Because of the revelations of the political activities of the Koch brothers by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker as well as other media, it is no longer appropriate for the former New York
State Theater in Lincoln Center to be named after David H. Koch, his $100 million gift to the theater notwithstanding.

David and Charles Koch, as further revealed in the May 9 issue of The Nation, are up to their ears in political activities that until recently had been little known.

David Koch with his wife, Julia, outside the Koch Theater.
The ballet and other performing arts at Lincoln Center should take place in an apolitical atmosphere.

We make no judgment about the rightness or wrongness of the Koch brothers’ beliefs -- only that Lincoln Center should not serve as an advertisement for them. Equally inappropriate would be such names as George Soros, Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh.

The names are flashpoints in the heated debate on economic and political issues in a nation that is becoming increasingly polarized.

New York Is Heavily Democratic

A side issue is that New York is a Democratic party stronghold and many ballet patrons are being rubbed the wrong way when they see the Koch name where the New York City Ballet performs.

NYCB, facing a $6 million deficit this year, just completed bitter labor negotiations with the dancers, who got no raise this year and will get a 2.5% raise in the year beginning in August. None of the Koch money went to the dancers.

The ballet often plays to a house that is half or two-thirds full. It spreads discount tickets at libraries throughout the metropolitan area to win attendance. It has a hard time attracting a younger audience whose musical tastes run to the pop songs that are on “American Idol.” The dancers and staffers, meanwhile, are doing everything they can for “PR,” including giving “tutorials” between programs and remaining after performances to answer questions.

Magazine Awards Tonight

Mayer is up for a top prize tonight at the awards dinner of the American Society of Magazine Editors.

She revealed that Koch entities funded more than 30 conservative leaning political and policy groups.

The Nation obtained an election packet for Koch employees in Washington State that had a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates and said, "We believe these candidates will best advance policies supporting economic freedom." Sixteen of the 19 candidates were Republicans.

Companies can now express their political views to employees because of the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision that gave free speech rights to corporations.

Koch general counsel Mark Holden has urged ASME not to give any award to Mayer on the ground that her article was "ideologically slanted and a prime example of a disturbing trend in journalism where agenda-driven advocacy masquerades as objective reporting."

We fault the Kochs for refusing to talk to Mayer while she was researching her article and for refusing to check the “facts” that she had sent to them.

“Fact-checking” a reporter’s story is a bedrock principle of PR/press relations. Reporters do not always allow this, as they should, but if they do, it’s PR’s duty to rebut or correct statements before they hit the web or print.

Ad Age Salutes Coke; No Mention of Sugar Taxes

Advertising Age May 2 bubbled with a six-page feature on Coca-Cola’s 125th birthday, noting the company hopes to double sales in the next ten years but making no mention of its biggest threat — taxes on its high calorie products.

coke, pepsi sugar
A soda tax lost in New York State last year but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing for one as is California and at least 11 other states.

With two-thirds of the nation overweight and the costs burdening an already strained healthcare system, the move to cut sugar consumption has reached new levels of urgency. Adults consume 22 teaspoons of sugar a day when it should be nine for men and six for women, says the American Heart Assn. Teenagers are a “particularly important” market for Coke, the Ad Age article says. Coke ads have traditionally identified the product with athletes and celebrities.

Sugar content in all beverages should be expressed in the form of teaspoons of sugar as well as calories and grams.

A poll on has found a 73-27% majority in favor of such a graphic on the front of containers. This will do more to cut down on sugar consumption quickly than state or federal laws.

The University of Calif., Berkeley, shows sugar content in the form of teaspoons, saying this is something that children can readily understand.

“Would you put ten teaspoons of sugar in your cup of coffee?” asks one of the health websites (which there are in a can of Pepsi--150 calories or 15 calories per teaspoon). Coke has 9.33 teaspoons (140 calories). Coke’s biggest failure, the so-called “New Coke” of 1985, was an attempt to “out-sweeten” Pepsi which had ten more calories of sugar, by upping the sugar in Coke to 156 calories.

It was “too sweet” and bombed in the market in 77 days.

Galen Reser, Pepsi VP of government affairs, has called sugar taxes “one of the biggest public policy threats the company has ever faced.” A cover story on Pepsi’s Julie Hamp in the November PR Week/U.S. similarly failed to mention the sugar tax threat.

We have to ask, are these publishers doing journalism or PR?

Health groups have told us they support the spoon concept and will work to get it implemented.

One marketing ploy that consumers may not be aware of is the purchase of shelf space in supermarkets either with free product or cash.

Entire aisles of supermarkets are jammed with thousands of bottles and cans of soda--making shoppers think there must be huge demand for such products. Brands often get 6-8 feet of space plus six shelves. The space is paid for and is a stealth form of advertising. In addition, soda “specials” may be sprinkled at key spots throughout a store.

Newspaper Ads Cut in Half

Financial writer John Sullivan has done an excellent job in analyzing the pressures on PR and journalism for ProPublica.

He points out the shrinkage in journalism jobs and the expansion in PR jobs which now outnumber the former by about five –to-one. Also noted is the current emphasis on getting messages directly to consumer via social media, avoiding any intermediary function by the press. Companies are also creating their own “media.” Some public companies want to report earnings and other news only on their websites, eliminating use of PR newswires or other methods of distribution.

Sullivan noted newspaper ad revenue has plummeted from a high of $49 billion in 2000 to $22B in 2009, a more than 50% drop. Especially hard hit was classified -- down 92% in ten years.

TV advertising, meanwhile, grew from $52B in 2000 to $65B in 2010. Internet ads grew from $7B in 2000 to $35B in 2010. Magazine ads grew 1.1% yearly from 2000-2008 and were down 5.4% between 2008 and 2009. They were $20B in 2010.

Ad agencies prefer TV ads because of their sound, motion and interruptive values.

Another reason might be that newspapers provide plenty of space for differing opinions in letters-to-the-editor columns and op-ed space. Quotes from TV viewers are rare and very brief when they do appear.

Ad agencies are no great fans of daily newspapers. Six major newspaper companies have gone into bankruptcy in recent years but no TV stations or networks that we know of.

The ad conglomerates have centralized media buying into a few powerful combines that decide which types of media will survive, which ones will be put on a starvation diet, and which ones will disappear. The cardinal aim of ads is control of the message. The challenge of social media is that now they must dialogue with some of their customers.