One of Australia’s largest public relations agencies, Professional Public Relations (PPR) has apologised after asking professional models to appear for free in a campaign for client Schweppes. The callout was criticised by model agencies who believe it devalues the work of their clients.
An intern at PPR’s Melbourne office sent a group email to more than 40 professional modelling agencies asking them to be involved in a “casting call” for the Schweppes Fancy Food Fight, urging them to enter clients into the competition on Facebook open to members of the public. The callout, forwarded to Mumbrella, says the models are for the Fancy Food Fight competition with the winners to be used in a TV commercial, filmed at a later date and makes it clear the models would not be paid for their involvement. The call for entries on the Facebook page has also been extended.
“We are calling for entrants to take part in the ‘Fancy Food Fight’- a fine dining experience like no other. There will be fine food from Martin Benn of Sepia Restaurant (3 hats!), fine fighting and fine filming (yes, those cast will participate in the filming of Schweppes new TVC).
“This is a great opportunity for your talent to take part in a really fun shoot! Please note, this is not paid – but is open to anyone available in Sydney on 24 February. (Bold in original text of email.)
Deborah Gray, head of Ava Model Management, immediately replied, CCing in the other 40 agencies and lambasting the request for professional models to work for free. “Asking our professional models who rely on their earnings to do unpaid work for you for such an established commercial enterprise as Schweppes is not great PR,” wrote Gray.
“Sorry but we decline.” And Angela Ceberano, who is a director of Flourish Public Relations, which represents a number of celebrity clients, wrote: “I can’t believe an intern at PPR is sending out the below on behalf of Schweppes to ask talent to be in a TVC for free.
“I’d love to work for a business like Schweppes but the massive agencies like PPR get such clients and then disrespect them by having their interns working on the account.”
PPR told Mumbrella it was “simply attempting to use our networks to spread the word”, but conceded “our rationale was not made clear in the communication developed by our team, and for this we accept responsibility.”
In a statement, Bridget Marcou, GM of PPR Melbourne said:
“PPR apologises for inviting professional, paid models to participate for free in a campaign being developed for Schweppes.
“We acknowledge models contracted to professional modelling agencies earn their living from participating in television commercials. “We were simply attempting to use our networks to spread the word and hopefully pass on the opportunity for everyone to be involved in the campaign, should they choose.
“In this case, we extended the invitation to agencies with the purpose of offering anyone new to the industry a possible casting opportunity. Unfortunately our rationale was not made clear in the communication developed by our team, and for this we accept responsibility.”
Gray told Mumbrella: “This is becoming a more and more common thing. It used to be that nobody would have the nerve to ask a professional agency and its models to do this.
“What is happening is that there is a spill over. I don’t think this is coming from the main bosses or at least I hope its not.
I think this is coming from less senior PR people who are younger who have been brought up marketing on Facebook and now almost every company will put out a little Facebook model search. It is a cheap way of getting models basically.”
GPY&R Melbourne, which has the creative account for Schweppes, declined to comment on whether it was involved in the campaign.
Mumbrella has chosen not to publish name of the intern.
The original email from PPR. Click to enlarge.
Some of the replies. Click to enlarge.