Pica pica

03 May 2018 : Pica #028

“We begin bombing in five minutes.”

PC PR is suckers game.

When the truth is out, don’t deny it. Own it.

Mike Coupe was in a good mood. He’d just cut a great deal and was about to go on British national TV to talk about it. In a quiet off the air moment, he mentally reviewed recent events and began to sing to himself. You can watch his solo performance here.

In the clip Mr. Coupe intones the song “We’re in the Money” with these lyrics; “We’re in the money, the sky is sunny. Let’s lend it, spend it, send it rolling along”. Mike Coupe is CEO of Sainsbury’s, the deal he has just negotiated is the merger of Sainsbury’s and Walmart-owned Asda. The merger will create the largest UK supermarket chain with a 31.4 percent market share and revenue of £51bn. I think his musical choice is spot on.

Mr. Coupe has since apologised; “It was an unfortunate choice of song, from the musical 42nd Street, which I saw last year. And I apologise if I have offended anyone”. A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s added: “We all know these songs stay in your head. To attach any wider meaning to this innocent, personal moment is preposterous.” No, anonymous spokesperson, it isn’t preposterous, it’s inevitable.

Sainsbury’s expects to make £500m in extra profit from the merger. The prospect of half a billion in extra cash is enough to make anyone burst into song, everyone can understand that. Sainsbury’s shouldn’t deny it, they should own it. In a statement, he said: “This was an unguarded moment trying to compose myself before a TV interview.” That’s perfect, all he needed to add was that he was delighted with the deal that will benefit everyone (as stated in this official statement) and that he considers the dissemination of the video an invasion of his privacy as he wasn’t being interviewed nor was he on the air.

Maybe there is some subconscious instinct to empty one’s mind of the things that must not be said in public, by saying them out loud to oneself, because this “unguarded moment” reminded me of another event that occurred on August 11, 1984. The US President at the time was Ronald Reagan. On that day, while preparing to make his weekly radio address to the nation on National Public Radio, he pronounced the following words for the sound check; “My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes”.
This was not transmitted to the nation, but it was picked up by radio technicians on tape machines running in studios around the country as they prepared to broadcast the official statement. Inevitably, rumours of the sound check statement quickly spread and were subsequently made public. The only official reaction to the press, inquiring about the event, was made by the White House press secretary, Larry Speakes, who said: ‘I don’t talk about off-the-record stuff.’

That’s the way to do it. That’s the way Sainsbury’s should have gone. By denying what is patently obvious they have insulted the intelligence of everyone they are trying to placate and worsening a situation that, may have been personally embarrassing for Mike Coupe but, wasn’t necessarily damaging for the Sainsbury’s/Asda brand. I mean, come on, he didn’t say he was going to wage nuclear war on Russia, did he?

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