Progressive Insurance overwhelmed by Twitter backlash.

September 10, 2012

 

On August 13, Matt Fisher released a blog post titled “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to defend her killer in court.” Fisher wrote the article in response to his sister Kate’s death by a reckless driver. In the post, Fisher claims that the insurance company paid for a lawyer to come to the defense of the negligent drive in the case. The Fisher family originally tried to sue Progressive in hopes of alleviating  Kaitlynn’s student loans. However, the State of Maryland does not allow claimants to sue an insurance company. One must first sue the person who did not have sufficient insurance to establish negligence.

Progressive’s next day response denied the claim all together.  The negative comments on the site go on for pages. Fisher responded to Progressives clams. Official court documents appear to back up his claims. Progressive provided the defendant of the civil trial with an additional lawyer. There were nearly 16,000 negative tweets about Progressive by day after Fishers original post. That’s up nearly 50,000 percent from the previous week, according to General Sentiment, a firm which tracks social media chatter.

Progressive’s Twitter responses kept saying the same message:

 

Progressive for the most part appeared to be giving non-responses or non-apologies.

The link on the tweet goes to the Facebook page of their spokesperson, Flo, on a flying horse with a rainbow.

As a future public relations specialist (and graduating undergraduate), here’s my advice to Progressive:

  • Progressive is going to have to say they are sorry. The standard line of “our thoughts and prayers go out…” is not going to work in this case.
  • “We are sorry” is not the same thing as “our sympathies.” What Progressive is doing is a non-apology-apology. This is a common practice in both politics and public relations. Progressive is going to have to own up to the fact that the company tried to keep from paying out the defendants claim and your statements were not factual. (From my understanding, this isn’t an uncommon practice, but the company got caught.)
  • It would make sense to say something to the effect that sometimes large corporations do not know what the other hand is doing. It may not be completely true, but it is better than what you are doing now.
  • Then, the insurance company is going to have to pay the settlement. The jury awarded the family $760,000 in damages after the driver was found to be negligent. This is what should have been happening in the first place.
  • Progressive also needs to put a professional social media manager on your Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/LinkedIn accounts and pull of any interns if you haven’t already. You are in crisis mode and you need to make sure that you have someone to deliver an understanding tone to your customers and general public.

Today’s Progressive Tweet seems to be the exact opposite, “Have you daydreamed today? http://pgrs.in/PMEPKG.” The link on the tweet takes you to a Facebook page of their spokesperson, Flo, on a flying horse with a rainbow. They seem to be off message, or ignoring the situation all together.

Now the problem has gone viral and Progressive has a cacophony of tweets in their direction. The insurance company is going to need some good will to smooth over the feathers of this angry horde.

Start with a scholarship fund in Kaitlynn Fisher’s name to her alma mater, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Then make a public announcement that you are reviewing any policy procedures that could cause this situation to happen. YouTube a public apology and don’t use Flo. This public relations crisis is no place for humor.

 

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Models are skinny, America is Fat. Can we balance the scales?

July 26, 2012

Killing Us Softly is a video series which analyzes advertising’s image of women by Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. Dr. Kilbourne is a feminist author, speaker, and filmmaker who is internationally recognized for her work on the image of women in advertising.

Killing Us Softly 4is an update to the series she began in 1979. In the update,  Dr. Kilbourne said that media’s portrayal of women isn’t getting better. It is getting worse. I tend to agree.

However, I am conflicted. The examples that she showed were mostly from fashion magazines and show models who are unnaturally skinny. In several cases the models had visible rib cages. The video specifically mentions Ana Carolina Reston, a Brazilian fashion model who passed away in 2006 as a result of an eating disorder. At the time of her death, Reston weighed just 88 lbs.

Ana Reston from Sept. 2006.

Ana Reston at the London Fashion Week, September 2006

Reston’s Wikipedia entry states:

She had a body mass index (BMI) of only 13.4, well below the index value of 16 which the World Health Organization considers to be starvation.

By no means can this be considered healthy. I do not even find this attractive. Skeletons are not sexy. I think that The Dove® Campaign for Real Beautyis a perfect example on how to present real women with realistic sizes and still show their beauty without starving themselves.

The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty

My problem with this is this argument is contradictory to the messages we are getting from our health officials. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting obesity levels are reaching epidemic proportions. More than one-third (35.7%) of U.S. adults are obese.  In 2010, Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th U.S. Surgeon General reported U.S. adult obesity levels at 50%.

In my Race & Gender in the Media course, we discussed the Killing Us Softly video. The majority of the discussion was from the female students and the general impression I got was that they equate beauty with weight.

I cannot say that I disagree, but I think that there is some missing data. I think that Americans are consuming their media differently and I don’t think that these advertisements are reaching the younger audiences today the same way they were ten years ago.

Most teens and tweens are getting the majority of their news from Twitter. More Americans get their news from the Internet than from newspapers or radio, and three-fourths say they hear of news via e-mail or updates on social media sites.

I can say that my own personal habits reflect this entirely. I almost refuse to watch broadcast television so I can avoid the bombardment of advertisements. I get my news almost exclusively from the internet. I have iPad apps installed for CNN, AP, NY Times, Huffington Post, BBC, and Al Jazeera. I even have an adblocker app that keeps out the iAds. I can keep my information mostly advertisement free. When I do watch television shows, I prefer to catch them on Netflix or DVD boxsets to avoid the commercials. I stopped buying magazines because I hated buying a 200 page publication with only about 20 pages of copy.

I grew tired of all of the advertisements and decided that it would make more sense to consume information in the way I wanted to. I suggest that everyone do the same and focus on their own media literacy. Know where the messages are coming from and make up your own mind. It also wouldn’t hurt to exercise every once and a while.

-this post was also used as an assignment for JOUR 4250 (Race/Gender and the Media)


Still shell-shocked from Final Fantasy 8 OST

July 26, 2012

A song that I always make sure is on my iPhone is “Liberi Fatali”, from the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack (FF8 OST). The song is a Latin choral piece composed by Nobuo Uematsu.

“Liberi Fatali” roughly translates as “Fated Children.” The theme is echoed through the story of the video game. Personally, I did not play the game until the release of the PlayStation 2, but I played through the opening 20 times to hear the opening song.

The song has personal relevance not related to video games. Back in 2000, a roommate of mine was running a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) game and incorporated music into his tabletop gameplay. Whenever “Liberi Fatali” played it meant something bad was about to happen.

The group of people we played with had different work hours and weren’t available at the same time. So the game was run in multiple tiers and players played at all hours of the night. There were many occasions where I was woken up in the middle of the night to “Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec” blaring from downstairs. I would have to run down stairs and start rolling dice in a sleepy blur in an attempt to keep my friend’s D&D characters from dying.

To this day, I still have a Pavlovian reaction to the song if I didn’t actually play it myself. Several years after I had retired my dice and stopped playing D&D, my sister was playing the game on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) with the music turned up. I instinctively ran into the room before I realized what I was doing.

I was shell-shocked. My sister was startled and threw my PSP at me because I scarred her. I may have PTSD.

“Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec” are all made up words and have no English translation, though if you cared to know, “Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec” is an anagram for “Succession of Witches” with the word “Love” left over. I didn’t learn this until several years later when I finally looked up the lyrics. My understanding of Latin is about the same as a canine’s understanding of algebra. I originally thought the song started out like:

Feeeeed us

Muuuuusic

Feeeeed us

Innocence!

I still play it occasionally at work just because of the emotions it invokes. It always gets me pumped and ready for action. I also like to play it because it is a choral piece that many musicians and conductors I work with haven’t heard it. They must have been practicing while I put 80+ hours of gameplay into this game alone.

It gives me an excuse to talk about my love for video games and how they are sometimes genuine works of art, despite what Roger Ebert says. To be fair, he has apologized since his original post.  It might have had something to do with the 4500+ comments on his blog.

Background

In the fall of 1999, Final Fantasy VIII was released for the original Playstation. It was developed and published by Square (now Square Enix). The music was scored by Nobuo Uematsu. Thirteen weeks after its release, Final Fantasy VIII earned more than $50 million, making it the fastest-selling Final Fantasy title of all time until Final Fantasy XIII, a multi-platform release. The game shipped 8.15 million copies worldwide as of 2003.

The Playstation2 was released in 2000. The last original Playstation game was published in the fall of 2004.

“Liberi Fatali” has been performed worldwide. It was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Twilite Orchestra in Jakarta, Indonesa and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.

Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy is a concert tour featuring music from the Final Fantasy has performed “Liberi Fatali” several times in the past. Its next performance is December 7, 2012 and features The Chicagoland Pops Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by GRAMMY Award winner Arnie Roth. Please see their website for details.

Keywords: Final Fantasy VIII, OST, FF8, Video, Game, music, soundtrack, Nobuo, Uematsu


Madison Scouts not affected by the Boy Scouts of America’s decision

July 19, 2012

Image

The 2012 Drum Corps International Tour will make its way through Denton, Texas on Thursday, July 19 for DCI North Dallas presented by Red River Thunder. A huge lineup of top DCI corps, including the 2011 World Champion Cadets and 14-time World Champion Blue Devils, will compete at the CH Collins Athletic Complex.

The Madison Scouts (a personal favorite) will not be performing in Denton this year, but the recent policy change from the Boy Scouts of America to exclude ‘open or avowed’ gays seemed topical.  For those of you unaware, The Madison Scouts, founded in 1938, is one of the oldest drum corps in the history of the activity. The Madison Scouts is one of only two remaining all-male corps, with the other being the Cavaliers.
After a little research, I found out that The Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps ended its seventy-three year association with the Boy Scouts of America in 2011. (corpsreps.com)

CNN.com reports:The Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday (July 17) it has affirmed its policy of “not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals.”

The organization’s leaders reached that decision after a nearly two-year evaluation and will take no further action on a resolution that has sought a change in policy, it said in a news release.

So, sadly/thankfully (not sure which is more appropriate here) there is nothing to report. But my remaining question is: How much did the Boy Scouts’ decision of exclusion influence the split by the Madison Scouts?

Bechdel test on video games

July 19, 2012

In my Race & Gender in the Media course this week, I was introduced to the Bechdel test.

The Bechdel test is credited to Bechdel’s friend Liz Wallace and appears in a 1985 strip entitled “The Rule”. One of the characters says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

1. It has to have at least two women in it, who

2. talk to each other, about

3.  something besides a man.

In class, we saw a clip from Feminist Frequency which added one other stipulation to her evaluation of movies: it had to include a full minute of dialogue between the two women.

I am still unclear if this actually means it has to be a continuous minute of dialogue between the two female characters or if the total has to add up to 60 seconds.  I sincerely hope it is the latter because I don’t think I want to watch any film that has huge chunks of dialogue without an action break. (I will be at tonight’s midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. My opinion on this is rather skewed. I am a blockbuster junkie). But this particular rule shouldn’t be applied to video games since the action breaks are not the same as a motion picture. Most video games have long pauses in dialogue and poor camera angles. Take nearly any video game’s cut scenes and cobble them together into one video and it makes for very boring watching (Xenosaga is the first that comes to mind).

This week, the Gamelogical Society posted a list of 15 video games that pass the Bechdel test. I would like to add my own list of video games that meet this requirement. Please remember that Bechdel herself notes that her test is no indicator of quality, and that plenty of movies that pass it aren’t worth watching. This is also true for the games in my list and in no way are an indicator of quality. Plus, I am only including games I have actually played. Coming up with this list is more difficult than I thought. I had a hard time finding an Xbox360 game that passed the Bechdel test unless the protagonist was female. Most of these games give the player the option to create their character and choose the gender. Some of these franchises include: Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Saints Row

1. Final Fantasy X-2 (2003, PS2)

Final Fantasy X-2 is the first direct sequel in the renowned RPG series. The story takes place two years after Yuna defeated Sin in Final Fantasy X, and follows Yuna’s journey to find her lost love. X-2 features an all-female led cast. The main characters were fitted with a Charlie’s Angels-like motif (which can be painful to watch at times).

2. Persona 3 Portable (2010, PSP)

This one is a bit of a cheat because Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is an enhanced remake of Persona 3 for the PlayStation Portable.  The most noticeable difference from the original is the player would now have the option to play as a female character (previously male was the only option). This selection alters some aspects of the story: the first Persona gained by the Protagonist, Orpheus, has a different appearance; Igor’s assistant in the Velvet Room, Elizabeth, can be replaced with a male equivalent named Theodore.  The gender choice also alters some aspects of the Social Link stories. Again, this one is a bit of a stretch because all of the dialogues with the Protagonist and the female characters are one sided. The character you play as does not have any speaking lines, but the other characters respond to you as if you have said something. I include this in my list because playing as a female protagonist changes the game play and character reactions to create a different story than the original.

3. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (2003, PS2)

Twin sisters Mio and Mayu Amakura are visiting the spot where they used to play as children and follow a mysterious red butterfly deep into the woods. The two girls are led to a village shrouded in fog. While it seems abandoned, the twins soon realize that the tortured souls of the dead roam, forever reliving the day of the failed ceremony that trapped them in this state. For most of the game, the player controls Mio who is searching for her lost twin. Her only weapon is the “Camera Obscura,” an antique camera with the ability to take pictures of the ghosts and exorcise them. Cut scenes show extended scenes with the twins in conversation. *NOTE: This is probably the scariest game I have ever played in my life. It is difficult to doa full review on it because I was hiding under a blanket for most of the game.

I had never considered the topic of female equality in games before the classroom discourse. I am very aware that most video games are geared toward adolescent males. Most depictions of females are highly sexualized and do not fairly depict females by any stretch of the imagination. Gaming trends are changing quickly as more females are becoming visible players.

In a report, entitled 2011 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (here) the Entertainment Software Association (ESA)  revealed some new numbers about female gamers, including their growing presence in the gaming audience. As of 2010, 42 percent of the gaming audience is female, up from 40 percent the previous year. And, interestingly enough, turning the whole “video games are for teenage boys” stereotype on its head, women 18 and older make up more of the gaming audience than boys 17 and younger.

-this post was also used as an assignment for JOUR 4250 (Race/Gender and the Media)


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