In last Friday’s Chicago Tribune I saw a story on page three with the headline: Buddy, can you spare a Dior? The reporter wrote in a sarcastic style and poked fun at Barneys Co-Op. Barneys, a clothing store, placed homeless-style cardboard signs in the hands of its mannequins that read: “DIOR-less please help,” “Will work 4 PRORSUM” and “Stranded need RAF to get home.” For those of you who know my middle class fashion sense, it was nice to learn about some other high end fashion such as RAF and PRORSUM.
I shared this media coverage with the staff because it did have something brilliant behind it. After all, it was a page three story (glad to see the Tribune’s new tabloid format is working out great). My point to my team was that about 25 cents of cardboard and a black marker got this store thousands of dollars worth of publicity.
It also make me curious to find out how this publicity came about. What someone at the store told me was that their visual designers came up with the idea and it got out to the media through word of mouth. Ironically when I spoke to someone else at the store’s New York headquarters, I learned that the publicity backfired because Tribune readers thought it was insensitive to the plight of the homeless.
First, I see the negative backlash as political correctness run amuck. Look at how the media is riping apart Sarah Palin’s wardrobe and I’ve not seem an outcry from that coverage. Second, the Tribune added a survey to the story that asked readers, “What do you think of the display?” Not one of the options in the survey said that this was a cleaver and creative way to to get customers’ attention.
The PR laugh for me is that the Tribune gives such a trivial soft news item a prominent position that belongs with the Paris Hilton coverage. To me that should have the outrage from readers.