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<nettime> PR post for ex-Greenpeace head
Soenke Zehle on Thu, 10 Jan 2002 20:26:32 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> PR post for ex-Greenpeace head

Newsletter from the transnational corporations observatory
Wednesday, January 9, 2002

1. PR post for ex-Greenpeace head
2. An Ex-Greenpeacer Examines the Melchett Affair
3. WPP: World Propaganda Power
4. Company profiles
5. More on advertising - PR
6. Citizen group : PR Watch


1. PR post for ex-Greenpeace head

Former Greenpeace chief Lord Melchett is to work for a PR firm which
includes GM company Monsanto among its clients.

The former Labour peer once led Greenpeace's campaign against GM crops.

He is to join Burson-Marsteller next week as a consultant.

The firm is one of the world's leading public relations companies.

Lord Melchett is expected to head a committee advising businesses on how to
deal with controversial issues such as GM food, toxic waste and child labour
in the Third World.

The old Etonian, who was once arrested over an incident in which GM crops
were destroyed, retired as executive director of Greenpeace in 2000.

During his time there, it grew from an organisation with a turnover of 1.4
million, 12 staff and 25,000 supporters to one with a turnover of 7.5
million, 80 staff and more than 200,000 supporters.

Alan Biggar, chief executive of Burson-Marsteller London, said: "This is a
growing area of business for us, and Peter's vast store of knowledge and
experience will help us to do even more for our clients."

Lord Melchett said: "I am impressed by what I have seen of
Burson-Marsteller's CSR Unit and look forward to working with them and some
of their clients.

"In my time at Greenpeace, I saw both the best and the worst of the
corporate sector's activities and intend to put that experience to good use
in this new role."
(Ananova 8 January 2002)

2. An Ex-Greenpeacer Examines the Melchett Affair

A longtime Greenpeace activist sent the following comments to PR Watch: "The
Lord Melchetts of the activist (and now corporate) world are only one
symptom of a broader contagion. Is there even a real environmental movement
anymore? How accountable are NGOs to their own base? ... Look how little is
being accomplished in addressing Global Warming in the U.S. at a time when
it's obviously a national security issue and a global security issue. I
think this is in part because the environmental groups don't believe in mass
movement building like they used to. Most of us are treated like consumer
and spectator activists -- expected to pay our membership dues and trust
that full-time salaried activists will solve the issue -- without expecting
to get involved ourselves. How easy it is to confuse salaried NGO actors
with real movement leaders. And when they leave to work for corporations, if
they haven't built a base that can carry on the radical push for change, how
weak the organizations become that they leave beh
d. But alas, Lord Melchett hasn't even fully left Greenpeace: Should
Greenpeace International allow an employee of Burson Marsteller on their
(PR Watch, Tuesday, January 8, 2002)

3. WPP: World Propaganda Power

For the past 15 years, the disparate international tribes of ad men and PR
consultants have been quietly consolidating their power by forging giant
conglomerates. The two biggest, WPP and Omnicom, were founded within a year
of each other in the mid-1980s. Together they now manage the hearts and
minds of global populations for their transnational corporate clients.

The rationale behind the amalgamation of advertising and PR companies is
simple. The merging spree of transnational corporations in the 1980s and
1990s produced giant companies with far-flung assets and interests. These
vastly enlarged corporate entities demanded one-stop advertising and PR
services. To provide this service, financial whiz kids moved into the
communications business and began the amalgamation process.

Readers of PR Watch are well aware of the dubious achievements of
long-standing PR firms such as Hill & Knowlton or Burson-Marsteller, but
some might be startled to learn that the manipulative skills of these two
companies have recently been combined under one roof. Hill & Knowlton has
been owned by WPP since 1987. In October 2000 WPP also acquired
Burson-Marsteller when it bought Young & Rubicam for $4.7 billion. With the
Young & Rubicam purchase, WPP overtook Omnicom and lunged into forward
position as "the world's leading communications services group".

Clients of the WPP Group include the majority of companies in the Fortune
Global 500 and the NASDAQ 100, including Ford, IBM, Kellogg, Eastman Kodak
and American Express. The combined revenues for WPP and Young & Rubicam were
$5.2 billion in 1999, and their combined market value was $14.5 billion. The
WPP Group is now one of the top three communication service providers in
every market of the world.

"We share a common philosophy and culture of providing clients with
integrated solutions to their marketing needs," said WPP founder and CEO
Martin Sorrell at the time of the Young & Rubicam acquisition. Indeed, WPP
is able to offer clients every conceivable service associated with marketing
their products and promoting their corporate goals. It employs 55,000 people
in 92 countries and has 1,300 offices. It consists of more than 80 companies
including some of the world's largest firms in the areas of advertising: J.
Walter Thompson, Ogilvy and Mather, Young & Rubicam. Their services include
branding and identity; demographic marketing; direction, promotion and
relationship marketing; investor relations; public relations; strategic
marketing consulting; and media investment and services. In the field of
public relations alone the WPP Group owns 18 companies. In addition to
Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton, it can draw on the skills of Ogilvy
Public Relations Worldwide, Cohn & Wolfe and several others.

Sorrell doesn't like to use the word conglomerate to describe his monster.
He prefers to call it "a group of tribes. I think the tribes have their
value. We would lose a lot of that value if we were only members of the
Ogilvy tribe, or the J. Walter Thompson tribe, or the Hill & Knowlton

Wire and Plastic

WPP began from very humble beginnings in 1985 when Sorrell and a partner
paid $676,000 to purchase a controlling stake in a British company called
Wire & Plastic Products, which manufactured wire shopping baskets, filing
trays and assorted oddments. Previously, Sorrell had been financial director
for the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency, managing its takeovers of
companies in the US and the UK, but he had a vision of far bigger things.

Clearly, Sorrell had no interest in making wire baskets when he bought Wire
& Plastic Products. What he wanted was a shell company, a vehicle for buying
up other companies. In 1986 Wire & Plastic Products became the
innocuous-sounding WPP Group, with Sorrell as its CEO. That same year, the
company acquired 10 marketing companies in the US and the UK.

Other acquisitions, financed with borrowed money, followed in quick
succession. In a 1987 hostile takeover, WPP acquired the much larger
US-based J. Walter Thompson Group, which included Hill and Knowlton, for
$566 million. This was only one of nine major acquisitions WPP made that
year. Two years later it acquired the Ogilvy Group for $864 million,
prompting Time Magazine to describe Sorrell as the "Machiavelli on Madison
Avenue" and "the most feared raider to set foot on Madison Avenue."

In 1990 Advertising Age named WPP the top advertising agency in the world.
And while WPP was acquiring companies as fast as the banks would allow, its
subsidiary companies were also making their own acquisitions. "We continue
to trawl carefully for acquisitions and investment opportunities," noted
WPP's 1999 annual report.

This takeover activity is still proceeding at full pace without any
limitations in sight. Simultaneously, WPP is also busily expanding the reach
of the companies and networks it has already purchased. Its annual report
boasted that in 1999 WPP "increased its equity interests in advertising and
media investment management agencies in Australia, Austria, Brazil, France,
Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US; in
information and consultancy in Argentina, France, Germany, Mexico, Poland,
the UK and the US; in public relations and public affairs in Chile, Germany,
the UK and the US; and in branding and identity, healthcare and specialist
communications in Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the UK and
the US." 

WPP seems to be aiming to become more than just a holding company. Its
stated goal is to be "the preferred provider of multinational marketing
services," providing clients with a comprehensive and integrated mix of both
tactical and strategic services. "It is politically incorrect to say so, but
our big clients are becoming more coordinated," Sorrell told Forbes Magazine
in 1999. For that reason, he explained, communication services must also be
coordinated and centralized.

One of WPP's strategies is to form internal networks of its companies to
offer specialist services. For example, CommonHealth combines all the WPP
companies with expertise in healthcare communications to make an
organisation that WPP claims is "the largest healthcare communications
resource in the world." Its services include "advertising, consumer
promotion, public relations, medical education, and the latest interactive
technologies." Its established clients include Pharmacia & Upjohn, Procter
and Gamble and Astra Zeneca.

Global Powerhouse

What is the significance of this concentration of ownership in the
communication services industry? Is it, as the Guardian newspaper suggests,
simply that the advertising and PR industries are catching up with the
consolidation binge of transnational corporations? "Having lagged behind the
companies they serve for more than a decade, ad agencies rushed to buy, or
be bought, in an often bewilderingly rapid feeding frenzy."

Does it matter that four of the world's largest public relations firms are
now owned by the same corporation? WPP is a potential powerhouse, a huge
propaganda machine, with the reach and coordinated skills in people
manipulation that might allow it to rule the hearts and minds of the entire
global population. 

Some ad men and PR flacks have long dreamed of such a tool. Even back in the
early 1980's, when J. Walter Thomson was small fry compared to its WPP
parent today, one of its executives went on record musing, "We have within
our hands the greatest aggregate means of mass education and persuasion the
world has ever seen--namely, the channels of advertising communication. We
have power. Why do we not use it?" WPP is a UK-based company. This means
that when Hill & Knowlton masterminded the Kuwaiti campaign to sell the Gulf
War to the American public, the owners of this highly effective propaganda
machine were residing in another country. Should this give pause for
thought? Does it demonstrate a certain potential for the future exercise of
global political power? The power to manipulate democratic political
processes through managing public opinion, which Hill and Knowlton
demonstrated 10 years ago, is trifling compared to the potential power now
residing in integrated conglomerates like WPP and Omnicom.

Sorrell himself is a somewhat enigmatic figure. He is reported to have a
grandness of vision that isn't reflected in either his diminutive stature or
his modest self-appraisal. He once famously described himself as "a dull,
boring little clerk," but this was before he received a knighthood last year
and became Sir Martin.

The chairman of the WPP Board is Hamish Maxwell, who was chairman and CEO of
Philip Morris from 1978 to 1991. During the 1980s, when tobacco money was
busy with corporate takeovers, Maxwell played a leading role, overseeing
Philip Morris's acquisitions of General Foods, Kraft and several other major
consumer goods firms. Maxwell has been chairman of WPP since 1996.

Both Sorrell and Maxwell have backgrounds as financial wheelers and dealers,
and there is very little on the record which suggests that either one has
any kind of political or social vision beyond business. But of course,
politics and social engineering is the business of business, isn't it?
Sorrell even admits that he has never designed an ad in his life and is
happy to call himself a money man. "I like counting beans very much indeed,"
he says. But he is a money man with a fascination for marketing and public
relations. He is said to have a vision of a central role for what he calls
"creative" communications in a coming Creative Age when conglomerates such
as his will occupy the pivotal position as "creative business consultants"
and much more. 

But how much more? Sorrell apparently mourns a past when companies would
"welcome an agency's thoughts on just about all aspects of their business"
and envisions the coming Creative Age as a time when companies like WPP will
advise powerful corporations on "all aspects of their business."

Is this a man prepared to tell the world that "toxic sludge is good for
you"? Perhaps. But Sorrell's ambition appears to be matched by that of his
rival John Wren, the president and CEO of Omnicom. "We're the people who can
take cosmic dust and turn it into a brand," Wren boasted in an interview
with Business Week.

(Sharon Beder and Richard Gosden, PR Watch, Volume 8, No. 2, 2nd Quarter

4. Company profile



Hill & Knowlton

Young & Rubicam







Eastman Kodak

American Express


Procter and Gamble

Astra Zeneca

Altria ex-Philip Morris

5. More on advertising - PR

THE BIG SELL (Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2001)
Nothing can seem to halt the onward march of advertising. Its techniques of
persuasion, and ever growing sums of money, mean that whole sectors of
economic, social and cultural life now depend on it. Even political life is
not immune. 

Manufacturing desire (Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2001)

Globe with a logo (Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2001)
Between 1950 and 1996 global advertising spending increased sevenfold,
growing one-third faster than the world economy. And even with the lingering
effects of the Asian financial crisis and the current slowdown in the United
States, the industry has continued to expand. Revenues in 2001 will come to
around $494bn - up from $429bn just two years earlier (1). For the
corporations that underwrite this vast outlay, it is a splendid bargain.


6. Citizen group: PR Watch

PR Watch offers investigative reporting on the public relations industry. We
help the public recognize manipulative and misleading PR practices by
exposing the activities of secretive, little-known propaganda-for-hire firms
that work to control political debates and public opinion.


The transnational corporations observatory
B.P. 96
13693 Martigues Cedex

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