed Sunday school pupil, I find myself having to repeat the following prayer over and over:

The (Brian) Lourd’s Prayer

Our Agent, who art running back and forth between hotel rooms,
Hallowed by thy name!
Thy Table at Morton’s to come, Thy will be done,
With the AMPTP and WGA.
Give us a deal, that resembles previous business models,
And remind everyone that this is a very profitable business, if we don’t completely destroy it.
Forgive us for the millions already lost,
And lead us not into an endless strike that loses billions.
Deliver us from the evil of eliminating the jobs of everyone above and below the line, and trashing the economy of this city and one of the top exports of the nation.
For thine is the fanciest lobby, and if you fix this you will for sure get the power and the glory, for ever and ever.
Amen

suspended tv writers said...

The truth is beautiful when it is finally heard. Bravo!

Instead of picketing the studios/networks where nothing is happening, we should be picketing the Arclight, The Grove and every major theater in town.
If we can convince people to stop going to the movies over the Holidays. Wow. What a victory that would be.

They don't know resolve. That would get their attention.

While we're at it...

Let's ask all of the fans from tv shows, friends and families to stop watching tv?

See how fast the advertisers ask for their money back when they hear about this....

It's time to take the gloves off. Put on the brass knuckles. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year Jerkoffs.

DNY LOVES CRIMINAL MINDS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DNY LOVES CRIMINAL MINDS said...

suspended tv writers,

I floated the idea on my blog today of a total tv blackout and the idea went over well. The different fandoms could spread the word but we would need the writers and producers to reach out to their fans and help spread the word. We would also need United Hollywood to post about it in advance so that enough viewers are involved to make a difference.

I work for a company that advertises on the very show I blog about and ask fans to boycott products we sell but if people across the nation turned off their televisions my company would need oxygen. They would be asking the networks for their money back in a New York minute!

Anonymous said...

i'm an overworked overwhelmed, no-residual-receiving post production slave. please keep the strike going but don't cost the studios too much so they're ok with it too. i need a few months break to get things done and spend time with my kid. the promise of the strike made my heart soar; if it were to end soon, I would be devastated. this is in earnest, I leave the sarcasm to those clever clever writers

Anonymous said...

what about the children? See nice photos of the poor strike baby.
The one on the cover is the cutest!
http://picasaweb.google.com/johnfrisbie/DiaryOfTheStrikeBabyWGA

Caliban said...

Can we all stop using Anonymous as a signature?

Just make up a name so we know who's who in the back and forth.

Writer With Business Sense - you rock. Love that prayer.

LL said...

The fact that they believe their problem is a problem with "PR" says it all.

To me, it sounds like they know they're wrong, but they think if they present it in the best light, their wrongness won't matter.

I like how the WGA has been very straight up and honest with us the viewing public. It makes all the difference and automatically wins publich support.

I'll definitely keep supporting you and encouraging others to do so as well.

Anonymous said...

Nick Counter should change his press releases to the following:

I'm really, really old and out of touch. Time has passed me by and I don't know what I am doing. Did I mention I am old?

Captain Obvious said...

...I'm dying inside, and nobody knows it but me...

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is the WGA starting to sound more and more like insane hostage takers.

survivor of the fan wars said...

It's just you.

Anonymous said...

"Hostage takers."

Hilarious.

And completely retarded.

You could sound more pathetic, but I don't really know how. I'm sure you'll come up with something.

David Grenier said...

Let's not forget that Hill & Knowlton were also largely responsible for selling the US on the first Iraq War. They manufactured false testimony about Iraqi soldiers dumping Kuwaiti babies out of incubators and leaving them to die on the floor of the hospital. They started a war for their clients.

Just remember that when folks act like the idea of paying people to troll the internet and comment on blogs pretending to be upset crew members is somehow crazy to these guys.

Anonymous said...

What is happening in the writing community is what is happening in America at large. The country is set up so only a few succeed at the expense of all others. Did you know that musicians contracts require them to sign over 60% of their earnings? This is regardless if they've written and played their actual music instead of outsourcing these things.
The same is true in Sub Prime mortgages. The rich fat cats are done.
The strike will end, but the industry will NEVER be the same. And quite frankly, did you want it to be?

Crosscurrent said...

Anonymous at 5:53 -- the idea of selling strike support t-shirts on the internet is inspired... It would further the protest, and the profits could be used to maintain what will surely be a dwindling strike fund...

And I have to hand it to the Writer With Business Sense: that homage to the "Lourd" is genius. Possibly the only prayer I could be convinced to memorize!

Mark Hill PGA said...

1 of teh BEST artaculs i hav eveer read on they subjact n al my Lief...... See how Muhc we nad righters.....

Dnt blam me i am only a Dum Produser.....