CRISIS MANAGEMENT FOR CHICKEN SOUP (ALIAS JEWISH PENICILLIN)

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STARRING HENNY YOUNGMAN, WILLARD SCOTT AND A POSSE OF JEWISH GRANDMOTHERS DIRECTED BY TOM MADDEN.

(A Three-Act PR Play)

The first alternative medicine I ever promoted was chicken soup.  Our PR campaign was such a hit with New York media that the Public Relations Journal gave it a rave review.

According to my profession’s esteemed trade journal, I had put together a PR program that came off like a well-crafted three-act play for which I wrote the script, pulled together an incredible cast and taken my seat in the director’s chair.

 

I did this for Ben’s Best Kosher Deli in Queens, New York, one of the clients at my PR firm, TransMedia GroupBen’s served the pastrami, corned beef, brisket and tongue that if you’re from New York and you moved to Florida you dream about.

I had to hand it to my troupe.  Everyone played their part superbly.  Staging couldn’t have been better at Ben’s.  It blew the lid off the soup pot.

The Journal called it a farcical mini-epic that pitted a small delicatessen, 100 grandmothers and the late comedian Henny Youngman against the makers of one of the country’s best selling cold remedies—Contact.

The play went something like this:

(AT RISE, The PR playwright (me) is at home watching television. On the screen, the comedian Steve Landsberg is comparing chicken soup to Contact cold capsules.  Landsberg claims Contact is more effective than chicken soup for combating colds. Commercial ends.)

(Darkness.)

 

ACT 1, SCENE 1

(Ben’s Best Kosher Deli on Queens Blvd. in Queens, NY. Yours truly and the owner, Jay Parker, are sitting at a table, bowls of our beloved but defamed chicken soup in front of us.)

ME: Listen I’ve got a terrific idea. It won’t cost much and you’ll get a million bucks worth of publicity out of it.

PARKER: (his feelings truly hurt): They really said that?  How could they say that? How can a simple pill compete against a good bowl of chicken soup? Don’t they know this is Jewish Penicillin?

(DARKNESS)

 

 

 

ACT 1, SCENE 2

(The set of The Today Show at NBC where I was once Vice President, Assistant to the President, then Fred Silverman.  NBC weatherman Willard Scott, a national spokesman for Contact, is battling the flu. Scott sneezes and coughs as he tries to report the weather.

I had my wife and business partner Angela rush over to him a bowl of Ben’s Best chicken soup.  All over America, millions of TV viewers that morning watched Scott, the national spokesman for Contact, gratefully sip from the cup of soup containing Ben’s Best logo clearly visible on camera.  Hit #1.

(Darkness)

 

ACT 2—THE PROTEST

(Ben’s Best Kosher Deli. Present are myself, one of my PR account executives who used to do PR for Ringling Bros. Circus and Parker.

Also present, invited by us, was Congressman Gary Ackerman, comedian Henny Youngman, a number of local grandmothers carrying placards protesting “Contact Unfair to Chicken Soup.”

(Journalists scribble notes frantically, flashbulbs pop.)

 

REP. ACKERMAN: (reading from a proclamation): Let it be known to all assembled that Ben’s Best Kosher Deli . . . has courageously upheld the dignity, the honor and the medicinal value of chicken soup, in the face of unwarranted and slanderous attacks from the slick, the cynical and the manipulators of Madison Avenue.

 

PARKER: Chicken soup is the drug of choice of all these grandmothers . . . After all, there’s no warning label, and we know what the side effects are over a 500-year period.

(Journalists scribble notes frantically, flashbulbs pop.)

 

 

ACT 3—THE RECONCILIATION

Ben’s Best Kosher Deli, Next Day: Present are me, the beaming congressman, cheering grandmothers and the same chorus of media.  Press coverage so far included the front page of The Wall Street Journal, plus prominent coverage in USA Today, The New York Daily News, Newsday, just to name a few, the clippings all now adorning the walls of the world famous deli.

Enter Willard Scott and representatives of SmithKline Beckman and BBD&O, the advertising firm that created the Landesberg commercial.  Members of the delegation carry signs that read: “Contact Loves Chicken Soup.” Willard kisses each grandmother and begins slurping soup.

A deliriously grateful Parker pulls me aside and says (I hope kiddingly): “Tom, what’s TransMedia going to do for me next week.”

 

THE END

 


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