Friday, August 19, 2005

Is there anything a good marketing, advertising and propaganda campaign CAN'T fix?

I am not going to rehash the hundreds of excellent studies, books, articles and films that detail the intricate and quite fascinating/frightening ways that "messaging" has become the central point of discourse and the underlying motive behind most communications we see and hear on a daily basis.

Suffice it to say that there is a person or organization crafting a message designed to move you to an action or thought in most communications we hear. That is true enough.

Another truth of the modern era is that more often than not, people, organizations, governments, churches and corporations look for the easy fix, the superficial repair, rather than engaging in the hard work of fixing a problem at its root.

A sad coming together of these two truths comes in the form of TUNA. That's right TUNA. That tatsy creature of the sea that we love in sandwiches, grilled and raw.

It has come to light over the last few years that TUNA contains a higher than normal amount of MERCURY. As TUNA are near the top of their food chain, they absorb the mercury from all the smaller fish and as it is a fatty fish, it gets stored in higher amounts.

Since these Mercury announcements have been made TUNA sales have plummeted by almost 10% per year. The $1.4 billion canned tuna industry is being hit the hardest. So, what to do?

From today's New York Times:

For much of the last three decades, canned tuna fish has been America's favorite seafood and a trusted staple of children's lunches. Those days, however, are over.

As awareness has increased about the high levels of mercury in some kinds of canned tuna fish, tuna has taken on an image problem. Some consumers are shunning the product in favor of other kinds of fish or are avoiding fish altogether. Now 21 percent of consumers say they are "extremely concerned" about mercury in fish, up from 17 percent two years ago, according to the NPD Group research firm.

As a result, industry sales are sagging. Since March 2004, when the federal government issued a new advisory about seafood consumption and mercury, sales of canned tuna in the United States swung from modest growth to a steady decline. Sales are down 10 percent in the last year, causing a revenue loss of $150 million for the $1.5 billion industry, according to ACNielsen.

The joint Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency advisory was the first time canned tuna fish was mentioned in such warnings. Previously, the agencies has warned only about mercury in swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tilefish.

Hoping to stem the decline and repair tuna's reputation, the industry is trying to arrange a government program to oversee an advertising campaign promoting the benefits of tuna. Called "Tuna - A Smart Catch," the ad campaign would not directly address the mercury issue, but instead would highlight the various health benefits of tuna fish.

In one TV ad, moms proclaim that tuna has "way less fat than beef and pork," contains no carbs and is "good for us."

But the ads, which have been created by Marriner Marketing in Columbia, Md., will not appear on TV screens any time soon. The tuna industry is waiting for government approval of its ad program, to be administered by a group to be called the American Council for Tuna. David G. Burney, executive director of the United States Tuna Foundation, which is overseeing the creation of the council, says the industry already has the support of the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the Department of Commerce, but is waiting for approval from the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees all government regulatory programs.

The American Council for Tuna follows in the footsteps of Department of Agriculture "checkoff" programs that have financed the "Got Milk" campaign and the "Beef. It's What's for Dinner" ads. Like these ad campaigns, the tuna program will not receive any government funding and will be supported through a fee imposed on all tuna producers.

SO THERE IT IS!!! Your perfect answer. Create an industry interest group, create and run some ads touting the benefits of Tuna and COMPLETELY IGNORE THE FACT THAT TUNA HAS MERCURY IN IT.

Rather than cleaning up the waterways and acid rain that leech mercury into the ocean and its food chain, rather than deal honestly with a problem that could destroy their industry, they want to run some carefully crafted ads.

So what if your children are born with weak immune systems and missing fingers? TUNA, ITS WHAT'S FOR DINNER!!!! TUNA, THW OTHER WHITE MEAT!!!! GOT TUNA????