MAKITA TACKLES TRAGEDY WITH VULGAR SELF-PROMOTION

By Published on .

Most Popular
In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, a familiar passage from Ecclesiastes has been quoted again and again: "a time to be born, a time to die ....a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up.... a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together...."

The verse is timelessly eloquent and chillingly appropriate, but too often of late it has been cut short, depriving us of one of its most trenchant admonitions: "a time to keep silent and a time to speak."

Would that Makita Power Tools had heeded that wisdom before buying its $57,500 full-page ad in USA Today, an open letter headlined "OUR HEARTS ARE WITH YOU":

Today, hundreds of courageous rescue workers are putting their own safety at risk in hope of bringing the Oklahoma City tragedy to a conclusion. Makita Power Tools are with them in spirit and on the rescue site.

To these dedicated professionals and the untold numbers of volunteers-on behalf of Makita USA Inc., our employees and the thousands of retailers who market our power tools and equipment-we ask that you accept our heartfelt appreciation. Your selfless cour- age in the face of this unparalleled disaster is an inspiration to us all. Our hearts are with you.

Sincerely,

Noriyasu Hattori

President

The "on the rescue site" emphasis is ours. The grotesque error in judgment is Makita's.

None of us has been unmoved by the search-and-rescue teams' selflessness and heroism in the face of tragedy and substantial personal risk. But if Hattori feels overwhelmingly moved to offer a gesture of support, would it not have been sufficient to quietly donate power tools to the rescue site? To send $57,500 not to a general circulation newspaper but to the survivors fund? To offer his thoughts, prayers and private good wishes?

There is a time to speak and a time to keep a corporation's heartfelt thanks out of USA Today, because ostentatious charity-whether in coin or in spirit-does not seem like charity at all.

It seems like self-promotion.

Of the vulgarest kind.

So Makita tools are on-site in Oklahoma City. Well, inasmuch as there are nearly 200 dead, a city in mourning and a nation in shock, who the hell cares what brand power tools are being used? And who in the world would be crass, or, at least, indelicate enough to be perceived as boasting about it? What this ad says is "Our hearts are with you." What readers could not have failed to take from it is: "Makita tools: Powerful enough for the Oklahoma City rescuers, powerful enough for you!"

Thank God they didn't do a TV spot. The world just isn't ready for the Makita Drill-Through-Concrete-Slabs Torture Test.

Are the Caterpillar heavy-equipment people going to take out a full-page ad? Are the manufacturers of yellow police tape going to weigh in? How about the nice folks at California Professional Manufacturing Inc., Modesto, makers of 14 styles of quality body bags for more than a decade?

It's as if Hattori went to a stranger's funeral and-upon paying his respect to the bereaved family-fell to his knees sobbing, focusing all attention on himself. Actually, it's worse than that. It's as if he sobbed and quaked so uncontrollably that other mourners rushed to comfort him, whereupon he presented them with his business card.

The gigantic Makita logo at the bottom of the page says, "It's all the power you need." Altogether too much power, we would say, because in the context of the Oklahoma calamity, the graphic display of brandedness is an obscenity. We can only assume that the company-which has a long tradition of assisting search-and-rescue teams-and its public relations agency, Freeman/McCue, Santa Ana, Calif., had the best of intentions in this unfortunate exercise. The other possibility is too odious to imagine: that they heard death rattles in Oklahoma City and mistook them for the sound of opportunity knocking.M

Ad Age Bulletin Board on Prodigy, or by Prodigy e-mail at EFPB35A.

Client: Makita USA. Agency: Freeman/McCue. Ad Review Rating: No stars

In this article: