Friday, August 10, 2007

How Not To Sell Out

This fight does not quite live up my chosen metaphor of a cage match between General Pinochet and Pol Pot, but it's curious nonetheless. Johnson & Johnson has decided to sue the American Red Cross for infringing its trademark - the red cross.

This seems on the face of it a rather callous thing to do, asking the guys that clear up after floods to disgorge money to a private corporation, a listed corporation, as the Red Cross is quick to highlight in its press release on the matter. For good measure, the Red Cross describes the suit as "obscene", its CEO begs that “the courts and Congress will not allow Johnson & Johnson to bully the American Red Cross.”

The American Red Cross CEO, since may this year, is Mark Everson, and you can find a very illuminating interview with him at Charity Navigator titled "I Am Well Suited for the Job". The guy that runs the site knows his onions, is pretty critical, and obviously has the ears of a couple of big donors, because Everson does not try and fluff him.

Unfortunately we don't get much in the way of discussion of the two big issues, beyond Hurricane katrina, that marred the tenure of his predecessors. The first was the Red Cross policy of withholding its dues from the international Federation of Red Crosses over the issue of whether to recognise an Israeli affiliate. This led to the hugely expensive Red crystal symbol emerging for use in non-Muslim or Christian countries.

It wasn't so much the cause I was bothered about, since the Americans had a fair amount of right on their side, so much as the manner. Here we have a $600,000 grand a year guy issuing diktats to his fellow agencies, all the time working on commercial projects that run completely at cross-purposes to what its sister agencies are trying to do.

I can't though, lay the Johnson & Johnson issue at the door of current, or even recent management. This goes back to a deal struck over a hundred years ago, and lumped the American Red Cross with commercial obligations before its counterparts overseas had even thought through the consequences, much less adopted their later hard line.

Still, for the American Red Cross to complain about such commercial conflicts, when its been slapping its logo on everything from cold remedies to radios is the height of chutzpah. Time for them to get back to first principles.

Alright, got to hustle to Shea now, to see if I can finally catch a Mets victory. Daft Punk last night was good.

RIP Tony Wilson. I reckon Miguel will be out with a far more apt tribute soon. I'd just like to point you to a clip from 24 hour Party people. I reckon Tony wilson actually has his chat with god prepared. He was also really bad at turning a fast buck, god bless 'im


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