Damned with false praise

Headshot of Tim Nudd

The Center for Media and Democracy has come up with fun new awards for public-relations fiascos. They’re called (what else?) the “Falsies,” and they honor “the people and players responsible for polluting our information environment.” Mmm, yummy.

First on the 2004 list (and in this case, first = worst) is a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services video news release touting the Medicare reform law. The video, which aired on 40 stations, was scrutinized by many other media outlets for being passed off as legitimate news. The U.S. General Accounting Office ultimately deemed that it violated a ban on government-funded “publicity and propaganda.” In the video, a “reporter” named Karen Ryan signs off in traditional TV news style. In fact, Ryan wasn’t a reporter—she was employed by a production company hired by Omnicom Group’s Ketchum to craft the release.

Also on the hit list was the “free speech” protest zone at Boston’s Democratic National Convention, an area that was “bordered by cement barriers, a double row of chain-link fencing, heavy black netting, and tightly woven plastic mesh,” according to the Boston Globe. Dishonorable mentions were given to Ogilvy & Mather and Fleishman-Hillard for the firms’ twin overbilling scandals. And an honorable mention went to Jon Stewart’s confrontational jabs when he went on CNN’s Crossfire in October.

The supposed prizes include $1 million worth of free coupons, a lifetime supply of non-fattening ice cream and an expenses-paid vacation to Fallujah … and the Center’s promise to respect them in the morning.

—Posted by Lisa van der Pool

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.