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John Whiteside

I think you've nailed just what was wrong here. Moreoever, there was a right way to do it: a much more subtle pitch about how Google advertising around topical issues can get an organization's viewpoint out there.

Kari Chisholm

Well, as somebody whose corporate strategy is entirely built on blogging about politics at, let me suggest another approach.

Rather than avoiding politics, she'd have been smarter to talk about both sides of the issue.

On the one hand, yeah, it makes sense for health-industry folks to buy Google ads using the keyword "sicko" to defend themselves.

On the other, it also makes perfect sense for health care reform advocates ( to buy ads on "sicko" to promote their point of view. (Hey, wait, Senator Wyden is a client of mine. Guess I better get on that!)

Debbie Weil

Well put Kari. Thanks for your comment.

Geoff Livingston

I liked Google's handling of this. It's better to enable people to use social media than to be quiet or control it.

Further, though they apologized, explained that it will likely happen again. Smart. Otherwise they'd have to make corporate PR play blog post police. Impossible in a company that big.

Kevin Holland

Debbie, does anyone really believe that if the Google employee had raved about Michael Moore's film, there would have been the same hue and cry? The issue of mixing politics and business is a lot more complex than you suggest.

In fact, you may not even realize it, but your own post here reveals quite a few biases. Examples:

"No one would deny that America's healthcare system is hugely flawed." (Really? I know a couple people who didn't die of something that would have killed them a few years ago and they're pretty big fans of the American healthcare system.)

"Steer clear of politics and religion unless there's a compelling strategic reason. For example, your company has decided to adopt a green (environmentally friendly) strategy on everything you do." ( there a reason the only strategic reason you could think of is vaguely left of center?)

Biases are much easier to see in other people's writings than your own, and really, what's wrong with that? We all have 'em. It's always better when we admit them rather than try to cover them up.

Personally I loathe Michael Moore and can't see anything particularly wrong with this blogger's post. It's a blog from GOOGLE, for Christ's sake....yes, they are trying to sell advertising, because, you know, that's what they do.

Was this really crossing a line that should never be crossed -- using popular culture to promote the company's own product?

Seems to me that's pretty much the point of having this particular blog in the first place. Maybe it wasn't the most artfully done of posts, but come on, did it really deserve so much "flap"?

(By the way, haven't talked to you in ages...hope you're doing well!)

Debbie Weil


Oops... you got me on revealing my political stripes. Well heck I live Inside-the-Beltway so it's not a stretch to guess whether I'm liberal or conservative. But I try not to reveal too much. Although maybe I have... I like your comment. Very interesting.

Mike O'Sullivan

Debbie, some good points here. And some good comments too: Kevin, you are right, as much as we try to be objective our biases can slip out!

The most negative aspect about Lauren's original post to *me* -- and to Lauren's credit, she remedied this in her follow-up post -- isn't that it sounded blatantly opportunistic. It's that it felt like "corporate speak"...full of phrases like "connect your company's assets."

And because of that, I don't want people to think, "Oh well, *Google* writes its corporate blog in corporate-speak so that means its okay for ME to write MY corporate blog in corporate -speak!"

In Lauren's follow-up, I like her change in wording: "Whether the healthcare industry wants to rebut charges in Mr. Moore's movie, or whether Mr. Moore wants to challenge the healthcare industry, advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue."

Here she's making a point about advertising in general, an important one that warrants debate. Sure, she might be biased, but that's okay! Because she's starting a discussion (and articulating it clearly) vs. just pitching a product (and articulating it in corporate-speak).

Judy Gombita

It amuses me that people took offence to blogger Lauren Turner being “opportunistic” when it came to dissing Sicko (which I happened to see last night)/being overt in promoting ads on Google. People, Michael Moore is one of the most opportunistic, self-serving “documentarians” (I use the term loosely) out there. He has made millions of dollars pushing his own self-selected causes via a medium whereby the best practitioners strive to be balanced and objective (i.e., documentary filmmaking). In Moore’s case, his films are anything but balanced, objective and (in some cases) totally truthful.

If you get the opportunity, see Manufacturing Dissent ( “…a topical documentary seeking to separate fact, fiction, and legend. It chronicles Michael Moore on tour during the promotion of Farenheit 9/11, all the while exploring the politically charged climate in America that has prompted Moore's ascension from documentary filmmaker to icon of the political left.” I saw it at the May Hot Docs Festival in Toronto, where the co-directors participated in a Q&A afterwards. Note that the film began its life as a planned *tribute* to Michael Moore. It was only after being repeatedly rebuffed (and later, vaguely threatened) by Moore and his staff that the filmmakers became less enamoured of their chosen subject, and they began digging deeper into his general research practices, past and present relationships, etc. (Note that as a documentary Manufacturing Dissent it is only partially successful; the content is good, the delivery/tone/technical aspects not so much.) Some of the things that came out…"Roger" did indeed talk to Moore, well before Roger and Me was finished production. (I guess the conversation got cut because it didn’t “add” to the story arch.) And the famous “open an account and get a gun” episode in Fahrenheit 9/11? Ummm…normally the gun is delivered to the customer by courier (from its storage house) several days after the fact, but Moore was quite insistent to the bank's staff that they have one at the bank, to be handed over that same day (i.e., the whole scene was set up, well in advance. even though the film deliberately suggests that walking out with a gun is standard practice).

I had a feeling that I would never watch a Michael Moore documentary in the same way again. I’ve seen almost all of his work—many of them world or North American premiers at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I’ve heard him speak (Q&As) at least three times at the festival…the most recent being the NA premier of Farenheit 9/11 in the VISA Elgin Screening Room, where the festival organizers granted him an unprecedented 30-minute talk *following* the film screening. (TIFF loves MM; MM loves TIFF.) In person Moore is indeed clever, charismatic and hilariously funny, plus he can wring emotions like nobody’s business. But having seen Manufacturing Dissent, I no longer “trust” him as a documentary filmmaker. Now I approach his documentaries as being more like a made-for-TV film, “based on a true-life story.” Not that he cares, as he ca-chings his way to several more personal millions through Sicko.

(I am deliberately not commenting on the political issues in Sicko, including American HMOs or government-sponsored healthcare. The same with the "portrayals" of the universal healthcare systems in Canada, England and France. I did quite like the “scenes” in Cuban, though, as I have nothing but the fondest memories of generous and vivacious Cubans and their beautiful country.)

Eric Eggertson

Debbie: Interesting discussion. I mentioned this on my blog, but the link Trackback links seems to have been eaten by your anti-spam security:

Judy Gombita

This past weekend I finally got around to reading my July/August 2007 issue of Film Comment magazine. Lo and behold, isn't there an article by Stuart Klawans on this film. (He says many of the same things I did about the subjectiveness/staginess of Moore's work, except he says it much better.)

FEVER PITCH: Michael Moore's Sicko swears to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But does it?

I'm pleased to report that the article is currently available online in its entirety on the website:

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