Monday July 06, 2020
CPSC Fireworks Messaging Money to Be Targeted Elsewhere
CPSC has not paid Adam Savage a $30,000 fee for his services and use of his image, a CPSC source told PSL July 6. This halt followed rape allegations (PSL, 7/13/20) against Savage, which the MythBusters TV star denies. The plan for the unspent money is to direct it towards other education and information purposes. Savage's contract called for activity between June 25 and July 3 and for payment to occur within a week after completion of his participation in CPSC's fireworks campaign, but that activity stopped June 30.
Commissioner Peter Feldman July 6 tweeted (bit.ly/2Z1empE):
"For the record, I have always been skeptical about the use of paid social media influencers in government. @USCPSC proceeded with this $30k contract against my advice, without proper vetting, and over my strong objections. This is waste, pure and simple."
Regarding influencers, PSL heard this assertion in reaction: "The pure and simple fact is that using influencers is not a waste." The person making that statement pointed to significant increases in public attention, including "thousands more engagements" and "millions more impressions" associated with CPSC's recent use of two influencers. One was professional football player Brian Dawkins on furniture tipovers and timed to coincide with pre-Super Bowl TV purchases (PSL, 1/27/20). The other was interior design personality Sabrina Soto on holiday safety tips about toys, cooking, and decorating (PSL, 11/25/19).
Regarding vetting, PSL heard from the CPSC source that criteria the agency looked at included Savage's clout with the target audience – young males, who account for the bulk of injuries from fireworks misuse. Savage has some 8 million followers on various social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Savage additionally is seen as an explosives expert who frequently stresses that amateurs leave such matters to professionals. He also had the ability to produce a PSA independently, a plus for the agency.
CPSC looked at roughly a dozen candidates presented to it by Widmeyer-Finn Partners.
As for learning about the allegations prior to choosing Savage, PSL heard that although his accuser is his younger sister, she uses her married name, not Savage, making it less easy to link the two in any vetting. Beyond the name difference, PSL additionally heard that although in the past she has referenced childhood sexual abuse involving a family member, she is not known to have accused her brother by name until now.
On that question, PSL was unable to independently find reference to allegations by her against Savage prior to June 30. She has a blog, and on that day – in announcing the lawsuit – she mentioned him by name. In contrast, the previously written "about" section of her site references abuse by a "brother." The childhood family was three boys and three girls, PSL learned elsewhere.
Meanwhile, in a separate correspondence with a CPSC spokesperson, PSL received this statement on the situation:
"CPSC is stunned to learn of the serious allegations made against Adam Savage by a family member. Our mission is to protect the safety and well-being of consumers – particularly children – and we are committed to that principle in all aspects of our work. Thus, the Commission has requested that Widmeyer-Finn Partners, the agency’s outside communications group, immediately sever their relationship with Mr. Savage on our fireworks safety messaging. We regret if this important message has in any way been compromised by Mr. Savage’s involvement. The safety message, however, remains paramount and CPSC is committed to continuing its efforts to provide consumers with safety information during this challenging fireworks season."
This statement was written June 30, but PSL did not get it by its deadline for the July 6 issue. PSL sought comment from a spokesperson who was on vacation but did not inquire with the person's colleague. The initial PSL story on the situation is at bit.ly/3guPFYy.