TOTAL SHARES 2

Faces of DenialBefore I start this post, I just want to apologize in advance if it gets a little lengthy – it’s my response to a Cease and Desist letter I received last week.

Recently, I wrote about Melrose Jewelers and a press release they had issued. The release discussed actor Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt and said that his Rolex watch had played a major part in the actor being alive today.

At the time, I personally found the release to be crass and in poor taste – it smacked of taking advantage of someone’s personal problems for gain (in this case, to sell more watches by Melrose Jewelers).

The comments in the post seemed to agree, as did numerous other views of the same press release. To get you up to speed, I’ll wait while you read the post, if that’s okay.

Last week, I received a Cease and Desist letter from the Law Offices of Peter D. Cole, who is based in Los Angeles and represents Melrose Jewelers. The letter made a number of claims against my post and requested that I remove it. Failure to do so would result in Melrose Jewelers “pursuing other alternatives to mitigate any damages”.

To save time, I’ve scanned the attorney’s letter and transferred it to a PDF file, which you can read here. Again, I’ll wait until you’ve read it so you can compare it to the post in question, if you like. The letter is “as is” – there is no letterhead or registered business numbers on it (which I had to request from Peter D. Cole for clarification). I’ll let you read the letter before continuing.

The attorney for Melrose Jewelers is ultimately saying that I’m causing his client loss of business; that my post is “inciteful rhetoric”; that I’m associated with another Internet watch sales business; and that I wasn’t stating facts. I find that a slight on my character and transparency. Additionally, the request to Cease and Desist under threat of further legal action is never pleasant.

Therefore, obviously, I felt a need to respond. This is it (taken from my emailed response to Peter D. Cole today, and with Cole’s points in bold).

Hi there Peter,

Thanks for you response, appreciate it.

With regards your client’s “claims”, I would respond with the following:

1. “You had conversations with unnamed Rolex executives, to incite Rolex to take actions and/or make comments about my client’s advertising.” There is nothing in the comments that says this. I mentioned I was, and I quote, “speaking to someone today about Rolex’s awareness. He’s in the jewelry industry and was at a big meeting last night where the CEO of Rolex was also attending.” That’s a big difference from knowing Rolex executives. FYI, the person I was speaking to is a director of a pearl company – quite the different market from your client.

2. “…If you yourself are somehow associated with an Internet watch sales business, as my client is informed and believes”. As I mentioned, my “relationship” is with a pearl company – hardly a competitor. Your client’s statement also seems bizarre. I’m guessing if he knows someone that owns a fast food restaurant, he can’t say that he doesn’t like McDonald’s, as that would be seen as “unfair business practices”?

3. “You describe my client as little more than a second hand watch shop”. By your own words, you say that people who “cannot afford to purchase them new, to obtain them pre-owned at a significant discount in price”. So, they’re not new? Which makes them second-hand.

My whole post was about whether or not the press release was crass (by taking advantage of someone’s personal situation for gain), as well as the editorial process that allowed it to be published. The comments that followed from my readers bore this out. Additionally, there are many more sites and blogs that offer a far more disparaging account of your client’s release than I do.

My post was not to “incite Rolex to take actions” – more, it was to question what passes as acceptable PR and why it’s important for brands to be aware of what’s being said in the name of their company.

I have some questions for your client. Did Rolex authorize this release? Did Owen Wilson authorize this release? Can it be factually proven that Owen Wilson’s watch turned him back from the precipice of despair?

Unless your client can answer “Yes” categorically to these questions, then the release (and the original blog post it stemmed from) are merely opinion, and not fact. Something which separates a news release from an opinion piece. Which is exactly what my blog referred to.

Therefore, I will be leaving the post as is.

Best,

Danny.

There are a lot of things wrong with the PR industry. There are a lot of things good about it as well. Like any industry, there are good people and not-so-good people.

One thing that is apparent is that releases like the ones Melrose Jewelers issued don’t help to repair the view that PR professionals are uncaring and will say anything for a fast buck. If there is no concrete proof that Owen Wilson’s watch helped him during some dark times, then saying that it did suggests sensationalism in order to sell more watches.

In my original post, I shared my view of that, and of using PR in this way. I also asked the question what it would do for a company’s reputation that was happy to use PR in this way.

The Cease and Desist letter from Melrose Jewelers gives me their answer. I feel it’s only fair to offer them mine. Which is why the original post will remain.

Thanks for reading. I’d be interested in your take. Is there more than PR and brand awareness being questioned here?

Creative Commons License photo credit: narek781

TOTAL SHARES 2
Sign up for free weekly content

Subscribe to my newsletter and get a weekly email with the latest blog post, recommended reading, quick tips and more. I respect your privacy and will never spam you.

(Be sure to check your Inbox to confirm subscription - thanks!)

Enjoy this post? Share your thoughts below:

46 Comments on "Melrose Jewelers, Rolex and Owen Wilson – The Sequel"


Are We In Danger of Losing the Right to an Opinion?
9 months 10 hours ago

[…] refused, and instead published a rebuttal post that took apart each of the lawyer’s “statements”, and advised that the post would remain online, as is, as an opinion piece backed by facts. I never […]

tweet_fail
3 years 7 months ago

@Cathy Why do I get the impression that your commment is really just an ad for Melrose Jewelers and not a real comment at all?

Rolex daytona
4 years 3 months ago

Used Rolexes…

[..]Read used rolexes thought it was good article and wanted to link to it.[..]…

Cathy
6 years 25 days ago

I actually bought a watch from Melrose Jewelers this Christmas. I don’t understand why they would issue a release about that. They seemed like a legitimate company and I love my watch. I saved a lot of money going with them. It looks like they took down the blog and issued an apology. I don’t think it’s right in the first place but why all the hatred towards them?

Here’s the watch I bought:
http://www.melrosejewelers.com/info/ladies_super_president_404.htm

6 years 25 days ago

I think it’s less hatred and more disgust and disbelief at the poor PR decision in the first place, Cathy.

Issuing cease and desist letters haven’t helped in that department either, it would appear.

Mike Ashworth
6 years 27 days ago

p.s. looks like they had a go with a lance armstrong “press release” about a month before the owen wilson one

http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS123333+14-Jan-2009+MW20090114

Mike Ashworth
6 years 27 days ago

having re-read the post above do you think that Rolex is none too ghappy with the actiosn of Melorse, that’s the way it reads to me?

the MSNBC news story has now been taken down

marianne oconnor
6 years 1 month ago

Given the 1.2M+ lawyers we currently have running around the U.S. and the legions of competent PR folks who are standing at the ready, I’d strongly suggest Melrose “switch out” its current team — and the sooner the better. It’s a crime to pay for such ham-handed PR/legal advice!

Adam Singer
6 years 1 month ago

I’m still waiting for the day I get a cease and desist letter…hellooooo web traffic :)

mcolacurcio
6 years 1 month ago

Danny,
Good for you. In some instances, I think the ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ works. I think that statement is accurate when the publicity is drummed up as a result of something neutral (e.g. negative comments on a controversial blog post incite heated discussion which drive more comments). In this case, the publicity is 100% negative which may increase their awareness but won’t benefit their brand. To quote @brandingexpert “everyone knows about cancer, but how many people actually want it?”

Thanks for posting.

Karthik S
6 years 1 month ago

I feel Melrose Jewelers have resorted to this C&D action ONLY to gain more PR – no PR is bad PR, after all, in their opinion, I suppose. I believe they saw a blog post with reasonably good reach and just went after it in the hope that it’d induce more comments. Guess what…it did! In your case, you did what is right – expose them. They unfortunately gain a lot more in terms of publicity. Lets see how all this publicity translates into business for them – I hope it doesn’t and common sense says it wouldn’t too…but who knows how they’d spin this further!

6 years 1 month ago

While I’ve never been a believer in the “all publicity is good publicity” mantra, I know that many others do work by it. As you say, Karthik, perhaps this is the view on this occasion? I guess time will tell.

Danielle Lanyard
6 years 1 month ago

Danny,

I think you are 100% on point that this is more than a PR issue. Our human institution of ownership is coming crashing down. The modern world built upon the ‘bottom’ need for the ‘top” product has come upon a brick wall. This ‘bottom’, the customer base, now has a real-time tool to meet their own needs through each other. The big boys with the keys to the castle are shaking in their boots and issuing out cease and desist letters like hotcakes.

You are setting such a beautiful precedent by calmly and transparently exposing it. We must do our part to show that our collective supportive response is more powerful than their century-old model of feeding us the shit we don’t need and owning the media channels to remind us of all we lack without it.

Yet, here we are. And it doesn’t look we’re going anywhere.
Power to you Danny!

6 years 1 month ago

The thing is, situations like this can be so easily avoided. One of the best recent examples was the Motrin Moms fiasco that first started on Twitter.

Although it took a couple of days for Motrin to react, the job they did was excellent. They invited moms to their offices to discuss how best to deal with the flak that occurred; they removed the offending ad and issued a full apology; and they listened to what was being said and worked with the relevant people towards a common goal.

People make mistakes or errors in judgment every day. So do businesses. It’s a natural process. It’s how these errors are dealt with that make the real news.

Mike Ashworth
6 years 1 month ago

Hiya, i also wrote about this nonsense masquerading as a press release

http://michaelashworth.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/rolex-watches-help-owen-wilson-recover-from-attempted-suicide/

Don’t know if i’ll be getting one of these letters too, drop me a line, you have my full support on making the wider world aware of the actions of Melrose and by association Rolex.

The Melrose / Rolex campaign ~I can imagine the headline on the online press release :-)

Mike

6 years 1 month ago

I assume that if Melrose Jewelers are monitoring their brand, then they will also have details of all the other blog posts, forum discussions, Twitter conversations and more. So maybe you’ll join the club :)

PurplePeopleEater
6 years 1 month ago

Wow…

Just wow. What a bunch of effing nonsense.

Clearly they didn’t really read your original blog post though, otherwise they wouldn’t be trying to censor unfavourable opinions about their massive screw-up. I don’t care if “joe six-pack” wrote the blog, the company should be monitoring the type of content that’s posted on a site that is linked to them. They’re logo is at the top of the page!

Hopefully they get their things together and realize how ridiculous this is, and it goes no further than this. I wonder if anyone else got a letter like this, or if they just think that they can pick on the “little guy”?

6 years 1 month ago

You make a good point of brand monitoring. As you say, when you have ownership of a blog or website, what’s then posted on there does fall under your “watch”.

The blog is on a sub-domain of the main Melrose Jewelers website. Therefore, they should be actively monitoring what’s being said in their name. If they leave content that’s posted by others, they’re then saying that they’re happy for it to be there.

In which case, if something is seen to be in poor taste, doesn’t that then reflect on the host?

Jason Tryfon
6 years 1 month ago

I think this reeks of censorship of freedom of speech and a thin skin on the company in in question.

Maybe you should add a disclaimer to your blog stating it’s for entertainment purposes and that will make everything ok too.

Josephine
6 years 1 month ago

Danny:

MJ and its attorney are operating from what I would call an old paradigm, one in which big corporations with lawyers historically have had all or most of the power. No more, but some are still operating as if they did–some won’t give it up gracefully, and it appears to be somewhat generational in nature.

It is the democratizing and leveling power of the Internet that they don’t get yet–but they will, sooner or later–in this case, definitely later. You did nothing illegal, libelous, slanderous or inappropriate, it seems to me (but I would talk to my lawyer). Instead of MJ sending you a cease and desist letter, they should pull any related advertising, quickly and quietly, do standard PR damage control, e.g., a press conference, offer an apology, and perhaps go the extra mile by contributing some money to an organization that assists in suicide prevention. That would be far more appropriate at this juncture, it seems to me, than this silly pecking at you.

The MJ executives need to understand that transparancy and the use of social media are much, much more than offering an “entertainment disclaimer” for blog posts and sending threatening letters to people who write blogs that don’t share their views. It makes them look even more ridiculous. They are attempting to fit a legal solution to a problem that is not a legal problem. They won’t get anywhere with that approach, although maybe 20 years ago, they might have. They need to learn to do business differently in today’s world. That’s what Pfizer is doing because of the Motrin moms–MJ needs to learn from the experience of other big corporations.

Having been a teacher, I am giving the MJ CEO and lawyers a homework assignment–go read Social Media Marketing One Hour a Day by Dave Evans. Social media is ignored by corporations at their own peril. They just don’t get it yet–but they will–later.

Oh, and MJ, if you are reading this, I’m providing this for entertainment purposes only.

6 years 1 month ago

This is the funny thing that most people have said. My original post had died down (traffic-wise) and no-one was really speaking about it anymore. At least, not here – there are plenty of other places around the Net where this story gained a lot of traction.

Yet by sending the letter that they did, it’s Melrose themselves that have re-opened everything. Additionally, as Michael Schechter said earlier in the comments, maybe a lot of the negative reactions came from the press release itself.

The blogs and sites that reported on that were only repeating statements made by that release, then offering an opinion. If the opinion was pretty much universally negative, is that really the fault of the bloggers or the issuing company?

Star
6 years 1 month ago

which makes me wonder if Melrose is operating under the “negative publicity is better than no publicity” attitude.

Perhaps, “Mr. Cole” and client are banking on your posts?

I for one, considered buying a second-hand watch from Melrose after reading about Owen Wilson’s near suicide attempt.

Can anyone tell me how to insert an eye-rolly emoticon on this thing?

neilends
6 years 1 month ago

As a lawyer myself (but this is not legal advice and you aren’t my client; sorry, the rules make me say that) I’m always dismayed to see other lawyers attempting to quell free speech. I’m glad you stood up for your 1st amendment rights as a blogger.

Frank Reed
6 years 1 month ago
Frank Reed
6 years 1 month ago

Wow, Danny, you are such a rebel having those awful opinion things on your blog! You are truly trouble to all! Beware of Danny Brown world…….he tends to think and take positions on matters! Pure evil!

This is just ridiculous. I know it’s easy for me to say “Stand your ground” since I am not the one getting the cease and desist letter but what are they going to do?

Here’s the thing, PR is about creating buzz. These guys have done that. Just because they have no sense of taste is their problem not ours.

6 years 1 month ago

One thing that I did question about the original “release” was whether it had been written by someone in PR. It was taken word-for-word from the original blog post (now removed) at Melrose Jewelers’ blog. Which makes me think it was definitely ill-conceived PR but not necessarily carried out or approved by a PR person. I guess we might find out soon.

Ari Herzog
6 years 1 month ago

You know as well as I do (or I think you do) that when something is removed from a blog, it’s never really removed. Run a google search and you can probably find the cache. Else, goto the internet archive.

Jennifer Struwe
6 years 1 month ago

A quick search on LinkedIn showed several LI users in communications or PR at Rolex SA.

6 years 1 month ago

Thanks Jennifer, I never even thought of that. Mind must be slipping. :)

Cathy Browne
6 years 1 month ago

Way to go Danny. This is a truly ridiculous situation. Seems that not only some unscrupulous PR people, but at least one lawyer, have let greed get in the way of common sense…

And not a word of apology about, nor a ringing defense of, that awful press release.

Shocking that Melrose does not seem to realize how very silly(and desperate) they look.

Hang in there.

Katbron
6 years 1 month ago

WOW Danny! I was unaware that a cease and desist could be issued for offering your opinion – hmmm, learn something everyday.
MJ, Tacky, tacky, tacky – and am convinced very few watches would be sold based on the fact that they might someday save another life.

Ari Herzog
6 years 1 month ago

Clicking to Melrose Jewelers blog, I am in disbelief after reading a post entitled, “Wearing His Rolex, Yo-Yo Ma Performs At the Inauguration of President Barack Obama.” Please don’t click that link; you won’t learn anything that the headline doesn’t tell you.

Oh, shit. Maybe I’ll get served now too.

Keep your cool, Danny. You did nothing wrong. At its basic level, a blog is a “web log” or a personal journal. No different than the company’s blog.

If you are forced to remove your content, then MJ should be forced to remove that post about Yo-Yo Ma, because unless that photo of the cellist was taken by blogger John Lavitt, there is no Creative Commons licensing attribution or link to the source.

6 years 1 month ago

If you look through some of the posts on that blog, some of the correlations are pretty… insightful.

Good point about the Creative Commons.

Ari Herzog
6 years 1 month ago

I missed something on Melrose Jewelers’ blog. Did you see the small print at the bottom of every post?

Extracting two sentences…

All blog postings on the MJ Rolex Watch Blog are submitted by independent Rolex enthusiasts and not by Melrose Jewelers…. The MJ Rolex Watch Blog is provided for entertainment purposes only & Melrose Jewelers makes no representations as to the validity….

Are they for real? Their blog is not *their* blog and they admit it’s entertainment?!? I highly doubt Geneva-based Rolex SA would construe their products as “entertainment fodder.”

In that light, Danny, the legal letter is hilarious.

6 years 1 month ago

Which then begs the question: Are they happy to be portrayed in the manner that the blog suggests? Which is that most of the world’s ills and ailments can be resolved by a good Rolex?

Ari Herzog
6 years 1 month ago

Maybe Twitter can connect you to someone (or someone who knows someone) at Rolex SA or their PR/legal teams. My guess is MJ’s blog would not be perceived lightly.

Eden Spodek
6 years 1 month ago

It amazes me how much time good PR practitioners have to spend defending their work because of how many others in the business have poor judgment.

Rachel Kay
6 years 1 month ago

I feel bad for Melrose Jewelers because they seem to have a knack for employing consultants who steer them in very poor directions. First it was the PR firm or professional who suggested they capitalize on personal tragedy to try to sell a few watches which resulted in ugly publicity for the company. This time they turn to a law firm who suggests they resurrect a blemish that had almost faded away, bringing it to the surface once again in all it’s glory. Rather than apologize and hibernate for awhile as it blows over, more people will now be exposed to the original debacle of the very poorly considered press release.

This isn’t a legal case. It’s called bad publicity. It’s called journalism. My advice to Melrose – hire Danny Brown to help you with your messaging and it won’t go wrong next time.

6 years 1 month ago

It reminds me of the whole BackUp Shotgun Rack fiasco that used the murders of Jennifer Hudson’s family to try and sell shotgun racks for the home. There are just some places you shouldn’t go. Using personal hardship to profit (or at least seem to) just comes across bad.

And thanks for the referral – though I think my bridges are a little burned there… ;-)

Michael Schechter
6 years 1 month ago

I think they would be hard pressed to argue that your article lost them more business and credibility than their initial acto of posting the article in the first place. I can only imagine the chuckle that many of the major news sites that covered this story got upon receiving that letter! If this guy even had the guts to send it their way! Way to not only stand your ground, but to also push right back!

6 years 1 month ago

What was disappointing (which I mentioned in my original post) was that it was approved by at least one major newswire. Which makes me question their editorial process and whether I’d want to recommend any of my clients to use that service.

Mindspazzer
6 years 1 month ago

Good for you! Stand your ground. I warn my company bosses bloggers are never people you want to get in a pissing contest with, because ultimately the big corporate bully loses.

You are right, Melrose Jewelers is wrong to exploit the serious issue of suicide to sell watches.

Shame on you Melrose Jewelers! ( and for the record that is my OPINION, feel free to counter with legal action).

Jon Aston
6 years 1 month ago

I always find it odd when people or companies can’t just come out and apologize for showing poor judgement. They lose even more respect in the public’s eye.

Sonny Gill
6 years 1 month ago

This apparent lawyer of Melrose Jewelers obviously missed the boat and doesn’t realize what your original points were about that ridiculous press release.

You made it even more clear with this reply and responded with smarts and class.

Heather Nolte
6 years 1 month ago

Great points Danny! Definitely a case where greed clouded common sense. I think it will be difficult to argue their point when it is so easily discounted. The moral of the story is to be responsible in the FIRST place.

6 years 1 month ago

I think the main problem Melrose may have is that it’s their own words that place them in this position. I’m just sharing the info with a little of my personal opinion.