The curious PR failure of Bryan Adams (Column)

“Everything I do, I do it for you, Robert Mugabe – oooh …” Geoffrey Rowan is partner and managing director at Ketchum Public Relations Canada “Everywhere I go, kids wanna rock,” said musician Bryan Adams, explaining his decision to play a concert in Harare, Zimbabwe on Jan. 24. Yes, after they want to eat, and […]

“Everything I do, I do it for you, Robert Mugabe – oooh …”

Geoffrey Rowan is partner and managing director at Ketchum Public Relations Canada

“Everywhere I go, kids wanna rock,” said musician Bryan Adams, explaining his decision to play a concert in Harare, Zimbabwe on Jan. 24. Yes, after they want to eat, and maybe go to school, a lot of kids want to rock. Well, also after they avoid getting beaten up by political thugs. Then yes, kids just wanna rock. No doubt. That’s what they want, all right. To rock.

The Canadian-born rocker has handled the controversy over his performance in Zimbabwe about as well as Justin Bieber hides eggs for the neighbourhood Easter Egg hunt, or practices driving in the neighbourhood Easter parade.

Adams is, of course, entitled to perform wherever he wants to. Opponents of his performance see it as validation of the country’s president, Robert Mugabe, whose leadership, described by some as a reign of terror, has destroyed the country’s economy and threatens the rule of law throughout Africa. But others say there’s no reason the tiny minority elite in the dirt poor southeastern African nation should be deprived of husky Canadian vocals just because their president is a tyrant.

One complaint is that tickets – priced $30 to $100 – are far out of reach for average Zimbabweans. But most Canadians can’t afford Leafs’ tickets. And Adams isn’t the first entertainer to perform in a badly governed country.

The great irony is that Adams is a recognized social activist and award-winning humanitarian who has famously given free concerts to benefit various social causes.

His long-time manager Bruce Allen made matters worse when he told the CBC that this is a “non-story.” That’s pretty much what Rob Ford said about his tumble from the sobriety wagon last week.

Adams would have done much better to acknowledge the concerns and offer to give $10 from every ticket sold to education in the struggling country.

Free advice: when your PR strategy is the same as Rob Ford’s, it’s time to develop a new PR strategy.

Advertising Articles

Red Lion wins The Brain Project

Toronto agency gets a shot at driving research funding through Baycrest Health Sciences’ arts initiative

Cadbury brings joy back to the holidays

How the brand drives local relevance and trying to stay top of mind this December

Welcome to the sharing economy of advertising (column)

KBS Canada head Nick Dean reflects on agency talent and what's ahead for 2017

Marketel McCann rebrands, adds new president

Mylene Savoie takes the leadership position as the agency takes on a new name

The List: Leo Burnett breaks down borders

The agency expanded its assignments, leadership and influence beyond Toronto

The biggest stories in Canadian marketing: 2016

A look back at the most read and shared news items from MarketingMag.ca

DDB hires first North American CCO

Ari Weiss to lead 17 creative teams from across the continent

How we can close advertising’s biggest gap

AOL's David Shing on how companies can bring more empathy to advertising

Confirming speculation, Blammo and Extreme merge

Renamed as Arrivals + Departures, independents make a cultural match