AdAge finally reports on GamerGate, and Alex Kantrowitz quotes an unnamed advertiser's conclusion about this mess, which much like the slow-motion implosion of Britney Spears mental health that Gawker took such mirth in covering, never seems to end.
"You cannot win. This is a lose-lose situation."
While that's a succinct way of putting it, it's also defeatist. I said well over a month ago that PR and advertisers had the chance to be proactive instead of reactive here and you still do. Your clients are paying you to be able to handle this shit, so handle it. Get creative with your methods of pulling out invisibly, or staying put, keep abreast of the situation, make sure social media handlers know what topic to stay away from and use the popular "no comment" when press calls for comment, unless you have a better idea on insulating your brand reputation. On that me & Adage seem to agree. Your media buyers should know if your brand is on pirate-sites, porn-sites or sites that are not a fit for your brand in other ways, make them earn that paycheck.
This is the conundrum brands are in: Every Gamergate gripe -- even if legitimate -- will be linked to the vile elements of the group. So giving in is seen as siding with the worst elements of it. So far, those not responding are in better shape than those who have.
The problem is what the media is doing now, acting on news seen on social media without confirmation or additional information from the brands being skewered by trolls and activists.
Take Adobe for instance, even Adage is misrepresenting what happened to them, as they state Adobe ".....gave in to their demands before fully understanding the situation."
Adobe however, has simply stated that they were not in fact a partner with Gawker and asked to have their logo removed from the partner page. That's a story of false advertising, but when only the social media accounts handle PR and there's nobody picking up the phone at brands PR headquarters these days, it's no wonder even the tradepress isn't getting that story right.
In fact, even Gawker media is confused, as at least one journalist insisted that Mercedes never advertised with Gawker, and another that they "weren't active" - both statements make the Mercedes logo on Gawkers current "partner" page look bad, if not downright illegal.
— MattHardigree (@MattHardigree) October 17, 2014
— max read (@max_read) October 20, 2014
AdAge, you know better than this. Adobe was listed as partner with their trademarked logo on Gawkers partner page alongside other big brands such as Old Spice, Jaguar, Hulu, Bing, Ebay, BMW, HTC, Cisco, Lexus, Marriott, Speed stick, Ford, Budweiser, Comedy Central, AT&T, Marriott, IBM, Logica, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Google, Blackberry, Smartwater, Bing, Volkswagen, Virgin Mobile, State Farm, Samsung, T-mobile, Warby Parker, Qualcomm, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Sprint, Scion, Aces, HBO, Comcast, Johnnie Walker, AMC, American Express, HP; Radio Shack, Dove (men), Nissan, LogmeIn, CW, ABC, Ford, BBC America, Yahoo!, Sundance channel, Bonobos, and Focus Features.
All impressive brands, but not all of these brands have actually partnered with Gawker. All of these brands are now however at risk of being dragged in the mud by Gawker, who have helpfully published a screed skewering former partner Intel, and non-partner Adobe in their post "how we got rolled by the dishonest fascist of Gamergate", just to make sure brands know to get the hell away from them. Does Ogilvy still trust Gawker Studios to produce things after this? Max Read starts off with a hyperbolic headlines and it gets worse from there. He has nothing but contempt for Intel and Adobe:
So let's say it now: Intel is run by craven idiots. It employs pusillanimous morons. It lacks integrity. It folded to misogynists and bigots who objected to a woman who had done nothing more than write a piece claiming a place in the world of video games. And even when confronted with its own thoughtlessness and irresponsibility, it could not properly right its wrongs.
Brands like Adobe and Intel, willing to distance themselves from independent publishers over the spurious claims of a limited but dedicated group of misogynists and trolls, share an important core value with Gamergate: Misogyny. Kidding! Kidding. The value that defines both Gamergate and brand response is cynicism.
The irony that he headlines Gamergate as fascism, a totalitarian ideology that denies independent thought, while skewering brands for attempting to distance themselves from the publication that serves the party line is not lost on anyone. Who in their right mind would want to risk a brands billion dollar reputation on a publishing house that cheered the Glenn Beck ad boycott, but then talks shit about any brand who wants to distance themselves from them? Gawker made their name on the Gawker Stalker, Gawker hoped to bankrupt Chick Fil A over charitable donations. Gawker celebrated when Firefox Chief Brendan Eich was ousted because he too had made donation Gawker did not approve of. Boycotts like this are the results of politicising everything, and now it's finally come full circle. There's a reason newspapers had a strict line drawn between editorial and advertising departments, one that now not only has been blurred by native advertising but also the birth of "ad studios" and "featured partner" at the likes of clickbait publications such as Gawker and Buzzfeed, who have spent more energy courting ad agencies than they did chasing down twitter-conversations to report on. Don't say we didn't try to warn you.
So while I might have thought "back away slowly" was a good idea a couple of months ago, I now believe your brand has to strike first. Stay on top of this story and see where you are listed as an advertising partner. If your brand is not partnering with said site, have them remove your logo immediately, I'm sure legal can help you write up a decent letter on that. Seek out the next targets before you get dragged into this. Is your brand representing family values & healthy children? Then maybe a site discussing a progressive stance on pedophiles and describing the abuse of a seven year old girl as a "sexual relationship" isn't a place where your brand wants to be seen?
The grapevine (twitter) says that the next target is Newsweek, due to this article, which was picked apart by a academic social worker, who soon had to defend his data. And then there's this Newsweek reporters tweets that says bullying is good and makes jokes about bullying kids. Do you have people working in the social media department claiming pompous titles for social media strategy? They should be able to handle a few searches on word combos like "#gamergate harassment patrol" on twitter, or check out some tiki toki collections like the the dirty history of games journalism and The Gamergate Chronicles. It's why you pay them the big bucks.
Where did this mess even start? The irony is, "sexism in games industry" was the creative idea for the "drama" in a reality TV game show, as described in this "most expensive game jam article. Sexism is fashionable and on trend now you see. We all know who Matti , who represented Pepsi at the shoot, is. He tried to create some drama by asking the teams who had women onboard if the fact they had pretty women on the team was a disadvantage to them. "....it was like hitting the biggest nerve in the history of nerves with a pneumatic drill. Adriel built shit that flies around in space. It’s probably flying around in space right now."
What did those horrible sexist game-devs do? They all banded together and quit the show on the spot. That's the truth of how sexist gamedevs actually are, is -- they're not at all and yet the media is still running with this reality TV show plotline, referring to each other as sources, making the press even less useful than in the good old days when we at least could wrap our fish and chips in it.