Eco PR disaster (just in time for Earth Hour)

Melissa Cavanaugh writes me from the mediabistro forums where she’s just posted this piece. Melissa tells of how a North Carolina agency manages to portray its client (TharpeRobbins) as ludicrously hypocritical, by announcing their commitment to environmentally sustainable operations with a really wasteful mailing, replete with eco-unfriendly plastics, styrofoam and excess packaging! Melissa says:
“I just got a FedEx, marked urgent, from a company in North Carolina called McNeill
Communications Group. So I opened (and discarded) one medium FedEx box, transported
from NC to New York. I removed (and discarded) some packing paper that was securing
a cardboard box. I opened (and discarded) the cardboard box to find a plastic box
wrapped in styrofoam. I threw out the styrofoam and opened the plastic box to find
more paper packaging, a plastic bag of styrofoam peanuts, a plastic swizzle stick,
and a three-page press release. The title of the release? “TharpeRobbins Celebrates Earth Day by Leading the Way with Environmental Initiatives.” The gimmick is that the styrofoam peanuts dissolve in water. My jaw just dropped.
The best part is that I have never heard of TharpeRobbins before, and the release
gives no indication of what the company is, does, or sells except for the
boilerplate at the end: “The privately held TharpeRobbins was created through the
February 2007 merger of The Robbins Company, founded in 1982, and the Tharpe Company
Inc., founded in 1981. Customized programs include products ranging from
personalized jewelry to fine art, electronics, sports equipment, and outdoor
merchandise. The company also offers rewards through local and national services,
entertainment and recreation.”

Clear as mud. The other three pages of the release are dedicated to TharpeRobbins’
environmental initiatives and awards.

So essentially, what this boondoggle of a press kit did was to bring TharpeRobbins
to my attention and provide no information about them except that they appear
ludicrously hypocritical, by announcing their commitment to environmentally
sustainable operations with a really wasteful mailing.

Nicely done, McNeill Communications Group!”



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