Anti-cheese campaign alienates an entire nation (of Packer fans)

A Packer fan bristles at a billboard from The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that takes aim at fromage in the heart of cheese country—Green Bay, Wisc.

There are few things I love outside of the Green Bay Packers, an NFL franchise that might have the smallest NFL market but can boast of an extremely passionate fan bases.

Beyond its 13 championships, the team, which is part-owned by its fans, has a 37-year waiting list for season tickets and fans willing to put cheese on top of their heads.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw an Adweek story this morning that had one of the most insulting ads toward the Pack and cheese.

With the use of the word “sack” in the headline and the grim reaper wearing a cheese hat, it’s not hard to confuse exactly who (and what) the ad is targeting. The billboard from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine will be displayed near Lambeau Field, in the heart of cheese country. The creator of the ad even asked the mayor of Green Bay to put warning labels on cheese at Lambeau.

The one-two punch of the Packers undertone and the ill health effects of cheese isn’t really the best approach, not only from the ad side, but from the PR and marketing professionals who focus on the impact of paid media and intertwine it with earned, owned, and shared spaces.

Public relations professionals are consistently aware of their audience, whether it’s around their reactions, passion, or even just a passing mention. Tacky, distasteful ads have a way of impacting not only the audience, but the image and impact for which public relations is responsible. The best ad and PR teams work together from a unified overall objectives thought process.

As a consumer and Packers fan, I might have absorbed the health angle and understood. With the added bonus of the Packers undertone, it completely turned me off as a health-conscious consumer.

What can public relations professionals do to ensure their messaging and objectives are also getting seen on the paid side?

• Communicate brand positioning tactics and objectives.
• Realize that brand perception goes beyond ads.
• Understand that the complete package (PESO – paid, earned, shared and owned media) influences your audience.
• If health-related, understand why your target market loves a certain product or lifestyle, and focus on not overlaying a stereotype to an entire fan base. This ensures that you do not alienate those that the message might reach.
• Have a crisis communications plan in place in case an ad, shared/earned media or communications are not well received.
• Use consumer and market research to understand the demographic and prepare for any type of scenario.

What would you add? Was the ad in bad taste? How else can PR and advertising work effectively together?

Lauren Fernandez is an account executive at Fleishman-Hillard in Kansas City. She is a rowdy Packers fan any day of the week.

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