It has been revealed that the hysteria currently sweeping the globe due to the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico was actually triggered by a PR campaign instigated by beef producers. Angered by the Mad Cow Disease scandal several years ago which decimated sales of beef products in many countries, producers engaged global PR consortium Flack&Spin to rebuild their image.
A traditional media campaign was developed and implemented across two continents but met strong resistance from vegetarian protest groups in non-aligned nations. Taste tests were sabotaged with samplers reporting many eaters found the beef to be chewy or stringy and not to their liking. Against the ticking clock of diminished revenues, beef producers decided on direct action. Realising that offence is often the best form of defence, they decided to take-out a major competitor: pork. Not wanting to damage a key outlet for their product – beef tacos – the cattlemen directed their focus on a skirmish campaign in Mexico. To bolster their available resources, the beef producers enlisted the help of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
After several strategy sessions, it was realised that WHO was sitting on a massive stockpile of surgical face masks. In a quirky twist of fate billions of these gauze protectors had been stockpiled just as the earlier Mad Cow Disease outbreak abated. Clogging massive storage facilities in strategic locations adjacent to major population centres the masks were draining WHO funds because of the high cost of storage. Details of what happened next are hazy but the cattlemen now testify that Flack&Spin went their own way, determined to show they could mount a global campaign that would capture the world’s attention. Investigators suggest a young schoolboy from a slum area on the outskirts of Mexico City who had a head cold was sent to school with instructions to tell his teachers he felt really sick.
WHO north American spokesperson, Dr Usapart Tildeath, denied poor initial diagnosis at the local hospital led to the hysteria currently sweeping the world. “Claims that nursing staff were somehow deficient by not washing their hands properly are scandalous. We know there is a drought in the area but suggesting staff were trying to conserve precious supplies by not washing is very inappropriate.” Dr Tildeath also refuted claims made initially in Mexican media outlets that Flack&Spin had approached WHO with an offer to provide a community education campaign. However, there were reports overnight European time that a graphic design agency in southern Texas had prepared a series of mock posters about swine flu for use in a student marketing assignment at a Houston university. Somehow, the materials found their way to a free weekly newspaper which decided to run them as a community service.
Local radio stations believed the mock ads were real and began broadcasting details as a precaution to listeners. Television stations then ran pointers to their evening news bulletins mentioning the flu story. It would appear network anchors in their rush to be first with the news began to report unconfirmed details from other stations which fuelled a cycle of intense speculation but no corroboration. It was not long before the story had gone national and then international. As government agencies desperately try to learn just how the scandal began to unfold, attention focused on the PR firm, Flack&Spin and a connection to the Texas design agency.
Flack&Spin northern hemisphere spokesman, Michael Smoothas, denied the designers were regularly subcontracted by his own organisation. “Any suggestion we would be involved in a deliberate fear campaign is outrageous,” he said. “Do people think PR is still in the dark ages?” Meantime, US President Barack Obama has ordered the FBI to begin a detailed investigation into the swirling claims and counter-claims about Flack&Spin and their connection to beef producers. “If there turns out to be any truth in this I will be as mad as a cow,” he told reporters at The White House yesterday.