Flowers are the best and most popular gifts at Valentines Day and Mothers Day. Because of this they are also an easy target for advertisers and news outlets.
Take news outlets. They know that in February and May a lot of people are thinking about flowers as the two big floral holidays approach. They also know that they can exploit that interest with sensational headlines.
For example this year no less an institution than the Washington Post chose to go the clickbait route, running a piece by Jennifer Grayson called “Flowers may be nice for Mom, but they’re terrible for Mother Earth.”
Grayson, who calls herself an “environmental journalist,” used outdated and misleading information and blatant exaggeration in a melodramatic plea to readers not to buy flowers for Mother’s Day.
The CEO of SAF, Peter Moran, responded personally, pointing out the clearly defamatory nature of a piece that relied on false or misleading information presented as fact.
Peter Moran, SAF Chief Executive Officer
Where are the facts? For instance, for Ms. Grayson to claim that flowers “are saturated with a toxic cocktail of chemicals“ is completely inaccurate and makes no sense. In reality, not only are pesticides costly for a business, but overuse would be harmful to the product. Actually, pesticide use in the floral industry has decreased dramatically over the last 15 years, as growers implement natural ways to control bugs – such as good bugs eating bad bugs or plant extracts that attract bugs.
Fortunately the public seemed to see through it as well and shared their concerns online. Other websites were also quick to catch on.
Tom Blumer, New busters
Besides utterly wasting our time on an agenda which even if implemented wouldn't make any kind of meaningful environmental difference, Grayson wants to shame us into not buying flowers, period.
The website MarketWatch also went the clickbait route, with a post called “Why you shouldn’t buy mom flowers on Mother’s Day”.
It also included a photograph – a bouquet of flowers with a line through it Ghostbusters style. A lint in the post read “Your mom doesn’t want flowers this Mother’s Day.”, and mentioned a statistic from coupon site RetailMeNot that claimed to show that “only 8% of mothers surveyed said they would like flowers.”
SAF is always quick to respond to negative advertising and this was no exception. The response they received from the editor of MarketWatch was fascinating:
I doubt anything could hurt flowers’ preeminence of as a Mother’s Day gift, but some readers are always searching for alternatives.
Some readers are likely to be interested in alternatives, but the response reveals a contradictory and lazy position. It acknowledges (in private) that flowers are (contrary to their post) so wildly popular as to be untouchable. And, somehow, this means it is OK to run an inaccurate, inflammatory clickbait style headline. They could just have easily gone with "Looking For An Alternative to Flowers?"
While negative editorial coverage is not uncommon much more negative publicity comes in the form of advertising from companies that sell products other than flowers. Desperate for sales they disparage the thing they know most customers want.
In 2015 the Society of American Florists responded to ten instances of negative advertising. A few of companies that chose to disparage flowers included...
In these cases SAF responds by contacting the advertiser and encourages them to sell their products on their own merits. In most cases the negative ads stop almost immediately.
This is just one of the great services that SAF provides retail florists, but it is especially relevant at this time of year. Florists are lucky to have such a strong ally, and should report any incidents of negative publicity.