Issuesbased Advertorial

One of the most dramatic uses of issues advertising has been that of Mobil Oil's ''op-eds' which first appeared on October 19, 1970. The New York Times introduced a second editorial page facing the original one and offered a quarter of the new page as space for image advertising. These opinion editorials were placed in the New York Times as well as the Washington Post and other periodicals. The "op-eds" cover all manner of topics not necessarily to do with the oil industry, including economic, political, and social issues important to the consumer and the company. It was Mobil's objective to encourage thought and dialogue by informing the public about the oil industry while explaining Mobil's views on key issues of the day and by presenting responsible policy proposals. While these public issues may seem outside the corporate image, in a Harris survey in 1976 on how the American public regarded 40 corporations, including 7 oil companies, Mobil came out well and was seen as the industry's pacesetter on 19 out of 21 issues set out in the survey. These ''op-eds ' have been a great success for Mobil Oil and continue to run in the New York Times and other publications today.

The 1980s introduced a new era of public relations and corporate social responsibility. A seminal moment occurred when healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson was faced with one of the seminal moments in its corporate history in its classic handling of the tylenol poisonings in 1983. This was an event which was to transform the need to manage one's reputation at a corporate level from being the occasional luxury of Fortune 500 players to being a necessity.

The fundamental reason why the handling of this crisis was not an accident of fortune can be seen in the Johnson & Johnson "Credo." General Robert Wood Johnson, who guided Johnson & Johnson from a small, family-owned business to a worldwide enterprise, wrote the Credo in 1943. It consisted of a one-page document that put customers first, and stockholders last, and was a refreshing approach to the management of a business.

We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services. In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality. We must constantly strive to reduce our costs in order to maintain reasonable prices. Customers' orders must be serviced promptly and accurately. Our suppliers and distributors must have an opportunity to make a fair profit.

The Credo allows the company to respond swiftly, consistently, and altruistically. For the first time, the world could see that open and frank dealings between a company and its stakeholders in times of extreme difficulty could ultimately be good for business.

It could be argued that this same approach (swift, consistent, and altruistic) could also be of value when in non-crisis circumstances. The Body Shop's successful corporate history is testimony to this.

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