Turns out, he is!
The Herald Online did the leg-work on this story yesterday, and interviewed both Richard Green (frontman for the Association of Community Retailers) and Glenn Inwood (spin doctor for whaling and Big Tobacco).
Green helpfully confirmed Inwood's involvement with the Stay Displays campaign and the ACR. And that the ACR is an organisation of mum and dad small retailer who “run on the smell of an oily rag", but who thought it was prudent to hire two staff members despite not having figured out how to pay them. And yet, unless the two staff members are working there on credit, they seem to have figured out how to pay them, despite not having figured out how to pay them.
Meanwhile, Inwood said that the Association of Community Retailers receives no funding from tobacco companies or himself, and he implied that he lets them use his office spaces purely because he knows Green from the good old days of Stay Displays – the last genuine grassroot community group of mum and dad retailers that they worked together on (and presumably wasn't paid for by Big Tobacco, either).
Where else might the money have come from, if not directly from tobacco companies?
I don't know, but another SpinItWide client, via Carrick Graham's Facilitate Communications, is the New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores. Their "Premium Members" include the confectionery and tobacco brands in the title of this post.
The ACR was created to deal with wider issues that Stay Displays (created over cigarette display advertising) didn't cover. What are some of the issues that concern the ACR? Chocolate and sweets.
The Association of Community Retailers is finding that confectionery and food marketing has begun following the same path as alcohol and tobacco... A number of so-called obesity and health organisations are pushing for stricter laws surrounding the advertising and display of confectionery and soft-drinks in convenience store, dairies and supermarkets.
It looks like ACR is ready to fight them on the chocolate and sweets, just like they're ready to fight them on the cigarettes.
Does it mean that the confectionery industry are getting ready to play the same game as Big Tobacco? I don't know, but in the spirit of facilitating communication, though, I want to speak in the language that big corporations understand.
So, brand guardians of Cadbury, Coca Cola, Bluebird, Tip Top, Mars, Nestle, Streets, consider this. You make junk food. You've got Sue Kedgley crawling up your ass. You're holding back the tide reasonably well, because most people see junk food bans as being just a little too nanny state. They see junk food as a little bit naughty, but nothing too serious. Not like cigarettes. Nothing like cigarettes.
You join organisations like the New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores. You pay people like Glenn Inwood, his companies Omeka Public Relations (aka Omeka Communications), SpinItWide, GlobalPR Limited, or Carrick Graham of Facilitate Communications.
You think of this as the army you need to hold back the tide that's coming at you.
Try these on for size:
I don't want to tell you how to suck eggs, but what do you think will happen to your brand when it becomes associated with Big Tobacco and whaling? How popular do you think these things are in New Zealand? How much of a hit do you think Big Tobacco took when they were seen as “unwholesome"? How much of a hit do you think your fun-for-the-whole-family-ice-cream will take when it's associated with Big Tobacco?
I guess, to an extent, I can see why nominally “family" brands like Cadbury, Coca Cola, Bluebird, Tip Top, Mars, Nestle and Streets would want to ally themselves with Big Tobacco. You operate in the same market, you are all fast-moving consumer goods, and you realise that one way or another, you'll be in Big Tobacco's shoes soon enough.
Right now, your best defence is that you're *not* Big Tobacco. And yet, you want to protect yourselves by using the same tactics as Big Tobacco, using the same people to execute the same tactics as Big Tobacco, and associating yourselves with Big Tobacco as they are pulling the same shit that's seen them be despised.
And since Big Tobacco didn't carry enough stench for you, you get the guy who does whaling *and* Big Tobacco. Save yourselves some time. Just change your logo to a swastika.
I don't really know what's in it for the other organisations connected with Inwood, though. I have no idea what's so spectacularly dodgy about the NZ Aged Care Association that they need the Whaling Guy to sort them out, but hell, I sure am curious now.
But hey, people have short memories. Next time you get Glenn Inwood or Carrick Graham to do media work or lobby for you, journalists and politicians may well forget that they have “Whaling" and “Big Tobacco" tattooed on their respective foreheads. And when your genuine grassroot organisation of Adorable Orphans Concerned About Chocolate and Ice-Cream sends out their press releases on SpinItWide, hey, who's going to remember this little incident, eh?
In fact, it's pretty futile of me to keep talking about Glenn Inwood of Omeka Public Relations, GlobalPR and SpinItWide, or Carrick Graham of Facilitate Communications. It's probably not going to achieve anything apart from making them rank higher on Google searches. Oh well.
(UPDATE: There's been some questions raised about the links. So here's what we know, stated as clearly and concisely as possible:
* These confectionery brands are a part of an industry group, the New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores, with the tobacco brands.
* NZACS actively campaigns on tobacco issues. It is, for all intents and purposes, a tobacco lobby among other things.
* NZACS is represented by Carrick Graham, of Facilitate Communications, and they have an ongoing relationship with Glenn Inwood (what the nature of that relationship is, that's the unknown variable).
* Glenn Inwood is involved with the Association of Community Retailers.
* ACR actively campaigns on tobacco issues, and looks set to campaign on confectionery.
There is no clear evidence that the ACR is backed by NZACS, and I make no such claim. But what I can say with certainty is that these confectionery brands are part of organisations that work for the interests of Big Tobacco, their public relations money goes into the pockets of people who makes their living doing questionable things on behalf of Big Tobacco and whaling.
These are facts that will, and should, poison these family brands.)