JC Penney Handles Boycott of New Spokesperson
On the heels of the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle, a conservative group called One Million Moms (OMM) has called for a boycott from JC Penney for hiring Ellen DeGeneres, an openly gay personality as their spokesperson.
OMM has accused the company of "jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon." JC Penney is trying to rebuild its customer base with help from a new spokeswoman, calling the decision to hire her "a no-brainer."
Grassroots movements and coalitions pop up around hotbed issues every day - and they make their opinions heard loud and clear. They demand that people be fired, advertisements be pulled and support be withdrawn. It's never going to be possible to please everyone, but companies seem to be facing even more backlash from advocacy groups than ever.
Is it possible for organizations to ever stay neutral on polarizing issues? Should they even strive for that? Should a company like JC Penney have predicted that selecting DeGeneres would create controversy? Should JC Penney even pay attention to their new critics?
JC Penney should ignore the critics and stay the course. Their choice of Ellen as a spokesperson is brilliant - she represents a new face for the American family and is a fitting new face for JC Penney. I doubt that JC Penney intended to create controversy but this is one case where any PR might be good PR. Ellen's fans are passionate - 28 million tuned into her debut on American Idol last year - yes, 28 million! I'm sure JC Penney did its math before they selected Ellen and even now are saying they'll take 28 million passionate Ellen fans over one million unhappy housewives. I hope for JC Penney that the dedication of Ellen's fans will be reflected at the cash register.
New York Women in Communications Foundation Board Immediate Past President
The very vocal, lunatic conservative fringe can make noise - but the numbers of Americans who support birth control (99% of American women will use birth control at some point in their lives, as per the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley last night) and who support equal rights for gays are huge - and they both vote and buy. JC Penney needs a new image that differentiates it from its competitors and to appeal to a younger, more diverse audience. Let's not forget that Ellen DeGeneres also represents Cover Girl, and P&G has traditionally not been a radical-risk-taking company. This publicity could be a bonanza - to remind people who support equality that JC Penney is a brand they can identify with and support.
The Ryan Group
New York Women in Communications Foundation Board Member