Fakes and Cakes!

By Emma Evans on Monday, 23 January 2023

Last week was a busy week on the news front and, while heartening to see some non-cost-of-living headlines being generated, why did they go for the cake?! And why did Adidas think hiding behind a banal statement would help counter that activist hoax?

In case you missed it, cakes started lighting up our Teams chats when the Food Standards Agency chairwoman Professor Susan Jebb likened cakes in the office to passive smoking.

As part of an interview with The Times- which the Prof insisted she was speaking to in a personal capacity- Jebb claimed that “If nobody brought cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes." She then went on to claim that colleagues should think about creating a “supportive environment” and delivered the fatal blow when she likened cake proffering to passive smoking.

So much to unpack here in all of this, including the personal responsibility elephant in the room perhaps, but it really made me feel quite sad that we have one of our national food advisers calling for an end to cake!

Most workplaces and education settings are now, thankfully, very mindful of ensuring there are a plethora of healthy alternatives available for employees and students alike. The fruit bowls in our office are literally bulging and we’ve (even) added non alcoholic beverages to the drinks trolley.

The point is, we need to offer people choice and encourage people to make good decisions not just take the lemon drizzle away and, certainly not suggest that having one on the high table in the office is verging on polluting peoples air space with cigarettes… although part of me is curious about legions of ’cakers’ gathering outside buildings.

Speaking of bonkers behaviour, sportswear giant Adidas was the subject of a publicity hoax this week. In what can only be described as a masterstroke in communications management, a series of phoney press releases and the staging of a fake event were devised by activist group, The Yes Men working alongside the Clean Clothes Campaign.

The group posed as Adidas and shared “news” of a new CEO for the group along with claims it would soon launch a new "pre-worn" collection at Berlin Fashion Week. In the press releases the activists spoke of Adidas’ treatment of factory workers and revealed the “new” CEO, former Cambodian Factory Worker, Vay Ya Nak Phoan, would be responsible for ensuring “ethical compliance!

Eeek! I can only imagine the calls and frantic DMs across the Adidas communications teams as this unfolded. I genuinely feel for any comms professional navigating as public and cleverly orchestrated a stunt as this, but to land on the “no comment” square feels like an opportunity missed. Maybe the idea was not to add fuel to the fire, perhaps they wanted to see how it was received but I can’t see how a “We are not commenting on these releases” helps reset Adidas’ narrative in any way. But perhaps for them it felt like the best way forward.

An exciting week for sure and plenty to muse on… I’m off for an angel slice.

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