Maybe social media is good

I wasn’t sure what the point was. I’m 42 years old.  I didn’t get Facebook. Why would I want people to know what I’m doing all the time? It seemed like an invasion of privacy. I used to get paid for writing. Now everyone is an opinion writer and most people do it for free. I resented that.

I started blogging when someone asked me for help starting a blog. She asked me for advice because I’m an opinion writer, but I knew nothing about blogging. So I started a blog to learn how to do it to see if I could give her some tips. Immediately, I found blogging gratifying. You feel like you have something to say, you say it, and then you put it out to the world. It’s easy, its free, and anyone can do it. No pitching editors. The gatekeepers are gone. That’s pretty cool in some ways. It solves the issue that is frustrating to so many writers as far as distribution. You need to communicate to someone. Even if no one reads what you wrote, putting it out there is key.

Of course, that has a negative side. Blogging can be messy, sloppy, spontaneous. I used to have editors. And the commenters, don’t get me started. Anonymity breeds thoughtlessness. Especially, it seems, when unnamed commenters respond to women who blog.

But everyone is writing now, and that’s good. Instead of making a phone call, people send emails or texts. And again, the negative side is people may be communicating less directly, hiding behind technology. But it is kind of cool that everyone is writing– on Facebook, Twitter etc. Also, I find Twitter and FB develop some writing skills. You have to be so economical with your words. That’s a useful practice for any writer.

Then there’s the whole ChapStick experience. ChapStick took down its sexist ad because of the power of social media. If not for social media, that ad would be everywhere right now. Social media got JCPenney to stop selling in sexist T shirt. FB and Twitter facilitate political and social movements from the revolution in Egypt to Occupy. Bank of America and Wells Fargo got rid of their new, ridiculous fees in part because customers used social media to express mass distaste. As with Netflix. Consumers have more power so big business has less.

Now I like Facebook. I love keeping in touch with my friends and relatives, seeing photos and getting updates. It’s also great to use FB to connect with people who care about the same issues that I do.

I still need to make some money though.

What do you think? Has social media improved your life? Do you feel more connected or more isolated? Does it make the world a better place?

No Comment! A Commentary on the ChapStick Story, guest post by Melissa Spiers

I have news for anyone with his or her cursor poised over the “Comment” button right now: I will not read whatever it is you are about to say.  Nor will pretty much anyone else, except for those who want to argue over your personal qualities, mental deficiencies, and general unfitness to inhabit the world.

Recently I wrote a guest post for Reel Girl regarding an ad for ChapStick.  To my great surprise the post spawned a petition and a Facebook page, getting nearly 15,000 hits and coverage by Forbes, AdWeek, BusinessInsider, Jezebel, the Wall Street Journal and a lot of other media outlets.

That was all very unexpected and delightful.  On the predictable side, however, were the comments that followed each piece of media coverage.  It actually didn’t even occur to me to read the comments, since I’ve never seen any that were particularly thoughtful.  But a wildly successful blogger friend was horrified to learn I had not scrutinized them.

“What for?”  I muttered.

“To make sure none of the threats are real!”


“The threats!  You have to check – always! – for stalkers and serious threats among all the garden-variety haters.” Wow.  OK.

I checked the comments for “real” haters but only found the usual: an inordinate amount of time wasted telling me I had wasted my time. And of course the typical snipes leveled at any woman writer:  you are an ugly, jealous, whining lesbian-troll-feminist, with no sense of humor, who hates men and sex.  (Oh, dahlings, how we sit around in our super-sized G-7XL Summit of Sexism Whining and laugh at these comments – mirthlessly – as we secretly run the world while scarfing bonbons and torching effigies of skinny, beautiful women that consume us with jealousy and/or lust!)

But I digress.  Back in the age of print periodicals, people turned eagerly to the “letters to the editor” or the Op-Ed page for concise, thoughtful (and sometimes scathing) commentary on the previous day’s articles. The writer’s comments were always associated with their name, and usually their town, and were chosen carefully by the paper’s editorial team.  This system served two purposes: first, if you said something incredibly stupid or nasty your grandmother (and others) would smack you upside the head in church the next week.  Second, and more important for the community (as important as a communal head-whacking for stupidity might be), it also guaranteed some level of reflection and editorial thought.  In the old system at least someone along the way had thought through a particular comment before it was available to others.

Online, anyone with the intellectual wherewithal to choose a pithy, identity-concealing handle like “ShutUpDumbDyke” can let fly with the first thought that scampers onto their cerebral center stage.  Unless they are engaged in a tough round of Pictionary or Charades, however, this is generally not a wise intellectual move.  It just leads to an emotional one-upmanship game of Typing Tourette’s.

There is of course no editorial staff censoring bloggers, either, as an astute commenter is bound to point out here.  But most often bloggers are putting themselves out there – not hiding behind anonymous monikers – and they are (mostly) aiming to say something.  Perhaps there is a blog somewhere consisting endlessly of “Don’t you have a life? You have no clue.  Find something that matters, you lazy sack of babble.”  But where would its readership be?  To be worth reading- to be worth wasting time writing – a thought needs to have a point.

It’s obvious that grandma’s sage advice “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” has had its day: we, as a society, will never pass that way again. Even Wikipedia’s definition of critical thinking seems hopelessly highbrow and out-of-date when contemplating today’s graceless online commentary smackdowns.  Alas, today’s forums – for better or worse – allow for all critical, no thinking.  But perhaps it’s not too late for another simple, old adage: think before you speak.

So go forth and comment passionately, wildly, sarcastically, amusingly – whatever moves your meter – but please have something to say that advances the dialogue.  And by all means refrain from getting into a fight with the next commenter, because his reply will always be that you’re a pigeon-toed idiot with bad breath and no education.

Does new ad show model ‘wearing nothing but her ChapStick’?

Did the marketing team at Pfizer come up with this one too?

After ChapStick took down its ass ad, the company’s FB page read: “We’ve removed the image and will share a newer ad with our fans soon!”

Nine to Five from Australia reports:

ChapStick Australia has announced reigning Australia’s Next Top Model winner Amanda Ware as the new face of its 2011 campaign.

Amanda will feature in a series of cheeky adverts, wearing nothing but her ChapStick – inspired by the brand’s new tag line Never let your lips go naked.

Cheeky adverts? Really?

Maybe ChapStick is trying to change its image, no longer highlighting athletes like Picabo Street, Dorothy Hamill, and Suzy Chaffee, opting instead to showcase female body parts. That would be a weird tactic, because I thought the ass ad was supposed to have nothing to do with sexualizing women, it’s just a girl who’s lost her ChapStick, after all.

I have no idea if naked women ads are really in the works (the link is dated June 3, 2011) but I’d be bummed to see them.

Here’s another link that sounds like a Playboy press release: Amanda Ware to bare it all for ChapStick  at The post reads:

Not known for their celebrity endorsements, Chapstick experienced a bit of a revival when Katy Perry sung about a “cherry Chapstick” in her debut hit ‘I Kissed A Girl’. The first ChapStick was invented in the early 1880s, making it one of the oldest beauty brands still around today with a comprehensive range of lip balms and glosses that covers the classics, shimmers and flavoured options.

So maybe the new campaign strategies represent Pfizer’s desire to reach a new generation of consumers, capitalizing on Katy Perry fans who don’t know ChapStick is known for previous celebrity endorsements? It would be so much cooler to just show the woman lifting the couch and finding the tube there.

Feminists are ugly, stupid, and have no sense of humor

Lots of feedback about the ChapStick story. Here are a couple classics.

“I have to agree, the person who is complaining about this add has to be totally out of her mind or she is jealous of the fact she doesnt look as good. Just more bullshit from some frustrated lesbian who wants to strip away any feminine attributes for some one who looks more like some dog from mars.”

And another:

“1.) I think the ad is actually in some way calling to the reader to focus on “maybe it’s up her butt” which is hilarious.
2.) Girls work hard to make their bodies sexy, and in the recent 2 decades, a great deal of effort has been put on the butt. Since girls similar to the one pictured in the ad are the target demographic (segment) for this ad, it’s genius.
3.) If you think this is offensive, then get a life”

Besides hundreds of emails attacking Melissa Spiers, who wrote the post on Reel Girl, or me, the issue goes beyond the ad, which everyone is free to have her own opinion about. Or not. ChapStick wrote publicly it wanted its customers to “be heard” and then deleted their comments; then finally apologized to those customers who “felt like” they were being deleted. See Why Chapstick’s bad PR policy matters.

We actually think the Butt seriously, Chapstick Facebook page is pretty funny. But I guess that’s because we’re the perverts. posts ‘dream’ apology from ChapStick

After ChapStick’s apology to women who “felt like” their posts about a sexist ad were being deleted from the company’s Facebook page, contributor Samantha Ettus suggests a more effective “dream” apology from the company:

We are so sorry for using poor judgment in putting up this ad. Thanks to social media, our awareness of the reaction emerged speedily and we were able to respond immediately by taking it down. Our consciousness has been raised and for that we are grateful. We have taken this lesson to heart and will not be creating any advertising that is or could be construed as objectifying women in any way. Just like you might forgive an old friend who messes up for the first time, I hope that you will return to us, unscathed from our mishap. Thanks for your understanding.

WOW, can you imagine? If ChapStick did that, I’d be giving it out on Halloween.

Ettus, a personal branding expert, writes that ChapStick has always been associated with strong women– from the Suzy ChapStick ads, where Suzy was highlighted for her athleticism, to other athletes/ spokespeople such as Olympic skier Picabo Street and ice skater Dorothy Hamill.

What happened to make a brand with a loyal, lifelong following of female customers who buy ChapStick for themselves and their kids, shift its marketing strategy so dramatically?

Ettus writes:

Chapstick’s ads have always been empowering for women. The real question is how they arrived at this point today. Now that Chapstick is owned by Pfizer, I’m envisioning the Viagra advertising team – a few young ad men unfamiliar with the history of the Chapstick brand – creating this off-brand ad. And then finally, the apology from Pfizer spokesman Ray Kerins as quoted in The Wall Street Journal: “This is a good example of us hearing what people have to say, making a determination and taking action,” he said. No real apology at all. Like a child forced to say sorry with no understanding of how this might translate into a similar future scenario, is Chapstick destined to repeat its recent history?

Feedback on ChapStick’s apology

Here’s a comment I like on Reel Girl:

Reading the comments to the “apology” is interesting. What I came away with is the conclusion that by calling the removed comments “foul, repetitive, and spam-like,” ChapStick reinforced the notion the people concerned about sexism are foul-mouthed, strident (shrill?), unreasonable, and unprincipled in pursuit of their goals. I don’t know if that was their intention, but if so… brilliantly played, ChapStick.

ChapStick writes: “We apologize that fans have felt like their posts are being deleted…” Huh? If you feel like your post is being deleted, is it actually being deleted?

This is a great comment from Adweek reader Elizabeth Kraus:

I’ve used chapstick for years; I’m dependent.  I didn’t think the ad was offensive, but I do think that the ‘apology’ is. Telling people that you’re sorry for how THEY feel is equivalent to saying that it’s their fault for how they think and feel about what you did.  If the company was silencing critics, own it, fix it and move on. Telling people that they don’t have the proper emotional response, and that you’re sorry about that?  Makes me want Blistex.

Here is Ray Kerins (Of ChapStick I believe) comment back to her:

Elizabeth Kraus – For
us this was about listening, analyzing the feedback and taking action.  So even while social media is so new to so
many of us, we are committed to the dialogue.

As I wrote, I think it’s great ChapStick removed the ad, apologized, and is creating a new ad. But also, as I wrote, the deleted comments that I saw are clearly not foul mouthed, threatening, or spammed as the screen shots show.

Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals got this response:

“Thank you for your email. Our new Chaptsick ad was not intended to offend anyone. We are dedicated to listening to the views of our customers. To that end, we are removing the image from all of our properties.
Thank you again for your feedback.
Raymond Kerins

Melissa Spiers who wrote the original post comments:

All of the media coverage on this is great but this was not just a photo posted on the internet. When I wrote the original article (with the original photo used here and in Adweek, Business Insider, etc) it was because I saw it as a full page ad in a magazine. It was also apparently a television commercial, featuring a woman’s ass jiggling around on the screen. It wasn’t JUST a picture on ChapStick’s site.

We don’t know if there is a TV commercial. We haven’t seen one, have you? The photo, I believe Melissa photographed from a magazine; it’s certainly running in print. But the point was that ChapStick wasn’t listening to their customers and now they seem to be, so that’s good. There’s still an ad out there that many people find offensive and the company is now saying they hear that and that they are no longer actively circulating it. That is what they’re saying, right?

Read ChapStick’s full apology here.

Why ChapStick’s bad PR policy matters

Yesterday,  Jezebel and Business Insider posted about ChapStick’s bad PR policy to delete negative feedback about its ad from its Facebook page– an especially questionable practice by ChapStick when its ad copy reads: “Be Heard” and follows with a Facebook page address.

As Jezebel wrote, ChapStick’s practice of deleting negative feedback is not officially censorship:

“Chapstick has no obligation to provide a public forum, and users are free to take their complaints elsewhere, as they have done.”

Last I looked, it appears ChapStick is now deleting the blatantly sexist comments as well, which I guess could be considered progress. But again, the ad implies a public forum. Furthermore, ironically, leaving up the sexist comments about the woman’s ass show that the picture is not just an innocent snapshot of a woman looking for ChapStick, that others besides crazy feminists bloggers find the ad objectifying, though obviously they’re into the objectification.

Jezebel writes:

What Chapstick is guilty of is really bad PR. When Dr. Pepper issued a much more objectionable ad, at least they allowed customers to sound off about it on their Facebook page. By deleting negative comments, Chapstick is sending the message that they can’t handle criticism. And especially if you’re encouraging people to use social media to talk about your brand, that’s a stupid message to send.

Business Insider agrees:

Social media is supposed to be a way to communicate with your customers — when you shut that channel down simply because they disagree with you, you totally negate the point of having it in the first place.

Deleting those comments served no purpose for Chapstick but to cause itself PR problems. It’s the Internet — even if you delete something, it’ll appear somewhere, somehow. True to form, many of the comments that Chapstick deleted were compiled by protesters on a new Facebook page (the screenshots show that most were void of profanity and civil).

What should Chapstick have done?

Brands like Chapstick have to learn to accept the negative with the positive, especially in a world with social media. By simply opening a dialogue with those angered and listening to their complaint, this could’ve been avoided. And the folks at Chapstick would’ve generated some goodwill, showing that they actually give a crap about what people think.

But no. They did the exact opposite, giving the perception that the brand doesn’t care.

One follower of the Butt Seriously, Chapstick FB page (created by Reel Girl for those deleted from ChapStick’s page) had a great suggestion that ChapStick show women in its ads being powerful and resourceful, for example lifting up the couch and finding the ChapStick there.

Obviously, this isn’t an earthshaking issue, but it is a striking glimpse into how corporations work behind the scenes to control their public message. And it’s disturbing to see that kind of manipulation operate under the guise of a public forum. The tactic is relevant to girls and women because so often with sexist products– movies that star only boys, the ubiquity of pink and Barbie dolls– the justification for the limited options out there is “we’re just giving the people what they want.” Clearly, there’s more going on in the background involving complex and elaborate marketing strategies. If you’re claiming to give us what we want, you ought to at least listen to what we have to say first.

Through this whole experience, I have learned how to spell ChapStick correctly.

Butt seriously, Chapstick

After Melissa Spiers posted on Chapstick’s offensive ad, she and many other readers tried to comment on Chapstick’s FB page as invited to in the ad. “BE HEARD,” Chapstick’s ad copy reads, yet all the comments readers made were mysteriously deleted within minutes.

So we’ve created “Butt seriously, Chapstick,” exclusively for those not allowed on Chapstick’s page. Please click like and be heard.

Hopefully, they’ll get it in the end.

Chapstick sticks it to women by Melissa Spiers, guest post

I have never been to Farmville or Café World or CityWhatever so I have no idea how they work.  But I want to create my own online universe.  It will be a museum, no, it will be a whole village: an online world ‘housing’ the vast collection of media messages that are degrading to women. Hey look, a picture of a woman’s ass.  Members could live in the various apartments, museums, cafes, stores, theaters, and schools where women are sold, displayed, minimized, belittled, objectified …or are just plain missing. Oh, she lost her Chapstick. And they could do their, whatever they do in online universes – work, farm, drink, eat, chat.

Of course, such a collection could only exist online, because there isn’t a building big enough to hold the real accumulation.

Welcome to the Visitor’s Center!  Upstairs is the Liquor Advertisements Wing.  I wonder where she lost it? Across the street, the Music Lyrics building.  And adjacent to that, the Movies and Television compound.

No, wait.  I will organize it according to degradation type instead of media type.  On this street we have the planned housing development of “Women Licking Objects.”   Whoa! Check out her ass! Over here, the ghost town of “Missing: Significant Roles for Women” (which includes, of course, the government buildings, churches, big business boardrooms, and TV & movie studios.)  Gosh, where IS that lost Chapstick?  And of course the shopping mall of “Fetishized Female Body Parts.” Yes, my village will reach to the horizon in every direction, a whole city of buildings filled with sexist advertising, music, books, movies and media of every kind. 

But why would anyone visit my online world, anyway?  Don’t we go online to experience an alternate reality? Chapstick! Woman’s Ass!  Have you ever gone through a day without being bombarded with any sexist messages or images?  Some of them are right out there, nothing subliminal about them  – see exhibits A through Z on the Rap Lyrics floor.  Lost. Chapstick. Ass. Others try to be subtle and sneaky (please take the audio tour in the Museum of Advertising).  Unfortunately, the use of women’s bodies to sell everything from beer to books has become so pervasive that we almost don’t see it anymore.  Hey, I bet I know where the Chapstick is!

So when we see it – what do we do about it? Well, I would encourage you to take Chapstick up on their bold-print offer to “Be Heard at” except I’ve tried that: they delete any comments even remotely questioning or critical.  Hmmmm.  What asses.

Because Chapstick continues to delete our comments, Reel Girl started another FB page Butt seriously, Chapstick. Please visit and be heard.

Read Melissa Spiers’ follow-up to the ChapStick controversyNo Comment! A Commentary on the ChapStick Story