Once I had to get Tony the Tiger out of a serious scrape, along with his buddies Snap, Crackle and Pop.
I was in New York working the D-A-Y shift atDudley Anderson Yutzy, one of the country’s largest PR firms at the time. I was assigned to get Tony, Cornelius Rooster and bunch of others off the hook and the Federal Trade Commission’s hit list.
The mean ole government was trying to bust ‘em. They aimed to breakup what they called their bloatedoligopoly, throw them in the clinger and toss the key into a seething sea of sour milk. So Crisis Management Madden to the rescue!
The situation has parallels to the present with octopuses like Google and Amazon getting bigger and fatterand sticking their tentacles into everything. But compared to them, Tony was a pussycat.
D-A-Y’s largest client,Kellogg Company of Battle Creek, Michigan, was in a pitched battle with the FTC to keep its cereals alive and crackling.
Kellogg and the Generals (Mills and Foods) were charged with breaking the law by stifling competition and ripping off consumers with artificially high prices.
Thrust into the media glare, Kellogg’s executives needed help in making their case to the national media, so yours truly, Crisis Management Madden, was dispatched to Battle Creek to media train their top executives.
Judging by today’s standards when companies are not just businesses but behemoths like Amazon and Google,busting Tony’s chops and trying to break up poor little Snap, Crackle and Pop seems in retrospect to be just plain mean, silly and almost unpatriotic. And that’s the way I characterized it in the publicity I generated and speeches I wrote.
The Everything Store?
It seems so funny now to have been slogging away to preserve the cereal industry while today guys like Jeff Bezos seem to be running The Everything Store.
To be Amazoned today means to have your business shaking like a leaf because the wolf is eyeballing your industry.
Google is the dominant player in search engines, online videos, online advertising. Is it a monopoly? Well, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and searches like a duck, maybe it’s indeed a duck?
Back to Snap, Crackle and Pop
While creating sympathy for cereals, I pointed out the three dominant companies making them were hardly limiting consumer’s choice. Far from it.
There were producing a plethora of crispy cereals in bright colors hawked by cutesy characters. They were filling entire aisles and sweetening supermarkets.
Ok, I’ll confess I did not stress how much sugar they were packing. Sorry, but I’m a PR guy, not an angel.
Eventually the FTC threw in the towel and my publicity may have helped my client beat the rap, especially after a lucky thing happened during the campaign.
The New York Times decided to reprint a speech I had written for Kellogg’s then president Bill LaMothe. He was so appreciative next day he flew to New York in his private jet to personally thank me. I was summoned to join him at the Plaza Hotel, where naturally we met over . . . alas . . . breakfast. After some friendly small talk over our cereal bowls, his conversation turned surprisingly solemn.
He declared it was the goal of his presidency to get more raisins into Kellogg’s Raisin Bran. I searched his face for a sign of humor, but this Battle Creeker wasn’t kidding. This man was on a mission. You could say it was his raisin d’etre.
Years later his determination paid off. He rose to Chairman, while I rose to Vice President, Assistant to the President, of NBC.
And finally Bill reached his summit: Two scoopfuls in every box of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran,while I started my own PR firm, TransMedia Groupnow based in Boca Raton, FL www.transmediagroup.com.
Now please read my blog at MaddenMischief.com and my latest book which is full of political Snap, Crackle and Pop. It’s titled: “Is there enough Brady in Trump to win the inSUPERable Bowl?” available on – you guessed it – AMAZON!